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Aired January 4, 2003 - 12:30:00   ET


TUMI MAKGABO, CNN ANCHOR: A look inside Cameroon, one of the few African countries where French and English are the official languages. We'll see how the English-French divide is impacting the growth of the nation.
After 20 years of President Paul Biya's leadership, what lies ahead for Cameroon's people?

Also, the Chad-Cameroon pipeline: Impetus for economic growth or a threat to the environment?

And, Prime Minister Peter Musonge shares his views on the future of his country.

That's Cameroon, present and future, on this special edition of INSIDE AFRICA.

Hello, and welcome to the program. I am Tumi Makgabo.

For this special edition of INSIDE AFRICA, we thought we'd being you here to Cameroon, a country that doesn't often make it into the international media, and when it does, it tends to be because of football. After all, the country was the first African nation ever to make it to the World Cup quarter finals.

But for this trip, we're going to show you a little bit more of Cameroon, beginning here in the windy city of Douala, the commercial capital of Cameroon, and also a true reflection of the country's diversity.


MAKGABO (voice-over): Douala, gateway to Cameroon, home to the country's busiest air and seaports. More than 50 percent of the produce exported from Cameroon has to pass through this port in the heart of the city. This is the largest city in the country, bustling with commercial activity. Many of the people here speak both French and English, the official languages of Cameroon.

It's a country located in West Central Africa, which was born from separate colonies -- French and British. The people, the English-speaking Anglophones and the French-speaking Francophones, represent distinct cultures that are a source of tension even today.

BONIFACE FORBIN, PUBLISHER-EDITOR, "THE HERALD": Anglophones are deeply frustrated and badly betrayed by the Francophone authorities.

MAKGABO: To understand this, one has to go back in history. France and Britain seized what is today Cameroon in 1916, and established three separate colonies. East Cameroon was French, and northern and southern Cameroon were administered by the British.

After a bloody insurrection, French Cameroon gained independence in 1960 with Ahmadou Ahidjo as its president. In 1961, in a United Nations- sponsored referendum, the people of British-administered southern Cameroon voted to join French Cameroon, while northern Cameroon became a part of Nigeria.

So, the Federal Republic of Cameroon was born with an agreement to respect and preserve the cultures and traditions of the two former colonies.

This is the Monument of National Unity. At the center: a woman carrying a torch with several babies of different genders and shapes. The message? To show that all Cameroonians, despite their background, come from a common heritage.

It was erected in 1972, the same year that President Ahmadou Ahidjo held a national referendum that led to the abolition of the federal system and the creation of a unity state.

Now, English speakers, or Anglophones, who make up one-third of the population, say the monument doesn't reflect today's reality. They complain of being politically marginalized and regulated to second-class citizen status.

FORBIN: Anglophones are calling for a restoration of the agreement of 1961, where they will also find a place in their own country, a place in which they can play an important role in the management of their country. They are pushed to the backwaters of national life.

MAKGABO: The government challenges that notion. The deputy secretary general of the ruling party, Gregoire Owona, argues that Anglophones are adequately represented in the government at every level. As proof, he points to the prime minister, arguably the second most powerful man in the country, who is an Anglophone.

Despite its problems, Cameroon has enjoyed stability over the years, permitting the development of agriculture and roads. The International Monetary Fund says the government is improving economic conditions. It says the government has been successful in reducing inflation from 30 percent in 1995 to an average of 2.34 percent at the end of 2001. The country also has one of the highest literacy rates on the continent, nearly 64 percent.

Self-help initiatives say an important role in the development of this country, like this women empowerment festival held in Bonindali (ph) village in early December. A festive atmosphere, of course, but the message here was that ordinary Cameroonians must take control rather than wait for government to bring development to their local community.


MAKGABO: Cameroon calls itself a democracy. The country's president, Paul Biya, has been in office for 20 years, and is credited with introducing a multi-party political system. In recent elections, the ruling party increased the number of seats it holds in Parliament. Once again, the opposition cried foul, accusing the government of rigging both elections in order to hold onto power.


MAKGABO (voice-over): It's a country rich in natural resources and diversity, but Cameroon's beauty belies the fact that it's a nation that's been in conflict with itself and others for centuries. After the Portuguese, it was the Germans, the British and the French who laid claims to some part of the country. Independence finally came on January 1, 1960. But even today, the rift between the English-speaking Anglophones and the French-speaking Francophones appears to grow only wider.

Cameroon's president and leader of the Democratic rally (ph) for the Cameroonian People, Paul Biya, is blamed for doing little to change that. He came to power 20 years ago after independence leader, President Ahmadou Ahidjo, unexpectedly resigned. Since then, he's ruled with an iron fist. He survived a coup attempt in 1984, and has since shown little tolerance for dissent, stifling the voices of both the press and the opposition.

Yet, he's credited with introducing multi-party democracy, but what was supposed to be the first democratic elections in 1992 were not without controversy. The opposition, as well as the international monitors, declared them fraudulent. The leader of the opposition's Social Democratic Front, John Fru-Ndi, proclaimed himself president, and for that, he and other opposition leaders were placed under house arrest.

Asked if he still holds ambitions of becoming Cameroon's next president, his answer is simple:

JOHN FRU-NDI, SOCIAL DEMOCRATIC FRONT: I wouldn't be here talking (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have gone through it all facing (ph) all day gunshots are made, the shelling of my compound, water being thrown, chemicalized (ph) water thrown on me and going through all of the effort. I have gone touring the country, talking to the people, have visited nearly every subdivision of this country. And within 12 years, I've toured Cameroon 10 times, so I'm talking about a country I know. And I think that if I am the president of the country, I will know the country I'm talking about.

MAKGABO: But becoming president will take some doing in a country where multi-party politics has been the norm for only a decade. There still seems to be a general reluctance by most to speak their minds for fear of repercussions.

Yet, there are those who appear convinced that the reclusive President Biya is the right man for the job.

CHARLES NDONGO, NEWS EDITOR, CRTV (through translator): President Paul Biya works enormously. Certainly, he is not someone who exposes himself to the media like many other African leaders, but again, that is his style of governance. He has chosen to work with discretion, but achieving concrete results.

MAKGABO: Clearly, something needs to change in a country where the economy struggles to stay afloat. Many parts of the capital city, Yaounde, are in a state of disrepair, while critics maintain the president has become one of the wealthiest men in the country. The opposition seems destined to remain fractured and ineffective unless some of the more than 177 parties are able to unite under one banner. The aim? To replace a man they say is a dictator.

FRU-NDI: He's a dictator, because he does not even respect his own laws. I'm talking about a country where you have two constitutions, where (UNINTELLIGIBLE) he uses this and to tell you that the constitutions are used progressively, the other one will change progressively.

MAKGABO: The task of trying to bring about any change has fallen to the National Elections Observatory, a body established to do just that -- observe elections. But the observatory's acting chairperson, Diana Acha- Morfaw, says she wants more power, so the observatory can actually make recommendations to government for future elections. That stance, Acha- Morfaw says, has made the observatory increasingly unpopular with government. Still, she maintains true democracy in Cameroon can become a reality through education and the fostering of a solid political class.

DIANA ACHA-MORFAW, ACT. CHAIR, ELECTIONS OBSERVATOR: I think if you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) look around, we don't have up to 10 politicians who we can say that are second generation politicians, their fathers were politicians, and therefore, they probably decided to go. You also have a few who were active in students politics (UNINTELLIGIBLE), because she's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) the political (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But a vast majority of our politicians are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) politicians. They didn't -- they never made up their mind to go into politics. They found themselves in situations where, rightly or wrongly, they believe politics would further their cause. And they're prepared to drop out any time.

MAKGABO: Cameroon's last Parliamentary elections, held in 2002, remain a sore point for many here. The opposition accused the government of rigging the polls and asked the Supreme Court to nullify the results. The court responded by calling for new elections in nine provinces. As the country looks to the next national elections in 2004, there's no sign that President Biya will heed the calls of those who say he must bow out and give way to fresh leadership.


MAKGABO: The government says the Supreme Court's decision to annul election results in nine provinces proves that Cameroon is indeed a democracy.

After the break, searching for oil and Cameroon's (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Don't go away.


MAKGABO: Welcome back to Douala.

More recently, Cameroon has been in the headlines for quite a different reason. The development of a 1,070-kilometer crude oil pipeline from the south of neighboring Chad straight through some of Cameroon's most pristine forest land to the country's Atlantic coast.


MAKGABO (voice-over): It's mid-morning, and workers at this pipeline construction site in Nanga-Eboko are taking a lunch break. They're nearly halfway through their more than 10-hour shift, constructing a pipeline from oil fields in Chad through the Cameroonian jungle. This is grueling work. The shift begins at 7:00 in the morning, and before the end of the day, the men must lay pipes covering a distance of 5 kilometers.

They work in teams. One places the pipes on the surface, then another moves in and welds them together. A third team does a second phase of welding before the pipes are placed in trenches 2 meters below the ground.

This is a $4 billion project undertaken by a consortium of oil companies, led by ExxonMobil. When complete, it will provide landlocked Chad with a market for its crude oil.

(on camera): Some 88,000 steel pipes, just like this one, will carry 225,000 barrels of crude oil -- that's at the peak -- from the Doba region in southern Chad to the Atlantic coast of Cameroon to Kribi, for exports to the United States and Europe.

(voice-over): Construction work began in October of 2000, including the development of three oil fields in Chad's Doba Basin. ExxonMobil and its partners say the Doba oil reserves will last 25 to 30 years.

ANDRE MADEC, DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE, EXXONMOBIL: This is what we expect for the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that are being developed right now in Chad. Of course, a lot of more exploration are going to take place in both Chad and Cameroon, and the hope of the government is that more oil will be discovered, whether by us or by (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which will keep this pipeline (UNINTELLIGIBLE) still for many, many years.

MAKGABO: Even if no more oil is discovered, ExxonMobil says Cameroon and Chad still stand to benefit. Chad is expected to gain $2 billion over the life of the project. Cameroon is expected to reap about $500 million.

The World Bank is contributing $140 million to the project's cost. It says its role is to ensure that the governments effectively manage the revenue.

ERIC CHINJE, WORLD BANK, SPOKESPERSON: The number of discussions we've had have been held at the front end of the project -- of the process. For example, the use of oil resources in Cameroon -- I mean, it's only a small percent less than a percentage point, I think, you know, that would be coming into the state budget. So, in terms of impact, of course, that would be minimal. But having said that, we are working with Cameroon on, you know, strengthening capacity in the country for further use of these resources.

MAKGABO: Construction work on the pipeline project will be completed later this year.


MAKGABO: Though there are those who welcome the project, saying it will mean economic growth for the region, there are those who say it will all be to the detriments of rural communities.


MAKGABO (voice-over): On the road to the pipeline construction site at Nanga-Eboko, these are some of the villages and towns through which the pipeline will pass. Thousands of barrels of oil will be pumped through these towns per day, bringing hundreds of millions of dollars to the multinational oil companies led by ExxonMobil.

Many of the people here are farmers and will lose a significant number of their crops and farmland. This is a typical scene in some of these villages, buried pipeline running right through farms.

CHINJE: The people here are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) owning the land. The land belongs to the nation. It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the national domain. So, what you're compensating is the work that the people have put in their land, the value of the crop that they may be losing. So, this is exactly what you're compensating. And what we have done is to agree with the local villages and local NGOs about what is the value of each crop.

MAKGABO: Compensation varies from one farm to another. In this village, we were told that people received a one-time-only payment of between 80,000 and 100,000 CFA francs. That's an equivalent of about 150 US dollars.

The local chief told us that after the first round of compensation, some people asked for supplemental payments due to additional damage. But he said the oil consortium refused to pay. ExxonMobil says its representative revisited the village in December and found no proof of the allegation.

Towns along the pipeline route are in dire need of roads, more schools, hospitals and other essentials. Critics say the project brings no such development to these communities.

ExxonMobil counters that argument by pointing to the employment opportunities the project has provided thus far. Thousands of people are employed in both Chad and Cameroon, and 85 percent of them come from local villages.

CHINJE: In terms of numbers, we are spending on local goods and services in Chad and Cameroon $100 million per quarter right now. When you're looking at the impact on the economy, let's take for example the Chad economy. Before this project started, in the year 1999 and the year 2000, the growth of Chad was 1 percent. The GDP growth of Chad was 1 percent. We started some (UNINTELLIGIBLE) activity at the end of the year 2000. Growth in Chad in 2001 was 9 percent.


MAKGABO: Yet, critics say those figures are miniscule when compared with the millions that ExxonMobil stands to make. And as construction of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline nears completion, there are even calls for a re- evaluation of the project to ensure that development does indeed come to villages such as this one in the heart of central Cameroon.


MAKGABO (voice-over): Environmentalists say the project also threatens Cameroon's rain forest, the vegetation already under threat from nomadic farmers, hunters and unregulated logging. Villages will be allowed to replant crops on the land, but no trees or houses.

There's also a concern that oil could leak from the pipes. ExxonMobil says to avoid that, it's using strict construction codes from the United States.

One non-governmental organization says many fishermen around the Port of Kribi from where the oil will be exported are not aware of the project. The group worries that some of the waterway around Kribi could be contaminated by an oil spill.

The World Bank's involvement in the project has been criticized by some, especially since an internal report released in September said the project will harm the environment. But the bank says there is an independent advisory group established to ensure that all involved comply with environmental standards.

CHINJE: We are not going out there policing. We are using or working with external partners to ensure that there is compliance, and I think that's about as much as the bank or these governments can do. And if the oil companies were to step out of line, I think we've got enough leverage to ensure that they meet their commitments.

MAKGABO: ExxonMobil says it wants to come away from the project not just with financial gain. The company has contributed $100 million to the U.S.-based Stanford University to be used for studies on renewable energy, something that could benefit both Cameroon and Chad in years to come.


MAKGABO: ExxonMobil says it expects the first few drops of oil to begin flowing from southern Chad in the middle of this year.

And coming up after the break, a conversation with the country's prime minister.


MAKGABO: Welcome back to this special edition of INSIDE AFRICA from Douala.

Cameroon is a country filled with complexities, and during our visit, we had the opportunity to meet and speak with the country's prime minister, Peter Musonge, about some of the issues confronting his country.


PETER MAFANY MUSONGE, CAMEROONIAN PRIME MINISTER: I think your visit here has permitted you to see what (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say about this country is not true. There's so many good things that happen here in the area of democracy. We're a multi-party democracy with as many parties as people want to create. Right now in the National Assembly, I think there are five parties (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the National Assembly.

The government itself, it's a broad-based government. There are three parties, which (UNINTELLIGIBLE). As the economy itself grows, we've done remarkable work.

MAKGABO (on camera): You talk about there being so many parties, as many parties as people wish to create in this country. One thing that the opposition has certainly said is that that is part of the strategy or a ploy being used by the government in order to divide any opposition to what the government is doing. How do you answer that?

MUSONGE: I think this is a very free country. People are free to create as many organizations, as many political parties as they want. When we had the one single party, we weren't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and have been given the freedom to create parties, and now they complain that there are too many. Should the executive or the head of state (UNINTELLIGIBLE) decide or limit the number of parties? What is the opposition going to say? That we are restricting their freedom.

MAKGABO: There has been, once again from the opposition, Mr. Fru-Ndi in particular, has said that he believes that in the next elections, if Mr. Biya were not to win, that he would not go quietly. Would he?

MUSONGE: Why not? He's a (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He instituted multi- party politics in this country, and we have to give him the credit for it. There was a single party, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Party, with strong roots. When he came to power, he democratized the functioning of the party and let elections occur within the party. And then he moved them to the next step. And before the wind from the east, as people say, started blowing, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) when we are already in the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) multi-party democracy in Cameroon.

MAKGABO: As I said, 20 years is a very long time. Should he win, or should the party win the election, is it perhaps not time for him to step aside and perhaps let somebody with a different perspective take the reins?

MUSONGE: That is a matter for Cameroonians to decide and which will be a matter of concern for other people from the (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

MAKGABO: There are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) people...

MUSONGE: If the Cameroonians -- yes, if they do decide that they're going to (UNINTELLIGIBLE), then they are perfectly free to do so.

MAKGABO: Talking about trying to develop this country, one cannot talk about that without referring to the Chad-Cameroon pipeline.

MUSONGE: Well, let me start by saying, first of all, that we are extremely happy with that huge project, which is the largest private U.S. investment in Africa south the Sahara. We are also happy with it, because we're (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a God-given resource to the people of Chad. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) serves as a transit line, a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) country for the oil from Chad. So, we're going to get not very much money, but it's a sign of cooperation between sister countries of our sub-region.

There is compensation paid to people who have lost crops and I think who have lost housing. As a matter of fact, the rate of compensation as far as Cameroon is concerned has been tripled to make everything a bit more (UNINTELLIGIBLE) to the population. In other words, if the government was paying 100 francs for a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), for example, and that's an example, ExxonMobil is paying at least three times that.

MAKGABO: The life span of the oil reserves that are particularly supplying this pipeline is estimated 25 to 30 years. What happens after 30 years?

MUSONGE: The central (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but with the Central African region, which includes Cameroon and Chad, (UNINTELLIGIBLE).


MAKGABO: That was Peter Musonge, Cameroon's prime minister.

Now as always, the INSIDE AFRICA teams wants to hear from you. So, send us your thoughts to And be sure to join us next week for our special visit to Ghana.

That's INSIDE AFRICA for this week. I'm Tumi Makgabo.



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