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Violence cripples innovation in Cameroon

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By NDI EUGENE NDI
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Protracted violence in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon has forced start-ups to ship their businesses. The Cameroon tech industry is one of the fastest growing in Africa, with Buea the former capital of Southern Cameroon termed the “Silicon Mountain” as it hosts a cluster of flourishing tech start-ups.

As violence increases between armed separatists and government troops, displacing thousands and forcing others into neighbouring Nigeria, IT start-ups have been forced to escape as well.

At just 27, Cedric Yengo, inspired by the Silicon Valley success stories, amongst others, has been forced to ship his business Rydz2Go overseas. Rydz2Go plans to shake up the transport technology, currently dominated by Uber and Lyft.

Engineering for Rydz2Go began in Buea, but later moved to the US, after authorities shut down the Internet for several months, crippling the operations of most start-ups.

The Cameroonian government suspended Internet services to the Northwest and Southwest in January last year in what activists described as “human right violation”.

Though Internet access was later restored in April after international pressure from, among others, the United Nations and Pope Francis; the nearly 100 days blockade remains the longest period of Internet disruption by an African government.

According to the Paris-based Internet Without Borders, Egypt and Ethiopia were also among nine countries globally that experienced Internet blockades between January and June 2017.

The initial threat to the start-ups in Cameroon was the offline status of their bases but with increasing violence, the major threat now is safety. Young entrepreneurs like Yengo were at the highest risk of arbitrary arrests and stray bullets. Many civilians have been killed by stray bullets in the regions, including a Roman Catholic priest, the Rev Father Alexander Nougi Sob, who was killed in the Southwestern town of Muyuka.

“It is no longer just our businesses suffering, we as individuals are not safe at all,” said Yengo.

While Rydz2Go and many others were forced to relocate abroad, other young entrepreneurs like Fritz Ekogwe, Founder and CEO of the file transfer app (Feem.io) and a fast secure crypto wallet (intersteller.exchange) was forced to move internally to Yaoundé, Cameroon’s political capital.

Churchill Mambe, founder and CEO of Njorku, an employment and hotel services company, keeps building his business in Southern Cameroons amidst the turmoil.

“Rydz2Go’s goal is to break onto the global market and our move to New York is the best location to achieve that,” Yengo added.

Ridesharing apps like Uber and Lyft offer pick up from point A and drop off at point B, but Rydz2Go is different because its offer is time bundles, Yengo explained. He said the latter guarantees maximum flexibility and permits users to have a ride waiting while they do their errands.

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Cameroon's president Paul Biya.

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

“We offer users more control with their perfect service for business appointments, city tours and date nights. Have you ever been to a new city and not know how to get around? Rydz2Go strives to ensure that you have not only a local ride but a local guide as well,” Yengo said of the app which was currently being tested.

Up to 400 civilians have been killed by both the security forces and the armed separatists in the trouble-hit regions, according to Amnesty International. The group said in a new report on September 17 that it had also documented the deaths of more than 160 members of the security forces at the hands of armed separatists since late 2016. It noted, however, that the toll could be much higher as some attacks went unreported.

“The situation in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon is becoming increasingly desperate with no one spared from the violence which is spiralling out of control,” said Ms Samira Daoud, the Amnesty International Deputy Director for West and Central Africa.

Armed separatists are accused by Amnesty of kidnapping students and teachers and attacking dozens of schools between February 2017 and May 2018 in a bid to “strike fear amongst the population”.

“We have reasons to believe many other lives of ordinary people are now at risk with the violence carried out by some members of the armed separatists groups. This must immediately stop,” Ms Daoud said further.

The almost two-year long violence that has gripped the English-speaking regions of Cameroon started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers, but morphed into an internal armed conflict with fears the Central African country could slide into a civil war, if the violence persists.

“We see the situation degenerating from a crisis to a conflict,” said Mr Gaby Ambo, the Executive Director of the Finders Group Initiative, a human rights group in Cameroon.

“And if nothing is done soon, it will turn into a civil war with grave consequences.”

The recurrent deadly confrontations have led to a mass movement of people seeking safety. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates some 160,000 people have fled their homes in the strife-hit regions into the bushes, while more than 21,000 have crossed to next door Nigeria as refugees.

Many countries and groups have prescribed dialogue as a way out of the crisis, but the path was yet to be seriously pursued. The opposition thinks that President Paul Biya who has ruled Cameroon since 1982 and will be seeking reelection in October was not interested in pursuing dialogue.

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Sordid tale of the bank ‘that would bribe God’

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Bank of Credit and Commerce International. August 1991. [File, Standard]

“This bank would bribe God.” These words of a former employee of the disgraced Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) sum up one of the most rotten global financial institutions.
BCCI pitched itself as a top bank for the Third World, but its spectacular collapse would reveal a web of transnational corruption and a playground for dictators, drug lords and terrorists.
It was one of the largest banks cutting across 69 countries and its aftermath would cause despair to innocent depositors, including Kenyans.
BCCI, which had $20 billion (Sh2.1 trillion in today’s exchange rate) assets globally, was revealed to have lost more than its entire capital.
The bank was founded in 1972 by the crafty Pakistani banker Agha Hasan Abedi.
He was loved in his homeland for his charitable acts but would go on to break every rule known to God and man.
In 1991, the Bank of England (BoE) froze its assets, citing large-scale fraud running for several years. This would see the bank cease operations in multiple countries. The Luxembourg-based BCCI was 77 per cent owned by the Gulf Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  
BoE investigations had unearthed laundering of drugs money, terrorism financing and the bank boasted of having high-profile customers such as Panama’s former strongman Manual Noriega as customers.
The Standard, quoting “highly placed” sources reported that Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Zayed Sultan would act as guarantor to protect the savings of Kenyan depositors.
The bank had five branches countrywide and panic had gripped depositors on the state of their money.
Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) would then move to appoint a manager to oversee the operations of the BCCI operations in Kenya.
It sent statements assuring depositors that their money was safe.
The Standard reported that the Sheikh would be approaching the Kenyan and other regional subsidiaries of the bank to urge them to maintain operations and assure them of his personal support.
It was said that contact between CBK and Abu Dhabi was “likely.”
This came as the British Ambassador to the UAE Graham Burton implored the gulf state to help compensate Britons, and the Indian government also took similar steps.
The collapse of BCCI was, however, not expect to badly hit the Kenyan banking system. This was during the sleazy 1990s when Kenya’s banking system was badly tested. It was the era of high graft and “political banks,” where the institutions fraudulently lent to firms belonging or connected to politicians, who were sometimes also shareholders.
And even though the impact was expected to be minimal, it was projected that a significant number of depositors would transfer funds from Asian and Arab banks to other local institutions.
“Confidence in Arab banking has taken a serious knock,” the “highly placed” source told The Standard.
BCCI didn’t go down without a fight. It accused the British government of a conspiracy to bring down the Pakistani-run bank.  The Sheikh was said to be furious and would later engage in a protracted legal battle with the British.
“It looks to us like a Western plot to eliminate a successful Muslim-run Third World Bank. We know that it often acted unethically. But that is no excuse for putting it out of business, especially as the Sultan of Abu Dhabi had agreed to a restructuring plan,” said a spokesperson for British Asians.
A CBK statement signed by then-Deputy Governor Wanjohi Murithi said it was keenly monitoring affairs of the mother bank and would go to lengths to protect Kenyan depositors.
“In this respect, the CBK has sought and obtained the assurance of the branch’s management that the interests of depositors are not put at risk by the difficulties facing the parent company and that the bank will meet any withdrawal instructions by depositors in the normal course of business,” said Mr Murithi.
CBK added that it had maintained surveillance of the local branch and was satisfied with its solvency and liquidity.
This was meant to stop Kenyans from making panic withdrawals.
For instance, armed policemen would be deployed at the bank’s Nairobi branch on Koinange Street after the bank had announced it would shut its Kenyan operations.
In Britain, thousands of businesses owned by British Asians were on the verge of financial ruin following the closure of BCCI.
Their firms held almost half of the 120,000 bank accounts registered with BCCI in Britain. 
The African Development Bank was also not spared from this mess, with the bulk of its funds deposited and BCCI and stood to lose every coin.
Criminal culture
In Britain, local authorities from Scotland to the Channel Islands are said to have lost over £100 million (Sh15.2 billion in today’s exchange rate).
The biggest puzzle remained how BCCI was allowed by BoE and other monetary regulation authorities globally to reach such levels of fraudulence.
This was despite the bank being under tight watch owing to the conviction of some of its executives on narcotics laundering charges in the US.
Coast politician, the late Shariff Nassir, would claim that five primary schools in Mombasa lost nearly Sh1 million and appealed to then Education Minister George Saitoti to help recover the savings. Then BoE Governor Robin Leigh-Pemberton condemned it as so deeply immersed in fraud that rescue or recovery – at least in Britain – was out of the question.
“The culture of the bank is criminal,” he said. The bank was revealed to have targeted the Third World and had created several “institutional devices” to promote its operations in developing countries.
These included the Third World Foundation for Social and Economic Studies, a British-registered charity.
“It allowed it to cultivate high-level contacts among international statesmen,” reported The Observer, a British newspaper.
BCCI also arranged an annual Third World lecture and a Third World prize endowment fund of about $10 million (Sh1 billion in today’s exchange rate).
Winners of the annual prize had included Nelson Mandela (1985), sir Bob Geldof (1986) and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (1989).
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Monitor water pumps remotely via your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is not new to Kenyans. Competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce but essential for fleet managers who receive reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desk.

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Agricultural Development Corporation Chief Accountant Gerald Karuga on the Spot Over Fraud –

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Gerald Karuga, the acting chief accountant at the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), is on the spot over fraud in land dealings.

ADC was established in 1965 through an Act of Parliament Cap 346 to facilitate the land transfer programme from European settlers to locals after Kenya gained independence.

Karuga is under fire for allegedly aiding a former powerful permanent secretary in the KANU era Benjamin Kipkulei to deprive ADC beneficiaries of their land in Naivasha.

Kahawa Tungu understands that the aggrieved parties continue to protest the injustice and are now asking the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission (EACC) and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) to probe Karuga.

A source who spoke to Weekly Citizen publication revealed that Managing Director Mohammed Dulle is also involved in the mess at ADC.

Read: Ministry of Agriculture Apologizes After Sending Out Tweets Portraying the President in bad light

Dulle is accused of sidelining a section of staffers in the parastatal.

The sources at ADC intimated that Karuga has been placed strategically at ADC to safeguard interests of many people who acquired the corporations’ land as “donations” from former President Daniel Arap Moi.

Despite working at ADC for many years Karuga has never been transferred, a trend that has raised eyebrows.

“Karuga has worked here for more than 30 years and unlike other senior officers in other parastatals who are transferred after promotion or moved to different ministries, for him, he has stuck here for all these years and we highly suspect that he is aiding people who were dished out with big chunks of land belonging to the corporation in different parts of the country,” said the source.

In the case of Karuga safeguarding Kipkulei’s interests, workers at the parastatals and the victims who claim to have lost their land in Naivasha revealed that during the Moi regime some senior officials used dubious means to register people as beneficiaries of land without their knowledge and later on colluded with rogue land officials at the Ministry of Lands to acquire title deeds in their names instead of those of the benefactors.

Read Also: Galana Kulalu Irrigation Scheme To Undergo Viability Test Before Being Privatised

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“We have information that Karuga has benefitted much from Kipkulei through helping him and this can be proved by the fact that since the matter of the Naivasha land began, he has been seen changing and buying high-end vehicles that many people of his rank in government can’t afford to buy or maintain,” the source added.

“He is even building a big apartment for rent in Ruiru town.”

The wealthy officer is valued at over Sh1.5 billion in prime properties and real estate.

Last month, more than 100 squatters caused scenes in Naivasha after raiding a private firm owned by Kipkulei.

The squatters, who claimed to have lived on the land for more than 40 years, were protesting take over of the land by a private developer who had allegedly bought the land from the former PS.

They pulled down a three-kilometre fence that the private developed had erected.

The squatters claimed that the former PS had not informed them that he had sold the land and that the developer was spraying harmful chemicals on the grass affecting their livestock and homes built on a section of the land.

Read Also: DP Ruto Wants NCPB And Other Agricultural Bodies Merged For Efficiency

Naivasha Deputy County Commissioner Kisilu Mutua later issued a statement warning the squatters against encroaching on Kipkuleir’s land.

“They are illegally invading private land. We shall not allow the rule of the jungle to take root,” warned Mutua.

Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee recently demanded to know identities of 10 faceless people who grabbed 30,350 acres of land belonging to the parastatal, exposing the rot at the corporation.

ADC Chairman Nick Salat, who doubles up as the KANU party Secretary-General, denied knowledge of the individuals and has asked DCI to probe the matter.

Email your news TIPS to [email protected] or WhatsApp +254708677607. You can also find us on Telegram through www.t.me/kahawatungu

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William Ruto eyes Raila Odinga Nyanza backyard

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Deputy President William Ruto will next month take his ‘hustler nation’ campaigns to his main rival, ODM leader Raila Odinga’s Nyanza backyard, in an escalation of the 2022 General Election competition.

Acrimonious fall-out

Development agenda

Won’t bear fruit

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