Jean-Louis Beh Mengue, former general manager of the Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (ART), was sentenced Monday, November 1, 2021, to 20 years in prison by the Special Criminal Court in Yaounde.
The Beti-Ewondo French Cameroun political elite was prosecuted for misappropriation of public funds of nearly CFAF 400 million during his time at ART.
Claiming his innocence before the President Biya’s court, the former baron of the regime reportedly pleaded not guilty.
On October 8, his lawyers denounced the fact that the prosecution, based solely on the report of the control mission of the Supreme State Council.
Sacked in 2017, Jean-Louis Beh Mengue was placed in detention in the Kondengui Maximum Security prison on August 8, 2019.
With his conviction, he joins and extends the long and endless list of former strongmen of the Biya regime now incarcerated for embezzlement and or corruption.
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. Cameroon Concord News and the Cameroon Intelligence Report call it President Biya’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 country 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-eight years of corrupt governance and the rape of the economy.
With the war in Southern Cameroons and the Boko Haram crisis, 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 so-called 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. Prof 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 other 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 Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai