Saturday, June 10, 2017

On Cameroon, Failing Fall's UNOCA Site Out of Date and Broken, Inaccurate Report Here

By Matthew Russell Lee, New Platform

UNITED NATIONS, June 10 – After Inner City Press repeatedly asked UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his spokesman about Cameroon's Internet cut-off and abuses, the UN's answer after its Resident Coordinator Najat Rochdi was shown to block the Press and then left for the Central African Republic was that the UN Office on Central Africa (UNOCA) envoy Francois Lonseny Fall would be visiting in May. This turned out to be misleading like so much with today's UN, including the UN's celebration of World Environment, see below. A review of UNOCA's website finds its most recent magazine is from 2014, and the link to its May 31, 2017 report (excerpted below) doesn't work. So Inner City Press has put the full report online, here. Here's what it says, from Paragraphs 7 to 11: "In Cameroon, social unrest continued in the North-West and South-West
regions over the imposition of the French language in judicial, educational and other fields. While the initial protests in late 2016 were related to grievances expressed by unions representing lawyers and teachers, accusations expanded to include historical, political and economic discrimination against the anglophone population.
Numerous clashes with security forces took place, along with ongoing general strikes (also referred to as “ghost towns”), arrests of anglophone activists and an Internet blackout in the two regions (from 17 January to 20 April 2017). 8. Government efforts to appease those tensions at the outset were not successful. On 17 January, it banned the activities of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society
Consortium and the secessionist movement, the Southern Cameroons National Council, accusing them of conducting actions contrary to the Constitution and
aimed at undermining State security. Leaders of the Consortium, Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla and Fontem Aforteka’a Neba, were also arrested on 17 January, and
journalist and activist Mancho Bibixy on 20 January. All three face charges of terrorism and, if convicted, could face the death penalty under the country’s anti-terrorism law of February 2014. The trial of the three lead activists and five others, all civilians, commenced on 13 February at the Yaoundé military tribunal. On 7 April, the court adjoined the case of 25 other defendants. Meanwhile, another military tribunal was held, in the case of a reporter for Radio France Internationale, Ahmed Abba, whom the Government alleges to have colluded with Boko Haram. He had been in detention since 30 July 2015. The defendant, who pleaded not guilty,
was sentenced to 10 years in prison on 20 April 2017.
9. On 15 March, the President of Cameroon, Paul Biya, appointed the president and 13 representatives of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, which he established on 23 January. The  Presidency also contacted the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium on 17 March, expressing willingness to engage in dialogue to address their grievances. Moreover, on 30 March, the Minister of Justice unveiled a number of measures taken by the Government to address the crisis, including the creation of a common law section at the École nationale de magistrature, English law departments at a number of universities, the redeployment of magistrates according to linguistic criteria, and the appointment of additional anglophone magistrates at the High Court. Those steps were deemed insufficient by the striking lawyers and the
leadership of the Consortium, who continued to demand the immediate release and pardon of those detained and the restoration of Internet service in the two regions
where it had been blocked. Internet service was restored on 20 April." Failing Fall doesn't mention Agbor Balla history as a UN legal adviser, now facing the death penalty for non-violent opposition, nor this: "the report fails to mention how the President contacted the Consortium (which by March had long been outlawed by Biya’s government) and also given that its leaders were abruptly arrested in the middle of talks with the government on January 17. It also does not mention who were the leaders President Biya was “willing to dialogue with” either – the ones in detention or the interim ones." Three months after Inner City Press publicly asked the UN at its noon briefing about Rochdi blocking the Press on Twitter, she has replied: "if it was done it was not on purpose." This is absurd: to block is a choice, and it was publicly asked about at the UN's own noon briefing. (Much) worse, Rochdi now says she worked very hard on the "Anglopphone" [sic] crisis. Photo here. There is no evidence at all of that. This is today's UN. On June 8, Inner City Press asked UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric, UN transcript here: Inner City Press: in Cameroon, which I've asked you about before, those Anglophone region protest leaders were held over for trial.  They face the death penalty.  One of them is a former UN legal adviser, Mr. Felix Agbor Balla.  I know it took about a week to get the comment from [Francois] Louncény Fall.  Is there any more rapid response to the holding over of these leaders?

Spokesman:  I think we believe that all parties need to address the current issues in a spirit of dialogue, and I'll try to get a bit more from Mr. Fall.
  A bit more? In Cameroon, minister Hele Pierre babbled about gardens and protecting flora and fauna. But for example the FrancAfrique firm Bollore and its 71% subsidiary SocFin destroy the environment in Cameroon, DRC and Gabon, as recently protested in Paris and sued including as far away as Cameroon. Amnesty says " Workers and residents have denounced in particular non-compliance with their customary land rights, the low levels of compensation granted, the harshness of working conditions for agricultural workers and the threat to their food security." But the UN ignores all this in Cameroon, similar to their approach to Paul Biya's Internet cut and abuses. Lonseny Fall's visit it turns out it would be in (early) June, and it would mostly be about Boko Haram. This is now confirmed, despite a separate side read-out the UN sent Inner City Press. Contrary to the UN's vague and unsubstantiated claim that Lonseny Fall's visit dealt with human rights concerns, here's the non-tailored read-out: "The 44th meeting of ministers in the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on security in Central Africa (Unsac) started on 29 May and will close on 02 June in Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. The group noted that the situation particularly in CAR is still alarming. There were also discussions on, among other things, political governance and the multiple factors menacing peace and stability in the sub-region. Participants emphasised the ways and means to reinforce the fight against phenomena such as armed violence and terrorism, naval insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, poaching and illegal traffic of wild species, electoral tensions, proliferation of light and small calibre weapons, etc. In this regard, the experts recommended more collaboration on intelligence between the Central African States." Collaboration on intelligence? It is Paul Biya who is intercepting communications in Southern Cameroons and putting people in jail far away in Yaounde. On June 1, Inner City Press asked again - still nothing - and then on June 2, transcript here
Inner City Press: to ask again about this Cameroon thing, but I wanted to ask because it was said that [Francois] Loncény Fall would be there in late May.  Many people were kind of waiting to hear what he had to say.  Yesterday, his whereabouts, I guess, according to Stéphane, were not known.  What is his comment now that he's returned to the country?

Deputy Spokesman:  Yes, we're checking with our DPA colleagues what we can say about Mr. Loncény Fall's travels.  Once we have an update, we'll share it.
  And hours later, this: "To Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press Re Your Question on Cameroon: As mentioned previously, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) and the UN Country Team in Cameroon continue to follow events in the country closely. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Central Africa and Head of UNOCA, François Louncény Fall, was in Yaoundé, Cameroon, this week, for the 44th Ministerial meeting of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa (UNSAC), during which Cameroon took over the chairmanship of the Committee.  This is SRSG Fall’s fifth visit to the country since November 2016. He took this opportunity to meet with a wide range of Cameroonian interlocutors to address the persisting tensions and human rights concerns.  SRSG 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'll see.