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Cameroon: Ten things to know about prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute

By Georges Dougueli
Posted on Thursday, 26 September 2019 14:25

Cameroon's prime minister during the planning for the national dialogue in September 2019. © Maboup

Paul Biya has entrusted prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute with the task of leading the crucial national dialogue from 30 September to 4 October. The talks are supposed to lead to a resolution to the crisis in Cameroon's English-speaking regions. It is a mission of trust but also a dangerous one.

1. Rooted

He comes from an family of high-ranking officials in the English-speaking South-West, where he was born sixty-five years ago. A traditional chief attached to his Sawa roots, he maintains a very strong link with his region, while pursuing a career – administrative and political – in the capital.

2. Teacher

Educated in Yaoundé and London, with a PhD from the University of Warwick (Great Britain), this expert on business law was a professor at Université Yaoundé II in the 1980s.

3. Prestige

In 1991, he became director general of the École Nationale d’Administration et de Magistrature, a highly respected institution in Yaoundé.

4. Loyal

Between December 1997 and March 2018, he was minister delegate to the foreign affairs ministry with responsibility for the Commonwealth. He was then appointed minister in charge of the presidency. Loyal to Paul Biya, he is a member of the central committee of the ruling Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais party.

5. Diplomat

He represented Cameroon at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva and at the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Banjul, Gambia. He also led the Cameroonian delegation to the negotiations that led to the creation of the African Union and was his country’s main representative on the Gulf of Guinea Commission.

6. Bakassi

As a member of the Cameroon-Nigeria Joint Commission under the aegis of the United States, he participated in the negotiations that led to the implementation of the decision of the International Court of Justice in The Hague concerning the Bakassi border dispute.

7. Problem solver

Last May, he spent nearly a week travelling through North-West and South-West provinces, meeting with local authorities, politicians, religious leaders and representatives of civil society. Each time, he explained that he was carrying an offer of dialogue from President Biya.

8. Rolling up his sleeves

This very discreet insider will be the mastermind of the national dialogue at the Palais des Congrès in Yaoundé. On the agenda: bilingualism, decentralisation, the return of displaced people, demobilisation and the reintegration of former combatants.

9. Diaspora

To resolve the Anglophone crisis, he was mandated to conduct broad consultations to gather the opinions and complaints of all Cameroonians. In the coming days, delegations will be sent to meet the diaspora.

10. Taking a risk

Leading the national dialogue is both a privilege and a risk. If these talks fail, there is no doubt that President Biya, who has chosen to remain in the background, would hold him responsible.

This article first appeared in Jeune Afrique.

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