Ten years ago, the President of the Republic started a much-acclaimed effort to rid the country of graft, especially in high places. The initiative got the people’s overwhelming accolades with the fits arrests of high-profile governmental officials including heads of para-statals or companies in which government had a huge stake, ministers – serving or out of office – and even former Prime Minister and heads of government.
Ordinary people could not have had a better day as in their reckoning the government was now attacking one of the nation’s greatest ills, corruption! The same very watchful population has had several opportunities over the management of what they had considered a determined government policy to rid the public sector of graft as it was observed that some people, perceived by the population to be corrupt officials, went about their government business virtually scot-free.
So one could readily understand the excitement with which the population received the report of the National Anti-Corruption Commission released last Monday. The results of the Corruption watchdog are simply hair-raising and many Cameroonians are even wondering if the commission had such rights; because many had written it off as another toothless bulldog. But this is the commission which has gone very long distances to denounce corruption at areas which had, for a very long time, remained virtually inaccessible for investigation even of the most official nature.
Without knowing it, the commission has given itself a lot of credibility and this should serve as a lesson to many such bodies which are set up but only believe that was done on the whims and caprices of the public authorities and in so doing avoiding embarrassing the President of the Republic. But on countless occasions, the same President of the Republic has spoken of his resolve to rid the country of corrupt practices and in several public speeches, has even spoken of the necessity to bring faulting people to book.
How can those claiming to serve government be so rapacious to the extent of robbing ordinary poor citizens of their basic rights? The report of the National Anti-Corruption Commission comes at a time the nation is watching. And it is from the way that the powers that be react to the revelations in the report that will determine the real desire of the public authorities to address the throbbing problem of corruption in our country. The people are watching!
Hovever, depicting the Special Criminal Court and the so called National Anti-Corruption Commission 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 Intelligence Report calls 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.
Cameroon Tribune/Cameroon Intelligence Report