Corruption has given Cameroon a bad name for more than three decades, but for years, many people have been thinking that this cankerworm will not reach certain institutions of the country like the Presidency of the Republic.
A country’s presidency is supposed to be a well respected institution and those who work there are supposed to be seen as reincarnations of decency and discipline.
But this image associated with the country’s highest institution has been slowly crumbling, especially as the country’s president, Paul Biya, and his wife, Chantal Biya who is noted for her flaming red hair, have engaged in many acts of corruption and dishonesty on many occasions.
Embezzling money is not an act of decency. Misusing taxpayers’ money cannot be considered as an act of responsibility even among lower animals. Rigging elections will never give anybody a good name and Biya has been charged with this crime on many occasions and he is guilty as charged.
If a leader sees corruption as the only means for him to sustain himself in power, then he has simply institutionalized this cancer and it will spread like wildfire.
And financial and moral cancer can affect anybody, especially when the victim lacks a will and discipline of steel and is financially insecure.
This explains why corruption has taken over the Presidency of the Republic. Poverty, especially moral poverty, can disarm even the strongest military in the world and this explains why workers at the Unity Palace have clearly lost their moral compass.
Sometimes, financial poverty might be to blame, but in many cases, moral recklessness and indiscipline may be the drivers.
Cameroon really needs help but there is no help on the way. When the core is rotten, the body polity will slowly crumble and this is the disease that has affected many if not all the employees of the Presidency of the Republic who are using indecent and irresponsible methods to line their pockets.
They have successful established and maintained an important smuggling network of alcoholic beverages from the presidential cellar which is causing a lot of sensation in the highest institution of the land.
For years, champagne has been the Presidency’s flagship “poison” which is clearly beyond the reach of the ordinary taxpayer and the ordinary Cameroonian will be happy to have a taste of the chemicals which have quietly transformed the country’s president into a false ‘chemist’ because of his penchant for mixing liquors before drinking.
Normally, whenever the presidential palace needs to stock up on this ‘elite poisons’, those involved in the procurement process take advantage of the opportunity to divert hundreds of boxes of these precious liquids which they then sell on the black market for peanuts.
These agents and angels of corruption have been in their dubious trade for so long that they no longer worry about being caught.
The entire country has been dragged into the mess and even those who are supposed to check such excesses now look the other way while these presidential smugglers ply their trade.
The mess is all over the place and since almost everybody has tasted the benefits of corruption, very few people get shocked when such operations play out in plain sight.
Today, it is common to see wines and liquors imported for the presidency on the streets in cities such as Yaounde, Douala, Ebolowa and Sangmelima.
Worst of all, the criminals have been emboldened by the massive corruption and its acceptance by the public to the point where they no longer even take the time to remove the stamps of the Presidency of the Republic when they go to resell their fraudulently acquired products.
In Bastos, the chic and glamorous corner of Cameroon’s political capital where a large majority of luxury shopping areas are concentrated, a tour of the shelves of the cellar of these wine shops clearly reveals the different flavours of kings – Billecart Salomon brut rosé, brut blanc, brut reserve and brut sous-bois – most of which have been imported with the taxpayer’s hard-earned money.
According to a Cameroon Concord News Group source, the 75 cl bottle of Billecart Salomon brut rosé delivered by elements of the presidential guard is resold for CFAF 45,000.
Questioned by a Cameroon Concord News Group undercover agent in Yaounde, most of the sellers tactically and carefully dodged the question about the origin of these products, but ended up revealing after insistence that those products were actually being delivered by the presidential guards.
Furthermore, the sales agents refused to give the Cameroon Concord News Group agent the prices at which the Etoudi guards were delivering those wines and liquors to them.
Though they tried to justify their business plan and model, they made sure they did not give away any information related to the vast and unholy profits they were making because of the unfair practices they were employing to sustain themselves in business.
But a little research on the website of the French-based company, Billecart Salmon, which produces this brand of champagnes, lifted the veil on the prices of these liquids that have gone a long way in ruining Mr. Biya’s health.
The prices vary from EUR 43 to EUR 64 depending on the flavour, that is, CFAF 41,700 and CFAF 28,071 respectively for a 75 cl bottle.
This illicit trade must be particularly juicy, especially as it has been reported that in 2019, Cameroon imported 170,297 bottles of wine and champagne of 75 cl, for a total of CFAF 2.9 billion.
If the Presidency is decay, how will the national treasury, the ministry of finance, the customs department, the taxation office and other government institutions look like?
For many years, the government has given the impression that it is fighting corruption, but the results on the ground speak to the government’s total indifference and wilful participation in this game that is robbing the country of its precious financial resources.
The greatest frustration and annoyance comes from the fact that those who get appointed to fight corruption are exactly those who are stoking corruption in government departments and services.
Cameroon has been caught between a rock and a hard place. The country is run by a bareface crime syndicate that is hellbent on ruining the country.
Though members of the crime syndicate are almost dying, they are not repentant and are determined to take the country down with them. As long as they are in power, corruption – that which blights the lives of the vulnerable and enriches members of the crime syndicate – will continue to take root and make Cameroon unattractive to genuine and sustainable foreign investments.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai