Sunday, March 19, 2006

CORRUPTION IN CAMEROON - Biya's Axe falls again

Corruption in Cameroon:

Biya’s AXE Falls again

·Over 30 now in Kondengui prison

·Four Police Commissioners in the dragnet,Who next?

By Nkemayang Paul Foanyi, Timbong Innocent

Looting state coffers has become a national past time for most senior government officials. After lifting the trophy of the most corrupt nation twice consecutively and remaining prominent amongst the world’s most corrupt nations’ index, H.E. Paul Biya the President of Cameroon has for close to three decades contented himself with “Ou sont les preuves”, in effect instituting corruption as an unlegislated act of government with the power of law.

However, the situation boomeranged on February 20, 2006 and crooked state functionaries are no longer at ease. This comes with the Herculean strikes of President Biya’s axe, which has chopped hitherto untouchable barons off their ivory towers, rendering them game for rats, mosquitoes, cockroaches, stenches etc in the bowels of the notorious Kondengui prison in Yaounde.

The first casualty of President Paul Biya’s axe on February 21 was Ondo Ndong Gerald, the all powerful former General Manager of the nations Housing and Loans institution popularly known by its French acronym FEICOM. Ondo Ndong who owns several estates at home and abroad is reputedly the president’s uncle and reportedly recently spent millions to garner popular support to endorse President Biya for another three year term, though it is unconstitutional.

Other February 21 victims include Giles Belinga, former CEO of the National Housing Corporation (SIC) and Joseph Edou of another State land banking institution “Crédit Foncier. All the three were rounded up by a crack unit, escorted to the Yaounde legal department where they were indicted on charges of embezzlement and misappropriation of State funds, and escorted directly to Cameroon’s infamous prison, Kondengui in Yaounde.

The directors are being investigated and most of their close collaborators have been arrested. Prior to their arrests, newspapers had published extensive lists of Senior State Civil Servants who were billionaires and the implicated did not as much as file or threaten defamatory suits. The three arrested were on the lists, so there is general panic amongst every senior state official and joy amongst the masses who have been exploited for decades.

The biggest catch in the anti-corruption drive so far is the Minister of Water and Energy Alphonse Siyam Siwé. Siyam Siwé was destituted of his functions as Minister on February 24. He was replaced by Justin Ndioro. The handing over ceremony was carried out in camera and immediately after, Siyam was conveyed to the Yaounde Court where corruption and embezzlement charges were brought against him. After which he was immediately escorted to the detention centre in the Ministry of Defense.

Siyam Siwé was recently appointed minister after presiding at the Cameroon’s Port’s Authority in Douala as General Manager for many years. The Douala Ports Authority had become legendary for corruption and its top officials have been rolling in money to the disdain of the population. Siyam’s arrest is in connection with his unethical reign at the Douala Port.

Following his arrest, he was moved to Douala where security officials were massively investigating the astronomous looting of the institution so far by the very personnel in whose custody the State had reposed confidence. In Douala, the incumbent Director of Finance François Martin Zibi was nabbed. Sources say many arrests are in the pipe-line.

Even the all powerful former Director of Cameroon Television Prof. Gervais Mendo Ze, currently a Minister has allegedly been interrogated but not arrested. On an interesting note, one of Mendo Ze’s former top aides and currently president of the Cameroon Boxing Federation Chief Jean Ze Akono was arrested in a border town with two suit cases of money. He was transferred to Yaounde but subsequently released in view of the fact that there was reportedly no investigation against him as yet.

However, the Police Chief in the zone where he was arrested has been arrested for tampering with the booty discovered on Ze Akono. The Senior Supridèndant of Police Magloire Engene was picked up by a special squad and transported to Yaounde where he is currently responding to police investigations.

In a related story, three Commissioners of Police and a military officer were implicated in the extortion of two million francs from two French T.V. journalists who had landed in Cameroon to do a documentary on homosexuality. The three Commissioners, Albert Lèpold Ebene, Didier Kergnine Kerbai variously attached to the research department of the Secretariat of State for National Security in Yaounde carried out their extortion in collaboration with a military officer one Marie Commandant Ahmed, the master-mind of the racket.

The two journalists of French nationality Céline Christianne Metzger and Christelle Cordeau arrived Cameroon to do a documentary on homosexuals. They had obtained all the required papers but the afore-mentioned elements arrested them. The journalists reportedly bought their freedom with two million FCFA but reported the incident to the authorities who reacted pronto after an investigation.

The three Commissioners of Police who are said to have received 325.000 FCFA each, have been suspended for three months but remain under surveillance by police as investigations continue. The recent sanctions on these officials has been warmly welcomed by a public who had lost every confidence in the police force , notorious for corruption.

Senior civil servant arrested so far are those enough evidence has been gathered on them. The investigations continue and more junior officials, aides to the big fishes are being rounded up. The public continue to celebrate the arrests but observers are wondering how far the Head of State will go in view of the fact that many assume his involvement in the financial scam..

However, the U.S. Ambassador to Cameroon H.E Neils Marquardt said to be the catalyst behind the President’s current action, has lauded the positive action but insists that it must be a continuous and judicial process, and also pledged U.S. support in terms of capturing and returning fleeing fugitives and their loot, in collaboration with the Interpol and other European and Latin American nations.

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