My Research Fellowship also permitted me to discover that, in the United States, race still had too much influence in the way people reacted or judged those with different skin colours. I will never forget this incidence that I will want to share with you. The reason why I am sharing it with you is to support my latter claim that, in the US, race still influences the way some Americans do judge others. One day, where I was living in Silver Spring, I came home one evening and had difficulties to open my door. I decided to call the landlord to find out whether, there was a special instruction or an astute way needed. His response left me spell bound. He said: “Elie, what is difficult in opening a door?” He went on: “I had two white boys who opened that door without any problems and you a Blackman, why should you face difficulties?” My landlord was an African American, who saw the world in black and white. But my question to him was this: “what has white and black got to do when one needs help?” I concluded that, it might be based on the past history of America that compelled some Americans act the way my landlord acted.
However, having made my observations known above about NED and some of its staff, I still think that they (NED) as an organisation created in 1984 to support and promote liberal democracy around the world are already doing a tremendous job, but they could do more. For example, while they are already doing a praiseworthy job, there is need for them to have or create specific targets and objectives, which at this stage I doubt whether they have. In my humble opinion, NED needs to increase their funding to media, especially in regions and countries where free speech and democracy is either threatened or where governments have preponderant control. This measure will encourage the rise and consolidation of independent media organisations and professional journalists, who will be able to independently carry out investigative journalism and also be able to report accurately on cases of financial fraud or corruption and also on human rights abuses. One reason among the many that has caused or made democracy to roll back in most of Africa, in particular in central Africa is the absence of independent media for reasons earlier mentioned. Besides increase in financial and material assistance, which is needed for both old and new media, NED needs to increase its assistance or grants to pro democracy activists and organisations within the central Africa region, in particular in the following countries: Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon, Chad, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. As noted earlier, NED is doing a considerable job in promoting prodemocracy groups in Nigeria, the DRC and Zimbabwe, but there is need for them to do more, especially in the central African countries mentioned earlier. One way of helping prodemocracy activists and their organisations in the central African countries above mentioned could be to target and help genuine prodemocracy groups and activists. But how can genuine prodemocracy groups or group be distinguished from fake ones? It is difficult, but due diligence process needs to be put in place within NED to make sure that, those offered grants are not just genuine but result oriented. Furthermore, country specific approach is needed in whatever assistance or arrangement NED may want to device. This is so because, while African countries or central African countries may look similar, they are fundamentally differences within the same country: cultures and traditions vary from one region to the other.
The case of Cameroon
In Cameroon, NED must not have a one size fit all support programmes for prodemocracy organisations and activists. Their approach must respect the cultural and linguistic divide of the country. They should not be deceived into thinking or buying the official propaganda that, Cameroon is a united country. The country is divided along linguistic lines and as the current Anglophone crisis has demonstrated, the gap between the majority French-speaking Cameroonians and their English-speaking counterparts are wider than officially presented. For example, English-speaking regions of Cameroon have greater experience in terms of social networking or civil society organisations management than the majority French-speaking Cameroonians. This simply means that, supporting prodemocracy activists in English-speaking Cameroon is far easier and more likely to attain results faster than in French-speaking Cameroon. Whereas in French-speaking Cameroon, more training for pro democracy organisations and activists are first needed and followed by the proper process of scrutiny before any results could be expected. Failure to respect the latter, the consequences are that, it is more likely that, any investments in French-speaking Cameroon for prodemocracy is bound to fail or produce limited results. Another dimension with Cameroon is its Greater north region, whose culture is different from those of greater south. Here again, a different approach is needed and more, the fundamental desires of the people of the Greater north region are special or specific. The Greater north of Cameroon certainly needs help for its pro democracy activists and organisations. However, unlike the Greater south, the priority in the Greater north is the girl child education, female rights, education and religious tolerance. The success in campaigns to increase the girl child education or gender equality can only succeed if grants are awarded to activists claiming to work in the latter mentioned domains only after thorough introspection, have been carried out on organisations and individual seeking grants in the region. Furthermore, grants should also be granted first only to organisations and groups that are in the fight to improve or that will have greater and immediate impact in the area.
I have sadly observed that, it seems grants are too often given to people and organisations without verifying whether their projects align with the needs of the regions or areas that the grants were sorted for. The other sad observation is that most grantees are in fact by default supports of the very dictatorial regimes that should be fought and changed. Hence the necessities for proper scrutiny before any grants are offered. As I had stated earlier, the National Endowment for Democracy was helping prodemocracy activists on the continent, but like Oliver Twist, I need them to do more and to be very selective with the projects that they are supporting. Some proposals like that which concerns Cameroon have been made earlier, but I have the impression that, in other countries, NED is supporting programmes that are having little or no impact on the promotion of human rights or democracy. Hence as already mentioned, it would be good that, while NED monitors those that, they offer grants, NED itself, must be evaluated on how successful they have been in their support for prodemocracy projects or grants around the continent since its creation in 1984. If NED doesn’t want to waste US tax payer monies as I think they are doing in some projects that they are sponsoring, they must create or have clear cut objectives as earlier mentioned instead of their vague notion of support for prodemocracy. NED must start thinking how best prodemocracy activists can succeed in countries that are governed by dictators such as those in central Africa region. This means that, she must only support organisations that are genuinely supporting the promotion of democracy and free speech. And finally, NED needs to try to help consolidate free Speech by supporting media houses and media bodies around the continent, in particular within the Central Africa region, which is suffering from the absence of truly independent media organisations.