News / Africa

Cameroon's Anti-Corruption Jailings Questioned

Rwanda President Paul Kagame, right, greets Cameroon President Paul Biya as he arrives for a meeting on Central African Republic, Brussels, April 2, 2014.
Rwanda President Paul Kagame, right, greets Cameroon President Paul Biya as he arrives for a meeting on Central African Republic, Brussels, April 2, 2014.
Cameroon is divided over the fate of some of President Paul Biya's closest former aides who have been arrested and detained on charges of corruption, attempted corruption and embezzlement.

The nearly two dozen former ministers and heads of state corporations, including Ephraim Inoni, the central African nation's last prime minister, are said by some to be political victims of Biya's three-decade rule.

For secondary schoolteacher Njika Alain, the arrests may have been motivated by Biya's desire to eliminate possible political opponents.

"It looks like a [doing away] of those who are opposed to the actual regime," Alain said. "It is a political fight instead of the fight against corruption or embezzlement."

Journalist George Alain Boyomo says the arrests began some 20 years ago when President Biya had already been in power for a decade.

"At the beginning, the fight against corruption in Cameroon had good intentions, but today people have come to understand that the campaign is to eliminate opponents of the president of the Republic," he said, adding that recent arrests have significant political implications.

Among the dozens in jail are Marafa Hamidou Yaya, President Biya's former secretary general and senior minister for territorial administrations; Abah Abah Polycarp, ex-minister of finance; Jean Mariie Atangana Mebara, a former minister of higher education; and Sieyam Siwe, former minister of mines. Some have been jailed for more than a decade, and it is not clear how many of the prisoners have faced trial.

According to human rights campaigner Dr. Richard Tantoh, the incarcerations do not align with standard judicial procedures involving charges of corruption and embezzlement.

"The treatment that is given to those who are caught does not give us an impression that the objective is to recover what has been stolen," he said, explaining that corruption or embezzlement indictments typically involve the creation of, for example, a special fund to ensure recovered finances are dedicated to public service or development projects.

"That is not happening," he said. "[These] people are locked up, some for 15 years, and they are released without us knowing exactly if money has been recovered or not."

But Laurent Esso, Cameroon's justice minister, says some money has been recovered.

"Today the public treasury has recovered more than $4 million," he said, adding that the money was obtained from suspects who opted to stop the judicial process via financial settlement.

Elvis Ngole-Ngole, minister of forestry and wildlife and one of Biya's close collaborators in the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, denies that charges are fabricated.

"There is nothing to tell me that it is politically motivated and I think that the initiative is a deliberate public policy which is intended to make Cameroon a better country," he said. "If there are manipulators, we will know how to take care of those manipulators. A good policy such as the fight against corruption should not be manipulated upon or should not be distorted or should not be rendered a mockery by those who do not understand the moral foundations, the legal foundations, the legitimacy of that policy."

Four of the suspects, including Catherine Abena, former secretary of state for education, and Henry Engoulou, former minister delegate of finance, have died in detention. Their deaths have fueled rumors that suspects are not being given medical attention. Government spokesperson Issa Tchiroma denied the claims and said the case of Engoulou, who died 2 weeks ago, disproves the critics.

"During his detention, Mr. Engoulou benefited regular medical care at the Yaounde Central Hospital," he said. "As his health condition was growing worse, he was transferred to the intensive care unit where he later passed away."

None of the incarcerated suspects ever publicly declared their intentions to run for president. While Biya recently granted presidential clemency to some of the corruption suspects, only the minister of justice can determine who will be eligible for clemency and when.

In almost all of his public messages, Biya vows to intensify the fight against corruption, indicating that all those who have stolen will be punished without exception.

You May Like

Isolation, Despair Weigh on Refugees in Remote German Camp

Refugees resettled near village of Holzdorf deep in German forestland say there is limited interaction with public, mutual feelings of distrust

Britons Divided Over Bombing IS

Surveys show Europeans generally support more military action against Islamic State militants, but sizable opposition exists in Britain

Russia Blacklists Soros Foundations as 'Undesirable'

Russian officials add Soros groups to a list of foreign and international organizations banned from giving grants to Russian partners

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs