Wednesday, November 21, 2007

News updates from Cameroon

Here's some newspaper articles involving some of our experiences:

Cameroon: WPC Assists Aids Patients, Orphans

The Post (Buea)
19 November 2007
Posted to the web 19 November 2007
Joe Dinga Pefok

Christians of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, WPC, in Minneapolis, US, have offered both material and financial assistance to some AIDS patients and orphans in Cameroon through AIDSCARE LINK Cameroon, ACL, with headquarters in Douala.

Health personnel with Westminister Presbyterian Church (WPC) during the donation to AIDS patients and ophans in Douala

The National Coordinator of ACL, Dr. Samuel Ngwane, told reporters on November 15 that the donation was handed over to his NGO in monetary form to the tune of US $ 15,000 (circa FCFA 7,500,000).

He explained that in line with an agreement with WPC, ACL used part of the money to buy high nutritional food items and beverages, as well as some basic household needs for the AIDS patients and school needs for the orphans.

The distribution of the gifts was done with the participation of a team of four medical personnel from the WPC. They were part of a medical team headed by Dr. John Heefner that travelled to Cameroon for the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC.

Meanwhile, the donations took place at two centres - 'Cite des Palmiers' District Hospital, and the Presbyterian Church Bonamoussadi.

The two occasions, which were attended among others by the representative of the Mayor of Douala V, saw 50 adults (AIDS patients) and 30 AIDS orphans recorded as beneficiaries.

It is worth noting that during their stay in the country, some of the WPC health personnel provided dental and eye care services to patients at some Presbyterian heath units in Douala, Kumba and Bafoussam.

Meanwhile, the 38-man WPC delegation to the PCC Golden Jubilee celebrations led by Rev. Dr. Tim Hart-Anderssen, visited two orphanages in Douala.Accompanied by Dr. Ngwane, who is a church minister at Presbyterian Church Bonamoussadi, the WPC delegation visited the Saint Gerard Orphanage at Deido which is run by the Catholic Church, as well as 'Main dans la Main' orphanage at Bonamoussadi, which is run by a charity group.

At both centres, the WPC delegation donated money to assist the management of the centres.Addressing the kids at both orphanages, Rev. Hart-Anderssen prayed them to remain hopeful in life, assuring them that God loves all children.


In other news, the student strike that left one 14 year old dead and many injured during our trip to Kumba is detailed here. These events were all the more surprising with Cameroon's reputation as a very stable country in central Africa. It was a pretty scary night, but we participated in a fine concert with visiting chiors nonetheless. Most of the roads had been unpassable due to the student strike, so our travel in the afternoon was marked by a lot of turning around and back streets to make it back to our accommodations. In the evening, roadblocks had been set up, which allowed us to safely (though nervously) make it to the church to do our concert. Here's the article:
Police Gun Down 14-Year-Old Student, Wound Several Others
By Olive Ejang Tebug Ngoh

A 14-year-old Form One student of the Government Technical College, GTC Kumba Herbert Ngome Kwelngome, was killed when police opened fire on protesting students over the weekend.

Many of the protesters were reportedly wounded, some of them seriously, following the incident.The kid was reportedly in a crowd of students who were marching to the Kumba Central Divisional Officer, DO's office to protest the detention of some of their mates.

The police intercepted their march around the Kumba Cow Fence, using teargas to disperse them. The students were further caught in a trap when they discovered a contingent of police behind them from the Buea Road area and another approaching from Kumba Town.
Gendarmes were later to reinforce the police who teargased the protesting students. The latter replied with a volley of stones on the forces of law and order.

After half an hour of fighting, the teargas reportedly got finished and the police resorted to firing live bullets at the crowd. One of the bullets hit Kwelngome on the head and he died instantly. His corpse is presently at the Kumba District Hospital mortuary.

A Form Five student of the Cameroon College of Arts and Science, CCAS Kumba, Derrick Nchabalow, also got a bullet that left him in a coma. He too, was transported to the Kumba District Hospital, and later evacuated to the Douala General Hospital still in unconscious.
Also, a Form Five student of GTHS Kumba, Napoleon Ngoe Muango, received a bullet on his back. He is presently receiving treatment at the Kumba District Hospital.

The Post also learned that other injured students are hospitalised at the Apostolic Hospital Banga Bakundu.According to an eyewitness, Joseph Wong, a French teacher who was attending a pedagogic seminar in CCAS Kumba, a Police Commissioner shot the students.

He said the Commissioner came to the scene while the students and police were locked in a teargas-and-stone battle. He said the Commissioner, who was a victim of the students' stones, got enraged and ordered his subordinates to shoot, but they hesitated.According to Wong, the Commissioner pulled his gun and fired at the students.

A strike action began on Wednesday, November 7, when CCAS students, joined with their counterparts of GTHS to demand that electricity be re-instated in the student residential area.

The strike action came after an electricity transformer reportedly got burnt about a fortnight ago and the students were incensed that their school authorities did nothing to redress the situation.The students, mostly of examination classes, were further distressed over the fact that they could not study computer on campus or read at night.

The embittered students told The Post that the SDO for Meme, Magloire Abath Zangbwala, visited their school the previous day and their school authorities failed to mention the problem of electricity.

The students started a strike action on November 7, which led the local administration here, to arrest and detain several of them, after quelling their actions with teargas.Some students were detained at the Central Police Station and others at the Company Gendarmerie Buea Road.

AES SONEL had reacted immediately by installing a new transformer from Douala in the student residential area on November 7.On November 9, about 300 students from CCASS and GTHS Kumba marched round the streets of Kumba, demanding the release of their detained comrades.

Derick Nchabalow, hospitalised

The students went to Cameroon College of Commerce High School, CCCHS and Diligent Bilingual Academy, halting classes and urging the students to come out so that they could, together, fight for their detained mates.

The Post learned that the DO for Kumba Central, David Kouam, told the students that until Southwest Governor, Louis Eyeya Zanga, gave orders, the students could not be released.
The students then began a demonstration from the entrance into CCASS Kumba to the DO's office, demanding the release of their colleagues. But when they marched past Buea Road, the forces of law and order intercepted their movement that led to the confrontation.

Students Go Wild

After the police shot the students, the latter grew mad, raced to the DO's office and set it ablaze. Before the forces of law and order reached the scene the whole building was already on fire.

From the DO's office, the students rushed to the Central Police Station where they set the police canteen on fire before proceeding to AES SONEL.The students went amok, shattered the louvers of the AES SONEL building, dismantled computers from the building and set them on fire. The fire also affected part of the building.

The students equally rushed to the Fiango Police Post and set it ablaze, calling on the police to kill them just as they are wont to kill their mates.It was at this juncture that the DO ordered for the release of the detained students. By evening that Friday, a contingent of police from the Mobile Intervention Unit, GMI, Buea arrived in Kumba and imposed a seeming state of emergency.

They used teargas to quell movement that evening and mounted attacks on the population and beat up whoever they met on the way. They also broke into houses and beat people, sending all to bed very early.

Deceased Father Reacts

When The Post contacted the father of the deceased, Kwelle Ngome, a retired Sub-Officer of the Gendarmerie, he referred to his child's killing as a political act to confuse the Province. He questioned how an unarmed Form One student could be shot dead.The retired officer stated that according to requisition order from DOs, forces of law and order are supposed to use live bullets only in a situation of war.

"The students' strike was not proportionate to the killing of my child. I am preparing to go to the school on Monday to demand my child from the authorities," he promised.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Picture update from G

Well, I'm back home. I barely know where to begin, but now I'm back in my own bedroom, a great deal cleaner than I have been for the last 30 hours of travel across Cameroon, from Douala to Brussels to Chicago, then back to the Twin Cities. All I can say is that I have been overwhelmed during the trip. Every experience was riveting and extreme, nothing mediocre or middle of the road. The people I encountered were beauiful souls trapped in a nation of poverty, corruption, and lack of infrastucture. I'm not sure yet whether I can call my two weeks there as a positive life experience yet. What I do know is that we touched a lot of people, and were likewise touched by them. I also know that I am more motivated to do more work to make my home a better place, after seeing all too clearly how good we have it in America.

Here's a picture update of some of our destinations, stopoffs, passthroughs, and adventures. We do hope you enjoy.

Douala looked to me like Mad Max meets Final Fantasy 7.

The perfect view of Kribi, if you ask me!:

The full entourage of 38 included a partnership team that worked to improve condiditons in Kumba Town, which is a bustling community at the end of the worst road imaginable. Also a medical team of doctors, opthamologists, nutritionists, and dentists, who all saw the worst conditions for treatment in Douala. They accomplished something along the lines of treating 2100 patients, and performed 200 surgeries. My contingent didn't see much of them until the last two days, when our groups converged in Limbe, a coastal town that once was a bustling port. My group, which traveled to many cities to provide cultural exchange, perform concerts, and do some teaching/outreach with the Presbyterian church in Cameroon, performed at 21 events for around 20,000 people, and were broadcast twice on national television, possibly reaching millions. It was a stunning trip.

In Cameroon, shirts often depict affiliation or tell a story. In this case the shirt tells the story of the return of Kribi natives conscripted by the Germans in WWI: Kribi was full of thick jungle and beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and a wonderful resort, where we enjoyed the hospitality of a Swiss woman who ran the place. We offered a song or two in thanks for all the good food (and honestly, the only proper bathroom I saw outside of the US Embassy...), and great bar.

My new favorite hair product:

At the Chief's palace, where pastor Tim Hart Anderson was honored with a title of Nguo (sort of like a knighthood), and the drummers and dancers were amazing:

G amongst the bamboo:

The view from my room in the capital, Yaounde.

Children's choir from Kumba-town:

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Many Thanks and more updates

Many thanks to Steve Staruch and everyone at MPR, for the marvellous interview. MPR has to be the greatest radio station in the world! (Take that BBC!)

We will try to keep the posts coming to this blog as best we can.

Cantus returns home early next week and then we head right into rehearsals for our Boston Pops tour. I hope the guys have found to time to rehearse "White Christmas" while in Africa. Somehow I doubt it...

We will most certainly create some pages on our website and myspace pages full of picture when the guys return. We also took video cameras and and audio recorder to Cameroon, so we'll see what kind of media they captured.

I think we'll need to keep a blog going for our Boston Pops tour. It should be much easier to do stateside!


Interview Today

Hello All!

Steve Staruch of Classical Minnesota Public Radio made contact with Cantus in Cameroon this afternoon. The interview will be broadcast around 4:15pm Central time today. You can hear this interview locally at 99.5 FM or hear it streaming online at

Click on "Listen" in the Classical box at the top of the page.

Talking with Steve this afternoon, it sounds like he had a great chat with Tim and Dashon.

Can't wait to hear it!


Wednesday, November 7, 2007


The Interview with MPR will be on Thursday November 8th, not the 10th as was printed in the email blast. Sorry for the confusion!

From Tom at the American Embassy in Cameroon

Hello from the American Embassy, YaoundeCameroon. The trip is going well, on budget and with only one real illness that has passed with god's grace. The blessing are countless.

Last night we sang for about 800 people who included 6 other choirs
(graced us with a few pieces each...rocking!), some of the kids from the
American School that we visited/sang/cliniced yesterday, as well as the
american cultural attache to cameroon who joined in the dancing of
praise as she made her way up to the choir, (think gospel church!)
laying money on the forehead of the seems that is the true
sign of recognition for their efforts. The little girl (about 5 yrs old)
with one of the choirs was the financial queen of the night...her
singing and dancing gained much praise!

CANTUS was nothing short of a miracle in the flesh to these people who, though many have heard some western choral music (one choir sang Alleluia Amen from Handel's Judas Maccabeaus), few have ever heard a polished western sound on such music.
As I told a student yesterday..."in music of this sort, soul is better
than expertise," these people are living proof of the power of song.

This morning we sang at the american embassy, from where we send this
messege, and from where we just recieved the sign we must leave...time
to see the gorillas in their natural habitat!

Love and blessings to all, continue to pray for our safe journey...

Tom McNichols, Bass