Military Officials Boycott Conference On Corruption

September 16th, 2008 by admin

The Post (Buea)
14 September 2008
By Kini Nsom

All the 10 colonels invited to attend a conference on corruption in the Cameroonian army boycotted the opening ceremony at Azur Hotel, Yaounde on August 8.

Organised by the United States Embassy in Cameroon, the conference was aimed at reducing the incidence of corruption in the Cameroonian army. Instead, only two civilians working with the Ministry of Defence were sent to attend the conference.

The week-long seminar in collaboration with the US Defence Institute of International Legal Studies, following reports that the Cameroonian army reeks of high-level corruption.

Attention has been focused only on other sectors of the Cameroonian society. While low-ranking soldiers cried out against embezzlement by their bosses, the press looked away from them.

One journalist, Duke Atangana, who published an article condemning corruption in the military was arrested and detained for a week.Speaking at the opening of the conference, the US Ambassador to Cameroon, Janet Elizabeth Garvey, said it was necessary for corruption to be checked in the army, given that every franc of the taxpayers’ money should fully be accounted for.

She said it was incumbent on the authorities to check corruption in the army because a corrupt army would be weak and ineffective.To her, corruption diverts into private pockets funds that are allocated for the training of soldiers and the purchase of military equipment.

Garvey remarked that the conference could be part of a process by which Cameroonians, through their own efforts, would succeed in pulling this country out of the bottom ranking of the world’s most corrupt countries and into an era of better governance and greater prosperity.

The secrecy and sensitivity that necessarily shroud defence budgets, she stated, provide an opportunity for corruption and mismanagement.The diplomat said at a time that the Bakassi Peninsula has been handed back to Cameroon, the Cameroonian army shoulders enormous responsibilities and faces daunting challenges to protect the citizens.

She said Cameroon’s armed forces will not be able to accomplish their missions unless the budget of the military is properly allocated, to allow for training and maintenance, and disbursed to reach the soldiers in the field rather than fill some corrupt officials’ pockets.

Garvey quoted some soldiers as telling her that it is normal for senior officials to skim from the military budget to build themselves fancy homes or throw elaborate parties.

Said she; “they have said that it is normal for troops in the field who are risking their lives to protect the nation’s security to go without their proper food and health benefits because the money never reached them.”

The Ambassador dismissed the claim that corruption is part of Cameroon’s culture. To her, corruption is an affliction, an act of weakness, of selfishness that occurs everywhere in the world.

The difference, she remarked is that in Cameroon, corruption is life-threatening.She called on Cameroonians to put their nation ahead of themselves and think about their children and future generations.

She also urged them to risk their lives to do what they know is right; refuse to engage in corruption and blow the whistle on those who steal from the people of Cameroon.

Garvey singled out some soldiers with Cameroon armed forces for being patriotic enough to put their country ahead of their selfish interests. “Cameroon’s soldiers have volunteered to risk their lives to protect their country on the battlefield, to face guns and sneak attacks.

Now, they must show the same bravery and courage in standing up against corruption. You must take a stand, an act of courage and bravery to stem corruption in the armed services, and in so doing, to save Cameroon,” she said.

Opening the conference, the Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Justice and Keeper of the Seals, Prof. Maurice Kamto, lauded the US Embassy for taking the initiative.He described corruption as the greatest crime against the people of Cameroon.

He highlighted some anti-corruption measures government has taken, saying it has the commitment and the political will to fight corruption, adding that the recent arrest and detention of some corrupt officials is a glaring testimony that government is determined to go the whole hog against the cankerworm.

Kamto said in this vein, more corrupt heads in high places will roll.For his part, John P. Mchoughin, the Regional Programme Director of the Defence Institute of the International Legal Studies in Africa, said they were determined to help Cameroon in the fight against corruption.

He said corruption exacerbates every other problem that society has because it undermines the law and misallocates resources that are meant for development.The President of the Anti-corruption Commission, Paul Tessa, MPs and some government officials attended the conference.