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Adieu Fr Joseph Ngah Mbiydzenyuy: Someone Beautiful for God!

Last Saturday or thereabouts, my friend Jude Ozughen and I reminisced of encounters with Fr Joseph Ngah. He recounted for the umpteenth time a story he has often told of the impact of priests in his life. Growing up in Ndop, at the time Fr Joseph Ngah served there, their mum used Fr Joe to discipline them. Every time they did something wrong, after the initial physical punishment of having to get to the top of Mount Ngoketungia to fetch some particular wood found only there, they had to write an apology and deliver to Fr Joseph and their mother will take it from him after morning mass. Of course, you did not want to meet the priest that often at least not under those circumstances. He asked me to try to get Fr’s Joe’s number so he could be in touch and thank him for the role he played in shaping his life. I dragged on only to learn about his shocking passing three days later.

How can “Pere Joe” as some of us called him exit so unceremoniously? The death of any priest often evokes deep emotions of sadness within the community of course because he is a man of the people and for people or is supposed to be. Yes, priests are automatically associated with virtue and holiness and so it begs the question why a tribute like this is warranted. Fr Joseph Ngah Mbiydzenyuy served as a priest of the archdiocese of Bamenda for 38 years and 10 months. He was a normal “Joe” and in this normalcy touched many lives like mine. Every time one attempts to capture the life of such a larger-than-life person as Pere Joe, a great injustice is done for words pale in expression of the truth of this magnanimous creature.

It is in the very obvious things of life that I find true key to Fr Joseph’s legacy. Fr Joe had a penchant for cleanliness. As obvious as this might seem given that most priests have people taking care of their laundry needs, one could not fail to notice Fr Joe’s peculiarity and particularity of being neat, trim, and clean. While it sounds counterintuitive given the peculiarity of the local church, he carefully straddled the limits of ostentatiousness call it flamboyancy and being well kempt and polished. He remained true to that transcendental property of being – beauty. One could best describe him as someone beautiful for God to paraphrase Malcolm Muggeridge’s characterization of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. It is a beauty radiating the divine and bringing home the fact that cleanliness is next to Godliness.

His greatest legacy in the archdiocese of Bamenda is in his transformation of Bopson a lay private school in the heart of Nkwen with a notoriety for brigands to St. Paul’s Bilingual Comprehensive College. The purchase by the archdiocese of Bamenda did not automatically translate to its Catholicity. It took the “grit, gut and gumption” of Fr Joseph for the Pauline-like conversion to take place. It suffices for anyone to read the tributes on social media from the alumni of this college to ascertain the quality of his work. His name is forever etched in the annals of this school not just for being its pioneer principal but above all for the many lives he inspired and built during his time there. He understood the psychology of young people and bonded well with them shepherding them through perilous paths like Joseph “with the heart of a father.” He was greatly admired by both teachers and students for his pragmatism and down to earth character. You could walk into St Paul and not tell he was in charge except for the immaculate white soutane he donned. Pere Joe vindicated the Bishops’ decision to have priests serving as principals of catholic schools.

Obviously, there is a camaraderie and conviviality that Pere Joe exuded that you could not miss. His intentionality and intensity with relationships is something which will be greatly missed. His uncanny ability to empathize, sympathize and fraternize endeared him to many. You could not miss his signature smile and laughter which always lit up wherever he went to. He knew how to laugh and make you laugh too.

Personally, the one treasure, Pere Joe left me is friendship. In the summer of 1982, Fr Clement Pishangu served in St Theresia’s parish in Small Mankon where we lived. He inspired me to seek to be a priest. He journeyed with me throughout the seminary and even beyond when that journey ended prematurely. While in the seminary, I claimed All Saints parish, Bayelle as my local parish even though my family lived in Buea at the time. So. for seven years of that journey, I had the guidance of Pere Joe, a classmate to Fr Clement. You could not be around Pere Joe and not want to be a priest. He enjoyed his vocation and served selflessly. And by some coincidence, I spent my pastoral year in St Gabriel’s parish, Bafmeng under the tutelage of Fr Peter Amah of blessed memory. They were the three ordained for the archdiocese of Bamenda on April 6th, 1983. Fr Clement planted the seed of what I perceived as a vocation to the priesthood and watered it with Fr Peter Amah and Pere Joe and I did the stonewalling. I am eternally indebted to these priests, all classmates who each in their own way helped shape me. Pere Joe was a true “big brother” who provided the example and the frequent admonition.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that Fr Joseph Mbiydzenyuy was a great preacher. He taught the word and preached the word with distinction.  Never a boring moment with him and you know a great preacher when years after you can recount some of his sermons. One that stayed with me was his explanation of the sacrament of reconciliation. He availed of the common experience of being badly in need of a toilet especially if you had a running stomach and got to one and discovered it was broken and dirty. You often would dump before complaining about the state of the receptacle. This impressed upon me the need to go for confession even when the vessel God had chosen to use was in one’s estimation a not too worthy one. It is the characterization of Henry Nouwen’s the wounded healer that he evoked to help us focus on our need for confession.

For Father Joseph Mbiydzenyuy to have died in the year of St Joseph is a happy coincidence given St Joseph is the patron of a happy death. To him we commend our father, Pere Joe as we tearfully bid him farewell and entreat the angels to bring him to God’s kingdom. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and Let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

St. Joseph: Artisan of Peace.

Every year, the Catholic Church celebrates the World Day of Peace on January 1. In his message for the celebration of 2021, the 54th World Day of Peace, Pope Francis invites Christians “to cultivate a culture of care as a path to peace.” The Holy Father proposes the culture of care as the antidote to the “culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time.” The year 2020 has taught us how important it is to care for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society.

Anyone familiar with the teaching of Pope Francis will recognize this theme of the war against the culture of indifference as central to his ministry. He frequently talks about “the globalization of indifference.” Francis proposes an alternative with his famous “culture of encounter” and to which he seems to be adding the “culture of care.” When we encounter people, we should care for and about them. The Pope seems to draw a link between indifference and conflict. Indifference breeds, feeds, and leads to conflict.

The prophet Isaiah refers to the messiah as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). This is confirmed at his birth which news the shepherds received with great joy and proclaimed the eternal truth: Glory to God in the highest and peace to people of goodwill.” The Church also honors Mary as the Queen of Peace. Given the relationship between Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, one wonders whether Joseph could be referred in any loose sense as the King of Peace? It would seem within the context of the Kingship of Christ, this might be a stretch. And so, to continue with Pope Francis’ postulation of a father’s heart, St. Joseph could be more appropriately described as a father of peace or more appropriately, a peaceful father.

Against the backdrop of Pope Francis’ call for a culture of care, St. Joseph provides a great example. He was not an absentee husband and father. The home is supposed to be the most peaceful place one can imagine. The home is supposed to be a sanctuary. Our homes are temples not because of their gorgeous designs and exquisite beauty but because of the quality of the people with whom we share that space. Home is sacred space shared with intimate persons. Unfortunately, many homes have been transformed to boxing rings and increasingly broken homes and broken families are becoming the norm. This is partly because of indifference.

The affinity between home and hearth(fireplace) is not just accidental but also intrinsic. Home is where we find light, warmth and love. When we turn it to a heathen it is partly because it has lost its warmth. Cold and indifference impede the heat from the hearth.

Indifference is born of a culture that does not care and that is not thoughtful. It is a culture that escapes and avoids the calculus of how one’s actions or inactions affect/impact the other. It is important to note that in relationships it is not enough to be right. The bible presents us with examples of indifference. Abel’s question: Am I my brother’s keeper? Readily comes to mind.

One of Pope Francis’ passage that brings home the issue of indifference is that of the parable of the Good Samaritan. In his seminal work on relationships, Fratelli Tutti, Pope Francis writes:

Jesus tells the story of a man assaulted by thieves and lying injured on the wayside. Several persons passed him by, but failed to stop. These were people holding important social positions, yet lacking in real concern for the common good. They would not waste a couple of minutes caring for the injured man, or even in calling for help. Only one person stopped, approached the man and cared for him personally, even spending his own money to provide for his needs. He also gave him something that in our frenetic world we cling to tightly: he gave him his time. Certainly, he had his own plans for that day, his own needs, commitments and desires. Yet he was able to put all that aside when confronted with someone in need. Without even knowing the injured man, he saw him as deserving of his time and attention. Which of these persons do you identify with?

Life presents daily opportunities for us to encounter people and provide care. It is about paying attention to the presence of the others around us and attending to their needs. And for this we can look to the example of St. Joseph.

In Matthew’s gospel we find how St Joseph enunciates the culture of care when he found out that Mary was pregnant. The evangelist tells us that St. Joseph did not want to bring her to shame and decided to divorce her quietly. (Matt. 1:19). Joseph cared more about Mary’s good name and did not want to bring her any shame. He was not indifferent to Mary’s feelings and reputation.

As a father, St Joseph was not indifferent to his son and we find an instance of this with the story of the Journey to Jerusalem where Christ went missing and Joseph and Mary only found out after traveling back to Galilee. (Luke 2:39-45) We are told not finding him, they returned to Jerusalem to look for him. Christ brought glory to Joseph but also upset the life and agenda of Joseph. Soon after the birth of Christ, St. Joseph had to escape to Egypt for the safety and security of Christ.

St. Joseph invites us to be artisans of peace by being attentive to the needs of our brothers and sisters. How attentive are husbands to the needs and cries of their wives? Joseph used the reason of the heart to attend to Mary’s needs.

How about children? How attentive are parents to the needs of their children? How much time do parents spend with their children? Are parents not being indifferent to their children when they put them on autopilot and spend hours at work moving from one job to the other and end up not recognizing who these children have turned out to be?

Based on our different circumstances in life, lets examine ourselves and see how indifferent we are to those around us. With the father’s heart like St. Joseph’s let us seek to be attentive. There is a tendency to limit care to gifts. We buy gifts for others as a sign of love but we are inattentive to the little details of their lives that make the difference. There is no greater and better gift than presence.

January 2021: “With a Father’s heart!”

It is with the words “With a father’s heart” that Pope Francis opens his Apostolic letter celebrating the anniversary of the proclamation of St Joseph, as Patron of the Universal Church. The pope seems to be answering a question which he does not tell us. His answer begs the question of why he chooses this description of a heart which answer we get in the concluding paragraph of the letter’s introduction. “For as Jesus says, out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. (Matthew 12:14).” Yet there is a great paradox, that throughout the gospels, Joseph is silent and gradually fizzles out from the scene. He seems to embrace the spirituality of John the Baptist: Christ must increase while I decrease. (Jn.3:30-35) The silence of Joseph speaks volumes and ascertains the expression that actions speak louder than words.

Anecdotally men have been said to love with their heads and women to love with their hearts. And in popular marriage parlance, the man is said to be the head and the woman is the heart of the family. Hence, when Pope Francis refers to Joseph as having a father’s heart, there is a certain paradox worth pausing to consider.  

One cannot lose sight of the fact that the Pope issued this letter on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception when the Church celebrates the fact that Mary was born without original sin. This brings to bold relief the fact that Joseph is no stranger to our human experience. But even more so, is the fact that Joseph is not unaffected by his union with Mary. She who is the handmaid of the Lord graces Joseph’s life too. Wherever we find Mary, Joseph is also present. To love Mary, is to love not just her Son but also and of course her husband. Therefore, when we invoke the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus, we should also and always analogously albeit, consider the heart of Joseph.

When the evangelist Luke recounts that Mary treasured these things and stored them in her heart (Lk. 2:19), the same could also be said of Joseph. This narrative is within the nativity scene which begins with Joseph bringing his wife Mary to be counted for the census that had been decreed. Joseph’s heart is rich and full of similar experiences. That heart is full and is overflowing.

No doubt Pope Francis describes Joseph’s heart from different vantage points. It is the fatherhood of Joseph that provides the launchpad from where he soars to the heavens. The word “father” is used at least 34 times throughout the text and indicates quite frankly where Pope Francis wants to lay emphasis namely fatherhood.

“Children today often seem orphans, lacking fathers,” writes Pope Francis highlighting what has become known as the crisis of fatherhood. “Fathers are not born but made. A man does not become a father simply by bringing a child into the world.”

It is as though the Pope is saying it is not enough to be called father but beyond this what kind of father are you. What kind of a heart do you have? To Pope Francis, St Joseph is the father par excellence as evident in the seven-fold adjectival descriptions he makes of St Joseph namely, “a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father, a creatively courageous father and a father in the shadows.” These are qualities that flow from the heart of Joseph whom the Pope proposes for imitation. Within the context of the Year of St. Joseph, we have randomly selected each of these for a month-long meditation around which we will design weekly reflections.

This project is in alignment with the Pope’s goal for us to “increase our love for this great saint, to encourage us to implore his intercession and to imitate his virtues and his zeal.”

Like Christ, St Joseph even in his silence is inviting us to learn from him for his gentle and lowly in heart. And Matthew presents the challenge in a much more forthcoming way when he notes that: But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart and they defile for the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. (Mtt.15:18-19). To cultivate a father’s heart, we are exhorted to turn to St Joseph’s heart.

During this month of January, let us seek out the heart of Joseph, a great treasury of love overflowing with blessings and grace. Just as Christ is an adopted son of Joseph, so too are we followers of Christ, adopted children of Joseph. Are you a father? What kind of heart do you have? Are you missing a father? Have you been abused by a father? Turn to the father of all fathers! Are you an absentee father? Seek the heart of Joseph to intercede for you.  

Celebrating 2021 with St Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church. Lambert Mbom

Last December 8th, Pope Francis declared the year in honor of St Joseph in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Pope Pius IX’s dedication of the universal Church to the patronage of St Joseph. Pope Francis draws our attention to the person of St Joseph often a forgotten figure. He invites us to the school of St Joseph and lays out the syllabus for developing the spirituality of St Joseph.

“Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble,” wrote Pope Francis in the apostolic letter, Patris Corde. “St Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

As a member of the Catholic Men’s Association (CMA), I found it incumbent to drill further into the Pope’s invitation and to propose a guide for the year. Pope Francis suggests seven themes along which to celebrate the life of St Joseph and I have added five more to make twelve – one for each month. For fifty weeks of the year, I have come up with a weekly meditation to provide “a lamp to our feet and a guide to our path” (Psalm 119:105) (You can preorder your copy)

While these meditations are weekly and could be used on any day of the week, they are especially relevant on Wednesdays of every week for as Pope Francis himself writes: “Special prayers are offered to him each Wednesday and especially during the month of March, which is traditionally dedicated to him.”

One of the recommended activities for the Year of St Joseph is for Catholics to consecrate themselves to St Joseph. Fr Donald Calloway, MIC, an American priest has published one of the best and authoritative books on all things St Joseph. It is entitled “Consecration to St Joseph: The Wonders of Our Spiritual Father.”

“Now is the time to consecrate yourself to St. Joseph!” This consecration follows the popular 33 days preparation for consecration to Mary and is patterned to coincide with major events in St Joseph’s life. Fr Calloway’s proposed schedule is as follows:

Consecration Chart

START OF THEFEAST DAYCONSECRATION
33 DAYS DAY
   
December 22Feast of the Holy SpousesJanuary 23
 
January 1Presentation of the LordFebruary 2
   
February 15*Solemnity of St. JosephMarch 19
   
March 30St. Joseph the WorkerMay 1
   
April 11Our Lady of FatimaMay 13
   
July 16Our Lady of KnockAugust 17
   
September 30All SaintsNovember 1
   
November 8Our Lady of LoretoDecember 10
   
November**Holy FamilyDecember

THE ROLE OF INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE IN REVIVING CAMEROON’S ECONOMY By Rev. Wilfred Emeh*

June 3, 2020

 

Cameroon's Minister of Finance Louis Paul Motaze
Cameroon’s Minister of Finance Louis Paul Motaze

Overview

Since late 2016, the Republic of Cameroon has been going through a devastating armed conflict that has worsened what was already a fledgling economy.  Historically, this civil strife can be traced to constitutional crisis in the governance process of the entire nation (Konings & Nyamnjoh1997). The blatant disregard for the culture, traditions and customs of the Anglophones were fundamental threats to the rule of law that heightened tensions leading to the current socio-political impasse.  A Transparency International report identified Cameroon’s judiciary system as the most corrupt in Africa. In the larger study of seven countries within the continent, one out of five persons interviewed admitted they had offered gifts to judges or related judicial matters. In Cameroon 80% of those interviewed perceived the judicial system is rather very corrupt (Koschel,2007).

Moreover, the dictatorship style of leadership and the unchecked power of the executive branch of government that undermines major cooperation and inclusion of the various regions have been counterproductive economically. According to Douglas North, social and legal norms and rules are foundations for the basis of institutions that underlie economic activities (North,1990).

This memo seeks to examine how institutional change can revive Cameroon’s economy. Institutional economics is defined as a study in economic history which focuses on the costs of human coordination and cooperation through time, which is essential in bringing about change in the society (North,1990). We will achieve this objective by looking at some principles of governance that can positively influence economic activities for growth and development. Among other things, this memo will consider the rule of law and economic growth, abuse of power, and social cohesion as essential elements in economic activities.

What is at stake?

In consideration of the fact that effective institutions promote economic growth by reducing transaction costs of operating in the economy, whereas ineffective institutions dis-incentivize market participants and lead to economic decline (North, 1990), how can Cameroon revive its institutions in order to foster economic growth?

Evaluation of Findings and Conclusions

 The rule of law is essential for the regulation of markets, property rights, checks and balances of the executive branch of government, all of which are foundational to economic growth. In this regard, North indicates that formal constraints such as laws and a constitution are necessary in the harmonious functioning of every institution. In addition to these formal constraints, culture and ideologies make up informal constraints of the institutions. The absence of the rule of law often leads to anarchy and this is true of most countries that are going through civil wars. It has been established that civil war tends to reduce growth by around 2.3% per year; with civil wars (in his dataset) averaging seven years in duration, the typical war leaves a country 15% poorer than it otherwise would have been (Collier, 2005).

Collier’s findings further buttress the position that the ongoing civil war in Cameroon has led the nation to financially disastrous condition.  In fact, “many countries in Africa without any system of good governance in place show an association between conflicts and poor law enforcement in protecting the natural resource base and in observing human rights” (as cited in Yiew et al., 2016. Pg. 3744).

According to a UN report, corruption, illicit trade and money laundering contribute to State weakness, impede economic growth and undermine democracy. These activities eventually create a permissive environment for civil conflict.” (UN Report,2004).

The absence of the rule of law has far reaching effects on the efficiency and effectiveness of institutions. Lessig (2013) explains that “institutional corruption is manifest when there is a systemic and strategic influence that undermines the institution’s effectiveness by weakening its ability to achieve its purpose, including to the extent relevant to its purpose, weakening either the public’s trust in that institution or the institution’s inherent trustworthiness.”(Lessig, 2013 p. 553).

Fr Wilfred Emeh is Doctoral Student in Public Administration at West Chester University, PA
Fr Wilfred Emeh is a Doctoral Student in Public Administration at West Chester University, PA

The downward slope regarding the rule of law is closely related to abuse of power.  Prior to the ongoing conflict in Anglophone Cameroon, even to this day, the executive branch has abused power with impunity. Throughout our nation’s history, presidents have targeted their political opponents as we see it unfold in the ongoing conflict (Tumi, 2006). This is detrimental to the nation’s economy because abuse of power is a guaranteed source of dissension and frustration; some of the ruling elites must be aware of impending political instability from a culmination of these negative feelings (North, 1990).

Moreover, political scientists and legal scholars attest that institutional checks on executive discretion, including through independent judiciaries, are integral to the very concept of the rule of law. Such checks and balances are economically important because of the classic time-inconsistency problem (Kydland & Prescott, 1977). In the same vein, Haggard & Tiede maintain that “the rule of law, property rights, and contract enforcement cannot be credible unless there are effective limits on executive discretion” (Haggard & Tiede, 2011. p.674).

In consideration of the heavy toll of corruption in Cameroon, evident not only in the judiciary, but in the widespread of bribery in contracts, taxation of imports, and the embezzlement of state funds, the economy cannot thrive because: “A predatory government acting on its self-interest is prone to squander the wealth of the country and exploit the business community through unjust taxes and misappropriation of resources and profits. In the long run, these self-preservation strategies can eventually lead the ruling dynasty to its destruction.” (North, 1997, p. 154). The World Governance Indicators, specifically the indicator on control of corruption, placed Cameroon in the lowest 10 percentile, while also ranking it low (25 percentile or lower) for the remaining indicators (Broadman & Recanatini, 2001).

On the other hand, social cohesion and the prevalence of justice provide a favorable environment for businesses and investors. The inevitable result is security of life and property which in turn encourages integrity, hard work, entrepreneurship and technological progress, while its absence defeats economic motivation. In line with institutional economics, transaction costs of doing business escalates with the prevalence of injustices. And, in the end, more complex contracts and the alliance between business and politics become the norm, causing the economy to suffer (Khalid, 2015). Khalid further argues that the “crowding out” of investments is bound to emerge and tax collections will decline as enterprises reassess their risks and returns from operating in that economy (Khalid, 2015).

In reality, social cohesion does not only attract investors, but it equally provides a flourishing socio-political environment that boosts both investors’ and consumers’ confidence. It is within such environments that institutions and markets thrive. As Khalid (2015) points out, social cohesion and institutional efficiency consistently have an equal and important effect as does resources endowment in bringing about economic development and higher civilization.

Recommendations

In order to restore some credibility to institutions, there is urgent need to revisit the training of administrators and legal experts. It is well known that admissions into the National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM) is fraught with political machinations, and for this reason, the performance of the graduates who run most of our institutions is mediocre.  In this regard, Lasswell & McDougal (1943) insist on the vital role of training those who provide legal service in a democratic society because of the enormous influence on attitudes toward the law.

Transparency and accountability are foundational to economic activities. How can a nation regain the trust and confidence of its people who are distraught due to a lack of transparency and accountability? For years Cameroonians have been constantly disgruntled with parliamentarians and other community representatives who singlehandedly execute projects after having embezzled substantial sums of money. This lack of accountability and transparency hampers cooperation and coordination, both of which are essential in the chain of production and the wellbeing of all.

In conclusion, having been endowed with rich human and natural resources like other African countries, such as Rwanda, that have walked down the path of civil war, Cameroon has a potential for an economic future. However, our country cannot realize its full potential if the ruling government does not chart a new path marked by patriotism, the rule of law, and the common good. Such an aspiration can only succeed to the extent that government officials learn from history and rise beyond the inordinate desire for personal aggrandizement. It is important, in this regard, for all branches of government to be in sync with unwavering determination to implement changes that are most needed to restore the ethics and nobility of our nation’s institutions.  There is no better way than relying on the tested and proved findings that have been clearly outlined in this memo.

References

Broadman, H. G., & Recanatini, F. (2001). Seeds of corruption–Do market institutions matter? MOST: Economic Policy in Transitional Economies11(4), 359-392.

Collier, P. (2005). The Collier-Hoeffler model of civil war onset and the case study project research design. Understanding civil war: Evidence and analysis1, 1-33.

Haggard, S., & Tiede, L. (2011). The rule of law and economic growth: where are we? World development39(5), 673-685.

Khalid, H. (2015). The role of institutions in driving economic change: Comparing the thoughts of Ibn Khaldūn and Douglass C. North. Intellectual Discourse23(2).

Koschel, D. (2007). Transparency International Report, 2007. Retrieved from (https://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/20071002_judicial_corruption_fuels_impunity_corrodes_rule_of_law.

Kydland, F. E., & Prescott, E. C. (1977). Rules rather than discretion: The inconsistency of optimal plans. Journal of political economy85(3), 473-491.

Konings, P., & Nyamnjoh, F. B. (1997). The anglophone problem in Cameroon. The Journal of Modern African Studies35(2), 207-229.

Lasswell, H. D., & McDougal, M. S. (1943). Legal education and public policy: Professional training in the public interest. The Yale Law Journal52(2), 203-295.

Lessig, L. (2013). “Institutional corruption” defined. The Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics41(3), 553-555.

Tumi, W. (2006). The Political Regimes of Ahmadou Ahidjo, and Paul Biya, and Christian Tumi, Priest. MACACOS, Douala.

United Nations, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility: Report of the Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change, UN Doc A/59/565 (1 December 2004), available at http://www.un.org/secureworld.

Yiew, H., Habibullah, S., Law, H., & Azman-Saini, W. (2016). Does bad governance cause armed conflict? International Journal of Applied Business and Economic Research, 14(6), 3741-3755.

*Fr Wilfred Emeh is Doctoral Student in Public Administration at West Chester University, PA

US Organizes the Second Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom. By Lambert Mbom.

Washington D.C. – Over one thousand religious leaders and civil society delegates are gathering at the U.S. State department for the second Ministerial to advance Religious Freedom from Tuesday July 16th through Thursday July 18th, 2019. This is coming on the heels of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom’s Report released last May and the State department’s annual report last June which highlight “the continuing and complex challenges to religious freedom.”

“This year’s event will be the biggest religious freedom event ever held in the world, said Ambassador Brownback. “We hope that this will stir actions. That’s what we’re after is to stir action.”

Banking on the success of the inaugural event that took place last year, Brownback is hoping that this year’s event will galvanize grassroots mobilization. And this is not unprecedented given a similar feat had been attained with the fight against human trafficking.

“Ultimately, we’re after a grassroots movement. We want one in the religious freedom space as well, and that the religious actors would stand up for each other,” declared Ambassador Brownback in a telephonic presser last Friday. “It’s a big deal to this administration. It is a big deal to the people of the world. The world has not paid enough attention to what’s taking place here and the plight of so many people that have been injured, and over 70 percent of the world lives in a religious-restrictive environment and many cases, unfortunately a deadly environment. So, we hope to really push back and start this grassroots movement seriously to push back against it,” added Brownback.

The weeklong event is divided into three parts with the first day focusing on “Expanding the Conversation on Religious Freedom” where discussions will focus on “opportunities and challenges for promoting and defending religious freedom globally.” Then there will be a shift on how to forge a partnership between international freedom, international development and humanitarian aid to advance mutual interests.

After the broad strokes laid down on day one participants will take a deep dive into the issues raised. These sessions shall focus on three thematic tracks namely Building Blocks for Advancing Religious Freedom, Emerging Trends in Religious Freedom, Religious Freedom in Development and Humanitarian Assistance best practices for religious freedom advocacy;

On the third day, sessions will focus on governments’ role with a keynote address and call to action by Secretary of State Pompeo, Vice President Michael Pence and Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney. Participants will take part in plenary sessions focused on “identifying global challenges to religious freedom; developing innovative responses to persecution on the basis of religion; and sharing new commitments to protect religious freedom for all.”

The international gathering kicked off Monday with a solemn event at the Holocaust Museum and will conclude Thursday at the National Museum for African American History and Culture.

Given the enormous interest this topic has garnered, a “Second Stage” has been set up with 80 parallel events taking place at the Marvin Center on the campus of George Washington University.

French Hegemony over Africa – The Case of African Nations’ Cup 2019. By Lambert Mbom.

There is an unmistakable “Africanness” with the French Soccer team and Trevor Noah, the South African comedian loudly proclaimed this after the French team won the 2018 World Cup. After France conquered parts of Africa since the Scramble for Africa in 1884, they have never left Africa. With the dawn of independence in the 1960’s, they moved to the background and simply propped up dictators to do their bidding.

There is no France without Africa. France continues to maintain a stranglehold over her former colonies politically and economically. There is an increasing backlash over the French imperialistic and anachronistic colonial pact that continues to impoverish 14 African countries. One other area the French have maintained this hegemony over Africa is in soccer. Africans love soccer and it is the most famous sports on the continent. It is a useful distraction.

The 32nd edition of the African Nations’ Cup is currently taking place in Egypt, the land of the Pharaohs and a distinctively African nation. Yet the soccer bonanza carries an unvarnished French flavor in particular and a European accent in general.

The main sponsor of the event is the French Oil and gas magnate, Total. This company is present in 42 countries in Africa, 21 of which are taking part in the 2019 African Nations’ Cup.  No wonder they are the main sponsors of the event.

Anyone who doubts the nefarious influence of France and its French companies, it suffices to listen to the Former Senegalese Minister of energy, Thierno Allasane Sall who resigned in protest over an oil deal with Total. In an interview he gave last January he remarked that:

“France is pressuring Senegal to obtain oil and gas exploitation. I cannot sign a document where the French company Total which was in 5th position to acquire the market according to the experts, suddenly becomes number 1 after pressure on President Macky Sall. What happens there is happening everywhere in Africa. ”

He described the French machinations as coup plotters and nation destabilizers when they don’t get their way. Thierno affirmed that “France is ready to wage war on you, a coup d’etat, or to raise a whole rebellion to impose a contract. They impose their deal and if you do not want you clear.” Oil has rightly been described as the resource curse of Africa.

Then we have the French Multinational telecommunications network: Orange also sponsoring the event. This giant is present across 20 countries of Africa 11 of which are currently taking part in the soccer jamboree. How about the South African behemoth, MTN with the largest number of mobile phone users in Africa?

Beyond sponsorship, we also find French domination with the technical staff of the different teams. Seven of the 24 coaches managing African teams at this competition are white French citizens namely Sebastien Desabre (Uganda), Nicholas Dupuis (Madagascar), Sebastien Magne (Kenya), Corentin Martins (Mauritania), Alain Giresse (Tunisia), Herve Renard (Morocco), Michel Dussuyer (Benin).

Five other teams are managed by Europeans German Gernot Rohr (Nigeria), Belgian Paul Put (Guinea), Serbian Srdjan Vasiljevic(Angola), Englishman Stuart Baxter (South Africa) and Dutchman Clarence Seedorf (Cameroon) and one by Mexican Javier Aguirre (Egypt).

We have 11 African coaches with Nigerian Emmanuel Amuneke the only one coaching a country other than his.

France has always been a favorite destination for African soccer players. According to Karim Farouk of Ahram Online,  “France is a second home for African players…Out of the 552 players who will feature in the tournament, 95 are playing in France — mostly in Ligue 1 and other lower divisions.”

Vestiges of European colonial domination loom large with the outfits of the different teams. The German giant PUMA has the highest number of contracts. It is supplier to Egypt, Senegal, Angola, Cote D’Ivoire and Ghana. Meanwhile, the other German competitor Adidas has Algeria and Morocco.

The British outfit Umbro supplies Zimbabwe and the Irish O’Neills is supplying to the DRC while Italian Kappa is responsible for Tunisia and Macron, the other Italian Sportswear company is responsible for Guinea and Kenya. The French brand Airness is responsible for Mali while Le Coq Sportif is responsible for Cameroon’s outfits.

The non-European companies supplying are the American superstar Nike which is serving Nigeria, Burundi and South Africa whereas the Australian Gazman is supplying Madagascar.

The lone African company on this dais is Moroccan AB Sport availed of by Mauritania. Africans must learn to consume African products especially with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.

Last February, the African Development Bank launched the Pan African Fashion Initiative to promote African textiles and garments. During the launch, Ethiopian President noted that “Globally, Africa’s cultural colours and clothing are increasingly being embraced.”

The biennial soccer event provides a great and unique opportunity for African countries especially the textile giants Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, South African and Tunisia to showcase their worth. If nothing else at least they should be able to take advantage during competitions like these to make the textile industry bloom.

Unless African nations shrug off their sentimental attachment to France, she will remain to paraphrase Shakespeare “Like flies to wanton boys are…They kill us for their sport.” Wake up Africa.

A Rejoinder to Cameroon’s Foreign Minister’s Address to the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations. By Lambert Mbom

 

On Thursday September 27th2018, La Republique du Cameroun’s Minister of External Relations Lejeune Mbella Mbella addressed the 73rd session of United Nations’ General Assembly (UNGA). The minister spent 19 of the 25 minutes he spoke skirting around the real issues and in the remainder of the six minutes addressed the hydra-headed foreign affairs monster namely the Ambazonia quagmire. It was a shameful outing filled with lies, historical aberrations and fallacies.

In his opening words, Mbella Mbella hailed this moment as historic given that the UNGA current President is a woman only the fourth to accede to this position in the institution’s 73-year history. While this is quite symbolic, it pales in comparison to the fact that Paul Biya, Mbella’s boss and the colonial dictator of Cameroon has been President for half of the years of the existence of the United Nations. And could not show up at this year’s meeting due to the fact that he was launching a campaign ahead of presidential elections whose results have already been well packaged and he prepares to declare himself winner for another seven-year mandate.

No wonder then that H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa is only the fourth woman to become president of the General assembly in the over seven decades of the U.N.’s existence. Octogenarian and nonagenarian strongmen like Paul Biya have not only held their people hostage but also cast a spell on the international order by surrounding and shielding themselves with strong old men and soothsayers like Mbella Mbella. It may be of interest to note that Cameroon currently has only one female ambassador and she is only the third in history.

Mbella shamelessly opines that “The corporatist claims of the teachers’ and lawyers’ unions which lie at the heart of the situation have continued to be subject to negotiations with these social and professional groups.” This is so pathetic to note that the Minister and Cameroon’s government are still stuck in 2016 when the current crisis began as concerns of trade unions. It is this ostrich-like mentality and myopia of the barbaric regime of Biya that feels compelled to conveniently circumscribe the problems to being an issue of teachers and lawyers that has led it to be dogged in its heels. This regime is so moronic that it cannot make the distinction and relationship between symptoms and malady. They could not see or have failed to acknowledge that the problems raised by teachers and lawyers were symptomatic of deep seated simmering and systemic issues. Those corporatist claims morphed and exposed the systemic issues that had plagued an ill-fated “union” with the entire people of former United Nations trustee territory of British Southern Cameroons.

And for the Minister to claim that negotiations have continued with these unions is a lie. Has the minister forgotten that they jailed leaders of the consortium forced others into exile and later extradited them with the complicity of Nigeria?

“Unfortunately, Mr. President which is unfortunate to say from this rostrum, some individuals that are ruthless and lawless have tried to transform these socio professional concerns into demands for secession which aim to break up the state without any regard for constitutional and democratic mechanisms.” This is truly unfortunate that a minister would tell such brazen lies from the sacred rostrum on such a global stage. La Republique is bandying around the term secessionists in the hope that with this tag, the people will back down and chicken out. A cursory look at the history of Cameroon will challenge this characterization. We must remind the minister that the union between Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon is a constitutional monstrosity. With hindsight, it is worth stating that there has always been a grand scheme from the get-go for La Republique to annex and recolonize Southern Cameroons. Cameroon is built on a lie. No wonder the custodians of that patrimony continue to peddle more lies to defend it. But soon the deluge! In the context of the constitutional malpractice and the constitutional illegalities that define the Cameroon experiment, it would be instructive for the minister and his cronies to read the Buea Declaration of April 1993. This landmark document paints the contours of the constitutional rape which began in April 1960 even before the union came into force and declares forcefully that “No valid constitutional or other legal basis has ever existed for the reunification of the two Cameroons and for the common governance of the two territories.”

While this annexation project kicked off in April 1960 with the discovery of oil in Southern Cameroons, the recolonization project was fast tracked and in abrogation of the terms of the union, then President Ahidjo unilaterally imposed a referendum with the majority of citizens of La Republique partaking and invariably overwhelming the minority Southern Cameroonians. The supposed “Union” was designed to be two federated states. In flagrant disregard, a bogus referendum in 1972 led to the dissolution of the two states federation. This led to the chimera called United Republic of Cameroon.

And barely 12 years later, Emperor Paul Biya sealed the deal whereby with a stroke of the pen changed the name of the country from the United Republic of Cameroon to The Republic of Cameroon which is the name former United Nations trustee territory French Cameroon adopted when it gained independence on 1st of January 1960. It is worth noting that a name change is a very significant development in the life of any person and in the life of any nation. Mr. Minister lets state the facts clearly: La Republique already seceded from the botched union. This is a clear instance of the pot calling the kettle black. When you look into the mirror if you have the courage to, all you see is your face.

There was a golden opportunity for the government of La Republique to correct the constitutional gaffe and that was in 1996 when the constitution was revised. Ahead of this, the aggrieved people of Southern Cameroons got together and first in 1993 called for a return to the two states federation. When this request fell on deaf ears, a second conclave held in Bamenda in 1994 and came up with a Proclamation. The Bamenda Proclamation warned the government of La Republique that if she failed to take action the people of Southern Cameroons would be forced to “proclaim the revival of the independence and sovereignty of the Anglophone territory of the Southern Cameroons and take all measures necessary to secure, defend and preserve the independence, sovereignty and integrity of the said territory.” The government’s response was characteristic and predictable: wanton arrests and detention, brutal use of naked force to railroad the people of Southern Cameroons to accept the lie of a unitary state.

It is quite ludicrous that the minister talks of constitutionality when strangely the crisis of the North West and South West regions has never ever been addressed by the Parliament and Senate in Cameroon.

Talking of democratic mechanisms, Southern Cameroonians have availed of different avenues such as the African Union, the United Nations, the Commonwealth of Nations, the International Court of Justice and lodged complaints but given the international conspiracy, they have been treated like orphans. But the world must remember that no matter how long the night is, day must dawn. And Lejeune and his cronies must note that the thief has 99 days but one day the owner will repossess his property. We seem to be on the 98th day!

What is more, the minister further intimates that “the government welcomes the fact that the entire people of Cameroon and above all the populations of these two regions have rejected any attempts at secession.”This is quite a laughable tale. Clearly the minister is under the illusion that lackeys, stooges and crumb gatherers like Atanga Nji, Philemon Yang, Ngole Ngole speak for any people but themselves. Mr. Minister when and how did the people of Ambazonia reject their independence? I hope you have watched some of the videos of the celebrations last October 1st when Ambazonians came out to celebrate Independence Day. Are you insinuating that those fighting for the restoration of independence are foreigners? Yes, we are foreigners in La Republique. It is wishful thinking to continue this parody in the pious hope that someday beggars would ride. We understand that you have an aversion for numbers and so any figment of your imagination such as your current claim is what you package and sell. If you are courageous enough why not ask the UN to come and supervise a referendum on this question and let’s see who is living a fool’s paradise? Don’t be fooled: even those you think and believe are with you share the aspirations and spirit of the Ambazonia revolution. They just lack the moral courage and political wherewithal to manifest this. On this I can dare you that over three quarters of Ambazonians want an independent state.

 Shamelessly the minister maintains that “In light of the aforementioned the government is working to restore peace and security in the two regions with respect for human rights and rules and laws of the Republic.” These are mere words that even the person uttering them does not believe in. Your Excellency, there can be no peace without justice. And justice in its most common and basic meaning is giving to each what is their due…For the people of Ambazonia, it is simply the restoration of the independence. Peace is not just the absence of war. And did I hear mention of human rights? The world knows or should know by now that using La Republique and human rights in the same sentence is not just a linguistic aberration but also an anomaly in reality. Everybody has seen the videos of the military junta executing women and children at close range after labeling them Boko Haram terrorists.  And this is just the tip of the iceberg. When the world will wake up to the atrocities of la Republique du Cameroun against the people of Ambazonia, even the corpses of the perpetrators would be exhumed for trial and condemnation. The government of Cameroun is after an elusive peace. Coercing the people into a doomed and damned union is just a recipe for disaster. Biya and his ilk should have gotten the message by now: a union is not forced and is not even possible!

Once more being sensitive to the fate of the concerned population, the President of the Republic has decided to implement an emergency humanitarian plan with a provisional budget of 12.7 billion fcfa.” This is the most ludicrous pronouncement. Biya declares war on the people of Ambazonia and turns around with an emergency humanitarian plan? This is a smokescreen. The kleptocratic despot just created a cash cow to satisfy the insatiable corrupt appetites of the governing mafia. After razing villages with your scorched earth policy, then sending armed thugs in name of military to shoot and destroy innocent civilians whose only crime is them activating their inalienable right to self-determination. The most egregious violation of human rights is the annexation and recolonization of the people of Ambazonia. And to add salt to injury, killing these innocent people for standing up for this right.

The Minister then proceeds to disgrace his master by claiming that they “…have shown our openness to dialogue but in strict respect of the institution and laws of the Republic.” When you label people as terrorists, how do you dialogue with them? Recently, the US had talks with the Talibans they had been combatting in Afghanistan over the last two decades. This should be a lesson to the warlords of La Republique. You can never win in a guerilla warfare. The time for dialogues has long passed. Ambazonians begged and pleaded with you but in characteristic Machiavellian fashion displayed a masochistic bravado and swore that Ambazonia will rise only over your corpse.

No doubt Mr. Minister you claim that “Robust measures have already been taken to remedy the situation. For example, the creation of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism as well as a fully-fledged ministry responsible for decentralization.” One would have expected you to show that your commission is working and for once address this noble assembly in English and French. What is more, you proved the point: with the wrong diagnosis, you could only get such out of target and lack of focus solution, as decentralization. It is worth stating for the umpteenth time: the independence of Ambazonia is non-negotiable. It is not a matter of if but rather when.

The minister tops off his lies “To conclude, Cameroon whose independence was conducted and guided by the UN will like to restate its faith in our organization but also its attachment to peace and stability basic resources without which no development is possible.” Mr. Minister, the country you represent had its independence on January 1st 1960 while Ambazonia gained its independence on October 1st 1961. Yes the UN supervised both but did not complete the latter. This is why it is the UN’s responsibility to listen and address the recriminations of its former Trustee territory. It is unconscionable for the UN to claim that the destiny of the people of Ambazonia was foreclosed with the union with La Republique.

The UN General Assembly adopted as its theme for this session: “Making the United Nations relevant to all people: global leadership and shared responsibilities for peaceful, equitable and sustainable societies.” The people of Ambazonia need the UN to become relevant to them. In the Political document signed at the Nelson Mandela Peace summit, the UN pledged to move beyond words in the promotion of peaceful, just, inclusive and non-discriminatory societies…for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” The current crisis presents a unique opportunity for the UN to deliver on that promise. The UN must stand up to bullies like La Repubqlique du Cameroun. The crisis is not a domestic conflict or an internal matter. Even if it were it is not by merely wishing it that peace will reign. One wonders if the UN has learnt any lessons from the past? The time to act is now! The UN cannot trust the words of an abusive partner hoping that he will do the right thing. This problem was created by the UN and it is the UN’s to fix!

World Mental Health Day 2018

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This year’s theme focused on “Young People and Mental Health in a Changing World.” Teen suicide rates in the United States of America are on the rise. This is a strange phenomenon among Africans . Last June the Cameroon Community of the D.C. area was in shock when a young man committed suicide. It turned out he had been diagnosed with a mental disorder.

While the world reflects on the mental health of our young people, I would like on this day to reflect on the mental health of African immigrant men in the United States of America. When a woman divorces a man, hardly does anyone of them go into counseling to deal with the delirious effects of the previous marriage. Many simply move on as if the past is a non-event. A lot of wounds, hurts, regrets and bitterness that need sorting through and sorting out for a healthy kick off. A lot of domestic violence happens as a result of too much pent up anger, rancor and unresolved tensions that boil over. Isn’t there some truth to the song recently distributed on whatsapp about Cameroonian men in Maryland who spend hours dousing alcohol and liquor in the hope of avoiding and filtering out the noise from home?

It would be interesting to find out how many of us have ever seen a counselor for anything? Ask the next friend you meet when they last had a mental health check up and if that conversation lasts beyond a second then you are lucky. Why is there a recommendation for an annual physical and no recommendation for an annual mental health examination. Just as we need physicians so do we need mental health specialists call them therapists, psychologists or psychiatrists. Did I mention psychiatrists? What a taboo!

Dear friends, it is not a taboo to have mental health issues. Too many of us are depressed and are seeking for answers in the wrong place. It is not witchcraft! Do not be fooled that you have been bewitched by an uncle or an aunt envious of your family success! It is real and there is help out there.

My dear brothers, mental health is a big business venture in D.C. We who take care of persons with mental challenges need to take care of ourselves too. Very often, we are just a step away from the persons we take care of. Mental illness is becoming an alarming trend in our African immigrant community and let us start sounding the alarm bells. For men only? Nego! The Good News: There is so much help!

African Immigrants and African Americans in DC Celebrate Our Lady Mother of Africa. By Lambert Mbom.

 

20180924_234816-booklet-for-mass-e1537867657878.jpgThe Arabic expression “Assalaam Alaikum” which literally means “Peace be unto you,” a standard Muslim greeting echoed from the altar of the Upper Church of the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception during the sign of peace. Over 350 African immigrants and African Americans of the archdiocese of Washington DC metro congregated in Mary’s shrine on Sunday September 16 to celebrate the annual mother of Africa pilgrimage.

“We are on pilgrimage to the house of the mother of Jesus,” said Msgr. Eddie Tollentino main celebrant and homilist. “We ask for her intercession under the title of Mother of Africa. We have come to gain deeper insight and intimacy with Mary’s only begotten son.”

This mass marked the 21st anniversary of the dedication of the chapel of Our Mother of Africa, one of over 70 chapels that make up and adorn the towering edifice of Catholicism in the nation’s capital. This chapel is tucked between the Crypt Church and the Our Lady of Lourdes chapel (which mirrors the Lourdes Grotto). It is the one spot where Africa features into the “tapestry of the Catholic faith” and the “mosaic of this great nation.” Small in size with a holding capacity of less than 20 persons, it harbors the distinctive artistic acuity of a Black Jesus and the image of a Black Madonna beckoning on the slavery ridden history of this great nation depicted in the bas relief on the wall of the chapel.

With Hurricane Florence raging in the Carolinas and many people having left home out of necessity, many have become part of the Diaspora, noted Msgr. Tollentino. This is the same experience of the prophet Isaiah in the First Reading who lived in exile not because of any hurricane but because his country people had become a rebellious people. It is also the experience of the African diaspora that had gathered in the nation’s capital. No matter what Diaspora you might be from, there is only one place we can come for healing: Jesus Christ.

He exhorted the community to seek the truth explaining that truth comes from hearing and the word of God. And with faith comes action.

“Our faith should be pulsating through our veins in the same way as the music,” said Tollentino.

The richness of African liturgical music came to life as the angelic voices of the Marie Reine du Monde Choir of the Francophone community of St Camillus’s parish animated. Not only did the prayers of the faithful receive the African flavor with renditions in dialects from Cameroon, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria and Ethiopia but also most of the songs originated from the heart of Mother Africa with songs in Ibo(Nigeria), Swahili, Bawule (Cote D’Ivoire), Serere (Senegal) among others.

While applauding the Africans who showed up for this celebration, Dr. Seikor Bundu, President of the African Catholic Association of the DC metro area regretted the fact that in spite of the groundwork his team put in place many Africans did not show up to fill the Upper Church of the Basilica.

Conspicuously absent at this year’s celebration was the traditional visit to the chapel itself during which people took turns to pray, like at last year’s. Many persons however spent some private moments there after the mass.

Visibly present at the celebration were Marian groups especially from Cameroon with the distinctive Catholic Women’s Association (CWA) – and the Catholic Women’s Organization (CWO) outfit.

Worth noting is the fact that the Mother of Africa chapel and its architectural accoutrements are gifts of the African American Bishops and National Black Catholic Congress (NABC). The scared dialogue that the chapel conjures is one that needs to be happening more between African immigrants and African Americans.

NABC describes the work of arts in the chapel thus: “The statue of Our Mother of Africa holding the Christ Child faces a bas-relief in the nave, which chronicles the African-American odyssey, and draws us to the Crucified Christ in the sanctuary.”

“It is good to see the African Diaspora in the Basilica of the National Shrine,” said Sandra Coles-Bell, program director of the Office of Cultural Diversity and outreach of the archdiocese of Washington DC who organized this mass.

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