22/08/2019

Trump Associates Hired to Restore African Kleptocrats’ Tarnished Reputation

Arena / By Bart Luirink

Associates of US President Donald Trump have been hired by the Cameroon government to boost the disastrous human rights image of the country. This was revealed by the Foreign Policy platform a couple of weeks ago. PR agency Clout Public Affairs (CPA) will collect US$ 55,000 every month for several years.

Its mission: ‘to promote a favourable image’ for the country that suffers under the kleptocratic rule of the one of the continent’s longest serving autocrats Paul Biya. CPA is instructed to target ‘conservative-oriented outlets’ and thus ‘foster a robust and growing narrative partnership the future’. CPA was founded by Republican Texas senator and Trump-ally Ted Cruz. The president’s former attorney general Matthew Whitaker recently joined the company.

Cameroon is not the only African country that calls on the help of the American propaganda machine. The Zimbabwean government hired Ballard Partners, a company also linked to Trump. In recent years, Liberia has paid US$ 72 million to US-based PR firms, the DRC US$ 10 million, the military government of Mohamed 'Hemeti' Hamdan Dagalo in Sudan US$ 7 million, South Sudan US$ 3,7 million. 

These are all countries where large parts of the citizenry either suffer from malnutrition or are starving, and where the elites – friends of the Trumpists – live enormously wealthy lives. 

Even if it should cause public outrage that kleptocrats are finding yet another way to use their country’s money for themselves – this time for their image – the PR needs are also an indication that investigative journalism and mobilisation by African activists are putting pressure on such governments. Three research reports recently published by ZAM and the African Investigative Publishing Collective show how African political elites siphon off public money and the effect this, and their predatory and incompetent rule, have on public services like health and education. CPA watch this space: our African colleagues are finalising a new investigation in Cameroon.