Yes! Sadly but unavoidably, I am back from my trip to Cameroon where I was opportune to enjoy various aspects of a collective society. My trip was quite memorable with heavy documentation for a lifetime. With grins, most people hugged me, examining me closely for any physical changes to ensure I was in good health – a sign of concern. I listened to endless stories from family, friends and acquaintances who tried to help me catch up with events I had missed out on. Most especially, I made it to Cameroon just in time for numerous events that usually characterize the festive season. I had plenty to eat and drink. Not just food but bio food. I had fruits, vegetables and red meat (soya) to last on my mind for some years. It took sheer determination and discipline to cut out some parties and invites usually punctuated with delicious food, and the company of cheerful people. It was still home; same old habits, scenarios, infrastructure and practices, which made it easy for me to fit in quite well under 72 hours.
As hinted earlier, much has not changed. Yes, not at all. The food still tasted so good, the people still felt quite warm, the bars still had clients drinking at their usual tempo. The churches are still present and even growing in numbers. Far from saying nothing new has happened, the number of “new breed” churches is steadily on a rise. The unappealing state of roads is much more of a normal thing now than before. Then yes!!!! The rate of corruption; There seems to be a linear relationship between the growth in “new breed” churches, bars, and the rate of corruption. Whether for the good or bad of the country, at least I noticed new things.
From the first week I spent in Cameroon, I witnessed instances of corruption almost on a daily basis. These ranged from being given fake payment receipts at public places, to being asked for ‘bottles of Heineken’ at the airport for carrying my laptop alongside my hand luggage. I easily noticed the struggle was real. Not that these things were new to me though; the practice was only now more intense, open and normal.
One sunny and busy afternoon, few hours after I was asked for a ‘bottle of 33’ in order to have a service(normally free of any such favors) rendered to me, I stumbled on an article saying Cameroon’s Minister of Communication, Issa Tchiroma Bakary had criticized the corruption placement given Cameroon by Transparency International in its 2015 report. According to Tchiroma, the corruption report placing Cameroon as one of the most corrupt nations in the world is erroneous since the country has, or is making strides towards fighting corruption. He also worries the report could tarnish Cameroon’s image on the international scene. His statements sounded quite humorous to me, and I wished he could have a peep into just two weeks of my experiences which I documented in audio/video recordings and pictures. If I felt this way in just 2weeks, I wondered how the others felt towards his unreliable claims. My unsolicited advice to Minister Tchiroma is to get his colleagues fight corruption rather than say facts from a survey of this magnitude are not true. Making such statements about an organization with international recognition, longevity and validity makes Mr. Tchiroma sound like a court jester rather than spokesperson of the state, which he currently is.
Minister Tchiroma, corruption is real and raw in Cameroon. I will want to be subtle to assume you do not live the realities of the common man, reason why you may not accept Transparency International’s study which places Cameroon second in Africa among the countries with the most bribes paid to obtain services in public offices. In the words of my former colleague Eugene Che, “How often do you consult at a Cameroonian hospital Mr. Minister? How often do you go to the police to bail out someone? How often do you travel by public transport? Do your kids go out looking for jobs as our parents’ kids do? Have you been to a ‘Lycée’ lately to seek admission for a youngster? How then won’t you sit back and say the corruption index is faulty? The ordinary Cameroonians are feeling the pinch. Monkey di work, baboon di chop. One day, wind go open mami fowl yi anus”. This is to say, Mr. Tchiroma, you do not speak for the people who live the reality on ground. I will join my voice to that of the President of the Cameroonian branch of Transparency International, Mr. Charles Nguini, in requesting that the government initiates a survey on corruption in Cameroon with help from other organizations, rather than try to nullify Transparency International’s report in an attempt to salvage the already tarnished image of the Country. By the way, what does Transparency International benefit from tarnishing an impoverished Cameroon’s reputation?
Cameroon claims to have anti-corruption regulatory bodies like National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC) and the National Financial Investigation Agency (ANIF) which are far from what organizations of this magnitude should be. Neighboring Nigeria has anti-corruption bodies like the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission (ICPC) which function with more autonomy, coming across as more fruitful than what Cameroon has. Mr. Tchiroma, it is one thing to beat a talking drum at a village square and another to play a snare drum in an orchestra. A spokesman of your magnitude should find out what the differences are, and represent the people appropriately. Corruption is real and raw in Cameroon. What we citizens need, are talks in tones that foster the fight against corruption and not unfounded structured statements to cover the very bug eating up the country tax payers are trying to build.