Cameroon Hires Ex-MLK Aide in Bid for State Dept. Millions
(Photo by Fiona Bradley.)
By Stuart White
NEW YORK CITY (12/16/2011) — The Cameroonian government paid GoodWorks International, a lobbying firm founded by former Martin Luther King Jr. adviser Andrew C. Young, $350,000 to improve its image in the eyes of the US State Department in an attempt to be awarded millions in development grants. The lobbying was meant to draw attention away from decades of human rights violations and political corruption, and to spur foreign investment in the small West African country. Read the full story here.
On April 27, 2010, Bibi Ngota died in Kondengui prison in the tiny West African nation of Cameroon. According to prison documents made public by his family, Ngota perished because of “abandonment, improper care,” by prison authorities, and “failure to render assistance.”
Ngota wasn’t a career criminal. He was a journalist, the editorial director of the publication Cameroon Express. He was imprisoned for investigating alleged corruption involving Laurent Esso, a high-ranking politician who serves as both secretary general of the president’s office and chairman of the state-run oil company.
Ngota’s death was one of many reported instances of human rights abuses in Cameroon over the 27 years it has been ruled by the same man. But the death of the prominent journalist was widely reported, and drew criticism anew for Cameroon’s harsh regime. Less than two months after Ngota’s death, Cameroon moved decisively to burnish its tattered international image. The government hired a public relations specialist. But not just any public relations specialist. Cameroon hired the Atlanta-based lobbying firm GoodWorks International for the job of “developing a roadmap” to improving US relations. GoodWorks International’s executives include former U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, once a close aide to Martin Luther King.
For Cameroon, at stake was not just enhancing the nation’s reputation but millions of dollars in US foreign aid.