Southern Cameroons Crisis: The begging bowl heads to China 0

After having been mired in a tough military, economic and social battle over the last two years, the Yaoundé government is facing serious economic and financial crisis and this is keeping the country’s officials awake all night.

The crisis pitting Southern Cameroonian separatists against the Yaoundé government has seriously eroded the government’s financial base.  The fighting is expensive and it has taken a huge bite out of the government’s fragile finances.

The soldiers who are battling a scary insurgency in the country’s English-speaking regions needed a pay increase and this caused the government to increase their per diem a few months ago. This is weighing on the government and the operation of heavy military equipment in the jungles of Southern Cameroons is costing the government an arm and a leg. This has been compounded by the economic sabotage that Southern Cameroonian fighters have engaged in.

Over the last six months, some of the country’s major state corporations which are great money spinners have had to deal with the angst of Southern Cameroonian fighters who are determined to bring the country’s economy to its knees.

Corporations such as PAMOL and CDC all require a shot in the arm, but the cash-strapped government of Yaoundé is incapable of providing the much-needed infusion. Priming the pump of these corporations will require huge amounts of money. PAMOL has completely shot down due to increased disruption by Southern Cameroonian fighters.

Some 3,000 PAMOL workers have been rendered jobless and the corporation’s equipment is gradually rotting. Some of the palm oil production corporation’s facilities have been burned down and threats from Southern Cameroonian fighters actually made some of the workers to throw in the towel even before the corporation announced its bankruptcy.

For the Cameroon Development Corporation (CDC), its operation capacity has been diminished over the last seven months. Ghost town operations and violence against its workers have made it hard for the country’s second largest employer to operate at full capacity.

The separatists’ economic sabotage is actually producing the desired effect as the government has seen some of its revenue streams diminishing.  With many workers laid off from these two large corporations, the government has also witnessed a huge tax base erosion. The loss of more than 3,000 workers from these two corporations implies that income taxes paid to the government have diminished.

But the collapsing of these two corporations is not the worst news the Yaoundé government will be hearing. Southern Cameroonian separatists have their eyes set on the country’s lone refinery, SONARA, which is located in the southwest port city of Limbe.

They strongly believe that if they can successfully bring down SONARA, then they will be able to force the government to the negotiating table where some of the divorce issues can be discussed and addressed.

The government has therefore made it a policy to deploy troops around the refinery and this is costing it a pretty penny. This has been compounded by declining oil production and falling oil prices. Cameroon’s oil fields have been delivering some of the finest oil in the world and this has brought in billions of dollars into the government’s coffers.

Unfortunately, the Yaoundé government that is wont to mismanaging and misappropriating the country’s wealth cannot really show to the people of Cameroon what it has done with the country’s oil wealth over the last 40 years.

The country’s financial woes have been compounded by the flaking support of its allies. The regime’s backers are no longer forthcoming financially. Its European allies such as France are falling back on their financial pledges and this is pushing the government into a financial abyss.

Last week, the government got more bad news from rating agencies which classified it as an investment risk due the ongoing military violence in the two English-speaking regions of the country.

This implies that many investors will hold off on any investment plans they may have for the country. Similarly, any loans extended to the country will be coming with a huge price tag as the country is no longer credit-worthy. Left in the noose of a financial squeeze and a destructive military situation, the Yaoundé government is bound to look for alternative financial partners and investment resources.

The West has lost faith in a system that is highly dominated by old and destructive people. The country’s economy needs a new breath of life and this cannot be provided by a bunch of leaders whose time has passed. The majority of Cameroon’s leaders are actually suffering from senile decay and they lack the innovative ability to turn the country’s ailing economy around. China is, therefore, the regime’s last hope. The Chinese economy is losing steam because of its trade war with the USA.

The Chinese hold that weaving new partnerships around the world can bring the much-needed oxygen to their economy that is feeling the bite of American tariffs.

This is basis for the Sino-Africa summit that is taking place in the world’s second most populated country. While China is seeing trade, countries like Cameroon are seeing other things. Cameroon’s financial predicament is driving it into ridiculous actions.  Begging has become the regime’s sport of choice.

The regime needs money to continue prosecuting its war against Southern Cameroonian separatists and it believes that China might come to its aid. That’s why the country’s ailing President Paul Biya, had to discharge himself from a hospital in Switzerland just to be in China in the firm belief that the Chinese will pity him and grants him some financial resources.

The country’s leader also known as the monarch, rushed back to Yaoundé a few days ago to switch his wardrobe before undertaking the long trip to Beijing.

But China has its own ideas. Its economy is stalling and it needs a huge infusion. It will surely disappoint notorious beggars such as Mr. Biya who have carved out a negative reputation for themselves as irresponsible and dictatorial governments that lack the requisite ability to run a modern economy.

Mr. Biya who left with a large contingent holds that securing a huge sum of money from the Chinese will boost his chances of getting reelected. He holds that his begging bowl might yield some good results that might enable him to display something to his fellow citizens who have lost faith in him.

He, however, knows that he has a tough battle ahead of him. Not only is he out of money, he has to deal with some young and smart competitors. Among those running for this year’s presidential election are some good candidates who are capable of causing an upset in Yaoundé.

The Social Democratic Front (SDF) has fielded a young, knowledgeable and experienced candidate who is causing ruling party stalwarts to lose sleep. Joshua Osih, the SDF candidate, has the potential to bring about the change Cameroonians have been longing for. Mr. Biya’s poor economic performance might come back to bite him this year.

Corruption that has been his government’s hallmark has caused a lot of pain to many Cameroonians and they might want to use the upcoming election to punish a man who is noted for rigging elections and squandering the country’s financial resources.

Besides, the election will not take place across the entire country and, Mr. Biya being a symbol of failure for many Cameroonians; it is obvious that change is coming to Cameroon. Mr. Biya has mismanaged the country’s economy and his arrogance is tearing the country apart. A situation many French-speaking Cameroonians abhor.

They hold that if the two English-speaking regions of the country succeed to walk a different path, then the country will be losing about 60% of its wealth. They hold that inclusive dialogue could enable the country to stay intact, but with Mr. Biya behaving as if he is a colonial master, it is likely that Southern Cameroons will go a separate way.

Mr. Biya is a man under pressure. The world is tired of seeing him. The new global political arena is inimical to old incompetent leaders.  Mr. Biya is anything but competent. He has not only failed Cameroonians; he has also failed his foreign allies who are scared that his country might break up or become a terrorist haven in the sub-region.

Mr. Biya’s political and economic failings have transformed him into a clown and a beggar. While heading to China to look for money, he should understand that he who goes aborrowing will one day go asorrowing. He should also understand that he is mortgaging the lives of future generations by borrowing all over the world.

With the Chinese being crafty, it is likely that Mr. Biya will be returning home with an empty begging bowl.  Like the last time he was in China, he might only end up signing a series of cooperation agreements that might never yield the cash he so badly needs to corrupt voters in his native CamerooN.

By Kingsley Betek