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Cameroon Investigates Missing $335 Million in COVID Funds 


FILE - People, some wearing masks, walk by the entrance to Yaounde General Hospital, in Yaounde, Cameroon, March 6, 2020, amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Cameroon rights groups, opposition parties and local media are asking the government to publish its findings after most of a $335 million loan from the IMF could not be accounted for. At least 15 officials have appeared before commissions of investigation.

A government statement read on Cameroon state media Monday calls on civilians to remain calm as investigations on missing funds continue. The statement from government spokesperson Rene Emmanuel Sadi states that justice will take its course.

The statement comes after Cameroon rights groups and opposition asked the government to explain what happened to about $335 million loaned by the International Monetary Fund to fight COVID-19.

Cameroon says within the past week, 15 ministers have appeared at the audit bench of the Supreme Court and a special criminal tribunal to account for the funds.

Joseph Lavoisier Tsapy is legal adviser to the opposition Social Democratic Front Party and a member of the Cameroon Human Rights League.

Tsapy says the Cameroon Special Criminal Tribunal should have ordered their arrest after the audit bench of the Supreme Court found out that some ministers stole COVID-19 funds. He says the money should have been invested to save lives and assist suffering people. He says he wants to make it clear that government ministers in Cameroon do not have immunity like lawmakers.

In June 2020, SDF lawmakers complained that the awarding of COVID-19 contracts did not respect procurement procedures and gave room for massive corruption.

Local media like Equinox Radio and TV, Roya FM reported gross cases of embezzlement.

In one case, the Ministry of Scientific Research received $9 million to produce the drug chloroquine. The ministry instead bought chloroquine amounting to 30 percent of the funds from China.

Other cases involve overbilling and failure to render services or provide supplies after payment.

André Luther Meka speaks for the ruling CPDM party, to which all of the ministers called up for questioning belong.

Meka says Cameroonians should stop asking for ministers to either be punished or to refund COVID-19 funds. He says Cameroon considers all suspects innocent until found guilty by the law courts. He says Cameroon President Paul Biya has a strong political will to punish everyone who has either mismanaged, embezzled or siphoned state money.

Angelbert Lebong is a member of the Cameroon Civil Society. He says President Biya should explain to the Cameroonian people how his government has managed the COVID-19 funds.

FILE - Cameroon President Paul Biya attends the Paris Peace Forum, France, Nov. 12, 2019.
FILE - Cameroon President Paul Biya attends the Paris Peace Forum, France, Nov. 12, 2019.

He says Biya should for once speak out against embezzlement and publicly condemn his collaborators who have stolen COVID-19 funds. He says Cameroon has more serious life-threatening issues to handle than the heavily publicized receptions Biya gives diplomats in his office.

Last month, Human Rights Watch urged the IMF to ask Cameroon to ensure independent and credible enquiry on the management of COVID-19 funds before approving a third loan.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Cameroon in March 2020, the IMF has approved two emergency loans to the central African state totaling $382 million.

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