Ebule Barnabas Mbonde, was until his arrest, Regional Director for the West and North West Regions for CNPS
Cameroon Journal, Yaounde – Worries are being expressed by family and friends of one Ebule Barnabas Mbonde, a senior staff of the National Social Insurance Fund (CNPS) Douala who has gone missing after a spat at work with Management of CNPS over the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions.
Mbonde, who was until his arrest, Regional Director for the West and North West Regions for CNPS, had been recently transferred to Yaoundé as Deputy Director of the Legal Department where he received a query after WhatsApp messages exchange about the crisis in Southern Camroons with a colleague were brought to the attention of his hierarchy.
A source familiar with the developments said Mbonde had used the occasion of a recent publication of the National Investment Budget to question the uneven allocation of the investment budget. Mbonde, our source said could not understand how the South Region, smaller in size and population could have a budget of circa 140 billion, whereas bigger and more populated North West and South West Regions were allocated only 40 and 41 billion respectively. “I will not betray the Anglophone cause for an appointment with CNPS where budgetary allocations present such gross disparities; Mbonde said in one of the WhatsApp messages.
After the messages filtered to his superiors at CNPS, he said, he was stunned by a query from Alain Mekoulou Mvondo, the Director of CNPS, a close ally and kinsman of President Biya. Mvondo accused him of fomenting dissent in the messages. The query, written on January 23, gave Mbonde 48 hours to explain statements shared by him through social media on the ongoing crisis. Mbonde was asked to explain statements that “the money used to pay Cameroonians, fund luxurious trips for President Biya and billions wasted on getting a presidential jet that was never delivered comes from the Anglophone Regions.”
“The statements you have been sharing are unconstitutional, present a security risk, and are insulting to the Head of State,” Mekoulou charged in his query.
“The conversation was not meant to go public as it was a private discussion with a longtime friend and colleague,” Mbonde wrote in a reply submitted on January 24. Mbonde indicated that while most of the information circulating on social media did not originate from him, as a private citizen, he said he participates in the debate.
Mbonde, a militant of the ruling CPDM, who has held leadership positions with the Fako 2 section, answering the query, refuted claims that he insulted the Head of State. On the disparity in budgetary allocations, he maintained his stance, arguing that it is such injustice that brews the kind of anger and frustrations that have
resulted in the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions. “It is hard to remain indifferent to such injustice,” Mbonde said in justification of the heated exchange he had with his French-speaking colleague that was leaked. Mbonde acknowledged that he expressly told his colleague that he would rather lose his appointment as Director than sacrifice his Anglophone roots and culture. Feeling the noose tightening, Mbonde went ahead to request early retirement, which was approved by the Director of CNPS with effect from February 1, 2017.
However, the day after his request for retirement was granted, over half a dozen security officials stormed the Yaoundé office of Mbonde. His phones were seized and he was forced to sign documents that he has been suspended from work. Based on legal advice and a tipoff from sympathetic sources close to the Director on his imminent arrest and risk of jail, Mbonde proceeded to submit a full resignation. But he has since vanished and his family and friends are unaware of his whereabouts.
In addition to the arrest and detention of top leaders, senior Anglophone civil servants in Yaoundé live in fear. Their movements are monitored as it dawns on the government that a broad segment of the Anglophone population identifies with the grievances that have literally paralyzed schools and courts in the North West and South West Regions of the country.