Since 14 August last year, the date of a conciliation meeting chaired by the President Chargé d’Etudes Jolinon Féraudy Ela Ekotto, state incumbent Camtel and Pastel, a private telco, have opted to take fight things out in public. The management of Pastel is sceptical of finding a judicial solution as the Court responsible for commercial arbitration has over 17 procedures said its General Manager Michel Job. For its part, Camtel, through its Director-General Emmanuel Nguiamba Nloutsiri wqould like to see a judicial outcome to the dispute.

On 16 August 2000 Spaceline Communication, a company based in Germany, asked Camtel for a link to Douala for one of its clients. The agreement entered into specified a reciprocal link for Camtel in Germany. Because Spaceline did not have the skills to provide one it turned to Pastel. In due course on 17 November 2001 Pastel made a licence application to the regulator ART and signed a contract through Camtel with Intelsat for a 128 kbps link. The regulator asked Pastel as the beneficiary of the link to pay for the licensing. Pastel which had already obtained VSAT licences for Douala, Yaoundé and Garoua claimed that Camtel was behind this manoevre. In April 2001 Douala’s “tribunal de grande instance” signed off on the technical specification for the activation of the satellite link.

The tribunal comdemned Camtel for signing before fixing methods of payment and how the lines would be delivered and ordered it to sort the matter out under pain of a 10 million FCFA fine. Camtel immediately appealed the decision but the Littoral’s Court of Appeal reconfirmed the decision only reducing the sum of the fine to 1.2 FCFA. Camtel took the matter to the Supreme Court of Appeal where the matter rests. After asking for ministerial arbitration both companies await judicial decisions. The tribunal de grande instance of Buéa condemned Pastel to pay 1,242,764,716 Fcfa.

After the Presidential intervention Pastel suggested that it would pay Camtel 600 million FCFA to sort out the dispute. Local commentators have not been slow to point out that political pressure has been brought to bear by “actors in the shadows”. It has got to the point where the DG of Camtel describes himself as being in danger of being killed (“en danger de mort”). As with recent events in Cote D’Ivoire, it might reasonably be asked why foreign companies would want to invest in a country where the President, not the judiciary has to intervene to sort out commercial disputes?

Le Quotidien Mutations