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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2008-06-04_I...

by Jean Chatain

Over 100 Die in Hunger Riots in Cameroon

Translated Monday 16 June 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

Desperation engendered by skyrocketing prices and a very tense political situation form an explosive mixture in this West African country.

Repression quickly becomes a bloody affair when protests against the high cost of living are combined with a tense political situation. This is what has happened in Cameroon, where Paul Biya, aiming to proclaim himself president-for-life, has undertaken a revision of the constitution. The combination of demonstrations against this tampering with the highest law in the land and demonstrations against skyrocketing fuel and food prices panicked the wheeler-dealer president, and his police force killed between 100 and 200 people in the month of February alone.

Cameroon constitutes a case study of what happens when the forces of globalization favor an export-oriented policy to the detriment of a country’s independent ability to feed itself. Since Cameroon joined the World Trade Organization in 1995, its alimentary dependence, begun during the period of direct French domination (1919-1960), has become absolute. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, imports amounted to 300,000 tons of rice and 261,000 tons of wheat in 2004 (the last year for which statistics are available), that is: the bulk of national consumption. Customs barriers have fallen, forcing local farmers (85% of whom farm an area of 2.4 acres or less) to abandon cultivating food crops because they are unable to compete with imported produce. The situation has been aggravated by the behavior of the ruling clique, devoted to speculating on the most profitable industries: aluminum, oil and lumber. Last year, the share of the national budget allocated to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development amounted to ... 1.7%!

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