Sunday, 23 October 2016

Cameroon Train Crash:Transport Minister Ordered Increase of Wagons, Bears Responsibility?

Since the occurrence of the Eseka train tragedy, in Cameroon several government ministers have been in the media trying to explain what must have happened, proposing solutions, but above all, trying to trade accusations and apportion blame.

Cameroon's Minister of Transport, Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o within 48 hours has made a series of declarations which can be described as contradictory and give the impression that he is trying to put the entire blame on the door steps of Cameroon Railway Cooperation Camrail.

The critical questions seem to be, how can a train that was supposed to transport 600 passengers finally carrying 1336 of them? Why were some passengers following declarations from survivors not registered on the passenger list? Who gave instructions for 8 wagons to be added to the train?

At 1:00 pm Cameroon time, October 21 2015, the transport boss was on the Cameroon Radio, CRTV, with the following statement, explaining what measured government had taken followng the collapse of a portion of the Douala Yaounde highway at Matomb. Mebe Ngo’o said:

“At the level of the Ministry and with regard to rail transportation, the capacities of the trains have been significantly reinforced. Train number 152 of 10:25 am from Yaounde to Douala and train number 153 of 14:45 pm from Douala to Yaounde have been equipped with additional 8 wagons which offered additional capacities of 680 places per train. 

In total we have 1336 places. I prescribed to Camrail, taken into consideration the situation to take special additional measured to increase the capacity of the train," the Minister is on record with that declaration.

Hours after the incident, the same Minister of Transport was on Radio France International, RFI,  denying giving any instructions to Camrail. Hear him:
"The increase in the number of wagons was on the bases of internal technical expertise. Let me precise that, it is not the first time that Camrail has increased its number of wagons. The Yaounde train station had been besieged by 2000 people who wanted to travel to Douala.  

The decision to increase the number of wagons was taken by Camrail officials. It is not the Minister who validates technical decisions at that level. The decisions are validated at the level of the railway company. 

It is not normal to look for a scapegoat at the level of the government. It is premature to establish who is responsible. Let us wait for investigations to clear the air,"” Mebe Ngo’o still on record declared.

While Camrail officials are yet of make an official statement on who actually gave instructions and why it was obeyed given the dangers involved, it is incomprehensible that a train which use to travel with 8 wagons, finds itself  pulling nine additional wagons. 

Worst of all with passengers not registered in the train's manifest as declared by some survivors of the crash.

A trainee Construction Project manager at the Loughborough University in UK , Callistus Fonjong, who has described as extremely dangerous, the container that has been buried by Cameroonian authorities at Matomb, 

as a temporary measure to ease circulation between Douala and Yaounde, has raised similar and other questions in a statement.

“If a train conductor/driver is used to controlling for instance 5 wagons, it's not the same as controlling 13 wagons. A guy who drives a 7 ton vehicle would have difficulties driving a trailer. He needs special training and must pass a driving test to drive a trailer. So, you must verify if the train conductor has the appropriate license to drive a train with that number of wagons. They should investigate the last time he drove a train of that length. 

Secondly, when adding wagons, it needs extra work and expertise to BRACE the wagons. Brace is a kind of tool used to tight joints. Were the people/technicians who put the wagons together qualified to do it? They could be qualified, but did they actually knot or brace the connecting wagons properly? 

Again, were the right braces used to brace the wagons? If not, the wagons were not tight enough to guarantee the safety of the train. Finally were the rails constructed to carry that amount of load? What about the floor or the ground? Was it designed for that weight?" Fonjong questioned. There are indications that the number of deceased victims can be far more than the 70 advanced by the Cameroon authorities.

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Cameroon Train Crash : Dr Fomunyoh Demands Indemnification,Proper Medical Treatment For Survivors

Fellow compatriots, yesterday Friday, October 21,  our country experienced the worst train accident in its history when the Yaounde -- Douala inner-city train derailed in Eseka, Nyong & Kellé division of the Center region. According to reliable sources, the accident caused over 100 deaths and over 600 wounded. 

I hereby express my deepest heartfelt condolences to those that lost family members, friends and loved ones in this ghastly accident. I also wish a rapid recovery to those that sustained injuries. Indeed we are all in shock and tears because a disaster of this magnitude is a real national catastrophe. Moreover this accident occurred only a few hours after the collapse of a pavement on the Yaounde - Douala road around Boumnyebel in the same division that cut off road communications between the two main cities of the country.

During these challenging times of national mourning, and as we pay homage to our fallen compatriots, we must stay strong and resolute so as not to give room to a national psychosis or perverse sense of pessimism.

I hope that à thorough investigation by competent authorities and relevant services would allow us to determine the responsibilities of those involved. Such an investigation would facilitate an honest indemnification of victims and their families, and proper medical treatment of the wounded. 

Ultimately, we must draw lessons learned from these sad occurrences to institutionalize appropriate policies on crisis management and the maintenance and upgrading of our national infrastructure.

May the good Lord (Allah) bless our dear country Cameroon, and reinforce our sense of national solidarity so we can continue to be each other's keeper.

Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh
The Fomunyoh Foundation

Dédommagez Les familles Endeuillés- Dr Chris Fomunyoh

Mes chers compatriots, dans la journée du 21 octobre 2016, notre pays a été secoué par le déraillement d'un train passager au niveau d'Eseka dans le Département de Nyong et Kellé, région du Centre. Selon de sources credible, ce deraillement du train inter-city assurant la liaison Yaoundé -- Douala a causé plus de 100 morts et plus de 600 blessés.

Je saisis cette occasion pour exprimer mes condoléances les plus attristés à toutes nos familles qui sont en larme depuis hier. En effet, nous sommes tous en larmes car une perte en vies humaines de cette envergure est une catastrophe nationale inédite. Je souhait vite rétablissement aux blessés. 

Nous sommes tous sous le choque, surtout que le déraillement en question s'est produit quelques heures seulement après l'effondrement d'une partie de la seule axe routière lourde Yaoundé -- Douala au lieu dit Maniya prêt de Boumnyebel, dans le même département.

Pendant ces moments de recueillement et de deuil; pendant que nous rendons hommage aux valeureux compatroits donc les vies ont été arrachés prématurément, nous devons rester serein pour éviter que la psychose ne s'installe et ne nous paralyse dans un pessimisme ambiant.

J'espère qu'une enquête profonde sera diligenté au plus vite par les autorités et les services compétents pour nous permettre de situer les responsabilités. Une enquête devrait aussi faciliter le dédommagement des familles endeuillés, la pris en charge des blessés, et l'identification des leçons à tirer de ces événements malheureux quite devraient nous orienter dans l'adoption d'une véritable politique de gestion des crises et d'entretien des infrastructures dans notre pays.

Que le Seigneur (Allah) renforce notre esprit de solidarité en veillant sur notre cher pays, le Cameroun.

Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh
The Fomunyoh Foundation

Cameroon Train Crash: From Abroad, President Biya Puts Death Toll at More than 60…

As Cameroonians continue to mourn the death of the loved ones in the Eseka Accident of October 21 2016, their President who has been out of the country for more than a month  has expressed his condolences to the bereaved families.

 in a message on his official Facebook page he states the more than 60 people have been killed and half a million injured.

President Paul Biya without telling his compatriots where he is said he has given instructions for what is to be done.
 He has not responded to the numerous messages to tell his compatriots where he was.
Below is full message.

6 mins · 
My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the #CAMRAIL train derailment in #Eseka. Over 60 passengers died and 500 wounded in the accident. I instructed the government to provide full assistance to the survivors, while investigations will be made to determine the cause of the derailment.

Friday, 21 October 2016

55 Dead , 575 Injured In Cameroon Train Derailment... Death Toll May Rise

At least 55 people have been killed and some 575 others injured some very seriously, following a train derailment which occurred in Eseka, Nyong and Kele, Division, Center Region of Cameroon, October 21 2016.

Transport Minister Edgar Alain Mebe Ngo’o told state media after visiting the site of the accident, that 14 people were still trapped in wagons, while another train will have to transport the corpses to the nation’s capital, Yaounde.

The train named Intercity 102 that left the capital Yaoundé for the port city of Douala shortly before midday, derailed at the Eseka terminal under still to be clarified circumstances.

Though the government is yet to explain what must have transpired for the 15 wagon train to derail and overturn, there are heavy suspicions that it was overloaded.

“There are indications that the train was overloaded. Remember that the main road linking Yaoundé and Douala was completely cut and many other people had to resort to using trains. 

My relative who was travelling from Yaounde to Douala was prevented from boarding the train after officials told him it was full to capacity. Thank God for my brother’s life,” narrates Paul Nkamankeng a Cameroonian resident in South Africa.

Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma also said investigations have been opened to identify the causes of the tragedy and requested the respect of the dignity of the lives of the victims and that of their families.


Concordant reports say the survivors are receiving treatment in different hospitals around the region where the accident occurred and it remained unclear at the time of filing in this report, 

whether Cameroon’s rail way company, Camrail had the necessary insurance policies that covers the passengers.

Earlier on it was the road linking the political and economic capital, Yaounde and Douala respectively,that witnessed a collapse around Matomb in the Nyong and Kelle Division. No one was injured although commuters had to use alternative routes to get to their destination.

The incident is said to be affecting transportation of goods and persons to landlocked Chad and the Central African Republic that makes use of Cameroon’s port of Douala.

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Lawyers Strike, Maintain Position, Bar General Assembly President Nico Halle Apologises!

In what seem to have become a cold war among men of law in Cameroon, with statements and counter statements, 

the latest development is an apology from the President of the Cameroon Bar Council General Assembly.

In a statement issued by the President of the Cameroon Bar General Assembly issued October 20 2016 , Barrister Nico Halle express regret with the outing of Barrister Kameni John who had dissociated himself and the General Assembly describing the strike action launched by lawyers, illegal.

The common law lawyers West of the Mungo are demanding among other things, the translation of official documents from French into English language , notably the Organisation for the Harmonisation of Business Law in Africa better known by its French acronym OHADA (Code.) The lawyers are demanding a response from the President of the Republic as a precondition to end their protest.

The apology from the President of the General Assembly of the Bar Council comes hours after Common Law lawyers, issued a decision and announed that the strike action which was to last till October 21 2016, is now indefinite.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Living & Dying for the Journalism He Loved : A Tribute to Celestin Lingo alias Daniel Rim

By Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert (Yindo Toh)

It is 5.40am on the East Coast of the USA and I am sitting in bed, and typing this tribute on my smart phone, greatly saddened by news (breaking just now) of the passing into glory in Paris (France) of one of Cameroon's most talented journalists, a friend, "grand frere" and a brother-in-law of mine, Celestin Lingo.

May God rest his gentle soul. And may God grant his family the strength to bear this loss with faith in the Resurrection and certainty in the promise of rewards in Heaven.

Few Cameroonian journalists have contributed more to journalism, to human rights, to political freedoms, to freedom of the press and to freedom of association than Celestin Lingo. And even fewer have devoted more energy or sacrificed more of their freedom, their own time and money in order to help organize and prosper the profession of journalist, which he cherished and served so well.

My recollection - from discussions with him - is that his rich but extremely challenging career dates back to the days of blind political repression in Cameroon following Cameroon's pseudo-independence. Repression targeted notably UPC leaders in the heart of "Bamileke Country" and all those suspected of showing any kind of sympathy to them. At the time, Celestin Lingo worked for one of then two Cameroonian Catholic newspapers (name lost in my memory for now) published out of Nkongsamba by the late Bishop Albert Ndongmo.

The young Lingo's articles on the tragedy unfolding as French and Cameroonian security forces slaughtered citizens of Bamileke and Bassa descent on claims that they were combating so-called "maquisards" badly ruffled feathers in Yaounde. Lingo paid the price in repeated arrests, torture, detention, jail time, including time served in some of Cameroon's worst political prisons. At Tchollire (I believe it was), Celestin Lingo first met and became great friends with another "rebel with a good cause", Albert Mukong. Ultimately, Lingo paid the price of exile, spending a good part of his youth in Côte d'Ivoire where he benefited from the protection of President Houphouet Boigny while pursuing his journalism career at the Ivorian daily, Fraternite Matin.

Before leaving Cameroon, though, Celestin Lingo was tied to every trumped-up charge the Ahmadou Ahidjo regime levied against Bishop Ndongmo. These included accusations of treason for supposedly supporting an armed rebellion against Yaounde. Bishop Ndongmo was later arrested, tried, sentenced to death before being pardoned by President Ahidjo who sent him off to exile in Rome and later to Canada, where he later died. 

Some of Lingo's most daring journalism pieces included accounts from what was a war front (neither Yaounde nor Paris admits there was a war). They included stories on the cause the rebel leaders felt it was worthwhile dying for, including the cry for true independence and democratic elections. Much of his early trouble as a journalist stemmed from the fact that Lingo insisted on sacrificing his own freedom rather than revealing his sources from among the ranks of the armed insurrection.


Celestin Lingo was a contributor (I don't just remember exactly how) to one of the finest and earliest pieces of investigative journalism published by the sister Catholic newspaper managed by the late Bishop Jean Zoa out of Yaounde. The article, under the title "Le Train de la Mort", hit Yaounde like a political earthquake. The paper had won its first "hide and seek" game with the regime, publishing what has to be considered one of Cameroon's unrewarded but Pulitzer-deserving pieces.

To make it to print, L'Effort Camerounais intentionally - and criminally, according to the Law of the Tyrant in power at the time - bypassed what was then compulsory administrative censorship in order to unearth and decry a massive government cover-up following the assassination of mostly Bamileke and Bassa rebel leaders. The publication of this article strained relations between Bishop Jean Zoa and Cameroon's first dictator, Ahmadou Ahidjo. The Yaounde regime, the article outlined, had sardine-parked so-called rebel leaders into windowless wagons of a train. They were, sadly, starved of oxygen and baked in the sweltering heat of "Douala and Bassa Country" which they crossed en route from Douala to Yaounde, dying of asphyxiation in the process. 

When Celestin Lingo returned from exile in Côte d'Ivoire, he signed up with the government-owned daily, Cameroon Tribune, where it would be fair to say, he made a living but could not practice journalism. He had to do something about it. That is when Lingo became a "two-in-one" journalist: signing articles under his real name for the "Journal de la Route de l'Aeroport" while peppering the regime in one of Cameroon's best satiric columns in Le Messager under the pen name Daniel Rim.

The history of Cameroon's independent media cannot be written without devoting a chapter to stress the immense contributions of this national hero: Celestin Lingo alias Daniel Rim. So, too, for the history of the return to political pluralism and the history of the organization of the profession itself in Cameroon.

Under the leadership of Emmanuel Noubissie Ngankam, at the time the Resident Representative of the German Foundation, Frederic Ebert Stiftung, Celestin Lingo chaired what was called The Core Group of sixteen journalists tasked with executing a strategy to found and launch what is today's Union of Cameroon Journalists (UCJ). I was privileged to serve under Celestin Lingo in that Core Group and can testify to the exemplary leadership that was part of his many gifts and stellar qualities. I went on to serve as the pioneer Secretary General of UCJ.

Celestin Lingo did not get elected to that first leadership team but he showed a lot of class when, along in the company of colleagues like Andre Parfait Bell, he expressed full understanding of the need to protect the newborn association from persecution by the regime in order to guarantee it a fighting chance of success. That is how the position of UCJ Pioneer President ended up with the now jailed ex-General Manager of CRTV, Amadou Vamoulke. The fear - real at the time - was that with leadership of UCJ exclusively in the hands of a group of journalists seen as hostile to the regime would strengthen the perception and suggestions at the time of its birth that UCJ was just another opposition political party masquerading as an association of journalists.

It is remarkable that despite a tiny moment of bitterness, Celestin Lingo offered enthusiastic support and continued advice to that first UCJ leadership team, quickly putting hurt feelings behind him and joining hands to make the association work for all journalists. He was among the very first to spot and offer help in mending the cranky relationships among the leadership team. He was by my side, encouraging me to break with Vamoulke notably in order to decry the detention of journalists like Pius Njawe and Paddy Mbawa. I can still this morning, as I write these lines and memories of Lingo flood my mind, recall him warning repeatedly of the commitment of The Core Group to use UCJ as an instrument for helping journalists come out of what we identified as "Cameroon's monolithic hangover".
Celestin Lingo and I spoke thrice on the phone since he self-evacuated to Paris to get the kind of medical attention the country he served all his life still cannot afford its citizens more than a half century after what passes for independence. When we spoke on the phone last, Celestin Lingo was still booming with that great, healthy laugh of his. He cracked you up with jokes - one after another - including jokes about the cancer that had afflicted his body but could never steal or destroy his high spirits, jovial disposition, good humor and unquestionable optimism. One of his very last emails to me and others (see below) was aimed at sharing laughter, cheering people along with a joke about MP.

It is worth mentioning that even as Celestin Lingo alias Daniel Rim lived in Paris - waiting to die, as he joked about it on the phone with me - he remained a reservoir of hope. He maintained his deep faith in God and in the unique goodness of Christianity. Also, he spoke in superlatives of one of his very best friends; the man he called his best priest; his best bishop since Bishop Ndongmo; his best pastor, cardinal and best mentors: Christian Cardinal Tumi. On him, Lingo authored one of several books, celebrating the beauty of a simple life, at the service of one's neighbor, one's country, and our common humanity. The life of Celestin Lingo alias Daniel Rim was true to that creed. May he find eternal rest in God, his Creator.

Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert (Yindo Toh)

SDF SA Calls for 2 Term Limits for Chairpersons of all Party Structures

The Social Democratic Front, in South Africa, SDF SA, is requesting the limitation of the mandate of the party’s chairman to four year renewable once. The party’s leadership also wants officials of all party structures to also have term limits.

This is among a series of motions that would be filed in to the NEC, during the the SDF convention billed for 2017 in Cameroon.

The SDF SA leadership and members from all the regions of South Africa voted those motions when the party members met at the emperors Palace Convention Center Johannesburg,

October 15 2016 for their first ever Regional conference in preparation also for the 2018 elections.

Among other issues, SDF SA would be tabling a motion to request that the National Executive Committee considers scraping the special congress to elect a presidential candidate.

SDF SA officials saw the need for the Chairman of the party to automatically be the presidential candidate as the said candidate would to have enough time for campaigns whenever the electorate is convened.

The SDF SA conference also agreed that it is imperative for the separation for powers especially within the administrative arms of the party. It was voted that the Chairman of the National Executive Committee should not be the same person handling the position of Chairman of the National Advisory Council as is currently the case. “We always try to sell the position we hold to NEC with evidence, support and motivations. 

We are bringing in cooperate governance best practice that would work from public to private sector and political organizations. You cannot be an executive and advice yourself.  

NAC was created so that some oversight authority was in place in the organization to check the excesses of the executive power. The moment you are playing an oversight an executive role then there is a problem. We are not targeting anyone but proposing the putting in place of measures that would make the party stronger,” SDF SA Chairman, Milton Taka said.

One of the motions to NEC included the organisation of the structures of the Socialist Youth organs with an appeal for a working environment to be created by NEC and for the rules responsibilities of the powers of this organ to be clearly defined.  

A guest at the conference was the Chairman of the African Diaspora Forum, ADF, (a federation of migrant associations in SA) who said it was still possible for the SDF to take over power in Cameroon. “The Sdf needs to organize itself, mobilizing the people and changing the way they did in the past . They need new strategies and have to approach people and encourage Cameroonians to register, vote and defend their votes. 

 Remember that some live out of their country because of failed leadership. We see the experience here in SA where the President is held accountable. This can happen in Cameroon.

These are the issues the SDF has to take back home. From what I have seen and heard the hope of Cameroonians is still in the SDF. With the work being done at this stage I think the SDF will definitely rise to power,” said the Ivorian born Marc Gbaffou.

“They key is to unite the Cameroonian people especially the opposition.  There is need to redefine the struggle, empower the civil society and organize the labour unions. The system in Zimbabwe is like that in Cameroon where the bourgeois enjoy looting from the national coffers, where the President has been there for 36 years and 34 years in Cameroon. They rule the country like a kingdom.

 As I said we need to have a coalition and unite the people to oust those who continue to loot,” stated the spokesperson of the Zimbabwean opposition, Movement for Democratic Change MDC in SA, Nicolas Mabhena.

SDF SA leadership encouraged members all over the globe to begin preparations to attend the convention billed for 2017 in Cameroon.