Strategically wedged between oil-rich Nigeria,
Chad and the Congo, and with access to the Atlantic
ocean, it is probably best known for its outstanding footballer Théophile
Abega of the Cameroon Indomitable Lions, who died last week.
It is not only the country’s footballers who capture the imagination.
in the outstanding musical talents of West Africa.
Its makossa and bikutsi musicians, such
as Lapiro de Mbanga and Anne-Marie Nzié, have reached global fame.
But along with the people of
Cameroon, they continue to suffer from
one of the longest-ruling dictatorships in the world – that of 78-year old Paul
Biya, who has been in power for over three decades.
Earlier this month, elite government troops and police savagely repressed a peaceful march organised by the Musicians Trade Union of Cameroon (SYCAMU). Their crime was to protest against a violation of the government’s own ruling that artists should be able to receive royalties before they are transferred to official collection organisations.
The 85-year-old Nzié was amongst the 500 artists who were thrown to the ground and beaten by order of the national security chief. Some 63 were detained without charge for over seven hours.
Union representatives, including SYCAMU president, and International Federation of Musicians vice-president Roméo Dika, remain under threat. Pro-regime media accuse him of an attempted insurrection, which is punishable by death or life imprisonment.
Biya and his cronies were infuriated when Lapiro de Mbanga penned a song Constitution Constipée, which lampooned the regime’s efforts to extend presidential rule in 2008. He was arrested and sentenced to 3-years in prison. He only survived due to the efforts of his wife and Freemuse organisation, which advocates freedom of expression for musicians and composers worldwide.
When students from the
and others gathered in the streets of Kumba city last year, inspired by the
uprisings of the Arab spring, Kingsley Ndip Ashu was arrested, thrown into jail
and beaten. The
Cameroon Centre for Democracy and Human Rights is campaigning for his
release and against the barbaric treatment of demonstrators. university of Buea
The United Republic of Cameroon, formed in 1972 from British and French-controlled territories, has only had one president since the
independent from France
after a long anti-colonial struggle.
is ruled by a gang of geriatric aristocrats with astonishing access to the
country’s treasury, incredible looting of the country’s resources, unimaginable
cruelty towards ordinary Cameroonians, and with dynastical power ambitions
for their families,” says the Cameroon Centre.
Behind the corrupt and repressive regime is the connivance of oil corporations Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and Elf
Aquitaine, backed by western governments and the World Bank. They are heavily involved in the
controversial Chad–Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project. Most of
the 1070 kilometre pipeline stretches through Cameroon
on its way to the coastal town of Kribi.
Construction has damaged local ecosystems and affected locals who depend on
Vast areas of natural forest are being cleared by the US Herakles Farms company in the southwest of the country to establish palm oil plantations, ten times the size of
Greenpeace and other groups are currently protesting the arrest on November 14 of
Nasako Besingi, the director of the Struggle to Economize Future Environment
(SEFE), a local NGO, and his three colleagues. They have not been charged with
It is not only western companies who are exploiting
Cameroon. China’s notorious Three Gorges Corporation
signed a contract last year to work on a hydropower project
Sanaga river. It also signed a memorandum to set up a huge car manufacturing
plant in Kribi.
The presidential election, originally scheduled for July last year, is due to take place this February. It’s clear the regime wants any opposition to its corrupt rule to be suppressed in advance. But as the country’s musicians, democracy and ecological campaigners demonstrate, a groundswell of opposition is rising.
A World to Win secretary