Here below is the full text of Minister Issa Tchiroma's Press presentation of March 10, 2016 on former state officials who have been arrested, charged and or detained for corruption charges. The Minister of Communication made the below statement during a Press Conference with journalists in Yaounde.
I wish you all a warm welcome to this exchange which aims at enlightening national and international public
opinion on a topical issue, which, if we go by the interest it raises here and there, deserves our focus.
I am referring here to the issue on judicial procedures involving some prominent personalities, be they senior State Officials or persons from the business world, within the framework of the fight against corruption and embezzlement of public funds led by the Head of State.
Yet, the intensification of this vast movement to clean up economic slowdowns faced with the imperative to protect public wealth nurses in some minds, the idea that this is actually a mere maneuver of political purge designed to keep hypothetical competitors of the incumbent Head of State out of the race for supreme power.
In other words, they are of the opinion that the lawsuits filed against the said senior officials, under the pretext of common law procedures, are skilful manipulations aiming to destroy some political elites originating from inside the ruling government.
As I just said, some media have made it to be a topical issue.
It can be noticed that such media are just the relay of an opinion embodied here and there by groups of activists from civil society organizations, or from some of the persons involved in the cases, who took the option to take the floor in order to attempt to distort the facts and show up as unfortunate victims of a well-orchestrated political plot.
You therefore understand, Dear Journalists, that in this context, our meeting today is welcomed as an obvious necessity.
Actually, the issue at stake for the Government is to clarify things in order to avoid any confusion in the minds of one another, faced with a situation which is seemingly a maneuver of some people who hope to draw some profit from such misinformation campaign and to discredit our judiciary.
I would like to reaffirm that the commitment of the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA, for a merciless fight against corruption and other forms of mismanagement of public funds is not new. This is a long time commitment that can be traced as far back as his accession to supreme magistracy on November 06, 1982.
And since then, the Head of State’s leitmotiv has steadily been that of rigour and moralization.
In one of his speeches, just to cite one case among several others, the Head of State stood once against the scourge of embezzlement of public funds in the following terms and I quote: “As far as public morals and especially the serious issue of embezzlement of public funds is concerned, (…) obvious results have been obtained with regard to the fight against corruption and the embezzlement of public funds. However, I am aware that there is still much to be done in this area. Be it known, (…) that I am fully determined to eliminate this scourge and to step up the fight against corruption without complacency, discrimination and irrespective of the social standing or political leaning of those found guilty”, end of quote.
It is therefore mindful of this determination of the Head of State, guarantor of the Institutions of the Republic, that undifferentiated legal proceedings were initiated against various defendants, but at no time has it been a question of targeting anyone, neither because of their political leaning nor because of their social standing and let alone any cause related to their opinions.
A simple synoptic view of major cases in this vast operation is sufficient to evidence the diversity of the sectors concerned and consequently the personalities who are currently either defendants or already convicted.
I will mention, of course without being exhaustive, the real estate sector, the shipyards sector, the port and airport sectors, the banking and public finance sectors, the public sector involved in the financing of regional and local authorities, the education and health sector, oil, mining industries, public works, agribusiness, aviation and air transport, postal services, telecommunications and broadcasting.
How then can one think, in such a context of plurality of areas and litigations, prosecution subjects, that there is a homing process, aiming for a reason other than protecting public wealth and punishing those found guilty of offenses related thereto?
For some time now, we have been hearing of persecution or political prisoners, under the cover of ordinary legal proceedings.
The only thing we need to know, is that the defendants are simply held accountable for the management of public funds entrusted to them for the execution of specific tasks and missions for the sake of general interest.
What political persecution are they referring to, whereas we can all see clearly that political competition is free in our country, and the rules of the said competition are known by all.
President Paul BIYA has always had political challengers; and this testifies to the vitality and respect for democracy and the Rule of law in our country.
This can be illustrated by the number of candidates who all vied against him for supreme magistracy during the last presidential election in 2011. They were 23 in total, to be precise, some of whom had just resigned from President BIYA’s own political party, though continuing to sit as people’s representative under the banner of that same party.
Can anyone tell us who among those challengers has ever been troubled or deprived of liberty, just because of vying for presidency against President Paul BIYA?
The more so, the number of challengers has kept increasing since the last presidential election, including some self-resigned members of Government who have created political parties and are now outright opponents to President Paul BIYA’s political family.
You will easily bear with me that none of them has been troubled for this reason.
Moreover, it should be recalled that the by-laws of the political party to which the President of the Republic belongs make of him the candidate of the party to the presidential election, in his capacity as National President of the said party. In other words, so long as President Paul BIYA will remain the National President of his party, his candidacy to the presidential election can be validly challenged by none. This is therefore not a topic to debate. Consequently, it cannot give way to any sort of witch hunt grounded on power conquest ambitions.
Concerning the over forty procedures already processed or being processed before the competent courts for major facts of misappropriation of public funds, it has, until now, never been possible to give any indication of assimilation or even supposed rapprochement with the political ambitions of the defendants or those sentenced.
And even for the proceedings still pending, which, as it seems, are the subject of growing impatience for some people involved and their die-heart supporters, it is always possible to make the same demonstration that there is no mix between justice and politics; that the accusations or suspicions against the defendants have nothing to do with politics, but are grounded only in the imperative of protecting public fortune.
We could well prove it here, for those cases still pending in court. But we could not do it without breaking the rules applicable to the secrecy of procedures or comments on ongoing court cases.
Let those who, by their agitation, think they can substitute themselves to justice or force its course, venture into such exercise ... at their own risk and peril, of course!
As for us, Cameroonians, all concerned with the best interests of our Nation and confident in the integrity and independence of the justice of our country, we will continue to lend our full support to the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul BIYA, in this relentless fight he is leading against the squandering of public property and illegal privatization to the benefit of individuals, and therefore to the detriment of the community.
Thank you for your kind attention.
When News Breaks Out, We Break In. (The 2014 Bloggies Finalist)