Amindeh Blaise Atabong is a freelance journalist in Yaounde, Cameroon, with a passion for investigative reporting. For nearly six years, he has worked in print and multimedia journalism covering topics that touch on the socio-political, cultural, and economic life of his country.
Atabong says he became a journalist because he wanted “to tell things the way they are” and to help his country and region develop in a sustainable way. An oil exporter with a bloated bureaucracy, Cameroon sits in the World Bank’s group of heavily indebted poor countries. Many of its rural and semi-urban residents live in poverty, although its 2015 GDP per capita of $1,200 was well above the continental average.
Transparency International says corruption is “rampant” in Cameroon, citing specifically bribery, extortion, tax evasion, and electoral manipulation.
In Cameroon’s young and fragile democracy, journalists’ best efforts can be thwarted by government repression and scarce funding. Atabong has been arrested twice and assaulted three times in the course of his reporting. Further, he says, “There are times I have had to let go of stories that matter because of a lack of resources to investigate them.”
Among his notable work was a story about security officials’ collusion with a phony Red Cross agent who fleeced university students out of millions of francs, for which he won an award from the British High Commission last year.
Also last year, Atabong covered the ultimately successful struggle of Nigeria’s University of Maiduguri to repel Boko Haram militants from the start of their insurgency in 2009 until December 2016. The terror group had been seeking to abduct students, hunting for captives who would be able to execute complicated tasks.
“Being a young reporter, it was my first time in a conflict zone. I barely slept with, one eye closed, but I was unperturbed,” Atabong says, recounting five days of tracking down sources and working undercover.
He has also traveled to the Central African Republic to report on the smuggling of conflict diamonds from there through Cameroon.
In addition to independent regional outlets, Atabong has written for respected Western news organizations, including Quartz and Equal Times, and has been a fixer for CNN and Reuters.
Atabong says he felt “pushed” into covering corruption and official wrongdoing after being overwhelmed as a teenager by the corruption-induced suffering of his country’s poor.
“Mindful of the fact that most of Africa’s problems revolve around corruption, I consider it incumbent on me to expose a greater part of this vice in order to stem the rising tide,” Atabong says.