Thursday, March 28, 2019

Cameroon: Paul Biya in the heart of a covetous between the US and Russia

Political and Geopolitical Risk Analyst Joseph Léa Ngoula is the co-founder of Orin Consulting Group, a consulting firm specializing in intelligence, strategy and influence consulting. He draws attention to the risk of covetousness on the part of the great powers.

Last week, the US Under Secretary of State for African Affairs made a two-day working visit to Cameroon. During his stay, Tibor Nagy had discussions with members of the American Chamber of Commerce, the Minister of External Relations and the President of the Republic. After this visit, how do you perceive the future of relations between the two countries?

Washington has come to get a message. He stays tuned. He observes the situation. The evolution of relations between Cameroon and the United States will depend on the attitude of the Cameroonian head of state. If the latter decides to maintain the status quo in matters of domestic policy, it goes without saying that we will witness a real cooling of relations between the two countries. This degradation will be manifested by gradual sanctions. We will go from the reduction of aid to the freezes of the assets of the key personalities of the regime, by way of prohibitions to travel. On the other hand, if he decides to loosen the vise, it should reassure Washington.

In return, the United States could inject more resources to support the peace process. On the other hand, if the Yaoundé power decides to pretend, as it is accustomed to (ie to let go of the subsidiary issues and maintain the status quo on substantive issues), it is It is likely that the United States will undertake a parallel activity, with or without the advice of the government. It may be the organization of an international forum on Cameroon, initiative already mentioned by the under secretary of state.

Are domestic policy issues really interesting to Americans?

Yes. Because these are a real concern for Americans, and this, on two levels: first, US investors want a stable climate to invest more; secondly, there is an American congress that is quite attentive to human rights issues, and which challenges the administration, particularly with regard to the progress of the Anglophone crisis.

So, far beyond image issues, domestic issues are a real concern for the United States. It is in their interest for Cameroon to return to stability and democracy. This is the best way for this country to safeguard its interests in Cameroon and get a better position vis-à-vis China, which is not interested in these issues.

And how could these different scenarios influence relations between Cameroon and the other powers (Russia, China, France ...)?

For the Americans, the ideal would be for their choices vis-à-vis Cameroon to be concerted with those of Western countries, particularly the States of the European Union. That's why every time he wanted to vote on Cameroon, Washington consulted with its Western partners. On the other hand, China and Russia are counterweights. Russia is really in realpolitik. His approach on the African continent, and particularly in Central Africa, aims to fill the gaps left by the United States.

That is to say, if the United States decides to withdraw military aid, Russia will come up as an alternative to fill this hole. So, she is looking for windows of opportunity that can appear to pass to the eyes of Cameroon as an alternative. China has an intense partnership with Cameroon economically and financially. This partnership will be strengthened because Cameroon has just joined the project of the Silk Road. In this project, there is a real ambition for Beijing to invest significantly in all of the acceding countries. Recently, it has also canceled a debt of 45 billion that owed him Cameroon.

The Middle Kingdom will undoubtedly multiply this type of gesture to thank Cameroon for having embraced the project of the Silk Road. She may not hesitate to get involved in politics as well.It must be said that the exclusively economic presence of China in Africa is becoming stronger militarily. Beijing deployed soldiers to Djibouti, creating a real base of nearly 10 thousand soldiers.And if the United States wants to create an international consensus to strengthen the sanctions regime on Cameroon, China and Russia can oppose the veto right, in order to paralyze US action internationally.

For you, is this desire around Cameroon an opportunity or a source of worry?

It should be worrying. There are some experts who are happy that Cameroon is becoming more and more sought after.But as the saying goes, "When elephants fight, the grass suffers." Cameroon is, in my opinion, a geopolitical dwarf, which does not have the resources of the powers. It is a fragile country, and the crises that have emerged in recent times have also demonstrated. So, instead of being a land of opportunity, Cameroon could become a real arena of confrontations of the great powers, with all that this can lead to harmful consequences like the example of proxy wars. This can lead to the breakup of Cameroon. Therefore, it is not in his interest to become a theater of clashes of the great powers.

Do not we see him already? You know that there are a number of actors, including government, who see external hands in the crises that Cameroon is experiencing at the moment ...

I have no empirical evidence to demonstrate that. I studied the Boko Haram conflict and I am close to the Anglophone crisis. There is no evidence to challenge the West. I think these are crises that arise from a model more center-oriented governance, which does not take into account the peripheries and excludes young people. The latter, to take revenge and climb the social hierarchy, are enlisted in armed groups.There are really many gaps in governance (absence of the culture of dialogue, hyper centralized political system ...).

It is these failures that have fueled this crisis. Only these crises appear as embers on which countries that want to engage in a real battle can blow. They can therefore be factors of fragility, which offer opportunities to the powers that want to keep their grip on Cameroon

How can Cameroon, pivotal country of the Gulf of Guinea, to escape the greed of the great powers?

It is always advantageous to have several investors in the country, but it is dangerous to have powers that want to take control of Cameroon. The best defense against foreign interference is good governance. To escape the desire for destabilization that powers would have, Cameroon must strengthen the consensus internally. Through inclusive governance (which takes into account all social categories and all areas of the territory), we manage to create a genuine popular satisfaction, which converts the citizen into a true patriot.

Thus, the sense of rupture that often inhabits people living in peripheral areas will disappear. Therefore, there will be no exclusionary discourse that identity or war entrepreneurs will mobilize to attract people to their ranks, since they are at the moment true peacekeepers. So we need to strengthen the consensus internally, by improving governance, by improving political expectation, by setting up institutions and consensual instruments like the electoral code which facilitates a healthy political competition and prevents it to militarize.

For Cameroon, the real challenge is to initiate reforms on the electoral code, to organize an inclusive dialogue where we can collectively define the institutions that will organize the Republic. We must also create the conditions for a return to peace in the north-west, south-west and north regions; to take real measures to revive the economy and rebuild these regions.

Source: Integration No. 362