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Hip hop, war and politics in Cameroon

By Georges Dougueli and Mathieu Olivier in Yaounde
Posted on Friday, 31 July 2015 09:30

As director of the civil cabinet, Martin Belinga Eboutou (1) is the man to see for anyone wishing to gain access to President Paul Biya.

A foreigner can never translate what people are experiencing here

The importance of the 75-year-old diplomat’s role in ensuring that presidential decisions are respected was underlined in February 2014, when he arrived in person at the defence ministry to secure the release of Franco-Cameroonian businessman Michel Thierry Atangana – a financial expert who spent 17 years in solitary confinement on trumped-up charges – who was still being held in prison, despite a decree for his release.

Louis-Paul Motazé, secretary general in the office of prime minister Philémon Yang, is a key architect of the government’s economic programmes.

Motazé previously served as finance minister and coordinated the crafting of the Cameroun Vision 2035 strategy and the Document de Stratégie pour la Croissance et l’Emploi, which includes plans to create tens of thousands of jobs in the formal sector per year until 2020.

Motazé went from the finance ministry to the prime minister’s office in 2011, but he did not see the move as a demotion because he continues to oversee plans for major infrastructure projects.

The Islamist rebels of the Boko Haram militia destabilised wider swathes of West and Central Africa this year after venturing beyond their base in northern Nigeria. Several senior officials are now leading Cameroon’s fightback.

Rear Admiral Joseph Fouda (2) is a special adviser to the presidency who handles sensitive issues related to security.

The government is also relying on the intelligence services for its counter-terrorism strategy.

Léopold Maxime Eko Eko has led the Direction Générale de la Recherche Extérieure since 2010 and is focusing on using drones and other newer surveillance tools to deal with internal and external threats to stability.

Deputies wait their turn

While oppositionists decry President Biya’s refusal to hand over power after 32 years in office, Social Democratic Front (SDF) chairman John Fru Ndi faces the same criticism.

Fru Ndi, 73, took up the chairmanship of the opposition party in 1992, and it has recently been performing poorly at the ballot box.

He is flanked by three vice-presidents in their 40s – Joshua Osih, Grégoire BirwéandScholastique Mahop.

They would ultimately like to ring in generational change in the SDF, but Fru Ndi and his allies continue to use party rules to stifle rivals and avoid talk about the succession.

At least in the fields of hip hop and rap a new generation of stars is in the ascendant.

Rapper Stanley Enow (3) raised Cameroon’s profile when he won the MTV Africa Music Award for the best newcomer in 2014.

The former radio host released a collaboration with Ghanaian star Sarkodie in late 2014 and launched the country’s most expensive music video – for his song King Kong – in April.

He plans to complete his new album by the middle of this year.

Ndukong Godlove Nfor – aka Jovi – says the local scene is veering away from the bling of global rap towards authenticity and political engagement.

“A foreigner can never translate what people are experiencing here,” he says. “When in a video the water runs brown, everyone understands the message.” Jovi, who released his new album Mboko God in May, regularly collaborates with stars from the US and Europe and recorded Pitié with Congolese legend Tabu Ley Rochereau in 2012.

He runs his own label, New Bell Music, and raps in English, French, local languages and slang about everyday life in Cameroon. ●

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