Why I am Running!
Subject No 1: The Ring Road
By Dr. Nfor N Susungi, Candidate for Presidential Elections in October 2011.
I want to talk to you about the Ring Road, one of the most emblematic road links in Cameroon that has very high emotive power in the Northwest Province. But let me begin by reminding you of some rhetorical questions which I asked in my statement of declaration of candidature for the presidential elections of October 2011:
- Do you know that since reunification only 7% of Cameroonian roads are paved?
- Do you know that the indigenes of Manyu Division, resident in Limbe and Douala have to travel through Bafoussam and Bamenda in order to get to Mamfe, as a result of the state of the Kumba Mamfe road?
- Do you know that in spite of their isolation, Manyu, Meme, Kupe Manenguba, Lebialem and Ndian Divisions always vote 100% in favor of the CPDM party in the hope that the Biya government will one day construct roads for them?
- Do you know that the Eastern province does not have even one single kilometer of tarred roads?
- Do you know that 31% of Nigerian roads, 65% of Tunisian roads, 56% of Moroccan roads, 18% of Ghanaian roads, 21% of South African roads and 78% of Malaysian roads are paved?
I recall that when President Paul Biya first came to Bamenda in 1983, he was enthroned to the exalted position of Fon of Fons by the Fon of Mankon. In one of those speeches which are normally drafted for the visiting dignitary by one of the sons of the region being visited by the Head of State, President Paul Biya made the pledge to personally supervise the construction and asphalting of the Ring Road. The President delivered his speech and left the people of the Northwest Province extremely happy with themselves that the Fon of Fons had spoken. But what they did not know was that President Paul Biya is a man who normally accepts everything cheerfully in a face to face meeting. But the concept of “commitment” is entirely outside of his political lexicon.
Volcanologists told the Cameroonian people that this was a natural disaster caused by the explosion of a toxic gas bubble which had accumulated at the bottom of the lake. This disaster drew worldwide attention to this region and international relief agencies flew in supplies to the airport in Bamenda. They discovered however that the Bamenda/Wum road was completely un-motorable. The relief agencies had to resort to the use of helicopters to ferry supplies from the airport in Bamenda to the victims in Wum and Nkambe.
The British government was of the view that prevention is better than cure. Therefore the best way to get ready for the next toxic gas explosion from one of these volcanic lakes was to construct the Ring Road, linking Bamenda, Wum, Nkambe, Kumbo and Bamenda. This disaster lifeline would enable disaster relief to be trucked quickly to any part of the North West in the event of the repeat of a disaster similar to Lake Nyos.
The British Overseas Development Administration (ODA) offered the Cameroon government a loan to finance the construction of the Ring Road. After one full year of high level politics at the Presidency in Yaoundé on the award of the contract for constructing the road, Mr. Mbella Mbappe, the Director of Civil Cabinet of President Paul Biya wrote a memo to Mr. Dakayi Kamga the Minister of Public Works saying the following:
Monsieur le Ministre,
Objet: Ring Road
“Le Chef de d’état a décidé de surseoir l’attribution du marché pour le projet cité en objet” (The Head of State has decided to set aside (cancel) the award of the contract for the project cited above).
That is how the Ring Road was killed in 1988. After that the British ODA cancelled the loan that had been granted to Cameroon.
In the following years, the French scientists were engaged in an elaborate project involving the constructing a floating platform from which pipes were sent to the bottom of Lake Nyos so that the gas can be continuously evacuated into the atmosphere rather than being allowed to accumulate at the bottom of the lake.
In 1989, I was the Deputy Director of the Department of Infrastructure in the African Development Bank. This department was responsible for financing all types of infrastructure projects throughout the African continent. Finding myself in such a strategic position, I wrote a confidential letter to Mr. Tchouta Moussa (RIP) who was at the time the Minister of Planning in Yaoundé. I told him confidentially that from my position, I was well placed to ensure that projects submitted by the Cameroon government are inserted into the Banks pipeline for financing. I urged him to write officially to the bank, submitting the lists of projects for which financing is needed. I assured him that I shall make sure that the projects are inserted into the pipeline for funding support. I also took the liberty of telling him that he should ensure that the Ring Road is included on the list of projects that his Ministry shall submit to the Bank because the project was of particular interest to me. I was determined not to beat about the bush.
Mr. Tchouta Moussa wrote back a polite and laconic response telling me that the Ring Road is not one of the priority projects in the investment plan of the Cameroon government. That is the last that I ever heard from Mr. Tchouta Moussa. I still have that letter with me in my file to the present day. The Ring Road had died a second time.
In 1990, as the economic crisis which started in 1987 had resulted in a very serious deterioration in the state of road infrastructure in the country, my department sent an appraisal team to Yaoundé to hold discussions with the Ministry of Public Works on a Transport Sector Programme for possible financing by the African Development Bank. The programme was going to involve the financing of several road segments across the country.
The appraisal team came back with a programme to include the construction and improvements of the following road segments:
- Eseka – Lolodorf
- Melong – Dschang
- Bamenda – Batibo
- Bachuo Akagbe – Mamfe Town
- Nditam – Ngambi Tikar
- Abong Mbang – Lomie
The program was also going to include the acquisition of Construction Equipment for Matgenie. The total cost of this programme was around $100 million.
When the appraisal report was presented to the loans committee of the African development bank, there was a lot of opposition from committee members who felt that the programme was too ambitious for Cameroon. They wanted that the appraisal mission should go back to Cameroon and scale back the programme to something more modest.
I lost my temper in the loans committee at this suggestion. Witnesses at that meeting have told me later that I reacted like a wounded lion on that day. I shouted and intimidated my colleagues until they finally approved the entire programme because they eventually understood that the programme was important to me as a Cameroonian.
I want to state here very clearly and categorically that whoever drives on the roads: Eseka/Lolodorf, Melong /Dschang, Bamenda/Batibo, Bachuo Akagbe/Mamfe Town should know that I take full personal credit for organizing and fighting for the financing of those roads through the African Development Bank. If I did not throw my full weight behind this Transport Sector Programme, it was going to be thrown out. Mr. Etta, the former Minister of Public Works is a witness because he came to Abidjan Cote d’Ivoire to negotiate the loan. I deeply regret the fact that the earth-moving machinery which was financed for Matgenie from the African Development Bank loan was asset-stripped by unscrupulous civil servants who ran Matgenie to the ground.
However, I take consolation in the fact that the African Development Bank eventually cancelled the $100 million loan as part of the completion of the HIPCs programme in May 2006. The roads which were constructed with the loan are still being used today by the Cameroonian public. No one can challenge this achievement.
In May 1990, Ni John Fru Ndi launched the Social Democratic Front Party (SDF) at Ntarikon Market. This triggered a democratic revolution throughout Cameroon which saw the population of the Northwest Province falling solidly behind the SDF. The reason was very simple. They were disappointed that the Biya government had stubbornly refused to construct the Ring Road. The Ring Road means more to the people of the Northwest province than any other project in that country. With the Ring Road, the population can make a living on agriculture and tourism in this region which is so beautiful.
It is against this background that I want to comment on the excitement which greeted the population of the Northwest Province when President Paul Biya promised during the festivities of the Golden Jubilee of the Armed Forces in Bamenda that the Ring Road would be constructed. This promise was reiterated 27 years after the one that was made in 1983. A whole generation has passed.
First of all the speech was written by the Prime Minister’s Office. Everyone knows that. The President read it as usual. But we all know that such speeches do not represent any commitment for Mr. Biya. It is possible that in drafting the speech the Prime Minister, who spent so many years in Canada as Ambassador, was unaware of previous government promises for the construction of the Ring Road. This cannot be held against him.
But there is an Ivorian musician who composed a very interesting and popular song saying the following:
On dit premier Gaou n’est pas Gaou ooo.
C’est deuxième Gaou Qui est Gnata ooo!
I want to congratulate my brothers, sisters, mothers and fathers and above all my Royal Fathers for the welcome which was extended to President Paul Biya in Bamenda. That is the only way to honour a visiting head of State. However, I plead with them not to be as gullible as to be derisively stigmatized deuxième, troisième ou quatrième Gaou!
If the President was in Bamenda to canvass for the votes of the people of the Northwest Province in case he decides to run for re-election in 2011, there is nothing wrong with that. But those votes should never again be sold on credit. I am saying this because I know that the government does not have the resources to honor the commitment to construct a power station in Bamenda, the Ring Road, the Bamenda University and other Pork Barrel projects which were promised in the speech prepared by Prime Minister Philemon Yang. If the people of the Northwest accept to sell their votes on credit again, then they should understand that C’est deuxième Gaou Qui est Gnata ooo!
Barely back in Yaoundé, President Paul Biya signed a decree establishing the State University of Bamenda. It is beautiful and good, but it is the easiest part because we all know that the Cameroonian state lacks the financial resources to build this university. The proof is that the government has launched a bond issue for the amount of 200 billion FCFA aimed at Gabonese private and public investors. In other words, the Gabonese people and their government are now called to lend to Cameroon the financial resources needed to operate the Cameroonian government. This is serious! It is even very serious! The question of this 200 billion FCFA bond issue shall be more thoroughly analyzed in a separate issue of this series.
President Paul Biya’s reign is coming to an end. He is on his way out. The reason is because President Paul Biya finally met publicly with his nemesis Ni John Fru Ndi. This is a very reliable spiritual sign. This means that the time has come for him to bow out.
Neither the Ring Road nor the Bamenda University will be built by him. That is a job for his successor. The Ring Road will finally be built by a President who understands its importance in the economy of the Northwest Province and not because its construction should be perceived as a favor to the people of the Northwest Province. It will be constructed by a President who understands how the Northwest Province fits into the economy of the whole country. I have prepared this overall plan in the Newcam Prosperity Pact which shall be unveiled to the country in February 2011.
I am running for President to succeed President Paul Biya because I know that the Ring Road will never be constructed unless someone who knows the North West Province finally becomes President of the Republic of Cameroon. In spite of the condition of the Ring Road, I know that the late President Ahmadu Ahidjo visited Nkambe twice during his Presidency. But President Paul Biya has never gone to Mile 2 Nkwen. How can he possibly know anything about the Northwest or the Ring Road?
The President of a country must demonstrate that he is interested in the country by physically visiting different parts of the country as often as possible. I know Cameroon from Kouserri to Mouloundou and from Meiganga to Ekok because I have travelled all over Cameroon. This is the type of knowledge that has enabled me to come up with a very credible economic programme which will affect the lives of the Cameroonian people during the next 10-15 years. I have demonstrated all my life that I have the combative spirit to defend any cause anywhere and to any level once I believe in it. The cause which I believe in now is known as The Newcam Prosperity Pact. Rendezvous in Yaoundé in February 2011.
- Cameroon: President Paul Biya Begins Re-Election Campaign (sahelblog.wordpress.com)
- Group calls on Jonathan to complete mitigation dam (vanguardngr.com)
- Loh Mariatou : Cameroon (kiva.org)
- Nigeria faces the threat of Lake Nyos dam break (vanguardngr.com)
- Motih Mariana Awah Awah : Cameroon (kiva.org)