Gervais Mendo Ze former general manager of the Cameroon Radio and Television (Crtv) from 1988 to 2005), was sentenced Tuesday night by the Special Criminal Court to 20 years in prison.
Arrested in November 2014 after he was sacked from the cabinet as Minister Delegate to the Minister of Communication), Gervais Mendo Ze was prosecuted for several issues which inter alia included fraudulent transport allowances amounting to 39 million FCFA and television tax money.
The Beti Ewondo French Cameroun political elite was also accused of having received a monthly representation bonus of more than 15 million FCFA, 116 million FCFA as home maintenance allowance, 205 million FCFA as car allowance and 20 million from Cameroon’s audiovisual fee.
Justice also reproached him for misappropriation of 360 million FCFA, constituting part of the GM’s running cost of the state owned radio and television.
Gervais Mendo Ze was prosecuted with fourteen other people (some fleeing and others dead in custody), among them Crtv’s financial service staff, the treasury administration represented by the renowned former Minister of Finance Polycarpe Abah Abah, former mayor Akono Ze Jean Marie and Jean Paul Amang Bitegni all implicated in the 15 billion FCFA television tax scandal
The Mendo Ze acolytes were all sentenced to 18 years in prison and must also pay 15 billion FCFA representing the damage caused to the state and pay a fine of 962 million FCFA.
The Special Criminal Court: President Biya’s Court
Depicting the Special Criminal Court established to prosecute alleged corrupt government officials and the several Alibabas responsible for pilfering from the public treasury as the President’s court is no misnomer. We call it the President’s court because it is one instrument of power through which the President is reining in on perceived opponents from within his CPDM power conduit. An attribute of a genuine court is the fairness of the trial proceedings in cases which are brought before the court for trial. It is not the number of convictions entered against accused. A court is legitimate and recognized as such because of its exercise of judicial, executive, legislative and administrative independence. A court that is independent must be accessible to all citizens after all, is equality before the law, not a constitutionally protected value? The Special Criminal Court is lacking in these attributes of impartiality, judicial independence and accessibility. It is perceived more as the President’s Court than a Court of Justice.
Establishing this court was President Biya’s way of saving himself the embarrassment of being humiliated during his perennial trips abroad as the President of the most corrupt countries in the world. This ranking of the country as the most corrupt or one of the most corrupt countries had a potential to hamper President Biya’s personal pecuniary interests far from the borders of Cameroon. There was therefore a personal interest need to establish the court. Another personal interest need was to avail himself of a legal tool under his direct control to consolidate absolute power, blackmail potential rebels and competitors within the system and to stifle any form of institutional opposition. He perceived the court as a tool with which to whitewash his more than thirty years of corrupt governance and the rape of the economy.
With the war against Boko Haram, the fight against corruption using the Special Criminal Court has afforded Paul Biya justification contest in the next institutionally flawed elections in order to eternalize power purportedly to direct the war against terror and the war against corruption. True to the name the President’s Court, the President has exclusive preserve in referring cases to the Special Court and the power to terminate them. He decides who will be arrested, who will be investigated and who will serve time and who will not.
In one instance, he ordered a detained late Minister Bapes Bapes released from remand custody at Kondengui when a warrant was issued for his arrest without the presidential fiat. Recently Titus Edzoa a former Secretary-General at the Presidency of the Republic benefitted from a purported Presidential pardon whose primary purpose was the release of a French citizen Thiery Atangana from jail.
The fear of a presidential referral to the Special Criminal Court on additional charges of corruption under a practice devolved under the supervision of Paul Biya called “rouleur compresseur” pushed Titus Edzoa to rejoin the CPDM Party without a public resignation or repudiation of his membership of the party on which he intended to contest presidential elections prior to his incarceration. Edzoa was a victim of this system of presidential justice when new charges were brought against him when his first imprisonment was about to end in order to maintain him in prison.
Cameroonians want the rule of law to be the guarding principle on which justice is administered in the name of the people.
By Sama Ernest and Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai