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Anti-corruption Campaign Intensifies In Cameroon

In Cameroon, the war against corruption is raging, or so it seems. Last Friday President Paul Biya dismissed his water and energy minister, Alphonse Siyam Siewe. Three days earlier, three senior officials were detained and charged with corruption and embezzlement. Now, there are indications that more may fall into the corruption dragnet. So what’s behind this latest anti-corruption drive in Cameroon? English to Africa reporter James Butty put that question to Frank Bayern, political editor of the Herald, Cameroon’s largest English language newspaper.

“One would say that that it is a campaign that is overdue, considering the fact that this a country that twice in the late 1990s emerged the most corrupt country in the world…. But beyond this recognition that Cameroon is a very corrupt country, we understand that this pressure coming from the international community, especially the donor agencies of the Bretton Woods Institutions, the IMF and the World Bank, which have imposed conditions on Cameroon and other developing countries – conditions that must be fulfilled for these countries supposed to poor and heavily indebted [to reach] what they call the completion point of the heavily indebted poor countries initiative, which is supposed to lead to massive debt cancellation.”

Franklin says most Cameroonians expect many more government officials will fall into the corruption dragnet. But he says unlike Kenya, where some government officials accused of corruption have resigned, President Paul Biya does not seem to have the political will to take action against some his ministers who are part of his ethnic group.

“That’s where there’s a big problem in Cameroon because as I said earlier, Cameroon’s corruption has been known. In the 1980s the president used to challenge the press complaining about corruption by asking for proof. Later he himself admitted that corruption was rising in the country by saying there was going to be a drive to end corruption. But we understand that he lacks the political will.”