Image by Sindiso Nyoni
Tomorrow: how Cameroon’s elite took US$ 656 million to France, Italy, Singapore, and elsewhere. (Fun fact: about the same amount as Cameroon receives in development aid per year)
A story of power and plunder.
On 7 July 2023, ZAM will present, in close collaboration with the Network of African Investigative Reporters (NAIRE) and publishing partners in Italy, the UK, France, South Africa, Nigeria and various other African countries, the results of an investigation into the abduction, torture and murder of Cameroonian journalist Martinez Zogo in January this year. For this investigation, -which had to be partially conducted underground because of the violently repressive situation in Cameroon-, a pan-African team of journalists embarked on what is called an “Arizona Project.”
The name ‘Arizona Project’ is derived from a 1976 initiative in the US state of that name, whereby dozens of journalists came to finish the story a colleague called Don Bolles was working on when he was murdered by the Italian-American mafia. This time, African colleagues came to finish the story that was silenced in Cameroon after the murder of Martinez Zogo. The motto, like before, was “you can kill a journalist but you cannot kill the story.”
The story our team found was shocking. The project unearthed at least 67 cases of plunder of Cameroon’s state coffers by elite-connected individuals, to the value of over US$ 650 million, carried out against a background of a ruthless fight among contenders for the succession of 90-year-old autocrat president Paul Biya. Various cliques have been using their access to money from the state treasury, and their powerful connections, to ensure a future of prosperity post-Biya.
It is in this battle among vultures, the Arizona Project Team found, that a journalist was murdered; one annoying rival for the succession was imprisoned as the alleged killer; and the tax agency’s director general who had wanted to investigate the plunder was promoted sideways to a posting outside Cameroon