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Long Live, The Sacrosanct Thieving Fraternity!

By Yerima Kini Nsom

The adoption of Article 127 of the new Penal Code may only be sardonic and preposterous to non Cameroonians.

The fact that the controversial provision purports to grant immunity to Ministers, is commonplace. It is banal, a déjà vu and a déjà attendu just because “Le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun”; Cameroon is Cameroon.
Dear reader, let us get down to the brass stacks of the issue. That article of national shame reads as follows: “Any judicial, legal or investigating police officer who, in violation of any law conferring immunity, by prosecution, arrest or by trying a member of Government or of Parliament, shall be punished with imprisonment from one to five years.”

Many MPs raised hell at the National Assembly last Wednesday as the penal code bill bearing the controversial article was being adopted. As I covered the plenary sitting from the press cubicle at the hemicycle, my mind went through cogitation. I had imagined that the ignominious Article 127 was one big mistake. But the Minister of Justice sprang to his feet to defend the gibberish. He said the immunity ministers enjoy is delegated to them by the President of the Republic. Laurent Esso was even very brash and arrogant when he muttered the unconstitutional words.

For one thing, the constitution grants immunity only to Members of Parliament, and the President of the Republic. More so, there is no provision in the constitution that permits the President of the Republic to share his immunity with any other official, let alone his appointees. The article is a tacit warning to the Magistrates, the Examining Magistrates and the judicial police officers to clip their anti-corruption wings.

Logically, the chronological sequence of this provision puts members of Government first. Yet, there is no law conferring immunity to ministers. By granting immunity to ministers through a very crude and surreptitious means, the Government is telling the whole world that it wants to render its thieving fraternity and its cabal of Ali Babas sacrosanct to any prosecution.

Otherwise, it would be difficult to understand why a Government that claims to be fighting corruption would afford to grant immunity to people who have difficulties making a distinction between their private wallets and the public purse.

Mind you that the majority of VIP inmates at the Kondengui Prison are former ministers said to have been jailed for embezzling huge sums of public funds.

Besides, many sitting ministers are currently being investigated at the Special Criminal Court on account of claims that they have fidgeted with State money.
The Minister of Public Health, the Minister of Posts and Telecommunications and the Minister of Water and Energy are said to have been grilled at the court recently for hours on issues of corruption. That is why talk is rife that the current provision on immunity is intended to clip the wings of judiciary and stop them from taking any initiatives to pry into the corruption affairs of ministers.

If they do, the hunter will become the hunted. That article of the Penal Code is also an admonishment to whistle blowers on issues of corruption. If you remember that the Mounchipou affair was sparked up by a whistle blower, then you will understand how much of damage this provision is to the fight against corruption in Cameroon.

It is only in the Cameroon of the mighty untouchables that Parliament will handclap such a controversial bill to adoption. It is also only in President Biya’s Cameroon that that group of rented jesters will adopt a provision criminalising delay in the payment of rents. Yes, it is now clear that any tenant who is unable to pay his or her rents for two is a potential prisoner.

Thus Cameroon has become a republic of the high and mighty wherein the rich are given so much protection against the poor. Again, there are so many provisions of that code that remain repugnant to common sense and natural justice. This explains why our gown and wig-wearing men and women went on the rampage on the streets of Abakwa last Thursday. If Cameroon were not “La Republique des gendarmes” there would have been total unrest because of such provisions that run counter to the aspirations of the people.

Small wonder, that all the proposed amendments were rejected by Government with the help of the obese majority that may just be fruits of opaque elections. Hon. Awudu Mbaya knew the answer to his question. He asked if it is the Government or Parliament that is responsible for legislation in Cameroon. Here, Parliament is a mere toy in the hands of Government.

The line that separates Government from Parliament is slim; too blurred to ignite any checks and balances. This explains why any bill that is tabled in Parliament is adopted without any iota of modification. Thus, if Government were to dissolve Parliament and rule by decree and ordinances like a military junta, there will be no big deal in the State of Cameroon. Parliament now is a mere formality and a window-dressing institution to entertain the powers that be.

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