Score Cameroon Togo

Cameroon | Gambia | Togo | World
Economy - Development | Politics | Environment - Nature
Cameroon, Togo, Gambia "bought by whaling nations" - Japan and other pro-whaling nations only narrowly lost several votes at this year's meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC); the closest run since commercial whaling bas banned in 1986. Anti-whalers claim that the close vote is due to Japan "buying" the votes of new and poor IWC members such as Cameroon, Togo and The Gambia and call for diplomatic sanctions.

Each year, the IWC gets new and exotic members. At this year's meeting in Ulsan, South Korea, a total of 66 member nations are presented and all have one vote in the Commission. This year's newcomers include the tiny Pacific island nation of Nauru and three African countries. Australia, which heads the anti-whaling block, claims these new members are paid for by Japan to vote for a lifting of the commercial whaling ban.

Indeed, many of the relatively new IWC members are poor African, Caribbean or Pacific nations receiving a fair amount of Japanese development aid. Five years ago, Atherton Martin - then Fisheries Minister of the small Caribbean state Dominica - resigned in protest over Japan's "extortionary tactics", which he claimed linked a pro-whaling vote to considerable Japanese development aid for Dominica's fisheries sector.

According to environmentalists and the Australian government, this is the background for the many poor countries recently joining the IWC. Susan Lieberman of the environmental group WWF this week criticised the wave of new countries entering the Commission - most of them being landlocked and without any whaling history - as an "absurdity".

Poorer African nations that have joined the IWC recently are thus generally viewed as being cheaply bought with Japanese development projects. Sub-Saharan newcomers include Benin, Cameroon, Cte d'Ivoire, Gabon, The Gambia, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania and Togo. South Africa, Kenya and Senegal have a longer history with the IWC.

Japan however strongly denies that it connects a pro-whaling vote to its development aid, as does Norway, the second most important whaling nation. Decisions over Japan's development aid programmes are made in other agencies than those working with whaling, the government repeatedly has claimed. The argument however finds little international credibility.

The anti-whaling camp, on the other hand, largely admits that it is muzzling poor countries into taking a parallel stand. According to 'The Australian', the Canberra government today...

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