It remains an open secret that President Paul Biya and his ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) have taken every other aspect of Cameroon hostage.
Aside from being the head of the executive, Biya is also lord over the judiciary and parliament. He appoints judges and some senators and picks other lawmakers through investitures within the CPDM.
Although Biya pretends that Cameroon is a democracy, he knows that democracy remains elusive in Cameroon.
Without going to the tons of troubles facing Cameroon, Mimi Mefo Info regrets that everything that takes place in parliament is the will of the executive. CPDM party leaders decide legislation and even mere letters that emanate from the National Assembly and the Senate.
The National Assembly and the Senate are being derisively described as a “rubber-stamp” parliament.
Since 1996, the parliament has been stamping its approval on almost every piece of legislation introduced by the executive. Not even one bill has been born in parliament.
Yaoundé’s ‘missive of shame’ to Washington DC
On February 24, 2021, no fewer than 63 members of Cameroon’s National Assembly dispatched a strongly worded letter to United States Congressmen stating as it were that they were misguided to ask the Biden administration to halt the repatriation of Cameroonian asylum seekers.
Following the social media backlash, some of the signatories of the document were too ashamed to admit they signed it.
It is the more shameful given that the document was crafted at the Prime Minister’s office and members of the National Assembly were only called in to play their rubber-stamp role.
Hon Malomba Esembe, MP for Buea Urban, and Hon Evaristus Njong of Njinikom, whose names and signatures are on the document, could neither confirm nor refute the authenticity of the letter to the US Congress.
MP for Kumba Urban, Hon Lawson Tabot told The Post that: “One thing I know is that some Members of Parliament signed a document two days ago (February 22), but I am not aware what was signed, so, I cannot comment on it. I know that a document was signed but I don’t know which document.”
What the hell was the document about?
Cameroon’s lawmakers were responding to a February 17, 2021 letter from over 40 Democratic members of the US Congress to President Joe Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas asking them to “grant temporary protected status to Cameroonians living in the U.S. by placing an 18-month break in proceedings on their deportations”.
Temporary protected status is given to people already in the United States from countries devastated by conflict or natural disasters.
The US members of Congress asked the Biden administration to either grant temporary protected status or what is known as deferred enforcement departure, a power given to the president that would allow Cameroonians to be protected from deportation without having to register for a special program.
They claim that these Cameroonians are in danger if deported.
Members of Cameroon’s National Assembly said, “The Cameroon they describe and allude to in their correspondence does not exist and we believe it is a figment of the misinformed views of certain individuals who are determined to cause further destabilization in the whole Central African Region.”
“As legislators, we welcome genuine expression of concern and support for the well-being of the vast majority of Cameroonians. We urge the United States Congressmen to be more vigorously engaged in ensuring the respect of international conventions against transnational crime and criminality to which the United States is a signatory and to ensure that their country is not a refuge for criminal perpetrators and financiers of acts of extreme violence and terrorism on the people of Cameroon,” the MPs furthered.
Hypocrisy or truth?
The Members of the National Assembly of Cameroon say they are “appalled by the falsehood, distorted opinion, and the extremely negative characterization” of Cameroon by the members of the US Congress.
“As legislators in Cameroon, we seek not to interfere in the decision-making processes of the Immigration Enforcement System of the United States government in dealing with its challenges, but we reject the views perpetuated by these Congressmen on the prevailing situation in Cameroon,” they said.
“We consider these remarks on Cameroon as most unfriendly, derogatory, and smacks of an attempt to tarnish our image, respectability in seeking to mislead public opinion, create confusion to justify the securing of TPS and DED status from some groups defending the rights of immigrants in the USA.”
The 63 MPs say immigration is a global phenomenon and no nation can or should stop its citizens from traveling to any part of the world. Despite the troubles, Cameroonians go through to get passports and ID cards, the MPs said these documents are issued readily.
“Cameroon readily issues travel documents and passports to its citizens to travel to anywhere in the world and considers the right to travel, to emigrate, a fundamental human right,” their letter reads.
“In situations where Cameroonians have entered a foreign country illegally or overstayed their visa, we are bound by our international obligations to corporate with a foreign government, to issue travel documents, and accept the physical return of our citizens.”
The lawmakers boast that the Government of Cameroon “has a longstanding cooperation with the State Department and other United States services including the DHS, ICE, the DOJ, in matters of removal of certain Cameroonians who may have entered the United States without an inspection, overstayed their visas, criminally persecuted, or with fraudulent documents.”
This cooperation between the Government of the United States and the Government of Cameroon has been maintained over the years in the spirit of international cooperation and mutual respect, a portion of the letter said.
The letter of shame reads further: “Cameroon has recognized the nationality of the current list of persons for removal and issued the relevant travel documents to ensure collaboration and to reject the classification as a ‘recalcitrant uncooperative country (ARON)’ by the DHS which has a potentially negative impact on the issuance of immigrant and non-immigrant visas as well as bilateral and other joint foreign policy interests in central Africa.
MPs Oblivious of human rights violations
“We, the Cameroonian legislators are dismayed and regret that in an effort to take into consideration and to succumb to the pressure coming from their respective jurisdictions, American human rights organizations, and other pressure groups, a few misguided congressmen would describe Cameroon in the most horrible, unrealistic and untrue language just to obtain from the US executive branch a stay of execution of a DHS decision to remove certain Cameroonians from the USA, all these at the expense of our country,” said the MPs.
“We cannot deny our citizens but if the objective is for their continued residence in the United States, by all means keep them there but not at the expense of the millions of peace-loving Cameroonians who go about their business, striving for prosperity and economic development.
“It is unfortunate that these congressmen display such deep misunderstanding despite the views of the United States Embassy in Yaoundé and fail to recognize and acknowledge the significant strides made by Cameroon:
“To provide a safe haven to refugees and displaced persons from Northern Nigeria as a result of the fight against militant Islam and Boko Haram,
“To receive and accommodate thousands of people fleeing the conflict in the Central African Republic,
“In continuing its cooperation with many nations including the United States to fight piracy in the Gulf of Guinea,
“To provide an environment for the return to peace and security in the restive Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon through a multitude of government actions and programs which have wide international support and participation,
“To check the propagation of the COVID-19 virus and to successfully host an international soccer competition within the COVID-19 environment.
“To acknowledge the positive process of decentralization and devolution of powers from the central government to Regional Assemblies and the right of Cameroonians to participate in the decision-making process in their areas of origin.”
Did Joshua Osih auction the SDF?
Since 1990, the opposition SDF has walked out of parliament each time the CPDM pushes executive bills into law.
But the recent letter addressed to the US Congress was signed by SDF National Vice President, Hon. Joshua Osih. Given that the letter was drafted at the Star Building, many are those who consider Osih a sellout.
Defending himself, Osih said the letter to the US Congress “is both diplomatically correct and courteous”.
Osih says the document provides a medium of exchange from the Cameroon Parliament with foreign counterparts on a topic that has been the major concern for every Cameroonian.
“The document in itself evoked several aspects, which make it foolhardy to read it in a singular context. It is necessary to unpack both statements and answer some questions while pondering the proposal of ‘suspending repatriation flights back to Cameroon…’ for the various reasons provided, which include but are not limited to the war in the English-speaking regions.
Osih says the February 17 US Congressmen letter to President Biden does not de-escalate the ongoing crisis in Cameroon’s North West and South West Regions.
He says Cameroonians cannot be encouraged to go away to America in search of asylum.
According to Osih, the United States provides safe harbor and anchors for the financiers, propagandists, and sponsors of the war in the North West and South West Regions.
Besides the psychological, physical, and economic cost of their journey that would have been avoided were the government in place right, Osih says those repatriated have so far not been subjected to any severe treatment.
This contradicts claims that those repatriated in the Donald Trump era have not been seen. Mimi Mefo Info understands that some of those repatriated are held behind bars and have neither had access to their lawyers nor their families.
Osih says the SDF is for a strong Cameroon, united in its diversity through a federal system set up in broad consensus and which gives pride of place to local development and the enhancement of the specificities of its components in a participatory and inclusive democracy.
“We are for a truly inclusive dialogue to resolve the crisis in the North West and South West,” said Osih.
Anglophone crisis yet undiscussed in parliament
To this day, the Anglophone crisis, which started in 2016, has not been debated in Cameroon’s National Assembly. It has not even featured in the Senate.
Cameroonians are therefore shocked that lawmakers will prefer to respond to the US Congress at such short notice when they have been unable to address the needs and aspirations of the people of the troubled North West and South West Regions.
It remains to be seen in the over 63 MPs who dispatched the letter to Washington Dc will table the Anglophone crisis before Parliament when the March sessions open. But until then, we at Mimi Mefo Info offer requiem for the death of the legislature in Cameroon.