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Cameroonians are proud of their national football team
which is called «The Indomitable Lions».
But can the same be said about the level of corruption in their country?
An editorial in the bi-monthly newspaper, L’Effort Camerounais, has described certain sections of Cameroon’s population as the «indomitable lions of corruption in the world.» This, came shortly after Transparency International, released its 2003 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), showing Cameroon to be the 6th most corrupt country worldwide (Bangladesh is reckoned to be the most corrupt), and Africa’s second most corrupt African country (coming after Nigeria).
Cameroon is now fighting hard against corruption, with the country’s entire social forces actively involved in one way or the other to reduce, if not to eradicate this evil. It’s «all hands to the pumps» as far as the Church, civil society, the government, businessmen and political parties, are concerned.
In 1997, when Transparency International‘s CPI was first published, Cameroon had the doubtful privilege of being designated the world’s most corrupt country. This irked the government which issued a press statement, condemning Transparency International for tarnishing Cameroon’s image at an international level. When the second classification list was published in 1998, Cameroon was the third most corrupt country and during the last six years is constantly classified as being among the world’s most corrupt countries.
Efforts to stamp out corruption
Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musonge’s government has now created anti-corruption units in all its ministerial departments to fight the social ill, suggesting that church leaders should head such units in order to instill moral values among Cameroonians.
Professor Wilfred Mbellem, Deputy Director of the Good Governance Programme established by the Presidency to intensify the fight against the social ill, says: «Cameroon is determined to publish the names of corrupt persons who are arrested». However, Lawyer Diana Acha Morfaw, the National Election Observatory’s vice-chairperson is worried. She states: «Cameroon cannot make strides in fighting corruption either in quality or in quantity. It is everywhere — in the judiciary, in financial circles, when dishing out public contracts and even in the army. It’s frequently a hidden offense because money changes hands under the table». And Lawyer Akere Muna asserts that «corruption is endemic and as far as Cameroon is concerned, will become a “killer disease” if it is not stamped out».
The Catholic Church is very much involved in helping the government reduce corrupt practices in the country. There is a Justice and Peace Commission in each of its 26 dioceses nationwide. Even before the publication of Transparency International‘s recent ratings, the bishops had expressed disquiet that a morally decadent country such as Cameroon could still be counted among countries able to profit by the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative’s programme.
In 1977, the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Bamenda, issued a Pastoral Letter on corruption, intending thereby to draw everyone’s attention to the disease that was spreading throughout the nation in many sectors of public life. In 1980, the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Garoud did the same. And in 199O, the bishops of Cameroon, when examining the economic crisis that had gripped the country, pointed out that corruption and the rampant stealing of public funds is going unpunished and is one of the many causes of the present economic crisis gripping the nation. During the bishop’s annual meeting in 1997 which dealt with justice and peace issues and again in 1998 which dealt with «Good Governance», they re-echoed the cry for such practices to end. They warned that Cameroon’s children are growing up nowadays in a climate of corruption.
Cardinal Christian Tumi, Archbishop of Douala, has been engaged in a war of words with the government over the corruption issue. He cries out against the rate of corruption in the country and wonders «if Cameroon is doomed for ever. It’s clear the corrupter and the corrupted all want to get rich, no matter the cost».
The way things are, it seems that unless the situation changes radically, corruption in Cameroon has come to stay!
- Charles Nji, Cameroon, November 2003 — © Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment
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