Sunday, January 18, 2009

A Year in Retrospect

Happy New Year!

May 2009 be a year that brings beneficial change. And as the Chinese saying goes: “May you live in interesting times”.

Bonne Année 2009. Meilleurs voeux!

When I think about all that has transpired in this last year, it is just about overwhelming.

The blog is just a small example of how you can build a mountain, beginning with each tiny step. I would never have thought that the blog would have gone from writing text, adding accompanying photographs to videos now available for the world to see on YouTube. What comes next? Perhaps an interview with Oprah Winfrey or Larry King, live primetime television in the good old US of A? Is there anybody out there…who might just point them in our direction?

I won’t tell you that everything I have experienced has been wonderful. Nothing in life is like that you know. And, today I would like to relate some personal experiences which have moved me deeply as a result of being a part of this family and community of Dschang, Cameroun in Central Africa.

First of all, in December Mama had her 80th birthday and threw a bash! And what a celebration it was! We started with a special Mass held in Chapel Saint Boniface right here in Ngui. It lasted for about four hours, but then, what’s time when you’ve already lived 80 years? Afterwards there was food and drink a’flowin with music and dancing until well into the evening. Mama was in her element. She had ALL her children around her from as far away as Canada, Mali and Douala. And I had an opportunity to brush up on my photography skills. The weather was perfect, nary a cloud in the sky; even the mosquitoes seemed to have the day off!

There must have been somewhere around 200 people in attendance. The preparations for the celebration had started at least two months beforehand with the leveling and cementing of the ground directly around the house. What a blessing that was when everyone arrived, milling around with plates of food and drinks in their hands, and with the chairs that were set up. Mama had instructed everyone in the immediate family to wear white symbolic of purity of faith which she demonstrates with fervor each and every day of her life. She is a devout Catholic and decided to cleave to God when her husband, Papa Boniface died thirty five years ago. A grand time was had by all as is evidenced by the professional video made of the event.

Another ceremony was held about a week before Mama’s birthday in which I felt particularly moved. The reburial of Mama Thérèse NGEUFACK’s (Mama’s mother) in the mausoleum built on the family compound. It was a very solemn affair. Mama Thérèse came to live with Mama in Dschang when Antoine was born and helped with the delivery. Thus, she was the first person in the world to hold Antoine and they remained very close until her death. She was still alive in 1997 when Antoine campaigned in his first Presidential elections and was his most staunch supporter.

Mama Thérèse died in 1999 and was buried in a grave behind Mama’s house. The gave was redug (by hand) and her remains were lovingly placed inside a cask. The time had come for her to join the other members of the family who have passed. For an American to be intimately involved in this ceremony with the privilege of recording it was truly a rare honor. The photos speak for themselves as you will see. In addition, I was also able to record Mama giving prayers during this day long ceremony. To date this had never even been contemplated. This is the beginning of the official family archives and will now be a permanent record for future generations to come.

Of all of the things I have accomplished this year on the personal level, starting to build this family archive to be given in care of the Kemkoum, Patengouh & Fils Foundation (the family foundation) is my greatest accomplishment and my greatest gift in honor of the family I am now a member of.

As far as business goes, if I were to skim the surface, I would tell you that we have been successful in establishing a company, SOCAPSSI Sarl; that we have extended an offer to the Prefecture for the modernization of all regional government structures via an ‘intranet’ which he is willing to support fully although there is no budget on their side for it. We will send letters of solicitation/application for funding to organizations in the US and Europe, in the name of the Prefet or local Camerounian government, to fund this initiative and not from SOCAPSSI Sarl as a commercial venture. We’ll start with the department of Menoua (we’ve already completed and submitted to the Prefet, a feasibility study for this department) of which Dschang is the largest village/town, and will expand it to include the additional 57 departments throughout Cameroun, thus creating a networked infrastructure for all Prefectures and local government offices. Does anyone know any NGO’s or Foundations who would have IT as their mandate particularly in view of creating transparency in government, free and fair elections and tangibly fighting against corruption? If so, contact me via this blog, please.

We have rented a small office for SOCAPSSI Sarl in a fairly nice building in Dschang. I would tell you that we have worked for 6 months now with the Ministry of Work and Social Security and CNPS (the actual structure who administers the National Social Insurance Fund/CNPS) and they are both now entertaining our offers in a committee assigned to that specific task by the Minister himself, for a contractual joint partnership agreement to inscribe the informal sector and again, the modernization of both the Ministry and CNPS via a networked ‘intranet’ to increase their efficiency and transparency and effectively provide the infrastructure to tangibly fight against corruption.

Our work in partnership with them to provide a vehicle for all in the informal sector to be inscribed is monumental. The “Advent Project” we submitted to the Ministry of Work and Social Security and CNPS has helped provide the legal framework in which to address what has been a gap in the law for the inscription of all into CNPS. Based upon this, the President wrote an executive order (directive) to enact this law last November, (2008) for realization this month January; something which had not been addressed for more than 24 years. We feel particularly proud of our contribution thus far.

We have just returned from a meeting with the University of Dschang wherein we will give a seminar to the faculty on the Millennium Development Goals, so that by being made aware of these international standards for development, the students might begin to orient their research for Masters and in those very rare cases, Ph.D course work to reflect one of these goals. We feel this will really contribute in aiding the country to develop in a positive way. In addition students and faculty will be more connected to the international community which may allow them to more easily apply for research grant funding.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation is working with 41 countries, 20 of which are in Africa. Of the 18 Compacts (agreements) signed to date with MCC, 11 are with African countries: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Ghana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Morocco Namibia and Tanzania. These total nearly $4.5 billion or nearly 3/4 of the total value of all MCC Compacts signed to date. Of the 18 Threshold agree­ments MCC has signed, 8 are with African countries: Burkina Faso, Kenya, Malawi, Saõ Tomé and Principe, Tanzania, Niger, Uganda, and Zambia. Two more African countries, Rwanda and Mauritania, are Threshold‑eligible. Cameroun is not eligible for funding through the Millennium Challenge Corporation because we have not demonstrated our commitment to attaining a certain minimum standard as measured against each of the eight goals.

We feel it is imperative that we work with the universities in Cameroun to help orient students and faculty towards doing their research and study to be more in alignment with these goals. This may give us a fighting chance to allow us to bring our standards for projects and development up to even minimum levels and in time be eligible to receive grant funding from MCC. Nineteen years have already passed; we have six more before the end of this initiative. If we begin now to make these goals known and understood, we have a fighting chance to get there before 2015. If we do nothing, well, nothing will be done and a tremendous opportunity lost.

In our humanitarian work, we have also been successful in the receipt of one 40’ container of CROCS shoes given to The Chantal BIYA Foundation. The official reception of the container in Yaounde, will be sometime in the next six weeks. This will be a big media event. We have established a very solid working relationship with the CBF and have requested a formal working partnership agreement with them to include donating a portion of our profits to their operations. We were invited to attend the annual end of year event at the CBF in Yaounde but were unable to go. Just the invitation itself was an honor. And, as of yesterday, Joann informed us that CROCS would like to come and be a part of the distribution of the shoes. Last Friday we sent a letter via fax to inform the Executive Director of the CBF. It will be fabulous to have them here and a wonderful opportunity for them to experience Cameroun.

So, as you can see, we have been quite busy and I feel have accomplished much to lay the foundation for what is to come. This has been done solely through our “blood, sweat and tears”. I can honestly say this has been one of the most difficult years of my life. If it were not for my faith and trust in God and the mission I am destined for, I could not have done it. Its as simple as that.

We look forward to this next year which brings us one year closer to the reason we came back to Cameroun. The name of the blog conveys all.

We intend to be more active politically in the coming year so keep watching the blog. We plan to present a new video to explore the effect democratization has had on Cameroun twenty years in the making, 1990 – 2010. Stay tuned.

As always :

God Bless us all. God Bless America and God Bless Cameroun.

Anita Lynne NDEMMANU