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Capitalist murder on the rails in Cameroon



Four hundred dead and hundreds injured on October 21 in Esaka, Cameroon: No, this is not the result of a massacre claimed by Daesh or by Boko Haram which the media and politicians love to slurp up to foster a climate of Fear and justify the "national unity" behind the exploiters.

It is the appalling toll, advanced by Cameroonian journalists, from the derailment of Cameroon Railways (Camrail) train 152 on the line linking Yaoundé, the political capital, to Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon. For its part, the official balance-sheet is limited to 79 dead. The official commission of inquiry, which should have made its findings within 30 days, still had not published its report by the beginning of January; But according to leaks in the press this report would mainly seek to exonerate the governmental and railway authorities and to find scapegoats.

This catastrophe is in reality a purely capitalist crime; The main culprits are the Cameroonian bourgeoisie and French imperialism which has been vampirizing Africa for decades with the aid of its multinationals, of which the Bolloré group is one of the most precious jewels.


Since independence, the Cameroonian bourgeoisie has been unable to satisfy the basic needs of the inhabitants of the country.


In the years following independence, Cameroon experienced significant economic growth (15% per year on average from 1965 to 1985), mainly based on exports of raw materials. But this growth essentially benefited the local bourgeoisie and the former colonialist – French imperialism (whose presence still remains massive) – and very little to the population, which has revolted on several occasions ( Operations "Dead Cities" in 1991, the riots of 2008, not to mention the anti-colonial revolt of 1956-57 of the UPC –The Union of the Peoples of Cameroon– savagely repressed by French troops).

The rail network has not been modernized. The Cameroonian track guage remained very narrow, very far from the international standards of the Bern Convention of 1886. The gauge is only one meter instead of 1,435 m. This forces the trains to travel at very slow speeds: 5 hours to connect Douala to Yaoundé, 265 km away, an average of about 50 km/hour! The line has not been maintained while traffic in oil, minerals and wood has increased.

The road network has also been abandoned. The collapse of a road bridge between the economic and political capitals explains the very large number of passengers: hundreds more people had to take train 152, increasing the convoy from nine to seventeen cars. For decades, the roads have not been modernized or even maintained: the narrowness and dilapidation of the Douala-Yaoundé road is the source of numerous accidents which cause hundreds of deaths a year.

Finally, the Cameroonian state also has a deeply failing health system. Due to lack of equipment and health personnel in sufficient quality and quantity, it was essential to transport many wounded to Yaoundé and Douala, more than 150 kilometers, leading to the death of some.

If the Cameroonian bourgeoisie is guilty, French imperialism is at least as much so, especially through its multinational Bolloré.

This group is today an inescapable actor in the economic tissue as in the political life of Cameroon. It obtained the concession for Camrail, the railway company, starting in 1999 (for 35 years duration) but also that of the container terminal for the port of Douala in 2005 (for 15 years). It also controls huge plantations of oil palms and rubber trees.

The management of Camrail is only motivated by the race to profit. Bolloré spends the minimum in train maintenance and the upkeep of infrastructure. About the accident, some sources said that "the brakes of the train failed". Surviving passengers testified that they were surprised to see the train suddenly traveling at high speed even in turns, accompanied with strong burning odors and bizarre noises. Railway workers reported that the last cars added to the train were known to have faulty brakes.

Moreover, for profitability reasons, the multinational has favored the transport of goods and largely abandoned passenger trains. Freight is more profitable because it is not very demanding in terms of transport quality or delays. This resulted in the closure of “non-profitable” passenger lines and massive redundancies (one third of the workforce, starting with the union activists after being imprisoned for many months).

The Bolloré group knows that its race for profit is a serious threat to safety. In August, in Burkina Faso, a freight train fell into a ravine, and in September another freight train caused the collapse of a bridge in Côte d'Ivoire.

The catastrophe is therefore absolutely not due to chance, to fate: it is a crime committed by the multinational Bolloré, by capitalism, by the race for profit, by French imperialism and its ally and client, the State of Cameroon.

Against such a catastrophe, it is stupid to dream of the establishment of a "regulated" capitalism: capitalism is a criminal system that must be combatted and put to death in order to be able to live in safety! It has always despised and will always have nothing but contempt for the safety and lives of workers and the public.

The poor masses of Africa – peasants and proletarians–- bear the brunt of brutal exploitation in the fields, factories or mines. But the African proletariat is not an organized force from the class point of view. As elsewhere, it suffers from the absence of classist organizations that truly defend its interests, and a class party unifying and directing its struggle towards the overthrow of capitalism.

But African proletarians fight not only “their” bourgeoisie and “their” states, but also the imperialist octopus. In order for their struggles to be victorious they must find the active solidarity of the proletarians of the imperialist metropoles because they are fighting the same enemy and because the convergence of the struggles across the national boundaries is essential for the world communist revolution!



International Communist Party

January, 9th 2017



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