Friday, December 15, 2006

December 15, 2006

At Frisbee the other night, I asked a friend who works at an embassy if I missed anything during my long sojourn to the United States.

“Well, they won the war on corruption. They won the war on poverty. They won the war on AIDS. They won the war on business development. They won the war on investment. And they won the war on homosexuality,” he said.

It’s good to see that things didn’t change too much while I was gone.

Which isn’t to say that things are static in Cameroon. Next week there is a special session of parliament where a new elections law that would set up an independent electoral commission, among other changes, will be introduced. Sure, the Catholic Church and its allies originally brought the bill to the prime minister over the summer, and President Biya said he would push for it when he spoke at his political party conference in August or September. And fine, it looks like the president may be backing out of the changes, according to some newspapers here (others say he’s pushing for it). But at least it’s finally coming before parliament, which may even vote for it.

The question, as always, is whether these new laws will mean anything. I want to believe that they will, mostly because I’m tired of being cynical. I’m a hopeful guy, and I’m comfortable being skeptical. I couldn’t do my job well without being skeptical.

But I’ve noticed that I’ve become cynical. And I can’t do my job well being cynical, either.

So, back to election reform. It remains to be seen whether new laws will allow for free and fair elections. The government has a distinct interest in there not being that sort of electoral process. But at the same time, they have an interest in their appearance. Foreign donors don’t like to see out-and-out fraud. Underhandedness is fine, just not fraud.

Maybe Cameroon gets its new election laws, and somehow the opposition comes out on top in parliamentary elections. What would that mean? Would the new guys be any different than the old guys? And would the ruling party let that happen?

I have doubts on all of those questions, but I’d rather hope that there is a chance for a change while not expecting it. It’s easier to sleep at night. And yes, it’s all about me.


Meanwhile, every time I try to get out of Rwanda, it pulls me back in. (Cliché alert!) (Exclamation point alert!)

Here’s a CNS story I wrote yesterday, a follow-up to something I wrote last year around this time. Remember that good-hearted priest who ordered his church bulldozed to finish off 2,000 Tutsis seeking refuge? Yeah, well, he was convicted on genocide charges the other day at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Meanwhile, in another example of Cameroon being Africa’s Forest Gump, both of Father Seromba’s defense attorneys were Cameroonian.


And now for the weather. It’s hot. In fact, dare I say, it’s Africa hot. December and January are the two hottest months in Yaoundé. The sun simply sits in the sky, daring anyone to move. Seriously, when I walk outside I immediately turn red. I’ve got sunscreen and I smear it on each time I go out, but it’s like fighting a battleship with a peashooter.

It’s so hot that Cameroonians have told me it’s hot. The Gold Bond powder is out in force to try to keep up with the sweat. I think we’re losing.

Yaoundé has two wet seasons and two dry seasons. We’re in the less pleasant of the dry seasons (although it still does rain at least once a week).

The weather apparently calms down in February, and then the rains come in soon after.

I’m not sure what the seasons are like in the rest of the country other than Douala is a lot wetter, the extreme northwest is hotter and drier and up near Bamenda, in the English-speaking part, the temperatures I hear are lower.


And in sports, as the New York Rangers have heated up, so have their counterparts in Yaoundé. I’ve now got a fairly sizeable lead of 59.7 points over my nearest competitor in the Traverse City Ice Association. These things change quickly, and I could be out of first just as fast.

After my performance so far as a general manager in the fantasy hockey league, along with the Stanley Cup I won in NHL 2005 on the Gamecube, I think that I may give up this journalism thing. There is no shrewder GM in imaginary hockey. As a great man once said, at least I’ve got that going for me.


Finally, Happy Hanukkah. Don’t worry. I’ve got a big plate of latkes with my name on it waiting for me tomorrow night.


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