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Home / World / China has just written off part of Cameroon's debt. Why the secrecy?

China has just written off part of Cameroon's debt. Why the secrecy?

But while the news story was wrong, his release forced the Chinese government to publicly state what kind of deal had been achieved.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying told CNN, "China agreed not to repay interest-free inter-state debt that Cameroon had not repaid by the end of 2018."

These debts amounted to $ 78.4 million. Cameroon's total debt amounts to 5.8 trillion CFA francs ($ 10 billion), which, according to the International Monetary Fund, is about a third owed to China.

In short, this was a small piece of Cameroon's liability to China.

So why the initial secrecy?

African Debt Repatriation

Debt write-offs for developing countries are generally greeted with great enthusiasm, such as the IMF and the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries of the World Bank (HIPC) or the preservation of Paris Club debts in the early 2000s years.
In China, this is more complicated: African debt is increasingly controversial at home.
When President Xi Jinping promised a package of $ 60 billion in aid, investment and loans at the triennial China-Africa Cooperation Forum in September, angry posts surfaced on the Chinese Internet. Critics questioned why China – where at least 30 million people still live in poverty and have an annual income of less than 2,300 yuan ($ 340) – donated money to Africa. The censors quickly cleared the complaints.
In addition, African states have borrowed $ 143 billion from China since 2000, according to CARI. Beijing's indulgence towards Cameroon could cause other heavily indebted nations, such as Ethiopia, Djibouti and Zambia, to expect similar treatment.

China may have also sought a sub-radar agreement because of political unrest in Cameroon.

Last week Police arrested Maurice Kamto, the Cameroonian opposition leader who claimed to have won the elections last year along with several supporters of the workforce in the midst of protests fueling political instability.

The West African nation is fighting a rebellion on the Boko Haram in the north. A secessionist movement destabilizes the two Anglophone regions of the largely French-speaking nation, which has emerged from the union of a former British and a former French colony.

Cameroon has been deprived of the right to host the 2019 African Nations Cup, the continent's four-yearly football championship, due to the unrest that is now taking place in Egypt.

  An election poster for Cameroonian President Paul Biya in Yaounde in November 2018 affirms that he has done so.
has chosen the human rights perspective Chinese political partners in Africa are low. Beijing helped Zimbabwe in some of the darkest years of dictator Robert Mugabe's reign and provided money to Angola under former president José Eduardo dos Santos, an authoritarian figure involved in large-scale corruption.

However, 85-year-old Biya, Cameroon, has been ruled for 36 years and increasingly looks like a "bad partner" from a business perspective, while China is experiencing growing control on the continent, says Chris Roberts, a political scientist University of Calgary. Cameroon in every way.

Shape or shape is getting worse in every metric day by day, "says Roberts." This regime has mined the foundations for a stable economy. "

Deep pockets, deep harbor

China has 1971 diplomatic relations with Their economic partnership grew when Nicolas Sarkozy became president of France in 2007, overseeing his country's diminished engagement with his former colonial territory, which created a vacuum for Beijing.

Since the turn of the century, China grants Cameroon debt relief: a year $ 34 million in debt was abolished in 2001, and $ 32 million was lost in 2007, and $ 30 million was lost in 2010. [19659023] These figures pale in comparison to the $ 227 million granted by Canada in 2006 Roberts Firm
But in 2011, China actually committed to Cameroon when it b ereit declared to build and finance a new harbor in the fishing town of Kribi. It seemed a stable place for investment: Cameroon was considered a relatively peaceful nation in a war-torn region.

Cameroon's existing Douala harbor was overhauled, run down and restricted due to its location on a sediment-filled estuary.

When completed in 2035, Kribi will be the largest deep water port in the region. It will handle exports of Cameroon's bauxite, iron ore and other minerals, and could also serve the Chad-Cameroon Oil Development and Pipeline project, which includes oil from Chad.

The first two stages of the project, built by the China Harbor Engineering Company, had a value of $ 1.2 billion. CHEC is also building a $ 436 million highway to connect the new port with Douala, and has agreed to build a railroad with a railway iron ore deposit. Other Chinese companies have thrown Kribi with concrete towers in anticipation of their transformation into a thriving trade center in the region.

The port of Kribi will also expand the western Silk Road of China, an initiative that Senegal signed last year, in West Africa. It is an important part of President XI's One Belt One Road multinational economic development plan.

"The Gulf of Guinea is of strategic importance to China," said Xavier Auregan, a specialist in China-Africa relations in francophone countries, explaining that one step in that direction is strengthening his interests in West Africa from Côte d'Ivoire to Gabon ,

"Cameroon is one of the countries that can bring together the energy infrastructure of … West Africa."

China's activities in Cameroon are not limited to the new port: as of 2014, 90% of the roads in the country had been built and rehabilitated. Chinese companies built dams and hydropower plants there.

China has also undoubtedly benefited from these developments. Many of the contracts went to his companies.

But the Cameroonian government has borrowed heavily to finance it, and debt repayment appears increasingly problematic in a currently volatile economy.

"If you say we borrowed that money for this project or development effort, and we'll just write it down because we know we'll never get it back," says Roberts domestic effect, but it also has international repercussions. "

One of the big concerns about Chinese lending in Africa is debt trap diplomacy – the idea that Beijing will exert pressure on countries that can not repay loans for key-value transfers.

Last December, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta denied that Mombasa's massive Kilindini port, the largest port in East Africa, was listed as collateral for a multi-billion dollar Chinese loan to finance a railway line. China also denied the report. In Djibouti, similar concerns were expressed about China's recent acquisition of a stake in a port there.

Tensions between gold mines

China's decision to grant debt relief to Cameroon also comes at a difficult time between the country's traditional gold mining community and Chinese mining companies.

East Cameroon is rich in gold. Justin Kamga, coordinator of the Association for Forests and Rural Development (FODER) in Yaounde, says Chinese companies operate illegal mines across the region and have little respect for the country.

  A Chinese mine site in Cameroon. Industrial equipment is used to excavate the site.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry did not respond to CNN's request for comment.

The local Cameroonian miners usually use artisanal mining methods that do not damage the environment, says Kamga. Chinese companies use heavy machinery, often marking villages with several 30-meter holes that destroy farmland.

Between 2012 and 2015, Kamga said that more than 250 excavations were abandoned mainly by Chinese companies. From 2015 to 2018, more than 100 people died in such holes, causing landslides and provoking local outrage among Chinese companies. In December, according to FODER, nine people died in such an incident.

  Handicraft gold miners in East Cameroon.
The regulations require operators to safely cover the wells. According to Kamga, the Cameroonian army protects Chinese mining companies. Cameroon ranks 152nd out of 180 countries in the 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index.

The Cameroonian government did not respond to CNN's emails requesting a comment.

Auregan says ruthless mining has tarnished China's image, but is unlikely to be responsible for writing off the 2018 debt.

"China sees the geostrategic and long-term vision of Cameroon's importance in this region," says Roberts.

In short, as long as China needs a maritime footing in West Africa, the debt burden in Cameroon may be reduced for a while.

Steven Jiang of CNN also contributed to this report from Beijing.

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