30% of Cameroon’s population of close to 25 million inhabitants lives below the poverty line. Cameroon grapples with basics like water, electricity, internet, roads, health care, education, and even food. It is conflict-ridden and is unable to extract itself from an economic crisis that started in 1986. It survives on “aid” from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, France, and China.
Notwithstanding, Cameroon’s Presidency will be spending a circa $2.5 million, that is nearly 1.5 billion FCFA of the local currency, to buy drinks for the 2019 end of year festivities. This is a sheer demonstration of the Cameroon regime’s irresponsibility, insensitivity and lack of accountability.
Needless to belabor the figures. Just reading any World Bank report one can get a feeling of the dire economic state in which Cameroon finds itself today. From a middle-income economy in the early 80s, the country proudly applied to be admitted into the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative (HIPC-I). All this is happening under the watch of the current regime in place since 1982.
The HIPC-I was announced as the panacea to all the economic woes Cameroon has been facing. However, the country continues to borrow to fund basic infrastructural projects. China has become one of its biggest lenders, an easy target for the imperialist country seeking to colonize Africa by means of a debt-trap. “Cameroon was the 9th top destination for Chinese loans over the 2000-2014 period with FCfa 1,540 billion”, circa $2.632 billion.
Therefore, debt-ridden, Cameroon does not have 1.5 billion FCFA ($2.56million) of its own to spend on drinks. A more responsible government, based on the challenges the nation faces, would have put those funds into a more useful investment instead of “mimbo” (drink).
Disregard for suffering masses trapped in conflict
Prior to 2014, the despicable Islamic sect called Boko Haram concentrated its efforts in the North East of Nigeria often only using Cameroon as a rear base. Then in May 2014 during a conference in Paris to design a common effort to fight the terrorist insurgency, “Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said: “We are here to declare war on Boko Haram”. Idriss Deby of Chad said it would be “total war”.”
Soon after this declaration, Boko Haram ramped up attacks in Cameroon’s northernmost regions. Since then the conflict has devastated vast swathes of Cameroonian territory and sent many locals fleeing for their lives with several villages disserted and the local economy in disarray.
Then in 2017, a conflict broke out in Cameroon’s contiguous English-speaking regions of the North West (NWR) and South West (SWR). The conflict has historical roots in the decolonization of the Southern Cameroons coterminous with these regions. Anglophone Cameroonians for years decried their marginalization and the erosion of their Anglo-Saxon identity. Renewed protests in 2016/2017 transformed into conflict as a result of atrocious State repression.
On the whole, this Anglophone conflict has made headlines recently and for the right reasons. It could be prevented but the regime has preferred cosmetic concessions to end the crisis and has continued to field a tough military approach despite 3000 lives lost, 500000 internally displaced, over 35000 refugees in Nigeria and 600000 children still out of school. Calls for more inclusive dialogue with the separatists have fallen on deaf ears. Spending 1.5billion Francs on drinks while families and children are suffering homelessness due to the conflict is thus insensitive but understood.
A conflation of the commonwealth and individual pockets
An infamous General Director of the Oil Refinery in the coastal town of Limbe in the SWR once said that the accounts related to the turnover from the sale of crude oil are no concern of the population. He said the figures were to be discussed only between himself and the president, Biya.
No one knows exactly how much rent Cameroon makes off the sale of crude oil and its other numerous mineral resources. The President’s exact salary is not known and there is no mechanism for oversight on the expenses of the country’s ruling elite. There is a total lack of accountability in Cameroon.
Under these circumstances, the leadership spends the country’s money as if to say the treasury was its private purse. Cameroon’s president is reputed for his long-stays in luxury hotels and resorts outside the country, notably in Switzerland, where he spends far more of the commonwealth’s money than he is currently spending on drinks on the back of the tax-payer, doing so without anyone lifting a finger.
How this charade is kept going?
Are Cameroonians shocked by the irresponsible behavior of their leadership, notably its spendthrift burrs and escapades? The answer is in the affirmative. Cameroonians in their numbers are appalled by the sheer lack of accountability of their ruling class. They are dismayed at how their livelihoods keep collapsing and how despite being told year-in-year-out to tighten their belts administrative officials can go on to loot the State so thoroughly.
It is known that the system is corrupt and the State is captured. Therefore, the impunity Cameroon’s leaders enjoy, meaning the inability of citizens to exercise their right to request the government to be accountable to the population, is due to the usage of the State security apparatus as a repressive machine.
The Cameroon government is a pseudo-civilian regime. Cameroon is in actual fact a military State where citizens are judged in military tribunals. The security sector enjoys a central place in the State apparatus and its excesses are not questioned. All attempts to protest any perceived or real mismanagement by State officials is quickly quashed with the help of the army and State security forces.
However, it is mostly the ranking officers of the army and security forces who enjoy big perks and privileges. The rank and file don’t; they work in squalid conditions and face the same social and economic challenges like every other average citizen. It is, therefore, in the best interest of all Cameroonians to fight for more accountable government in Cameroon.