Monday, 19 September 2016

Massive Anti-Biya Protests Could Force Electoral Reforms Before 2018 - Exiled Varsity Leader

Former founding-leader of the student’s parliament of the University of Yaounde , Corantin Talla, popularly known as General Schwarzkopft is expressing fears for Cameroon as the country prepares for the 2018 quadruple elections. 

For his role in creation of the student parliament General Schwaztkopf, who was dismissed from all Cameroonian universities in 1993 has declared his candidacy for the 2018 presidential elections,

calls on Cameroonians to mobilise themselves and participate in bringing about the change he says is overdue.
In this exclusive interview he says the protest against President Paul Biya’s presence in New York would not have the same impact, if it took place in Cameroon. Excerpts:

What has become of General Schwarzkopf after 24 years in exile?
General Schwaztkopf has remained active during his 24 years in exile in the USA.  He is the President of a non-profit Organisation, Conscience du Cameroun and Coordinator of the United Front of Cameroon’s Diaspora for Democratic Change in Cameroon. 

General Schwaztkopf holds a PhD in Public Policy and Public Administration and several Oracle Technological Degrees and Certification. I became a Software Engineer and Sr. Oracle Database Consultant with more than 14 years of experience.  I own an Information Consulting Firm called Talla Consultancy Services Inc. As you may observe I have kept up the struggle to build our country.

Protests have been planned by Cameroonians in New York against President Biya’s presence as he takes part in the September 2016, 71st  UN General Assembly. Are you one of the organisers?
‘Conscience du Cameroon’ which staged several protests in the past here in USA will not be involved in protests this time around. These overseas protests seem not to have the desired impacts for a change of attitude or the regime in Yaoundé. They are however successful because they are not prohibited in democratic countries. We think that massive protests in Cameroon would be more effective to cause electoral and constitutional reforms and for the construction of a strong democracy.

We read that you are candidate for the 2018 elections. What is motivating you to want that job amid a myriad of candidates?
I want to be the President of Cameroon because of my history of fighting for social justice in my country, my consistency and integrity.

I thought I was the better candidate that can carry the aspirations of Cameroonians compared to many other candidates. Some are opportunists, others do not know exactly the plight of Cameroonians like I do because I have been there. I fought for them and I continue to fight for them. I am not so sure whether some are candidates because they want to serve the people of Cameroon or they want to please themselves. Because in the past, they have showed that they could change as quick as possible. 

Some candidates are in the government already, some have received money from the government. Some candidates have been thinking that they can use France or America to get to power in Cameroon. Such candidates can only serve their own interests and the interests of the powers that helped them get to power in Cameroon. So I am the only candidate of the real change and the candidate of the Cameroonian people.

Many seem to agree that Cameroon is not too well economically, politically and socially. What would prioritise should you take power in Cameroon?
I intend to address or reduce poverty and corruption two concepts that are intimately linked.

 When I talk about poverty, I am talking about how to make sure that all Cameroonians have equal opportunity for jobs, health care, and education which is not the case right now. In Cameroon we have very high unemployment and poverty rates. Around 40%.  Even though our economy is growing at around 5.8% and 6%, people are getting poorer and poorer. It therefore means that some people, a minority, are getting all the benefits of the economic growth. It does not trickle down to the majority of Cameroonians.

My goal will be to do redistributive, social and economic justice of Cameroonian wealth to every Cameroonian. I cannot say that I am going to be cutting pay cheques to every Cameroonian. At least for the youths we are going to be providing jobs, and make sure that we build very nice hospitals.  We would   attract our best nurses and doctors that are living abroad by increasing their wages and creating better working conditions. It means I have to leverage the knowledge of the diaspora to develop Cameroon and to transform Cameroonians politically, economically, socially.

How do you intend to fight corruption, bribery and brazen theft of public funds which seem to be the major problem in Cameroon?  
Corruption is a serious problem that affects Cameroonians especially the vulnerable sector of the population. There’s a theory of a principal and her agents when it comes to corruption. Unfortunately in Cameroon almost everybody is corrupt. 

You don’t know who is an agent of corruption and who is a principal fighter of corruption. Those institutions that have been created to fight corruption are by themselves managed by corrupt people. So I will appeal to education, I will appeal to the collective consciousness of Cameroonians which is by education. You cannot fight corruption now by creating those institutions.  You have to educate people especially those in primary schools that corruption is not good and that it is a sin. 

They have to grow up knowing that corruption affects all of us. Even though we are calling for collective consciousness it does not mean that those who are involved in corruption will not be punished. Laws will be enforced, the constitution would apply and we will try different efficient ways to get back all what they have stolen. We would seriously reprimand corruption even if it means building more prisons. We would also be rewarding those who are fighting against corruption and upholding their integrity.

Is it not still possible to bring regime change in Cameroon through the ballot box even with the inefficiencies of the election management body, Elections Cameroon, Elecam?  Is there risk of electoral tension in 2018?
Given the present situation we will not have any change. We cannot even hope to have any change in Cameroon in 2018 because Elecam is the structure that organises and controls the elections. Elecam is not consensual and was mostly created by the regime in place without consulting other political associations that matter in social fabric of Cameroon. 

We need a forum where  discussions would lead to the creation of another structure that can guarantee the neutrality and the fairness in the conduct of the elections. Secondly,the electoral code needs to provide for the use of the single ballot and the entire electoral process needs to be computerised. We need to stop, prevent, and forbid any political party in the competition to use the means/media of the state to conduct his campaign. That gives unfair advantage to the ruling party. Those are the reforms which need to be done. If not, I fear for Cameroon in 2018.

Everyone seems to blame Elecam. Are Cameroonians not themselves responsible for the current stalemate in the country?
That is important. What makes   matters worse is the behaviour of Cameroonians. They seem not to be interested in change or even in fighting for their own rights, because of some reasons I don’t know. 

Apart from distrust for some political leaders, I can say that I am very disappointed at the way Cameroonians are acting now. I have seen Cameroonians mobilise in Cameroon to welcome some crooks as if they were the head of state. But when you ask them to mobilise themselves to fight for themselves and their rights they will say no, unless you give them some money. 

Money has become a problem in Cameroon. Materialistic values have become the order of the day. So they only way to wake Cameroonians up is to educate, make them have a conscience for the need for change in Cameroon. But how do we do that? That’s what we are working on now. That’s our dilemma right now.

Ahead of 2018, some are talking about regime change and others are preaching transition. Where do you find yourself in all these?
When I look at how the country has been mismanaged, the objective and goal is regime change. Transition is just one of such means to arrive at that point. A transitional government is aimed at creating a neutral authority that can reform the current electoral law without bias so that the competition after the transition will be fair.  We have seen cases like that in Guinea and Burkina Faso where people in the transition are not allowed to compete.  

We need to create a strong democracy in which there would be peaceful regular change like every five years without people fighting for power or whatever. Cameroon needs a political system that can promote a strong democracy and citizen participation in the political process and free and fair elections. We don’t have to let one person decide when we have to go in for elections. The transition is just the means and the main goal is the change in power.

When you look at what has happened in Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso and today in Gabon with post electoral conflicts, do you have any worry when compared to Cameroon? 

If it should become violent, I will tell you that the level of violence will surpass the ones we have seen in Cote D’Ivoire or in Gabon because Cameroon is a complex society. Cameroonians have been very anxious about the situation in Cameroon. 

When you refuse or prevent the people from expressing their minds peacefully for a long time you compound their frustrations. And that’s the case in Cameroon. If Paul Biya’s regime does not make sure that we have free and fair elections in 2018, the situation might get out of control. That’s what I fear.  

That’s why any moment from now I appeal to the party in power and other political parties and associations that will participate in the political process for us to discuss and find a common ground to improve our political process in such a way that it doesn’t bring violence now or in the future. That’s what we should be doing now. Those people who think that they love Cameroon have to accept to sit down on a table to discuss a way forward that can promote peaceful transitions or peaceful political change.

It is being observed that Cameroonians are so disinterested in politics, especially at University milieu where we have the academia. Could our universities not play a role in bringing change like it did in the 1990s?
Some Cameroonian opposition leaders have failed to implement what they said they would do. They have shown some opportunistic attitudes. We saw how some of them abandoned the 1992 coalition and joined the government. We have some people like Fru Ndi, who doesn’t really seem to be an incarnation of the opposition now. Some people even allege that has been used to making sure that we have a semblance of democracy in Cameroon.

There is also the issue of poverty and misery that has grown in Cameroon and is affecting the mental state of Cameroonians. People don’t have what to eat or what to drink, they don’t even think about something that is right. 

They have to fight and struggle every day to find what to eat so talking about politics to them is secondary. But what they fail to understand is that if you don’t sacrifice and fight for political change your situation will never improve.  Apart from that the government has created a system of intimidation using the army, abusing human rights and preventing people from speaking or assembling freely. 

For instance, you can go to the television, talk, shout and insult him with no problem. You will not be arrested or sent to prison. But when you decide to organise a single meeting or rally, the Divisional Officer will prevent you from holding that meeting on grounds that you are there to disturb public safety and peace. They don’t want people to assemble and to think. But if it was a meeting in support of the ruling CPDM like recently the students went on the streets to thank Mr Biya for the five thousand laptops it poses no problem. With all these people are no longer interested in political issues.

Talking about university students, we must understand that the mentality of Cameroonians has changed drastically for the worse because most people now are interested in material things.  Youths in Cameroon are interested just in getting money. But in our time we used to fight first for the love of the nation. We were patriots.

We didn’t fight because we wanted to receive money. In 2008 people were organised but demanded money when they were asked to go and protest. What we need now is massive education. We have to educate our population especially the students on patriotism. Maybe they need patriotism courses so that they can understand the use of sacrificing for your country. The University students really have to redirect their attention towards citizen participation.

How do you look at Cameroon after the Biya regime?
It depends on the kind of change we want to have. Whether we want to have a change in continuity with the current regime would depend on Cameroonians. We change not only the people that have been in the system, but we change the ways and policies of the current system in such a way to improve our democracy. Citizens have to participate in the electoral and decision making process. We have to witness an improvement in the delivery of public services by creating laws that can promote transparency and accountability in the delivery of those public services. 

We would need an electronic government, technology to leverage those change and reforms in our administrative and political system. We need to abandon progressively the informal and manual system that breeds corruption.  There are people in the current government that have good intention and 

could join us to bring about a positive transformation in the social, economic and political development of Cameroon. I and my team have the capacity to bring change with the support of the youths I have been fighting for since my early 20s. I think our country would improve after Biya.

Cameroonian youths are in a situation where a majority want to leave the country. Is there any reason why the youths should stay home?
The youths of Cameroon should wake up, think about our country. Don’t only think leaving your country is necessary. Think about what you can do to make the country better. Wake up let us fight for your rights to effect political change that will provide opportunities in the future, not only for you but also for future generations.

We will not abandon the Cameroon ship in the hands of grand bandits because they will be happy and take everything. Cameroon is like a grandmother that is been hijacked, vandalised and we cannot pass by and leave that grandmother and run away. 

Cameroonians should wake up and join Conscience du Cameroun as well as other progressive forces so that together we can change the regime, the political system and put in place laws that will foster social justice, opportunity for all, integral development, respect for Cameroon and the dignity of Cameroonians all over the world. The should not have any defeatist, fatalist attitudes. 

1 comment:

  1. Great interview, but I beg him to limit his notion of Cameroon to Cameroun proper--la Republique du Cameroun of January 1, 1960. This is because we want nothing to do with Cameroun; we are Ambazonians--British Cameroonians, period!