The New York Times Sells Cameroon for $250,000

On a silver platter this past Sunday, The New York Times magazine featured no less than eight pages towards the liberalization of the economy in Cameroon. Showing off its excellence in corporate media advertising, the NY Times magazine sold prominent space to Cameroon business traders so they can in turn sell their country’s resources to U.S. investors, no doubt to the demise of many of its citizens. “Cameroon ready for growth, ready for investment,” reads a headline on page 59 which goes on to explain the country’s “quest for sustainable growth...”

“Cameroon is initiating an economic program to privatize public and semi-public corporations in all sectors of the economy, including agro-industry, transport, telecommunications, energy and water… Investors have more reasons than ever to invest in Cameroon, which boasts political stability [and] a flexible government.”

Such flexible government, under its benefactor and President for the past 22 years, Paul Biya, has pledged to preserve “peace and stability” in the country during his next four years in power. President Biya is Cameroon’s second president since the proclamation of its independence from France on January 1, 1960, and through consistent elections every seven years where he has ran mostly unopposed, Biya has proven that stability means single party rule.

Amnesty International, unfortunately, has not been able to partake in Cameroon’s historical political stability since they were banned from entering the country for releasing a scathing human rights report in the early 1990s. Amnesty has steadily included Cameroon in their yearly human rights reports, which boasts of many measures of imprisonment, torture, and gag modus operandi to contain the masses from destabilizing the country. In 2007, no less than two editors from main newspapers, L'Afrique and The Chronicle, and a journalist from Radio Equinoxe, were beaten and arrested for inciting freedom of speech.

Moreover, to ensure the trade of professional journalism is carried out with full authority, the Ministry of Communication instituted in 2004 an innovating system of issuing press cards to all exercising journalists, renewable every two years at the journalist’s expense. No doubt The New York Times would report, if time and space allowed, on such heavy-handed processes against fellow bloggers and venture journalists.

They did report in 2003, however, on the World Bank’s inauguration of “the” African oil pipeline that run between Chad and Cameroon, promising to “help prevent this project from leading to poverty and corruption.” The $3.7 billion private oil project was the World Bank’s single largest investment in sub-Saharan Africa. “An oil consortium including Exxon Mobil, ChevronTexaco and Petronas, the state oil company of Malaysia, built the 665-mile pipeline and oil facilities on the Atlantic Coast and will reap more than 60 percent of the estimated $13 billion revenues over 25 years, according to World Bank estimates,” reads the article.

There’s definitely money to made in Cameroon and from Cameroonians. Privatization has steadily grown in the country since the beginning of this century, as the World Bank’s Privatization Database shows, for example, with its $56 million investment in the telecommunications industry and the privatization of CAMTEL, Cameroon’s national provider. To quench Cameroon’s thirst for—water—the government-subsidized industries Societé Nationale des Eaux du Cameroun (SNEC) is also going privatization through the creation of the Cameroon Water Utilities Corporation (Camwater). “After all, water is life,” reads the water ad on the NY Times magazine on page 63.

President Biya himself is quoted on the magazine as Cameroon completes its move towards economic vibrancy and a “legal and judicial environment so that investors may settle in our country for as long as they wish.”

Cameroon has gone through a significant change of hands in its recent past, from a German colony to the confiscation of Nazi plantations by British and French governments after the Second World War. Revolts and riots ensued as the colony came into being as a Republic and still struggles through 24 years of one long democratic election. So needless to say, it is time for it to throw itself into the arms of U.S. private investors, and we have The New York Times, among many, to thank for making this possible.

Sofia Jarrin Hurtado is a freelance journalist from Boston. She has published her articles in Indymedia, Z Magazine, and Dollars&Sense.

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