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Corruption As New Deal Live Wire In 33 Years 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

Corruption has, arguably, been the biggest jinx of the Cameroonian nation since the New Deal regime, under President Paul Biya, was offered power in November 1982. The trappings of such a nation-killing vice manifested when Transparency International declared Cameroon winner of the world corruption trophy twice.

Before the vice was laid bare, the New Deal apostle himself had denied accusations that members of his Government were highly corrupt. When the whistle blowers rang the alarum bell, he simply asked them to provide proof that some States official were reaping unduly from the State purse. He only came to his senses when Transparency International slammed the stigma on Cameroon in 1999.
Even with the plethora of measures Government has taken to arrest the canker warm, some observers hold that the New Deal regime lacks the political will and the moral authority to fight corruption because it lives on it.

To buttress this point, a senior journalist, Aloysius Ntemfac Nkong Ofege, says emphatically that corruption is the life-wire of the Biya regime. He argues that a government that survives by virtue of electoral corruption cannot fight the ill because it will be equal to suicide. “Fighting corruption for the New Deal regime is like cutting up its own throat,” he said.

But Fru Jonathan, a young baron of the regime, takes exception to this. To him, there is every indication that the New Deal regime is committed in fighting corruption. He cites the creation of some anti-corruption institutions as a demonstration of political will by the Biya regime to fight corruption.

They are the National Anti-corruption Commission, CONAC, the National Financial Investigation Agency, ANIF, the Supreme State Audit, the Audit Bench of the Supreme Court, the Special Criminal Court, the Anti-corruption Units in the various ministries and other Government departments.

Yet, critics have pooh-poohed such outfits, insisting that their creation cannot be a guarantee for the New Deal’s political will to fight corruption. To them, CONAC, for instance, ought to have been given more powers to also prosecute corruption suspects. Such powers would make it akin the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission of Nigeria. What equally discredits the anti-corruption drive in Cameroon is that suspects who are Government officials are allowed to enjoy impunity for a very long time.

Insiders of the regime say the judiciary cannot arrest any suspected Government official without permission from the Presidency. This lays credence as to why some officials that were indicated roll CONAC report, for allegedly embezzling State funds, are still moving about freely today.

A report on the state of corruption that CONAC promised to launch and actually sent out invitations for the ceremony recently never saw the light of day. The Post learnt that the Presidency stalled the publication because the names of some corrupt barons of the regime feature prominently in the report.

The fact that the Biya regime has been dragging its feet over the application of Article 66 of the 1996 Constitution, analysts claim, gives credibility to views that there is no political will to fight corruption. Article 66 of the Constitution provides that all State officials should declare their assets before and after holding office.

After Parliament voted the Law in 2006, the whole bid has been stalled because the President of the Republic is supposed to create the commission for declaration. Many political pundits are wont to state that if President Biya were truly committed in fighting corruption, he would have demonstrated exemplary behavior by being the first to declare his assets.

Such sheer lack of commitment has doused the verve in what is said to be Cameroon’s governance enemy in the country abroad. Some barons of the regime like Eyebe Ayissi and Messenga Nyamding have been accused of plagiarism. Moral bankruptcy has invaded the place, ironically at the time when the New Deal was professing rigour and moralisation. Many officials who ought to have been a good example have apparently lost their moral compass.

According to varsity don and political scientist, Prof Mathias Nguini Owona, the New Deal regime has failed to inculcate Republican values in Cameroonians as spelt out in its rigour and moralisation policy.

But Government has said the current wave of arrests, trials and imprisonment of barons of the regime is a way of instilling Republican values. Yet, critics have dismissed the arrest as the victimisation of the political enemies of the regime.

Despite many positive mutations, corruption has remained endemic in Cameroonian society. Gendarmes and police elements on the highways make it an open secret that they live on corruption. Appointments to certain positions of responsibility are bought and sold like groundnuts in certain circles.

There is a current scandal in the Ministry of Secondary Education where the post of Principal is sold at over FCFA 1 million, while teachers buy transfers at FCFA 300.000. Cameroon has become a fief for academic corruption wherein the selling and buying of marks go the whole gamut of the educational sector. A scandal was blown-open at the Government High School Etoug-Ebe in Yaounde when one of the Vice Principals leaked examination questions to some lower sixth students. Some of the students The Post interviewed said the Vice Principal exchanged the examination questions for money and sex with female students.

Posterity holds it that it was only in the new Deal Regime that some civil servants openly celebrated the fact that they have billions in their accounts and got away with it. It is also in the New Deal regime that a certain Minister was arrested and taken to prison for one night and released to maintain his post.

The fight against one of Cameroon’s governance enemies has remained somewhat controversial. Corruption has remained a bane to Cameroon’s development ambitions. Going by senior Economist and lecturer at the Yaounde II University, Prof Fondo Sikod, Cameroonians remain poorer, because, access to electricity, water, good farm-to-market roads, remains a problem.

Of the 50.000 kilometers of roads in Cameroon, only 5,000 meters are tarred, according to official statistics. Many roads are in bad shape. The Bamenda-Yaounde road is the physical emblem of Cameroon’s pot-holed road infrastructure that remains a death trap to citizens. There is every indication that President Biya inherited a better economic growth rate of seven percent from his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahidjo.

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