Cameroon, China Wants to Raise Ties Amid Mining Tensions



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Special representative of Chinese President Xi Jinping was in Cameroon this weekend to improve relations between the two countries. Trade and security relations continue to develop between Beijing and Yaounde. But tensions between Cameroonian miners and China have given China a bad name

When Cameroonian President Paul Biya entertained Chinese special representative Yang Jiechi on Friday, both of them had nothing but good things.

Biya welcomed the China Belt and Road Initiative – a multi-billion Beijing dollar plan to connect Asia, Europe and Africa.

Yang said bilateral relations had reached a new starting point with important development opportunities.

When asked by VOA about the general belief that China exploited Cameroon, Yang called it a misunderstanding. He said Cameroon and China needed to work together to make their people aware that they would get many benefits.

But when Yang visited the capital, around 60 Cameroonian miners protested outside of a Chinese-run gold mining operation in the village of Ngoura. Miners there have blocked access to the site since Thursday.

The protesting miner, Patrice Wouyou, said China's competition was exploiting and destroying Cameroon's natural resources.

He said Chinese miners violated Cameroon's law, which prohibits mining on river beds, swamp areas and waterfalls. They will close the mine site, he said, until the government forces the guilty (Chinese) miners to stand trial.

Protest leader Rigobert Ngom said Chinese bribes damaged Cameroon officials to ignore violations of their code of ethics. He said they also lured teenagers out of school to dig for gold.

Ngom said he was surprised that the government gave mining permits to China when there were Cameroonians who met the requirements of mining companies and were ready to industrialize in their country.

But while mining remains a contentious issue, Cameroon's Ministry of Economy, Planning and Regional Development denies the notion that China only exploits.

China is Cameroon's main investor, according to the ministry, placing more than $ 400 million a year on the country's roads, dams, telecommunications, stadiums and housing projects.

Critics noted that many of these investments were used to access Cameroon's natural resources, while the country was at risk of increasing debt pressure.

But Alamine ministry spokesman Ousman Mey said China had begun to offer more assistance than in the past.

Beijing in November, he said, gave Yaounde $ 3 million in aid to help people displaced by the Cameroon separatist crisis in the English-speaking region.

"We are very pleased that our partners such as China offer humanitarian support of up to 1.8 billion CFA and material. We have signed an exchange letter to supply the two [Anglophone] area. "

The Chinese special envoy Yang during his visit announced the cancellation of around $ 5 million of Cameroon debt as well, although the remaining amount was unclear.

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