20 Feb 2006
It is as if a cage has been opened, releasing in the process some daring journalists that have embarked on a suicidal mission to confront the rich and powerful.
First it was a list of presumed homosexuals that was published in January 2006 by the Anecdote newspaper. This was followed shortly by a list of the billionaire state workers published by Le Front newspaper.
Some ethical questions have been raised esp. in relation to the publication of the first list. It has been argued that even if the allegations were true, it was improper to expose to the public the sexual orientation of the individuals mentioned in the publication. Human rights organizations have even waded into the controversy throwing their weight behind the presumed homosexuals. They are looking at it from the angle that this group has been singled out for discrimination by an intolerant Cameroonian public. The head of state has even added his voice by condemning irresponsible journalism.
The ordinary man on the street does not seem to view it from that angle. Many people I talked to seem to have the view that we are dealing with some form of fraternity or cult. Some go as far as suspecting that it is a fraternity that one has to belong to in order to climb the rungs of power and influence in this country. How come, this group argues, is there a disproportional number of influential people on the list compared to the proportion of homosexuals in the general society? They are in turn saying that if the list is genuine, then there is discrimination in favour homosexuals for placement in important positions. Another group that favours the publication of the list bases its argument on the point that the Cameroonian penal code criminalizes homosexuality.
The list of billionaires and that of ‘the hit parade of thieves’ has not generated much controversy with divergent opinions compared to that of the presumed homosexuals. Reactions have ranged from consternation to anger. There is a general feeling that if the list is authentic, then the country should be considered dead and buried. This is so because many of the top people on whom we should have relied to take action on embezzlers are themselves on the list. The interesting thing is that I have rarely come across people that are disputing the claims on the list.
The social environment in present day Cameroon is fertile for the peddling of any type of information. People are at a loss to understand why the country does not seem to move forward. They can not understand why, for example, neighbouring Nigeria is using the windfall realized from the recent increase in oil prices to negotiate and pay off her foreign debt while nothing is mentioned in Cameroon about benefits from increased oil prices. The cost of fueling a car is at its highest level in history 560 cfa ($1) per litre. Tell me why Cameroonians will not believe in any theory that can attempt to explain why their once wealthy country is now poor and highly indebted. I sympathize especially with some innocent people whose names might have been published in relation to theft and embezzlement because many Cameroonians are embracing the list like an article of faith. I am afraid that they have only one option to defend themselves in the court of public opinion. The hot potato has been thrown into their hands (whether guilty or innocent) and it appears as if it is now their collective responsibility to research and give the Cameroonian public a credible answer to the question on the management of the nation’s resources so as free themselves from suspicion .
Copyright© 2006 by Njei Moses Timah
Njei Moses Timah