BY Ntemfac Ofege
On May 28th 1998, one year after the glitzy win by country Cameroon of the now-annual World Most Corrupt Nation competition as organized by the German non-governmental, Transparency International, a Mr. Peter Mafany Musonge, Prime Minister of the winning team came forward to commence an anti corruption drive. The attempt, itself, “as instructed” by Team Captain, Paul Biya, turned out to be just another illustration of how endemic corruption is in Cameroon.
Mr. Musonge caused several local newspapers to publish a public service announcement, which was itself, a vista of corruption.
“Free Public Service is not for Bargaining” the English translation of the text from the Prime Minister’s Office read. This was not the quintessence of the gross incompetence so rife in Cameroon’s administration. This was corruption in reality. Yet, another corrupt Francophone official had taken his cut…from the budget and then caused this vista of the approximate; this aggravation to be published.
And true to type, the local newspapers (The Herald of May 20th 1998) took their pieces of silver from the Prime Minister’s office and printed this so-called advertorial without comment. Cameroonian newspapers tend to be part of the corruption bandwagon.
Corruption in Cameroon is a living thing, a monstrous slimy hydra: vicious in outreach, cancerous in spread and disgusting in reach. Corruption runs in the system; it is the life wire of Cameroon and Cameroonians. Here is a country where governance can easily be defined as: “by the corrupt, of the corrupt, and for the corrupt.”
Take the examples:
1. In Cameroon parents take the children by the hand and the go forward to bribe headmasters, principals, and other school administrators to get the children admitted;
2. Cameroonian parents are not beyond buying leaked examination (GCE, BAC, FSLC, etc.) questions for their children when they are not offering bribes to teachers, principals, lecturers and professors to make their progenies pass class and public examinations;
3. Teachers, from primary schools to the universities, exchange marks for sex. Female students in secondary, high schools and the universities know it for a fact that their progress might never depend on hard work and merit but in their capacity to engage in darkroom carnal affairs with teachers;
4. Cameroon’s ruling party, the CPDM, is not beyond giving voting cards to primary school children and ferrying them from one polling station to the next to vote several times and thus rig elections;
5. Cameroonian doctors, nurses, and midwives are not beyond demanding and receiving bribes from patients before consultation and treatment. Patients who cannot offer bribes might as well die. In fact, the practice in government hospitals is horrendous. Patients have been known to abscond from hospital beds simply because they do not have the wherewithal to pay nurses to listen to them or because they do not have the wherewithal to bribe the doctors to schedule a major or minor surgery. Such patients have died in the neighbouhoods;
6. Public service examinations are never for the meritorious. The official rate for bribes into professional schools in Cameroon is known:
- CUSS (Medical School) 1.000.000FCFA;
- ESSTIC (ASMAC School of Journalism) 500.000FCFA;
- Ecole Normale Sup (Higher Teachers Training School) - 500.000;
- Ecoles Normales Annexe (Teachers Training Lower Cycle) – 300.000FCFA;
- Polytech (School of Engineering) – 1.000.000FCFA;
- EMIA ( Military Academy) - 1.000.000 or some months of scholarship);
- Others – 200.000 – 500.000FCFA depending on the cycle. These amounts are paid by those who are not from the Chosen Tribe while those from the right tribe sail in like water under the river;
7. Examination leakages are rampant in Cameroon. “L’eau a coulé” is a popular phrase to describe the intensity of examination leakages in the country;
8. A scandal is brewing at the University of Yaounde I, Faculty of Letters, Department of English and Linguistics over marks. Cameroon Tribune No 8120/4405 of 18th June 2004 reports that some Graduate Assistants have been selling pass marks for as little as 2000FCFA. Students of the department complain that 8 of them do group assignments but while the boys get only 10/20, the girls get 14/20. Marks must have been exchanged for sex;
9. A vast chunk of certificates and other documents held by Cameroonians are fake. “Dockey” is a popular speak to describe fraudulent certificate concocted in the neighbourhoods by expert forgers who can even sign Mr. Biya’s signature with great ease. Forgers in Bamenda’s Old Town precinct (just opposite the Public Security Constabulary) and in Kumba are so expert that they can produce any document on earth;
10. Journalists take bribes “gombo” to praise state officials, cover up their crimes, and denounce their enemies. Pro-government journalists take bribes to praise the regime while pro-opposition journalists take bribes to denounce the regime. Tribalism and nepotism are subsidiary motivations in journalism;
11. Fake pastors, without a calling and without an anointing, open churches (businesses) to preach fake sermons and collect tithes;
12. Top clergy members of the Catholic Church have children in the neighbourhoods; when they are not heavily involved in carnal affairs;
13. In the courts, justice is bought and sold, when it is not delayed and thus denied. Cameroon’s Supreme Court cautions electoral fraud. In the lower courts those who can pay their way can get away with murder while every day poor devils and paupers and convicted and jailed. The daily routine in Cameroon’s courts is most pathetic. The courts are full to busting with poor pitiful demons while rich criminals stroll about to commit more atrocities;
14. Service in government offices is never free. Civil servants take bribes and they expect bribes for every service. Users know that they have to give bribes to get any service;
15. Promotion and appointments in the Civil Service and in the private sector are never just like that. The upward mobility of the female servants of the state is often conditioned by their capacity to lie on their backs while the upward mobility of the malefolk is either conditioned by their tribe, their capacity to be a heel-clicking servant of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, Party or by their capacity to ferry goats, chicken, etc. to the bossman;
16. Civil servants are not beyond gaining promotion by producing forged certificates;
17. Bribery and corruption, homosexuality, torture and the persistent harassment of the weak by the strong are the hallmarks of Cameroon’s prisons. Stories emanating from the New Bell Prison, the Nkondengui Prison, the Mfou prison, the Bamenda Central prison and all the police and gendarmerie detention centres, are not only chilly but they reflect a terrifying and horrendous vista of man’s inhumanity to man;
18. Cameroon’s administration is not simply archaic as president Biya would want the world to believe. The Civil Service is fraud, bribery, and corruption impersonated. Administrators sell public land to the highest bidder for a small fee; the Senior Divisional Officers and the Divisional Officers are under the obligation to rig elections with promotion coming to the administrator who producers the highest score for the president and the ruling party (See Governor George Achu Morfaw’s 1992 Resignation Letter);
19. Money owed contractors by Cameroon’s Ministry of Finance for jobs that they did not execute is paid several times over. The smart contractors bribe the operators of the computers at the Ministry of Finance to get paid. Then they turn round and bribe the operators again to say that they have never been paid and the vicious cycle continues ad infinitum ad nauseam;
20. The supply of most basic goods (when contractors bother to supply them at all) to Cameroon’s administration is over-invoiced. Cases about where a bottle of Fanta delivered to an official party is billed at 1000FCFA whereas the bottle only costs 200FCFA at the nearest street corner;
21. Police, gendarmes and various mixed brigades pretend that they are checking car documents and controlling traffic at most street corners and on the expressway whereas they are busy taking bribes;
22. Recruitment tests into the police, gendarmerie and army are highly tribalised and infested with bribery and corruption;
23. In the army, the “baleines ” (the whales), generals and colonels with several stomachs in one and several chins winkling in grease, live in insolent opulence by hijacking army supplies and at the expense of the lean and hungry foot soldiers;
24. Investigations by the police and gendarmes of every complaint by the citizenry are avenues to graft and steal; innocent victims could end up in jail if they do not have money to bribe the investigators;
25. Lawyers complain that giving exorbitant bribes to magistrates, court administrators and clerks eat handsomely into their fees; the lawyers are even threatening court and strike actions;
26. In sports, the referees are all corrupt; team presidents, managers, and players are not beyond trading off matches to opponents. Olympic Mvolye, a team created by Biya guru, Omgba Damase, hold the national record for corruption. This team blitzed its way into Division One through fraud. Every end of the First Division season match-fixing is de rigueur;
27. Cameroon’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications hold the record for the sheer number of fake contracts granted in record time. Between February 1, 1999 and March 9, 1999 the then Minister of Posts and Telecommunications, Mounchipou Seidou, awarded 10.982.148.485 FCFA to some 468 companies – ten billion FCFA of fake contracts in five weeks. Mr Mounchipou awarded the contracts rapidly to take his cut and get out before the next cabinet shake-up.
28. Cameroon’s Ministry of Territorial Administration holds the record for election fraud. MINATD rigs elections on behalf of the incumbent. MINAT, which decides whose name gets on the voters register, who gets a voting card, who gets to actually vote and where; who counts and tallies the vote and who gets what score. Usually election results are prepared by MINAT two years before elections. Only in Cameroon and only under Mr. Biya would a sitting president get up on the morning of general elections to tell the world that the process cannot go forward. Then, while denouncing those who denounce such gross incompetence as “enemies of the nation,” the president and his acolytes would then proceed to rig the same elections with great releash.
29. Under Mr Biya authority, therefore, expert graft, skilled election fraud, artful pilfering of state resources, abject looting, generalised embezzlement, savage over billing, vast exploitation of the poor by the rich and powerful, endemic tax evasion, clean white collar theft, vicious customs, police and gendarmerie fraud, massive examination leakages, etc., have obtained with terrifying alacrity. For 22 years, corruption has glided along like a sublime symphony with an ask-for-proof conductor- in-chief in full action: looking the other way that is;
30. Members of Mr. Biya’s party demand and receive bribes, they blackmail, they petition, they threaten, they issue veiled threats, they visit the soothsayers, they loot, they embezzled, they ransack, they grab, they exploit, they pilfer, they shake down banks, they bring in muscle and they play mbaglum dance tunes on the cash registers. If truth be told year in and year out the Biya regime does everything by the book to guarantee that Cameroon gets voted the most corrupt in the world;
31. Justice is bought and sold, positions bought and sold, influence bought and sold, sex and cults used as weapons of power and influence. Free masons and other demoniac sects lord it over the commonwealth and kleptocrats, budget raiders and vote siphoners as well as homosexuals abound in high places;
32. Tribalism, nepotism, state-sponsored terrorism (Titus Edzoa), indiscipline and more skewed practices than twenty full editions of this magazine can capture are the hallmark of this regime. The sheer number of Cameroonian children who have fled from this horrendous situation under Mr. Biya and are in “voluntary exile” in the Diaspora is incredible;
33. Government overtly steals from the populace through fake taxes like the Audio-visual tax (paid by taxicabs and other vehicles which cannot watch television); the Credit Foncier tax is another fraud. And now a new 13.200FCFA racket on institutions that have the misfortune of using electricity from AES-SONEL;
34. Police and gendarmes steal from road users in public and in broad daylight, government allows the water and electricity corporation to steal from the populace through fake hikes in billings. AES-SONEL and SNEC meter readers are on the take. And so on and so on. It could be argued with sound evidentials that should Mr. Biya glean another seven years mandate regime couriers might just take a well-deserved rest simply because then there will be little or nothing left to steal.