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Wikileaks Cable 22: Cameroon Diaspora Resourceful but Snubbed — Written in 2009 during the tenure of Ambassador Janet Garvey, the underlying message in this cable is embodied by one key sentence: “The government of the Republic of Cameroon does not dedicate resources to the diaspora”. 

This phrase exhaustively captures the current fate of the millions of Cameroonians scattered in countries across the world, far away from their Fatherland. Such deliberate avoidance by a government that fears the subsequent impact of a diaspora-inspired social revolution has left many of the Cameroonians living abroad distraught about participating in the development of the homeland.

As the cable divulges, the most organized form of interaction between Cameroonians in the diaspora is in the context of socio-cultural groupings that seek to preserve traditional and educational heritages. Through such associations, Cameroonians in the diaspora remit resources to help develop their small communities back home, which often, suffer wanton abandonment from the Yaounde regime. Concerning investment, “many believe that some of the best real estate in Cameroon is owned by members of the diaspora”, however, this is basically limited to belief as no formal structure exists to orientate and facilitate the investment exploits of citizens living abroad.

In the medical, engineering and industrial domains, the cable confirms the observed brain-drain owing to push factors from within Cameroon. This brain-drain is mostly marked by the departure of talented professionals from the country in search of better career opportunities abroad.

A cursory look at this cable trains the ordinary mind to believe that the absence of a worthy government policy on the diaspora accounts for all the lack of organization of diaspora forces and the diminishing trust between the diaspora and the home government. While regime speech makers often clash loud sounding cymbals verbally inviting people in the diaspora to return home and build the country, mechanisms to effectively cause that to happen are either just not there or are unbearably burdensome and risky to any returning investor. Cases abound of Cameroonians who have slumped into ill-fated bankruptcy and frustration after retuning to a tax-burdened economy marred by corruption and insecurity.

Besides, with the current dangling fate of the formal internal opposition in the country, the diaspora has earned the bad name of being the first enemy of the Yaounde regime abroad. As some regime officials say in restricted circles, they are the bloggers, the facebookers and the tweeters who have helped expose the regime’s sullen image abroad. Certainly, offering the diaspora a truly friendly salute to return home will only mark the beginning of the end of the Yaounde establishment.

Please continue reading below for a full version of cable as published by Wikileaks.

SUBJECT: The Cameroonian Diaspora

Post offers the following in responses to reftel request:

A.  There are several different diaspora groups scattered over the U.S., France, and other European countries.  Some of the more significant groups in the U.S. include:  the Progressive Initiative for Cameroon (PICAM), a civil society think-tank that works on seeking ideas for a better Cameroon; the All Cameroon Cultural And Development Fund (ACCDF), working to protect and promote Cameroonian culture from all regions; the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC); and the Civil Society Platform for Democracy in Cameroon, Platform USA Branch.  The ruling political party, the Cameroon
People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), and the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), also have branches in the U.S.
B.  Cameroonians in the diaspora keep ties with their families by sending them remittances, participating in village development programs, and making direct contributions to educational institutions through book donations, for example.

C.  The GRC has had minimal formal engagement with the diaspora in the humanitarian realm.  Cameroon’s new Ambassador to the United States, Joseph Charles Bienvenu Foe-Atangana, recently addressed the Cameroonian diaspora at a National Day reception in the following terms: "I call upon you to use your Embassy as a facilitating place for your American connections to converge in our strategy to drive investments to Cameroon."
D.  Diaspora investment is difficult to track systematically, but many believe most of the best real estate in Cameroon is owned by members of the diaspora. Some have created small to medium sized businesses in Cameroon to take advantage of relatively cheap labor.
E.  There is little or no diaspora involvement in the scientific, engineering, medical or educational institutions.  Recently, a "telemedicine" center was created in the East Region, envisioning cheap, long distance consultations and diagnosis.  In addition, medical exchange programs initiated by Cameroonians in the diaspora have recently brought health professionals to provide free medical care.  Some members of the diaspora have founded small development NGOs in order to provide humanitarian assistance to their home communities.
F.  The diaspora does not seem to be engaged in conflict resolution, other than exhorting the current regime to reform politically to avoid a repeat of the violence in 2008.
G.  See E above.
H.  Cameroonians in the diaspora exert some influence on internal politics.  The major political parties have overseas arms that rally sympathizers among the diaspora and provide some financing. Diaspora groups are active in the realm of political commentary and expression.  For example, in early August 2009, a Cameroonian journalist who lives in New York wrote an editorial in a prominent independent daily newspaper in which he opines that terminating the presidential regime would solve many of Cameroon’s problems. 

In March 2008, following the February 2008 riots, Platform USA Branch wrote a letter to Cameroonian Parliamentarians urging them to consult with their constituents before passing the constitutional reform bill to preserve the peace.  They also demarched President Biya, through a Memorandum presented to Cameroon’s ambassador in Washington.
I.  The GRC does not dedicate resources to the Cameroonian diaspora.  During a forum of the Cameroonian Diaspora held in France in July, 2008 called "DAVOC" (Draw a Vision of Cameroon), the government representative announced the future creation of a High Commission or a High Authority of the diaspora that would liaise between Cameroonians living abroad and the government.  The General Manager of the National Employment Fund (FNE), a government agency, also announced the creation in 2010 of an Agency for Migration Fluxes that would allow the government and citizens from the diaspora to work together to finance projects and attract investment.
J.  Ambassador Garvey and former Ambassador Marquardt have occasionally addressed groups of Cameroonian diaspora leaders when in the United States.  For example, Post organized a diaspora meeting in Washington in 2006 in which Ambassador Marquardt addressed the Cameroonian community. 

Topics included returning talent to Cameroon, bringing more investment, being involved in the political evolution of the country, and involving women in diaspora affairs.  Ambassador Garvey will also address a group of Cameroonians on October 8, 2009 when in Washington for the AF Chiefs of Mission conference.
K.  Most requests received are related to business inquiries. Many Cameroonians in the U.S. are seeking investment and trade opportunities with Cameroon.  Post responds to them in the same manner as it responds to every request for assistance by American businesses.
L.  Post has not created customized public diplomacy programs for the diaspora community, other than the events listed in section J.
M.  A most useful tool for post would be a database of Cameroonian
organizations in the U.S., including a description of activities and the major figures associated with the organization.

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