In spite of solutions proffered by successive Ministers of Arts and Culture, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be yet farfetched.
It is common to hear Cameroonians say ‘he did it like a white’ or ‘he did it like a pro’ when commending a job well done. But it would be hard to attribute any of the aforementioned commendations to any of the heads of several copyrights corporations that have existed in Cameroon from September 1979 when nationals took over the management of the sector from the French SACEM, to present day SONACAM.
The first was SOCADRA, dissolved in 1990 after 11 years of existence and replaced by SOCINADA. It was dissolved 12 years later.
In a bid to instill stability in the sector, a law was adopted in 2000, creating four corporations for the management of arts. Of these, the Cameroon Music Corporation, CMC, was assigned the duty to manage musicians’ Copyrights.
The disorder in the music industry rather worsened during the era of CMC -its advocates, Sam Mbende et al still argue to the annoyance of many, that the current era is still legally CMC’s. When government replaced it with SOCAM, its leaders protested and both corporations co-existed in dissonance with the law of year 2000.
Things took a turn for the worse when management crisis rocked SOCAM, coupled with reports of embezzlement of funds. The corporation later found itself in the isle of the storm; wobbling with internal problems, disagreement with government and clashes with CMC. The then Arts and Culture Minister, Ama Tutu Muna reportedly engineered the creation of SOCACIM. Its existence was short-lived as a new minister was appointed.
Minister Narcisse Kombi Mouelle, opted for an inclusive solution to the crisis; creating a platform for the different protagonists in the sector to reach a consensus and put an end to the cacophony. The platform facilitated the organization on September 9, 2017 of an elective General Assembly attended by leaders and members of CMC, SOCAM and SOCACIM, giving birth to SONACAM. Barely two days on SONACAM has been dragged to court by contenders who left the assembly unsatisfied. Citizens are now asking whether the leaders are not only interested in personal benefits embedded in collection and redistribution of royalties.
Sam Fan Thomas currently heads the 40-man strong executive of SONACAM, assisted by Adeline Mbenkum. Some renowned musicians who have been at the helm of past and contesting corporations include, Manu Dibango, Odile Ngasska, Romeo Dika and Sam Mbende.
La parole aux acteurs
Adeline Mbenkum: “Sanity will Return to Management”
“We are trying to hasten the process of obtaining a license so that artistes will get their royalties paid soonest. We will return sanity to management. One of the main problems was the board was running the daily affairs of previous corporations. Too much money was spent on running the corporation. The Prime Minister’s text has made it clear 30 per cent of money collected should be used on administration at the onset, and later reduced to 20 per cent. About 3000 of 3400 registered artistes took part in our election; so we have their support.”
Moussa Haïssam: « Un grand engouement autour de la nouvelle société »
« De mémoire, qu’il soit question de la CMC, de la Socam ou de la Socacim, c’est la première fois qu’on voit un tel engouement des artistes autour d’une société du droit d’auteur. Nous avons déjà eu près de 2 000 adhésions. 95% des ayants-droit ont donc adhéré à la Sonacam. Le consensus ne peut pas toujours faire l’unanimité. Certains ont saisi la justice, elle va trancher. Je dois préciser que ce sont nos amis, nos frères, et on a longtemps cheminé ensemble dans les différentes sociétés de gestion. Nous espérons qu’ils vont nous rejoindre, car nous irons vers eux. »
Ateh Bazor: “Artists will Mount Pressure for Royalties”
“The current board is plethoric. It has 41 members. Management would be very difficult. Holding board meetings every semester would be expensive because so much will be spent on sitting allowances, transport and lodging. The traits of failures are in the corporation itself. Artists with family needs will mount pressure for royalties to be paid while the corporation struggles to pay staff which has been bloated to satisfy friends.”
Jean Pierre Essomè: « Nous voulons que la loi soit appliquée »
« Il y a violation de la loi. Tant que cette situation va perdurer, les intérêts des uns et des autres ne seront pas préservés. Ladite violation de la loi va continuer jusqu’à la répartition, et nous allons insister à introduire des recours en justice. Nous allons même écrire sur le plan international, parce que nous sommes détenteurs du répertoire national et international. Nous allons donc écrire à toutes ces entités internationales pour leur dire que les artistes ne peuvent pas entrer en possession de leur argent, parce que nous voyons que personne ne veut prendre ses responsabilités. Nous allons poursuivre notre action devant les tribunaux. Le vivre-ensemble passe aussi par l’application de la loi. Nous voulons juste que la loi soit appliquée. »