Though greatly affected by Coronavirus, the year 2020 had good, bad and ugly events that cut across Politics, Health, Media, Sports, Security, among others.
Before we revisit the major events of the year as seen by News Upfront, permit me first of all to pay tribute to the following Journalists/reporters who either as personnel or collaborators, contributed to the achievements of News Upfront in 2020.
They are; Santos Ajongakou M, Macwalter Njapteh, Annie Babelle, Elie Nlend, Ingrid Kengne, Wifah Jennyhans, Banseka Mary-Stella, Suika Pamela, Tatiana Meliedje, Ngah Deflorine, Ntang Malvin and Luam Valentine.
I equally want to thank all those who in one way or the other guided, adviced, and supported News Upfront in 2020.
Below is how News Upfront saw 2020.
Political Domain: Elections, Alleged Death of Paul Biya, Annulment of National Day Public Celebrations,
2020 will go down history as the year, Cameroon completed it’s decentralization process with the first ever Regional Council Elections which took place on December 6, 2020.
But the road to the Regional Elections was not all that rosy as some key political parties like the Social Democratic Front (SDF) and the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) stepped aside creating a Cameroon People Democratic Movement (CPDM) dorminance in the polls that culminated with the elections of the pioneer Regional Executive Bureaus.
The Regional Council Elections gave rise to the House of Chiefs in the two English speaking regions.
It should be noted that Paul Biya during the year signed a good number of decrees aimed at promoting decentralization in Cameroon.
Besides the Regional Elections, 2020 also saw the organization of the Legislative and Municipal elections in February, which was cancelled in some parts of the North West and South West regions due to security challenges and later rescheduled successfully in March.
In 2020, statistics from the Elections Organizing body, Elections Cameroon (Elecam) indicated that the some 15.000 new voters registered on the electoral list, and the reduced number was attributed to the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
Elecam suffered a major setback in 2020 when it’s Facebook account was hacked and the hackers passed on a misleading information about Prof. Maurice Kamto and his election hold up drive.
Debate about the alleged death of incumbent President Paul Biya of Cameroon took centre stage in 2020 with criticisms on his prolonged public absence despite challenging issues in the country.
The National President of the CRM Party, Prof. Maurice Kamto, petitioned the speaker of the National Assembly over the absence while the Popular Action Party, PAP, threatened to petition the Constitutional Council for the Head of State to show prove of life.
In 2020, and because of health challenges linked to Coronavirus, the President of the Republic, Paul Biya decided to cancel Public Celebrations on National Day, (May 20, 2020)
Even labour day celebrations (May 1, 2020) were cancelled.
One year after the holding of the Major National Dialogue, the Committe charged with the follow up of implementation of its recommendations met under the auspices of the Prime Minister and Head of State, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute. Focus was to evaluate the path covered and draw the way forward.
Political party leaders were also on the news in 2020.
Ni john Fru Ndi of the Social Democratic Front, SDF party, spent much of his time out of the country for health related reasons.
On his part, the CRM scribe, Prof. Maurice Kamto spent close to three months under house arrest following his planned public Nationwide manifestation of September 22, which was aimed at denouncing lapses in the 2020 Regional Elections and the improper handling of the Anglophone Crisis not leaving out the famous “2018 Electoral Hold Up” preached by Kamto.
The strike action was of key interest to the international community.
The US, French and German Embassies in Cameroon cautioned their citizens to avoid getting involved with the planned manifestation.
Society: Anglophone Crisis – Ngarbuh Massacre – Situation of Prisoners – Leadership Challenges – Continued Violence, Boko Haram Incursions, COVID-19, Train Derailment, Numerous Protest Moves in Diverse Sectors, …
Some of the most shocking excesses of the Anglophone Crisis were committed in 2020.
Amongst them is the Ngarbuh Massacre of Feb 14, where Children, Women, and young men were murdered under inhumane circumstances in Donga Mantung Division of the North West region.
Accusing fingers pointed at security forces, for being responsible but the Defence Ministry denied the claims.
It was after an official inquiry ordered by the President of the Republic that the responsibilities of soldiers in the attack were ascertained.
Critics say the inquiry was provoked by consistent outcries from some Rights Groups.
The good news in the Ngarbuh Massacre is that the incriminated soldiers were arrested, and are been tried already.
The hearing opened on December 17 at the Yaounde Military Tribunal but was adjourned to January 21, 2021.
Another major event linked to the Anglophone Crisis in 2020, is the Death of an Anglophone detainee in chains at the Yaounde Central Hospital.
Thomas Nganyu was sick and reports say he was denied access to proper medical attention.
It is alleged that another anglophone inmate identified as Dama Ivo, died under similar conditions in Douala.
The Anglophone Crisis in 2020 continued to bring forth inhumane treatment on the population of the two English speaking regions.
The Killings in October of seven school children in Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy, Kumba, according to official sources is a perfect example.
Beheading of young girls, kidnap and murder of Traditional Rulers also make up part of the violence.
Leadership struggle in the Crisis took another step with accusations and counter accusations from the frontline leaders in the Diaspora, which observers believe is contributing to the failure of the struggle.
A cease fire deal initiated by Sisiku Julius Ayuk Tabe was countered by the Sako led Interim Government.
It should be noted that the appeal case of Sisiku and Co. opened in July 2020 but was adjourned.
Away from the Anglophone Crisis but to another crisis.
Boko Haram Incursions in 2020 in the Far North region were something to write home about.
Female suicide bombers, attacks on security posts, village incursions, just to name but these are proves that the radical islamist sect in 2020 was alive.
Besides security challenges, chieftaincy crisis rocked 2020.
An example in the NW Region was the Babungo- Muokang chieftaincy wahala.
The Muokang village was created and later dissolved 14 months after.
Among the new words that Cameroonians have learnt in 2020, Coronavirus (COVID-19) is among.
2020 can even be termed a COVID-19 year as the pandemic slowed down activities in almost every sector of the society.
First tested in March 2020, the spread of the pandemic pushed Government to set up a response plan, which was signed same month by the Prime Minister and Head of Government, Chief Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute.
Schools and borders were shut down for months, transportation and other leisure activities reorganized within the country, while Cameroonians learned new habits like in social distancing, use of hand sanitizers, wearing of face masks among others.
It is in 2020, that the Government of Cameroon through the Minister of Transport, took a decision to ban commercialisation of toilets in transport agencies.
The decision was provoked by the killing of a gendarme officer in a transport agency because of 100 FCFA toilet fee.
Also in the transport sector, another Camrail train derailment was recorded in Eseka, Sanaga Maritime Division.
No human life was lost though like in the 2016 Camrail train derailment, but heavy material damages were recorded.
For the first time in a while, muslim pilgrims did not take the trip to Mecca (Hadj).
It was suspended in 2020 by the Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji, for health reasons linked to COVID-19.
The MinAT Boss has been very instrumental in 2020, visiting almost all the regions of the country with President Paul Biya’s Humanitarian Assistance and other gifts for the vulnerable.
Lawyers in Cameroon were not left out of the scene in 2020.
The Cameroon Bar Association through the Bar Council called up two protests all linked to harassments they suffered from the hand of security forces in the country.
The latest was in November, where some legal minds were brutalised inside the Bonanjo Court of first instance, Douala by the forces of law and order.
The media landscape was hit by a good number of malpractices that were sanctioned by the National Communication Council, NCC.
Publisher of “La tribune de l Est”, Chantal Roger Tuile, was banned from practicing in Cameroon after being slammed a 2-year jail term over defamation claims.
But it was not all that bad in 2020. Some rosy events marked the year.
The Guardian Post Newspaper launched it’s new Head Office in Yaounde,
The paper equally launched it’s monthly magazine.
Also, in the NW region, the Nwa Council in Donga Mantung Division launched the Nwa Community Radio.
One of the first tri-lingual online news outlets, News Upfront was also launched in 2020.
Government’s support to the media for 2019 was distributed in 2020, and the amount was 240 Million FCFA.
Sports: Football, Karate, Cycling…
2020 was almost a blank sport year in Cameroon because of the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
The 2019/2020 football season ended prematurely, and the 2020/2021 season failed to kick off.
Besides COVID-19, crisis between the Cameroon Football Federation (FECAFOOT), and the Cameroon Professional Football League (LFPC), contributed to the stalemate in the local football competitions.
The two bodies were batling over who is eligible to organize local football competitions.
A battle that reached the Court of arbitration for sports.
Still in football, the U-20 indomitable lions were crowned champions of the 2020 UNIFFAC Tournament. The competition took place in Malabo – Equatorial Guinea.
History will hold it that it was in 2020, that the 1990 indomitable lions were handed keys to their houses promised them by the President of the Republic, Paul Biya.
Besides football, the sports sector was marked by crisis in the Karate Federation, where the President, Emmanuel Wakam, accused of sexual harassment was suspended plus 5 others.
Even his successor, did not reign for long as his rule was stopped by a sanction from the World Karate Federation.
The Media family was one of the sectors highly hit by deaths in 2020.
The death of Samuel Ajiekah aka Wazizi in 2020 marred the media atmosphere in the country.
The Buea based TV broadcaster, died in military detention and neither his biological family nor the media family have seen his corpse till date.
Besides the death of Samuel Ajiekah aka Wazizi, other media gurus passed on in 2020.
We can cite examples like the technical adviser no. 2 at Mincom, Pr. Peter Mabou, Publisher of the Post Newspaper, Francis Wache, including chief Nfoanyi Nkemayang Paul, Publisher of The Star Newspaper, Mireille Lambo Tiwa, Journalists with the National Station, CRTV, just to name but these.
The death of key SCNC scribe, Mola Njoh Litumbe was announced in May 2020.
Another activist and politician, Woungly Massaga Ngouo, (Cmdt. Kissamba) died in October.
The first female Minister, Delphine Tsanga died at the age of 85.
Longest serving Mfoundi SDO, Jean Claude Tsila passed on too in 2020.
The emblematic captain of the indomitable lions in 1990, Tataw Eta Stephen, left the scene in 2020.
Stephane Semengue, Director of TKC football club also passed on in 2020.