UNITED NATIONS, May 24 – A week ago, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Cameroon administering in areas to which it cut off the Internet for 94 days a General Certificate of Education test, specifically citing UNESCO. Dujarric said he would look into it. Having received no answer even as Guterres’ Deputy and Chief of Staff appeared at Cameroon’s (boycotted) national day, on May 23 Inner City Press asked again about this, and Amnesty International’s press conference on 10 year sentences to students (whose jokes included the GCEs) being shut down. Dujarric said he had an answer from UNESCO – that he never provided to Inner City Press, and apparently would never have, if not asked again. Now here it is: “Your question on the Cameroon tests: Regarding a previous query on a test being administered in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon despite the regions being affected by school closures and a internet blackout, while this is not an issue covered by UNOCA, but rather UNESCO, UNOCA has informed that there have been reports of abstentions from the examinations in the North West and South-West regions of the country. We are not aware of any reports of these tests being taken at gunpoint. Nonetheless it is of concern that these examinations [General Certificate of Education] were held, despite school closures and the internet blackout for over three months, which disrupted normal activities. However that is an issue for the relevant national authorities to respond to. UNOCA, in close cooperation with the Acting Resident Coordinator, is monitoring the situation in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon and will continue to liaise with the authorities to promote a peaceful resolution to the grievances of the Anglophone population.”
While the UN Security Council visited Cameroon during the 94 day Internet cut off and said nothing publicly about it (but see below), Inner City Press has obtained and has exclusively published on Patreon and now Scribd, here Cameroon’s “Urgent and Confidential” letter to the UN Security Council, about weapons. On May 23, Inner City Press went to the New York event for Cameroon’s “National” Day, which was boycotted in the Anglophone regions of the country. In New York, however, UN Deputy Secretary General Amina J. Mohammad and Antonio Guterres’ Chef de Cabinet Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti attended, along with French Permanent Representative to the UN Francois Delattre, Burundi’s Albert Shingiro and others. Video here.
Periscope inside was not possible due, ironically, to a lack of Internet. There were toasts in French for Chantalle Biya and for the UN officials; on the way out UN staffers told Inner City Press it was sure to criticize them. What matters, as always, is what happens going forward. Italy is a member of the Security Council this year, and on the morning of May 18 including in light of Italian President Mattarella’s meetings this year with Cameroon’s 34 year president Paul Biya, Inner City Press asked Italy’s Mission to the UN: “your Mission was part of the Security Council’s trip including to Cameroon earlier this year, during the country’s 94-day Internet shut off to millions of people in the Northwest and Southwest (or Anglophone) regions. The IMF, for what it’s worth, told Inner City Press the government’s Internet cut off is among other things a financial risk in 2017. Could you comment on your Mission’s aware of the issue, during the Security Council visit to Cameroon and since, and on whether you believe the Secretary General and DPA, as a matter of prevention of conflict, may have a greater role to play in this long-standing, UN-related conflict or dispute?” Eight hours later, the Italian Mission’s spokesperson Giovanni Davoli replied on Cameroon that “the situation you are mentioning was not in the agenda of the UNSC visit.” To his credit, Swedish diplomat Carl Skau tells Inner City Press, “I can confirm that the issue was raised by the delegation in meetings.” Now Italy’s spokesman insists, “I confirm: it was not in the agenda of the visit. Whether it was raised, it is another matter on which I have no elements.” Meanwhile, party in interest France has yet to respond, while Emmanuel Macron is in Mali. We’ll have more on this. On May 17, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujuarric what if anything Guterres is doing about Cameroon. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: there are people saying that António Guterres’ strategy of being Secretary-General is to sort of downplay the peacemaking powers of it and engage in quiet diplomacy. And I guess the reason I’m asking you is just objectively speaking, compared to the previous administration, there are many fewer readouts, there’s less… there’s less being said. Maybe it’s to the good. But, does he believe that… that this approach is bearing fruit, and if so, what fruit can you point to?
Spokesman: I think the Secretary-General is a believer in the need for discreet contacts to be had in order to resolve crisis. And I think it’s something I… well, I think we’ve all observed since he’s come into office. And I think it’s an important tool and not the only tool, but it’s an important tool in the tools available to the world’s top diplomat.
Inner City Press: I want to ask this very specifically because I’ve asked you this a couple of times. I keep hearing from people at various high floors that, in fact, the UN is concerned about Cameroon and not just the Internet, but what seems to be a case of preventive diplomacy. So, I wanted to ask you, is there anything actually being done? Am I missing some secret work that the UN…?
Spokesman: I think if… well, if it’s secret, it’s secret. Mr. [Francois Lonceny] Fall has been following and is the point person for the UN on this issue.
Fall is failing. Or, Fall is the fall guy for Guterres. Now there is the use of what residents call another weapon: the devaluation and even destruction of the GCE education system, by purporting to administer the test after a period where no instruction or learning took place. UNESCO has said nothing, just as the UN stayed quiet during the Internet cut off. On May 15, Inner City Press asked the UN’s holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: In hearing UNESCO [United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization], I’ve been meaning to ask you this. There’s a controversy in Cameroon where a school… a test is being administered today in the areas that didn’t have internet for 94 days and the schools were closed. And a lot of people are saying the test… it’s basically to destroy the Anglophone education system, and people are taking a test at gunpoint. And many people there said UNESCO said nothing. I don’t know whose role it is. Is it [Francois] Loncény Fall? Is there anyone in the UN system that’s looking at what’s taking place there…?
Spokesman: I’ll take a look that report. Okay. Thank you.
We’ll see. Some in UN headquarters approach Inner City Press where they can, since the UN Department of Public Information still restricts the Press, and say there’s concern “upstairs” about events in Cameroon. But despite the claimed focus on preventative diplomacy, where is there UN action on this? Despite the restrictions, Inner City Press will be pushing forward with the story. Watch this site and this one, where it is reported that France blocked any European Union action on Cameroon and Paul Biya’s 94-day cut off of the Internet in the Anglophone regions, in part to keep its hand in to compete economically with China in “its” FrancAfrique. When the EU’s Federica Mogherini came to the UN Security Council stakeout on May 9 for questions, no Press questions on Cameroon were allowed, similar to Antonio Guterres’ spokesman disallowing the question three times at the recent joint African Union stakeout. Nor was the Cameroon question Inner City Press submitted to Guterres’ paid-entrance, not livestreamed London Q&A posed. We’ll have more on this.
This comes amid reports that armaments Cameroon got ostensibly to fight Boko Haram have been spotted in the Anglophone regions. On May 2 when Inner City Press told the UN’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric that it had a question on Cameroon, he walked off the podium, as he has done before. He and the UN Department of Public Information, whose Cameroon mis-information is profiled below, worked together to evict and still restrict Inner City Press.
Dujarric repeatedly refused to tell Inner City Press the name of the acting Resident Coordinator in Cameroon after failed Najat Rochdi was promoted and said to ask UNICEF, Inner City Press did. Inner City Press submitted these questions to two UNICEF spokespeople on April 20: “Please state who are UNICEF is the acting Resident Coordinator in Cameroon and what if anything they have said and done about the 92 day Internet cut off in two regions, including to schools, and on the current doctors strikes. What is UNICEF’s position on the 92 Internet cut off in Cameroon, as impacts children and otherwise?” UNICEF’s Najwa Mekki, Officer in Charge of the Media Section, replied “received, we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.” Five days later, nothing – not even the name of who’s the head of UNICEF in Cameroon, despite a second question to Dujarric (who has declared Press criticism of the UN’s performance to be harassment, and threw Inner City Press out of the Press Briefing Room and has it still restricted after 14 months).
Troublingly, UN official Francois Lonseny Fall has not only overly-praised the Biya government, but also admonished that the Internet not be used to “incite hatred or violence” – precisely the pretext Biya used to cut it off. Today’s UN is disgusting – we’ll have more on this.
Meanwhile when Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric about Monthe’s comments, the UN had no response, wouldn’t even after weeks tell Inner City Press who is in charge of the UN in Cameroon, following Guterres’ promotion of Najat Rochdi who said nothing about the Internet and blocke on Twitter Inner City Press which is pursuing the issue. This is today’s UN – and today’s Cameroon. Watch this platform.
Earlier at the April 21 noon briefing, Inner City Press asked the UN’s holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric about it. UN transcript here. Inner City Press: On Cameroon the… after 94 days, the internet was turned on in the regions but the Government has said if there is any further use of the Internet for they say is hate speech, other people say it’s in opposition to the Government, so I wanted to know what is the UN’s comment on how, going forward, the right to Internet in those areas? You also asked me to ask UNICEF who the resident acting, resident coordinator is and I have and they confirmed receipt but have not stated it. So I’m wondering shouldn’t there be an online site saying who is in charge of the UN system?
Spokesman: I’m sure they will get back to you. You can check with UNDP (United Nations Development Program) as well, but I just don’t have the name in front of me.
Inner City Press: My other question, there are many people who were arrested during these 94 days who are still in jail in Yaoundé, and I’m wondering who in the UN system is going to follow-up on ensuring that…
Spokesman: I would refer you back to Mr. [François] Louncény Fall and he said he would be back in Cameroon
This is UNacceptable and shows why the UN’s shameful silence, from Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi to the UN 38th floor which promoted her and won’t answer simple questions from Inner City Press but prefers to keep it restricted to minders, may portend badly, and empower or embolden Biya to do it again. So too with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Prince Zeid and his spokesman Rupert Colville never answered the Press on the topic, choosing late in the process to send Ahowanou Agbessi and his deputy, quietly – so as not to upset Paul Biya? We’ll have more on this.
The UN’s shameful role in Cameroon and censorship should not be forgotten. UN Resident Coordinator to Cameroon Najat Rochdi never raised the issues, and on Twitter blocked Inner City Press which did raise it. Then UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ spokesman Stephane Dujarric called Inner City Press’ criticism of the UN’s performance “harassment,” and bannedInner City Press from asking Guterres about the issue at a rare Guterres question and answer stakeout on April 19. Still the question was asked and asked again. Now more questions must be asked. On April 19 when UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres had a rare Q&A session, with the African Union’s Moussa Faki Mahamat, Inner City Press went early, with a UN minder, to stand in the front and ask about Cameroon. But Guterres’ holdover spokesman Stephane Dujarric had pre-arranged questions, several not on Africa at all. Inner City Press waited and then three times audibly asked, “Cameroon Internet cut?” Video here. Guterres looked, twice, but did not answer. His Deputy has been asked in writing about it. She has headed, for what it’s worth, to the IMF and World Bank meetings in Washington, with Guterres to follow on April 20. Meanwhile on April 19 at the UN noon briefing, their holdover spokesman Dujarric dissembled. From the UN transcript: Inner City Press: My next question has to do with Cameroon. In Cameroon, there’s a doctors’ strike, which has left many, many people without any health-care at all. So I wanted to know if the UN has any response and also, again, back to this question, where does it stand in choosing a new Resident Coordinator, who might address these type of issues?
Spokesman: Replacement for Resident Coordinators is an ongoing process. When one is… has been chosen and agreed to by the Government, we’ll announce it, as we do with every country. In the meantime, the country team is headed by, I believe, the UNICEF representative.
Inner City Press: I know, and I’ve never… I’ve gone to their website, and it doesn’t list who the person is. So you say reach them, but it’s not as easy as you seem to say. I wanted to know whether you think that between the internet still being turned off and this doctor strike and the President having been in power for 35 years and being out of the country, does the UN see this as as these issues as somewhat related, as sort of a prevention of conflict issue given…
Spokesman: I think the… the… as Mr. [François] Louncény Fall said, he would encourage both the Government and the other communities to engage in a constructive manner.
The Ban Ki-moon era of the UN, culminating in two separate corruption indictments in the US District Court for the South District of NY, seems to be continuing, along with the restrictions imposed on Inner City Press for covering the corruption cases and their links to the UN Department of Public Information and Dujarric’s office and friends. Most recently, on Cameroon, the UN’s Dujarric characterized Press criticism of its officials’ cover ups to be “harassment” after the Department of Public Information evictedand continues to restrict Inner City Press, petition here, update here. On April 18 when the US Mission convened a rare UN Security Council meeting about human rights, Inner City Press asked UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft if the UK views the cut off of the Internet to millions of people in Cameroon as a human rights issues. Video here. Rycroft said he had nothing to add to what he’d previously told Inner City Press: that the situation in the Anglophone areas is not a threat to peace and security (although the UN keeps it under review). So what would be required, to make the UK and UNSC take note of it? And what about France, whose Francois Delattre also spoke in front of the Council, but didn’t mention Cameroon? We’ll have more on this- watch this platform.
On April 17, Inner City Press asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres’ Spokesman Stephane Dujarric about threats against clergy in Cameroon, the Internet cut and of any attempt by Guterres to reach Paul Biya, who has been president of Cameroon for decades. UN transcript here: Inner City Press: on Cameroon and Louncény Fall, I found his full quote where he said that he trusts that the internet will be gradually or progressively introduced to the rest of the country. I guess I, many people that were left wondering, is it acceptable to only have it be in institutions? What’s the expectation of the UN in terms of the timing? And also, since then, the Catholic clergy have received these, these threats of massive fines. They’ve distributed on Easter to their congregants, basically for taking part in a nonviolent protest of the treatment of Anglophones, they face closure.
Spokesman: I would refer you to what Mr Louncény Fall said. I echoed what he said. Obviously, we would like to see a return of the internet as soon as possible, and that’s the discussions he’s been having with the Government.
Inner City Press: Did he attempt to talk to Paul Biya? This is a… because as you… as you may know, Jeune Afrique and other publications have said that António Guterres sought to Paul, to speak to Paul Biya and was unable to, and I’m just wondering [inaudible]…
Spokesman: I’m not aware, I’m not aware of the level of, whether or not Mr. Louncény Fall attempted to speak to Paul Biya. He spoke to the highest authorities he was able to speak to. You’re free to contact his office for more details.
Inner City Press: I’m asking you about the 38th floor. Did anyone on the 38th floor, whether Secretary-General or Deputy Secretary-General… [inaudible]
Spokesman: I’m not going to get into details of people attempting to call one person or another.
In early April the Office of the Spokesperson run by Dujarric told Inner City Press, we’ve heard you questions, if we have anything to add we’ll let you know. Video here. Even that was a lie: UN envoy Lonseny Fall went again to the country, with this purporting to be his statement, and read-out here. But what has it come to? Consider this court prosecution of clergy, to try to put an end to legitimate protest. The UN so far has issued a weak, late statement then tried to move on, calling any criticism harassment and continuing to hinder coverage of the UN’s deeds and misdeeds. We’ll have more on this.
On April 13, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Dujarric, video here, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: can you confirm that the Secretary-General sought to speak with Paul Biya while he was on an extended stay in Geneva, as has been reported?
Spokesman: No, I have no confirmation of a call having taken place.
Inner City Press: I mean, I’m not asking [inaudible]…
Spokesman: I have no information.
Inner City Press: Okay. And I wanted to know, people there saying, even in the wake of the visit of Louncény Fall, that, for example, a Supreme Court Justice, Paul Ayah remains, was only today, you know, remanded to remain in prison. So they’re not seeing much changes. And I’m wondering, is this something that… that Mr. Louncény Fall looked into while he was there, the continued detention of barristers and those who have advocated for fair treatment of [inaudible]?
Spokesman: What I just said is, in fact, that, in his contacts with the Government, Mr Louncény Fall advocated for the release of a number of Anglophone leaders and others. So I think that’s clear that’s one of the things he was advocating for.
Inner City Press: And, finally, I wanted to ask you about the Resident Coordinator position. Given that the previous Resident Coordinator didn’t raise any of the issues that you’ve just mentioned while she was there, is there any progress on naming a new one…
Spokesman: I don’t know that, and I don’t know if you know that, but okay. Anyway, next… what’s your question?
Inner City Press: The people that are there say it, and she also blocked the press…
Spokesman: I think she blocks you, but…
Question: Yeah, she does.
Spokesman: …that’s her right.
Inner City Press: In what capacity does she block it?
Spokesman: Well, I think anyone who has seen your tweets, I think, sometimes they do cross the line, I think, into harassment, and people block you from time to time.
Inner City Press: Interesting.
How trustworthy is today’s UN if they stonewall then withhold information, while continuing to block – a la Najat Rochdi – and restrict the Press which asks about Cameroon and denial of the right to information? On April 12 when there was a press conference at the UN about the death penalty, Inner City Press asked the panelist from Amnesty International about the Paul Biya government’s threat of the death penalty against Anglophone advocates, including the UN’s own former legal adviser Felix Agbar-Balla. The AI speaker said Inner City Press knew more about Cameroon, but that AI is concerned. We hope so – about the outrageous ongoing Internet cut as well. Watch this site.
Inner City Press: there are issues in Cameroon. There are a number of issues of the Anglophone areas, but there’s one in particular, which is now an 80-day cut-off of the internet to two regions of the country. So, in the answers that have been provided about what [Francois] Loncény Fall has done, there’s no reference to this pretty open-and-shut issue. Is there some way you can either ask DPA [Department of Political Affairs] or his office, like, what’s being done on this? Does the UN… has the UN in any way conveyed to the Government of Cameroon that whatever the other issues are that turning off the internet to whole regions of the country is not a good idea?
Associate Spokesperson: We heard your question, and if we have anything to add further, we’ll let you know.
Further? Nothing has been done.
The day before on April 4, Agnes Marcaillou, Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service, mentioned work in Cameroon so Inner City Press asked about it and the Internet cut. Video here. She replied that “we all read Inner City Press” and for that reason know about the Internet cut, but her answer was about Boko Haram. We’ll have more on this.
On March 31, Inner City Press put a question about the outrage of Cameroon saying it will accede to the UN “electronic communications” treaty while denying such communications to millions of people to UN Spokesman Farhan Haq, video here, UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: Given that the internet has been turned off to millions of people for 76 days, I noticed that the Government says that it’s going to be depositing a ratification of something called a UN convention on the use of electronic communications in international contracts. And I wanted to know, will the Secretariat… do they have any role in… in… in reviewing the sort of legitimacy of ratifications or… or… what would you say about a country that’s turned off the internet to its own population depositing a ratification to an electronic communications convention at that time?
Deputy Spokesman: Those are separate issues. Regarding treaties, all treaties are looked at to see whether the instruments… whether the treaties are properly filed as they’re being deposited.
How could this one be “properly filed”? But the UN’s strategy has been to use Cristina “The Evicter” Gallach to restrict Inner City Press’ access to cover the UN on such issues, even now that she has ostensibly left. We’ll have more on this. On the afternoon of Friday, March 31 the UN sent Inner City Press this, stating that its UNOCA envoy Francois Lonseny Fall intends to visit Cameroon in early April, and other responses which we immediately publish in full: “Your questions on Cameroon: The United Nations Secretariat continues to follow closely the situation in the Republic of Cameroon through the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA). The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has been monitoring the court proceedings and allegations of human rights violations. We are concerned about the trial of civilians by a military court. The High Commissioner for Human Rights has raised these concerns with the Government of Cameroon in a letter dated 24 February 2017. In our various contacts, we have called on the authorities to address the situation in a measured and peaceful manner, while abiding by their international human rights commitments. SRSG Fall has visited Cameroon several times to address these issues and plans to visit Cameroon in early April, subject to confirmation of meetings, to engage with the Government and reiterate the availability of the United Nations to support national efforts to promote an inclusive dialogue in order to address the root causes of the crisis, while respecting the territorial integrity and unity of the Republic of Cameroon. With regard to the two specific cases cited, we have confirmed that Robert Fon was indeed released on bail on 27 March. We understand that Mr. Felix Agbor Nkongho, as his two co-accused (Fontem Afoteka Neba and Mancho Bibixy), is facing trial for various alleged offences in connection with the situation in the Anglophone regions. Their lawyers requested they be freed on bail. The court is reportedly set to examine the request when the case is taken up again on 7 April. Concerning reports of the closure by the Government of a TV station in Western region of Cameroon, we are continuing our efforts to verify the allegation.”
As reported on March 30 by Inner City Press, Cameroon says it is poised to ratify the UN’s Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, adopted on November 23, 2005 in New York. How could the UN accept and deposit such a ratification? Cameroonian Minister of Trade, Lucile Magloire Mbarga Atangana cited the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law or UNCITRAL, one of the entities routinely meeting in UN conference rooms with little notice by the UN-facilitated media. This must change. When Cameroon forced refugees back into Nigeria, the UN rightly complained. Why not, then, of Cameroon’s now more than 70-day Internet cut-off in its Anglophone areas, leading to the creation of an “Internet refugee camp” in Bonako? Meanwhile French firms continue pursuing money under Paul Biya, including Sofema selling a patrol boat to Biya’s navy, and Tessi ironically moving in the “digitization” market in Francophone Cameroon. The UN on March 28 answered others of Inner City Press’ questions, but not the one about former UN legal adviser Felix Agbor Balla. The UN is being asked today again about Agbor Balla, and about the arrested lawyer Robert Fon, former President of Northwest Common Law Lawyers’ Association, arrested and transferred to Yaounde. On March 29 Inner City Press asked the UN: “Because UNanswered, asking again: In Cameroon, former UN legal adviser (in UNAMA and elsewhere) Felix Agbor Balla now, according to a UK-based barristers’ organization, faces a military trial with the death penalty on the table for speaking out about conditions in the country’s Anglophone areas, where the Internet has been cut for 71 days and counting. Particularly given Agbor-Balla’s former position as a UN legal expert, what is not only the UN’s comment, but what is the UN doing to attempt to ensure he receives due process? Also, what about the arrest of human rights lawyer Robert Fon and his transfer to Yaounde?” But while the UN responded to other questions from Inner City Press, nothing on this one. Nothing.
With former UN legal adviser Felix Agbor-Balla in Cameroon facing a military trial with the death penalty on the table, a UK-based legal group has written to Cameroonian president Paul Biya (here) while his former employer the UN has done… nothing. Inner City Press will be asking the UN yet again, while also seeking action and responses from others. With the UN’s response to weeks of questions about repression and Internet cut off in Cameroon from Inner City Press being two ambiguous statements about the work of its Francois Lonseny Fall, on the morning of March 27 Inner City Press asked the UN’s three top spokespeople: “In Cameroon, on which you’ve said the UN’s Lonseny Fall is working, now the government has acted against TV station CRTV reporting on unrest in Western Cameroon. What is your comment, and what is Lonseny Fall or anyone else in the UN system doing about it? As asked before, what is the status of naming the next Resident Coordinator, and confirm if Najat Rochdi has begun at Deputy SRSG post in CAR.” At the day’s UN noon briefing, sans UN-restricted Inner City Press, spokesperson Farhan Haq faced only two questions. Afterward his Office sent Inner City Press this, which we publish in full: “Regarding the question you asked about Cameroon, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), and the UN Country Team in Cameroon continue to follow events in the country. Concerning reports of the closure by the Government of a TV station in Western region of Cameroon, our colleagues are looking into the allegations. We remain concerned about reports of pressure being placed on press organs in Cameroon that are working on the situation in the Anglophone Regions, including reports of arrests and even alleged disappearance of journalists.”
Cameroon Anglophone human rights defenders set for show trials on March 23 ran into a new trick: the government trying to join the cases of 25 more defendants with theirs. From collective punishment to collective trials. The ruling on that will now be on April 7. Tellingly, Voice of America’s story didn’t even mention the Internet cut-off for more than 60 days in Anglophone Cameroon, not that defendant Felix Agbor Balla was a UN legal adviser, for whom today’s UN does nothing. VOA and the UN: birds of a feather.
While the UN first stonewalled then issued misleading statements about Cameroon, where the Internet has been cut off by the government in the Northwest and Southwest (Anglophone) regions for more than 60 days and counting, Inner City Press March 21, Inner City Press asked the UN’s deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the summons against Akere Muna, the lawyer for a former UN legal adviser, Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla. UN’s March 21 Transcript here and below. On March 22, Inner City Press asked the UN about the underlying detention of Agbor-Balla. Video here; UN transcript here:
Inner City Press: I wanted to ask you a Cameroon question. I’d asked you yesterday about this lawyer that’s been summoned in, and there’s growing outrage about that. But, actually, he’s the lawyer for a person that used to be a UN legal adviser in UNAMA [United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] named Felix Agbor Balla. He’s a lawyer that worked for the UN and now has been detained for months. Several US Congresspeople have, in fact, raised the issue. And I’m just wondering, one, particularly in the case of a former UN staff locked up seemingly without any type of due process, locked up only for advocacy, is there any UN role in these cases in actually looking into this individual case of a… of a former UN legal adviser now under detention in Yaoundé?
Deputy Spokesman: Well, we would certainly expect that due process is followed. We want to make sure that… especially that human rights defenders are not being prosecuted unfairly and those would be key concerns.
Agbor-Balla’s continued detention has triggered protest from, as it happens, the US state of Indiana, where Congress members of both parties have spoken out: Democrat André Carson and Republican Jackie Walorski. But the UN, after two weeks of Press questions, offered only a statement by its Francois Lonseny Fall, largely covering up for the government of Paul Biya, in power for 32 years. What good is the UN? The question is becoming louder: watch this site.
Back on March 17, lead UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric had returned with an answer: “in response to the situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, the UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), Mr. François Louncény Fall, carried out a number of visits to the country to discuss with the concerned parties the situation on the ground. His office has also carried out a number of working-level visits. Mr. Fall will continue efforts to engage with all relevant parties and to monitor the situation in close cooperation with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).We firmly believe that the grievances expressed by the Anglophone regions can only be addressed through an inclusive dialogue. In that regard, we note that, on 15 March, the President of Cameroon appointed the president and 13 representatives to the National Commission for the promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, the body tasked to engage in dialogue with the Anglophone community of Cameroon.”
But “all relevant parties” does not appear to include France, whose UN Ambassador Francois Delattre told Inner City Press earlier on March 17 he was unaware of the issue.
In front of the UN Security Council on March 17 Inner City Press asked France’s Ambassador to the UN Francois Delattre about his counterpart in Yaounde, Gilles Thibault, earlier this month congratulating 32-year President Paul Biya for how he’s dealing with the areas. Delattre replied that he was unaware but would look into it. Video here.
Back on March 14 Inner City Press asked the US State Department: “Back on November 28, 2016, the Department issued a statement of ‘concern over recent Cameroonian government actions to restrict free expression.’ Since then, the government has cut off the Internet in the two regions, also known as the Anglophone areas, has arrested journalists and most schools remain closed. Is the US State Department concerned about these developments and if so, what if anything has it done about them?”
On March 15, a US State Department official answered Inner City Press: “We have discussed this issue with the Government of Cameroon both before and after our statement of concern. We don’t go into the details of our diplomatic conversations, but we engage regularly with the government on this and other issues as part of our normal bilateral relations.” We hope to have more on this.
On March 9, Inner City Press asked both the International Monetary Fund and the UN Security Council’s president about the crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone areas and heard that while the IMF acknowledges the financial risk, the Security Council does not see it as a threat to international peace and security. But the UN’s Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi has said nothing about the crisis, and blocks on Twitterthe Press which asks about it. Is the UN system failing, in its new Secretary General’s promise of increased preventative diplomacy?
When the IMF’s spokesperson Gerry Rice took questions on March 9, Inner City Press asked about Cameroon, specifically the crackdown in the northwest and southwest of the country. Inner City Press asked, “On Cameroon, after the mission led by Corinne Delechat, what is the status of talks for a program, and since the IMF cited “civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic,” please state the IMF’s awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon, also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact.” Rice read out the question and then said, among other things, that the risk factors for 2017 include a continuation of the “social and political events” in the “so-called Anglophone” areas of Cameroon. Interim video here. On IMF site, here, from 34:56. IMF transcript below.
But a few hours later when Inner City Press asked the month’s UN Security Council president Matthew Rycroft of the UK, who had just been in Cameroon, about the crisis, he said it is not a threat to international peace and security. From the UK transcript:
Inner City Press: In Cameroon there’s an issue that has been existing since November in Anglophone areas which have no internet for 52 days, there’s been teachers arrested, no schools. So I’m wondering as one Council member said, it did somehow come up in meetings, but was the issue raised at all, and what response was given by the government to this ongoing cut off of internet and abuse in this area?
Amb Rycroft: It came up informally in our contacts with members of the Government of Cameron but as far as I recall it did not come up in any formal meeting, and I think that makes sense because we were going there to look at the threat to international peace and security, and Boko Haram, and related issues, but in private, informal discussions with ministers in the Government of Cameroon it came up and they gave us the benefit of their perspective on the issue.
Inner City Press: Is there any Security Council role that can be played in trying to preventively deal with this issue?
Amb Rycroft: I don’t think it’s an issue on our agenda per se, we keep our eye on our radar across the world, but we have to make a judgement about whether something is a threat to international peace and security, and at the moment, I think our judgement would be that issue is an issue that is confined within Cameroon without international aspects.
But the UN Resident Coordinator does nothing about it, says nothing, blocks the Press.
We raise the question: how are UN Resident Coordinators selected? Inner City Press reportedon Ban Ki-moon’s son in law Siddharth Chatterjee getting multiple promotion under Ban, including being named UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya by Ban himself. (Inner City Press was evicted by Ban’s UN, and remains restricted under Ban’s successor). But shouldn’t Anglophone Cameroonians have some input into the UN’s next Resident Coordinator in their country? This is a project for the Free UN Coalition for Access, @FUNCA_info. Watch these sites and feeds.
From the IMF’s March 9 transcript:
“There is a question of Cameroon, from Matthew Lee, “After the Mission what is the status of talks for a program; and since the IMF cited civil unrest in the neighboring Central African Republic, please state the IMF’s awareness of civil unrest and arrests in Northwest and Southwest Cameroon? And also known as the Anglophone areas, and their impact?”
So, the background here is, I think important the context. So, the Fund’s engagement here in the CEMAC Region, CEMAC is the six Central African Economic nations that comprise the Central African Economic and monetary community. They met in Yaoundé on December 23rd. The Managing Director was there. And in that meeting, heads of state discussed the economic situation, the severe shocks that have hit that CEMAC region in recent years, including the sharp decline in oil prices, and decided to act collectively and in a concerted manner. And the heads of state requested the assistance of the IMF to design economic reforms needed to reestablish macroeconomic stability in each country and in the region as a whole.
So, again, context: I can tell you that the funders already sent missions to Gabon, Republic of Congo. And a reminder to you, that we already have programs with Central African Republic and Chad. Okay?
Now, we also have sent a mission to Cameroon, which is the question. And we did issue a press statement, which the question referred to, just on Tuesday. That was the Corrine Delechat reference.
So, the specific question, to turn to that. We are indeed aware of the events in the so-called Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The macroeconomic impact of any event that could affect production and/or consumption, is typically felt with a certain lag. So, these events started in November last year, and thus are likely to have not had a significant impact on production in 2016.
For 2017, the risks to our growth outlook include a combination of external and domestic factors, including continuation of the sociopolitical events in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon. And as our press release the other day indicated, our view is that the medium-term outlook for the Cameroonian economy remains positive, subject to the implementation of appropriate policies.”
We’ll have more on this. Watch this site.
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By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform