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Exclusive: How an American firm has been sustaining Biya in power

Cameroonian President Paul Biya is paying American lobbyist billions to influence US perception of his regime, helping the regime to evade US sanctions and sustain Biya’s hold on power, according to documents seen by National Times. 

Between 2004 and 2017, Paul Biya spent over 5 billion FCFA  on just one US lobby firm to promote his regime’s image as a humane and western friendly democratic country, open to foreign investors and financial institutions, notwithstanding the realities in Cameroon, this amount does not include other expenses.

Through these lobby firm, he has sweet-talked institutions like White House, as well as the US Congress where laws affecting the entire world are debated and adopted. He has also used this firm to keep his economy afloat, securing loans from some top financial institutions including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

As Colin Flint said, these financial institutions are more of geopolitical institutions of global dominance erected by the United States after its victory in WWII so as to consolidate its global dominance position over the world. Paul Biya knows this, which is why his lobbyists and propagandists are also given a mandate to preach his version of the gospel in such places.

Biya and Patton Boggs

For the past two decades, the American Law Firm, Patton Boggs LLP has been a favourite partner to the Biya government and their relations can be traced as far back as 2004 when an opposition coalition was gaining steam against Biya in Cameroon.

Following the tract record of Patton Boggs, the government of Cameroon through the then Prime Minister, Peter Mafany Musonge negotiated a deal which led to the signing of a contract on July 17, 2004. The contract was signed by the then Director of Cabinet at the Prime Minister’s Office, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo on behalf of Cameroon, while Joseph Brand signed for his firm, Patton Boggs.

According to the terms of the contract, seen by National Times the firm was hired for the period July 2004 to July 2005 to the tune of $400,000 USD (approximately 200,000,000FCFA) to be paid quarterly. In return, Patton Boggs was provide assistance and advice to officials of the Government of the Republic of Cameroon relating to transactions before the International Monetary Fund, official visits by Cameroonian government officers to the United States, relationship with the United States Congress, issues relating to the upcoming presidential election; bilateral trade issues, foreign investment in Cameroon, relationships with Financial Institutions including the Trade and Development Agency, overseas Private Investment Corporation, Export-Import Bank of the United States and the World Bank.

Patton Boggs Sponsored Bogus Elections Observers

It was in the heat of the 2004 Presidential election that Biya contracted Patton Boggs. During this period a coalition of opposition parties had been born. The Coalition for reconstruction and development regrouped all the major opposition parties in Cameroon including Fru Ndi of the SDF, Ndam Njoya of the CDU, Issa Tchiroma of the FSNC, Prof Henri Hogbe Nlend of the UPC and many others. Biya knew it was going to be tough and he could only win in the face of irregularities. But these irregularities could only be eclipsed if a country like the United States ratified his victory. To resolve the problem, Patton Boggs hurriedly arranged a team of observers, mostly former congressional representatives, from the US who later declared the elections free and fair, preventing any US sanctions.



HIPC Initiative

During the same decade, Biya’s government had to convince international financial institutions to grant Cameroon admission into the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries’ Initiative (HIPC) so that its debts could be canceled and more loans accorded the country. Patton Boggs was also used for the job, advising the government of Cameroon how to convince these institutions as well as plead the case of Cameroon before these institutions. Speaking then to a top official at the PM’s office (names withheld) if Cameroon wasn’t admitted into HIPC Initiative, then the worst would have happened. Eventually in 2006 Cameroon reached completion point of the HIPC Initiative saving the country from the worst.

A livewire relationship created

Since 2004 Paul Biya has engaged Patton Boggs for every election which is why the firm was again contracted in November 2010 for a 12 month period which ended only after Biya’s victory in November 2011. It was paid the sum of $400,000 USD (approximately 200million FCFA). However, with the coming of Yang Philemon at the Prime Ministry in 2009, the negotiating team changed from Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo to Professors Fabien Nkot (chief negotiator) and Ghogomu Paul Mingo (endorser).

After the termination of the contract it became clear that Paul Biya had cemented an unbreakable amity with the firm. Therefore, immediately after the termination of the contract, the firm wrote to the Prime Minister whose office is the legal representative of the government before the firm.

In the letter it appreciated its working relationship with Cameroon and expressed the desire for the contract to be renewed again for another 12 months and a whopping $400,000USD was paid in again. Since then the contract between Squire Patton Boggs and the government of Cameroon has always been renewed on a fixed term of $400,000USD (about 200million FCFA).

However, these fees excludes other larger expenses including travel outside Washington DC which are usually billed separately, meaning the total sum of money may well be above what is declared officially. In 2012, the firm also advised and negotiated the Mbalam Iron Ore project for Cameroon. According to Patton Boggs, this is one of the biggest investments in sub Saharan Africa to the tune of $10billon USD (approximately 5,000 billion FCFA)

It is to be noted that the last contract with the firm before the most recent ended on December 31, 2017. But with the many challenges Paul Biya is facing it became necessary that the contract with Patton Boggs be renewed so as to safe his image internationally and advise him on how to confront the challenges of the time like the Anglophone problem and the elections.

An employee in a Patton Boggs office


The experience of Mobutu Sese Seko

By now Patton Boggs has gained the confidence of Biya and the firm had become indispensable to his stay in power. Therefore, whenever the heat is rising on Paul Biya he makes sure he invites his livewire, Patton Boggs.

In 2018, the Anglophone conflict took the most violent trend and with the growing human rights violation of the military it was necessary to invite the firm again for advice and cleansing internationally. Biya was most shaken in May 2018 when US (home to Patton Boggs) Ambassador, Peter Barlerin publicly rejected him, announcing to the world that Biya’s time was up.

Biya quickly recalled what happened in 1997 to Africa’s strong man, Marshall Mobutu Sese Seko Kuku Ngbendu Wa Za Banga who received a similar visit by then US Ambassador to Zaire (now DR Congo) and weeks after Mobutu who had refused to step down was addressing his farewell message to then French President, Jacques Chirac.

In the confidential letter dated May 11, 1997, Mobutu expressed his frustrations to Chirac, how his former allies, the US and Great Britain are now turning against him through the intermediary of his neighbours. He ended by informing President Chirac of his intentions to transfer power to Kabila during their meeting at Utenika on May 14 of the same year.

In 1994, Patton Boggs was hired by a certain Cameroonian businessman of late, Henri Omgba Damase who had business interest in Cameroon, Zaire, Angola and Rwanda. Patton Boggs was to organize a “peace” conference for Angola and Rwanda, which will ensure the protection of the interests of Damase.

The conference was to be chaired by Mobutu Sese Seko. Patton Boggs was also supposed to formulate policies towards officials of the US administration and members of congress for Zaire, Angola and Rwanda. Patton Boggs therefore became a bonafide guarantor of Mobutu’s stay in power as supported by the Americans. However, when Angola, Rwanda, the United States and Great Britain realized that Mobutu could no longer protect their interest, they raised Kabila, armed him and propelled him to victory.

Paul Biya remembers this episode of African history very well and the role played by Patton Boggs. Moreover, Omgba Damase until his death in 2013 was a friend of the Lion Man of Etoudi. Omgba Damase lived a very secretive lifestyle but very close to some African tyrants. He was one of the ringleaders of FranceAfrique with Jacques Foccart (Adviser to Mitterand, Chirac on African Affairs) who discovered the young tailor (Damase) and introduced him to ‘businesses’.

In 1995, when Mobutu was facing international isolation, it was this native of Nsimeyong, Yaoundé who took a letter from the Tiger man of Zaire to Jimmy Carter for help. He built the finest house around the area and the road leading to his house became known as rue damase. Today, Damase is neighborhood in its own right in Cameroon’s capital. Many persons joined the government through Damase.

Squire Patton Boggs is global firm with offices in 20 countries.  According to the fir, they “provide insight at the point where law, business and government meet”. They give their clients a voice, support their ambitions, and help them achieve  successful outcomes.

They boost that “Our multidisciplinary team of over 1,500 lawyers in 47 offices across 20 countries provides unrivaled access to expertise and invaluable connections on the ground. It is a seamless service that operates on any scale – locally or globally. It encompasses virtually every matter, jurisdiction and market. And we place you at the core of everything we do.”

These are exactly the services Biya has been spending billions of tax payers money on. The firm masters the game of politics and power, it understands the American lobbying system and knows how to make and mare the political career of a President who is not too sure of himself. It also knows how to mitigate the consequences of a monumental error look like a kinder garden play.

Biya’s desperation to please international community

In this desperation, Paul Biya needs a powerful and influential firm like Patton Boggs to cleanse its image at every international instance especially the United States. France may be a powerful ally of Paul Biya but world power lies in America.

As Paul Biya prepares for an election which it is almost certain he would win, he also needs Patton Boggs to erase traces of electoral malpractices which are a regular feature of Cameroonian elections.

Moreover, Cameroon is broke financially. Most projects include those to host AFCON 2019 have been financed by money borrowed from international partners. For the government to stay afloat it needs to contract more debts and Patton Boggs would serve as an intermediary between Biya and donors.

Most Sub-Saharan African dynasties are shaken and moved by international intervention. Where the international community does not intervene it is practically impossible for an African long serving leader to leave except by natural forces of death and ill-health. Not even the strength and ingenuity of the charismatic anti-apartheid heroes alone could unseat the white minority government in South Africa.

Desmond Tutu understood this game and what Patton Boggs is doing for Paul Biya today he did it for the anti-apartheid movement between 1980 and 1990. Paul Biya understands this game very well more than the opposition arsenals in Cameroon who are boiling to unseat him. With the international community on his side, not even an internal malware can unseat him.

Immediately the latest contract was signed, Patton Boggs went to work and according to Inner City Press, the firm walked the corridors of the United Nations headquarters between July 11 and 20th, 2018, meeting with UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres as well as Britain’s Ambassador to the UN. With Patton Boggs arguing for Biya a possible international intervention in Cameroon becomes very unlikely despite the deplorable situation

The contract between Patton Bogg and the Biya regime under the canopy of the government of Cameroon may sound malicious to a Cameroonian owing to the nature of the job, but it is legal in the US legal system where the firm is registered. The transactions are fully public and the government of the United States through the Department of Justice is informed. Moreover, every income made is billable and the US economy is enriched as well. A statement on the firm’s website reads, “We have established ourselves as a premier firm for Africa based transactions particularly in the representation of private sector and government.”