DENVER, USA — (AFRICA NEWS MATTERS)
News that an estimated 40,000 Cameroonians living in the United States may qualify for Temporary Protected Status or TPS rocketed to the top of the charts in the past week.
There are several key dimensions to this story — not just the fact that the Cameroonian beneficiaries who are fleeing conflict — would get relief from deportation.
Media, Public Outcry Leads to Action
Earlier I noted this story from Politico which questioned how Ukrainians were offered TPS quickly following the Russia-Ukraine war while other countries on a waiting list, including Cameroon, languished without any action from the Joe Biden administration. Now there is this story from NPR News that tells us the decision to grant TPS to Cameroonians came from pressure generated and outrage against the administration’s own inaction on the matter.
“The department designated TPS for Ukraine in early March, a week after Russia began its attacks. The decision sparked criticism toward the Biden administration about citizens of other countries with conflict that were not granted the same treatment. When the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan, it took the U.S. seven months to grant TPS.”
The fact that the administration reacted just a few weeks after the outcry speaks to the power that exists in the media, and in decision-makers who have the authority, but sometimes refuse to act when they need to. Imagine what could have been done by previous US administrations to stop the conflict in Cameroon in the first place, or do something significant about it in the last four years.
A PR Disaster for the Biya Administration
Even now that Cameroonians have received the requested TPS, the bigger issue of leadership at home remains. While the Paul Biya administration stands accused of gross mismanagement of the state, including letting the Anglophone crisis get out of control, leading to a civil war, how Cameroon moves forward after Biya is in doubt.
The government in Yaounde lives and gets to see its name and bad reputation tried over and over again in the court of public opinion. The lesson here is that while the Biya team may have scored some points and won over some people following the successful hosting of the AFCON 2021 tournaments, the focus once again turns to its own stewardship of a once peaceful and stable African nation.
Biya Succession Planning
A U.S. Council on Foreign Relations post in late 2021 painted a troubling scenario of the likely outcome in the eventuality of Biya’s demise. It is worth a read.
What’s more, according to The Guardian Post, a leading Cameroonian English language daily, “a purported move to amend the constitution to introduce the post of Vice President” has the intention to coronate Biya’s successor. In the current constitutional makeup, in the event of a vacancy, the President of the Senate would act as Interim President for a 20 to a 120-day transition period until new elections are held. This constitutional process may not be followed based on the news reports.
The Guardian Post speculations said there were whispers in Yaounde about former PM Philemon Yang being considered if this ever came to fruition.
No One Gets the Last Laugh
There are further economic implications following the granting of TPS to Cameroonians in the US. This action may include a further decrease in business interest and activity in the Anglophone regions of the country where the insurgency continues. Not only have Anglophones or English-speaking Cameroonians fled the country, but many who are in the diaspora also continue to balk at making any investments in an unstable region of the country. This is not just a minus grade for the Biya government. It’s a zero-sum game for the entire country.