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Catholic Church Launches Debt Cancellation Campaign

By Chris Mbunwe

"The never ending foreign debt keeps us, our children and our unborn generation in chains". This message is contained in a brochure carried along by Catholic Christians from the Archdiocese of Bamenda under the auspices of Commission for Justice and Peace, an NGO.The Christians are charged with collecting 200.000 signatures from Catholics and non-Catholics to be forwarded to the British Prime Minster, Tony Blair, to "petition on our behalf to the other leaders of the world's richest countries when he will be hosting the G8 Summit in July 2005."

The Catholic Christians recalled that the millennium declaration that was endorsed by all 189 member states of the UN at the end of the Millennium Summit that held in New York in September 2000, listed eight Millennium Development Goals, MDGs.

Top on the list is "Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger." Others include “improve universal primary education, gender equity and empowerment of the woman, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, ensure environmental sustainability and develop global partnership; all of these to be achieved by the year 2015.

Achieving goal number one, according to the Coordinator of Justice and Peace Commission, Laura Naddin Ngwa, in a separate release titled "Global Call Against Poverty," is achieving all the other seven because they are inter-related.

The brochure states that a greater number of the world's poor live in the Third World, particularly in Africa.The Christians held that Cameroon's poverty is attributed to the never-ending debt "we owe the Brettonwoods Institutions and others. Many initiatives have been developed to ensure that this debt is cancelled.

The current initiative being the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, HIPIC". The Justice and Peace Commission reminded Cameroonians that the initiative came as a result of 18 million signatures gathered from all over the world during the preparation for the jubilee of the year 2000, asking the G8 countries (USA, Germany, Canada, France, Japan, Switzerland and Great Britain) to cancel the international debts of poor nations in the effort to eradicate poverty by 2015.

Though Cameroon succeeded in having her name inscribed on the list as one of the heavily indebted poor countries, the Justice and Peace Commission says, "we failed to reach Completion Point in 2004 and we are expected to do so this time latest December 2005.

“Reaching completion point means proving our ability to fight poverty by ensuring good governance, fight corruption and ensure transparency etc," the brochure states.

Cameroon's Debt Situation

World Bank statistics in the year 2000 put Cameroon's foreign Debt at FCFA 292.500 per head or put otherwise, 55 percent of the national budget. "In fact, even unborn children owe a debt incurred decades before they would be born. Because of this, our governments have been enslaved," states the brochure.

According to the Christians, the IMF and the World Bank forced the Cameroon government to adopt certain economic policies unfavourable to the citizens so that, "we can continue to pay debts. They cited salary cuts, devaluation of currency, layoffs, job freezing, increased taxes, etc."

That is why, Justice and Peace Commission said, food, transport, clothing and other basic necessities are getting dearer and dearer and unaffordable to most Cameroonians. "The high rate of unemployment and underdevelopment also has come to make matters worse," stated Justice and Peace Commission.
The Justice and Peace Commission said the huge debt incurred by Cameroon was embezzled by unscrupulous leaders and much of the money deposited in foreign bank accounts.

"The masses did not benefit from the money, yet they are expected to pay through expensive goods, high taxes and low salaries. God save us!"This year, the Justice and Peace Commission remarked that Cameroon paid back about twice the principal amount in interest, yet the creditors say the principal debt is still unpaid.

Justice and Peace Commission also appealed to Christians to rely on their strength to minimise their weaknesses. "Let's force the G8 countries to cancel these debts -join the global call against poverty and make poverty history."

 

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