For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Nov 14th 2015
30 The EastAfrican OUTLOOK NOVEMBER 14-20,2015 ARO U N D AF R ICA Cameroon’s Biya clocks 33 years in power, remains an astute politician He se≥ved as p≥ime ministe≥ unde≥ P≥esdent Ahidjo f≥om 1975 befo≥e becoming p≥esident the nation on November 6, having been sworn-in for the first time as Cameroon’s second president on November 6, 1982, following the resignation of Ahmadou Ahidjo. Should President Biya finish his C current mandate in 2018, he will have ruled Cameroon for 36 years — 13 years more than his predecessor. Paul Biya served as prime min- ister under President Ahidjo from 1975 before ascending to power. Political observers in Cameroon think that president Ahidjo underestimated President Biya — imagining that after handing power over to his premier, he , would still dictate policies to him. The strategy was a total flop. The retired president’s attempts to guide and even overthrow President Biya a year after ceding power bore no fruit. The first president of Cameroon finally died in exile in Senegal, a victim of the same draconian laws of subversion that he ordered drafted. In 1990, a group of radical poli- ticians, among them Yondo Black and Albert Mukong, attempted to form an independent political party and were promptly arrested and detained. The act would have been punished by instant execution had it happened during Ppresident Ahidjo’s reign. But surprisingly, President Biya called for their release and pardon. Many political observers in Cam- eroon believe that it was President Biya’s tolerance towards these “radi- President Paul Biya flanked by his wife Chantal (right), gesturing after casting his vote in Yaounde in 2011. Picture: File cal” politicians that stimulated the creation in 1990 of the current leading opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) of Ni John Fru Ndi. Many Cameroonians think that in allowing Mr Fru Ndi and his followers to launch the SDF, Biya was driven by realisation that Mr Fru Ndi had the backing of foreign powers, given the numerous interviews he and and his supporters granted foreign media. Rather than order the arrest of Mr Fru Ndi and his followers, President Biya cautioned supporters of “The SDF chairman’s visit to Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal fuelled rumours of a possible civil strife.” his governing Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM), to be ready to face competition. The SDF, whose main goal was to oust President Biya, is still out in the cold, 25 years later. In the 1990s, the quest for power by the SDF and other opposition parties saw the organisation of a two-day nationwide “ghost towns” campaign by the National Co-ordination of Opposition Parties and Associations, civil disobedience and clashes between security forces and activists, with casualities on both sides. In his drive to neutralise the op- position, President Biya has not only used force, but also what his supporters describe as “astute diplomacy.” He has also used the art of di- version — shifting public attention from the government’s deficiencies. After the killing of six activists at ameroon President Paul Biya clocked 33 years at the helm of national conference that the opposition had organised, President Biya announced a tripartite conference in 1991. After the October 11, 1991 tripar- tite deal, the national co-ordination committee of opposition parties and associations was dissolved. The SDF refused to sign the tri- partite. And a year later, in 1992 when presidential elections were held in Cameroon and the Northwest Province opposition stronghold declined to accept that Biya won, the president imposed a state of emergency in the region. National and international attention was shifted from “stolen victory” to human-rights abuses. When the state of emergency was lifted, attention shifted from Cameroon to Washington where USn President, Bill Clinton was being inaugurated. The January 20, 1993 event practically became a “Cameroonian affair.” During the celebration of the DIVERSIONS GAME After the killing of six activists at the launch of the SDF in Bamenda, President Biya successfully diverted public attention from the tragedy to the Fifa World Cup competition in Italy for which Cameroon had qualified. in 1992 when presidential elections were held in Cameroon and the Northwest Province opposition stronghold declined to accept that Biya won, the president imposed a state of emergency in the region. National and international attention was shifted from “stolen victory” to human-rights abuses. the launch of the SDF in Bamenda in the then Northwest Province, President Biya successfully diverted public attention from the tragedy to the Fifa World Cup competition in Italy for which Cameroon had qualified. The president called back legen- dary footballer Roger Milla from international retirement to join the national team for the tournament. To divert public attention from a SDF’s 25th anniversary recently, Mr Fru Ndi told reporters: “I won the 1992 elections.” When the SDF resumed street protests, President Biya again diverted public attention by announcing the constitutional conference that was later held in 1994. The SDF boycotted presidential elections in 1997. Mr Fru Ndi instead undertook a tour of West Africa at the time of the elections, which President Biya “won” with 92 per cent vote. The SDF chairman’s visit to Ni- geria, Benin, Burkina Faso and Senegal fuelled rumours of a possible civil strife. The rumours were further strengthened by the arrival in quick succession in the Cameroon port city of Douala of French and an American warship — to monitor the situation. The SDF was called for talks with CPDM in December 1997. But the talks bore no fruits as the opposition insisted on an independent election commission, while the CPDM was proposing the formation of a unity government. Whatever “magic” President Biya has used to maintain a firm grip on power, his 33 years tenure has been criticised by most Cameroonians who see him as a dictator. Ethiopian women having fewe≥ babies than thei≥ mothe≥s By ANNE SOY BBC ETHIOPIA HAS seen a massive cut in its fertility rate, from an average of seven children per woman in the 1990s to 4.6 currently. Experts say the country has made this turnaround because of a combination of factors. “Women stay longer in school, the stand- ard of living is increasing so people don’t want to have too many children and more importantly, family planning is becoming more popular,” explains Faustin Yao, the United Nation Population Fund (UNFPA) representative to Ethiopia. The country’s economy is among the fast- est growing in the world, and as the quality of life improves, people tend to have fewer children. Muluwork Tesfaye, a nurse in Addis Ababa, says she could not afford to support a large family in the capital. The mother of two grew up in a family of eight and her parents struggled to provide for them. “My husband is the one who took me to college,” she says. “I wanted a better life for my children.” In the capital, Addis Ababa, the fertility rate is estimated to be 1.7 — lower than the rate needed to keep the population steady. The availability of contraceptives has also played a big role. “The increase in contraceptive use during 2000-2011 emerged as the single most important source for the recorded decline in TFR (total fertility rate),” said a UNFPA report. However, a quarter of all women who need contraceptives are still not able to get them. Rural areas have also recorded a decline in the number of children per woman, albeit slower. Ayenalem Daw, a mother of six living in Weyo Rafu Hargisa village about a four-hour- drive out of Addis Ababa, is in her late thirties. She says if she had heard about family planning earlier, she would have had four children. Women in her village hold regular meet- ings called “shene” to discuss contraception and other health issues. “Things are changing now. I think my chil- dren will have only two babies each,” says Mrs Ayenalem. Girls in school Health extension workers also regularly provide health education in the villages, including information about contraception to those who need it. The programme entails home visits by gov- ernment-employed community workers who engage families on a one-on-one basis. The big leap in contraception use between 2000 and 2011 is largely attributed to health extension workers. It was also helped by an increase in the number of girls going to school over the same period. “We go to the churches and mosques to talk to people about family planning,” said one of the women in the village of Hunta, in the Oromiya region. While it is known that the major religions in Ethiopia— Orthodox and Muslims — do not openly approve of family planning, the health workers said religious leaders were generally supportive of their work. Ethiopia is among nine African countries whose rate of population growth is declining. Others are Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Togo and Uganda. But many other African countries whose fertility decline was on course have now stalled, while others are yet to begin the transition.
Nov 7th 2015
Nov 21st 2015