Cameroon’s legal system: A real farce! 0

For decades, Cameroon has distinguished itself in more ways than one. The country was once considered a rising footballing nation in 1990s following its stellar performance at the 1990 World Cup.

But for some time now, the world has been helplessly watching the country’s footballing performance take a nosedive, with small countries like Cape Verde, the Comoros and Burundi demonstrating that the once ferocious indomitable lions are today toothless bulldogs.

Politically, the country has made massive giant strides backwards. Way back in the early 1990s, Cameroonians told the world that their version of democracy was advanced democracy even when in 1992, many experts agreed that the country’s president, Paul Biya, had lost the 1992 election by a wide margin but refused to yield the floor to the opposition leader, John Fru Ndi.

Mr. Fru Ndi had claimed victory and many reports, including that of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute, had demonstrated that the election results had been tampered with to give the incumbent a victory he did not deserve. And to punish Mr. Fru Ndi for drawing negative attention to the unpopular president, a three-month state of emergency was declared in the Northwest region where Mr. Fru Ndi was living at that time.

After the 1992 presidential election, Mr. Biya and his party have claimed many election victories which have been questioned by many monitoring bodies around the world and opposition political parties in the country.

Cameroon’s advanced democracy has been tested on many occasions and it has not been up to the billing. Corruption, supported by a flawed electoral code, has become the major determinant of election victory in the country.

Today, the country’s ruling party, the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM), has clearly demonstrated that democracy as practiced in Western countries is not in its political ecosystem. Corruption is in the political party’s DNA and it is obvious that with the current electoral code, only the incumbent and his party can win an election.

The country’s senate is today a purely CPDM affair with children replacing their dead parents. Even those who are still alive are unable to walk because of age and retiring or resigning is not something that can be put in the same sentence with the CPDM.

The country’s president, Paul Biya, is 90 years old, the senate president, Marcel Niat Njipenji, is 89 years old and the Speaker of the House, Cavaye Yegue Djibril, is well over 85 years and has been a parliamentarian for 53 years.

Today, there is no opposition in Cameroon. Opposition politicians are being hunted like game in Cameroon and many are in jail on trumped up charges.

Many journalists have been killed for expressing views which are not music to the ears of the members of the ruling party. Samuel Wazizi, a prominent journalist, was tortured and killed by government-trained forces and his body has never been returned to his family.

Recently, Martinez Zogo, a whistleblower and firebrand who had assigned to himself, the duty of exposing the regime’s moral decadence was killed with the help of the country’s intelligence community. He was kidnapped, tortured, killed and dumped like trash on a dirt road as a message for others who may nurse the idea of criticizing the government or members of the ruling party.

Cameroon’s advanced democracy has simply morphed into advanced dictorship wherein the country’s president is treated like a demi-god and every decision, including the appointment of night watch men, must be signed by the president.

However, the most baffling thing is the way the country’s legal system operates. Cameroon is unique in the world and nothing in the country works for the taxpayer. Nobody understands how the country works, including the president who rules by decree. Democracy has been replaced with kleptocracy, gerontocracy and kakistocracy.

The president’s age and diseases have reduced him to a pawn in the hands of the members of his inner circle and these members are using their new found power to settle scores and to eliminate those whose political views are at variance with theirs. The country’s judiciary has been emasculated and most court decisions are dictated by those who are holding the ailing and old president as a captive.

In other countries where the judiciary is independent, crimes are investigated by the police and if there is probable cause, the matter is sent to the courts for a fair trial of the suspects.

In Cameroon, it is the president who must order the investigation into a crime like the case of Martinez Zogo. Without the president’s intervention, the matter would have been swept under the carpet, especially as the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance were cited as possible suspects in the death of the whistleblower.

Despite such irregularities, the supporters of the moribund government still insist that the country’s judiciary is still independent. How independent can the courts be when appointments and promotions in the judiciary are the president’s prerogative?

Politics trumps everything in Cameroon. A few days ago, a young lady was robbed of her baby in a Douala hospital. The matter had gathered momentum and social media was giving Laquintini, the hospital wherein the incident took place, a very bad name.

It was alleged that two nurses in the health facility were involved in the trading of newborn babies, a situation which should have brought in the police.

Strangely, it was the governor of the Littoral Region who set up a commission of inquiry and the next day, the country’s Health Minister travelled to the crime scene. After a discussion with the victim’s lawyers and family members, the lady who had declared on social media that her pregnancy was over eight months, had to change her story, accepting that her pregnancy was only five months old and that there was a fetus and not a baby.

Childbearing has not started today in Cameroon. Every hospital has laid down procedures, especially in the maternity wards. Those procedures were put in place to ensure transparency and confidence. How come the minister’s arrival in Douala had to result in the victim’s change of heart? If there was a fetus, where was it buried? And since when did hospital staff start to bury fetuses and placentas without the presence of family members of a woman who was pregnant?

Cameroon is sick. It is an Augean Stable which needs to be cleansed by a new team. Those who are governing the country have made corruption a way of life. Nothing works in the country without money changing hands and poverty has made Cameroonians who are the primary victims of the system to lose their sense of decorum and principle.

The country’s legal system like its political system is nothing but a farce. In Cameroon, losing a life is the easiest thing. Without social media, the government will never take any action to address all the ills which have become normal in Cameroon.

By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai