ActualitéInstitutionalised Fear and Rubbished Judiciary: Paul Biya’s Game Plan to Escape Responsibility for a Failed Nation-State
When Montesquieu wrote his The Spirit of Laws in 1748, he was most probably thinking of future generations. The most accurate of his thoughts were coined in the following words: “power should check power.” This argument was set forth as: when legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty, because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws to execute them in a tyrannical manner.
The rationale for Montesquieu writing was to enable the existence of a society where liberty prevails, where rulers are at peace with the ruled, where rulers are held accountable for their acts. In such a society, the legislature makes the laws, the executive executes them and the judiciary enforces and sanctions defaulters of these laws. If this is the ideal society that Montesquieu envisaged, one wonders where Cameroon fines her inspiration. In the quest for an answer to this interrogation, Niccolo Machiavelli’s provides an authoritative answer.In The Prince (1532) Machiavelli advises: ‘I say that it would be good to be liberal, nonetheless, liberality, when used so that you are held liberal, hurts you. For if it is used virtuously and as it should be used, it may not be recognised, and you will not escape the infamy of its contrary.
Thus, since a prince cannot, without damage to himself, use the virtue of liberality so that is recognized, he should not.’ It is assumed that this citation from Machiavelli provides some authoritative background on which to conclude that Machiavelli’s philosophy of government is the backbone of present day governance in Cameroon.However, anyone who has meticulously read the Constitution of Cameroon will argue very authoritatively that Cameroon’s governance structure is separated between the executive, the judiciary and the legislature. Nevertheless, I hold a contrary view and argue that if written word were action we could talk of a semblance of separation of powers in Cameroon. The glaring examples of recent times are worth mentioning here.
It is common knowledge in Cameroon that after declaring the results of the 1992 presidential elections, the Chief Justice of Cameroon took refuge behind the following words: “my hands were tied” . Whosoever or whatsoever tied his hands remains a matter of public debate. His Honour Judge Soulio (ex tempore) re-echoed the need for equity and good conscience by judges when he said “On a hearing of an application for review the Court must act in accordance with equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case” . On Monday August 27, 2012, The Post Newspaper reported that the Fornjidam Judge Confesses he was under Yaoundé Pressure. Without mentioning individual or institutional names this man of the law requested for special prayers from the Archbishop of Douala because his conscience was judging him for sentencing Fornjidam to loss of liberty for life. Any wonder why these two men of the law together with the others of the same profession are either under pressure or have their hands tied? Furthermore, the arrest without charge, incarceration and brutalization of Justice Nyo Wakai, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of La République du Cameroun is indicative of the total disrespect for the concept of an independent judiciary in La République du Cameroun.
The answers to the question above may vary but my opinion is that the heavy handedness of one man, Paul Biya, over the judiciary is the root cause of all these instances of judicial miscarriage in Cameroon. Paul Biya has the right to appoint, promote and dismiss the Minister of Justice, Chief Justices, Advocates-General, Prosecutors and Judges without justification or reason. The same Biya heads and presides over the National Judicial Council. It is interesting to note that this man is the Head of State, National President of the CPDM, President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Cameroon. Little wonder then why our judges open their mouths only after passing judgement.
Lawyers in private practice are left in great astonishment and the practice of their profession is rubbished as their intelligent and learned arguments are most often thrown out by the less experienced and executive appointed judges. Marafa’s lawyers can better explain how it was practically impossible for them to cause the court to order Michel Meva Meboutou to tell the whole world who gave him instructions to disburse a whopping 31 million USD to GIA. This apparently malicious refusal to generate provide an important answer that was inevitably going to help in establishing facts and definitely in the administration of justice is a serious cause for concern. In any case, Marafa didn’t need a private jet. The person who needed a private jet caused the DG of the National Hydrocarbons Company to disburse the money for the purchase of his private jet though Cameroonians were and are still suffering. It is, therefore, impossible to talk of fair trial when the brains behind the scam were never summoned to the witness box to clarify issues and tell the world who caused the disappearance of such a huge sum of money from our national treasury.
The Marafa affair seems to have been of primordial importance in the life of the fight against corruption in Cameroon given its fast track trial. It may be fair to conclude that his letters from Kondengui and his closeness to power caused panic within the corridors of power in Yaoundé. The fear that he could release more secrets pushed the Yaoundé regime to fast track his trial and see him nailed. How can we reconcile the fact that Marafa has been tried and sentenced while he and Chief Inoni were arrested on the same day and detained at the same time? The docile Inoni has been lucky to appear before the examining magistrate but his case is still to open before the Mfoundi High Court. Their arrests were both linked to the albatross affair. Inoni assisted Marafa as Secretary-General at the Presidency. It is then but logical to conclude that their arrests were connected to the case in question.
Ironically, enough, Inoni’s name didn’t come up during Marafa’s trial as playing a major role in the embezzlement scandal. Unfortunately for Inoni he is still being held in custody. We may conclude that the concept of regional balance that comes into play only when Anglophones are being ripped of something is applied here in Inoni’s case. Inoni’s case is, therefore, a lesson to all who care to learn from it that if Yaoundé decides to arrest you on any grounds you will be held in detention until they decide to liberate you.
The cases of Inoni, Haman Adama, Olanguena etc. once buttress my contention that judiciary is at the beck and call of one man, Mr. Paul Biya. Independent judges will tell the prosecutors to either file the cases or order the immediate release of the detainees. We are dealing here with judges who cannot act independently. When when shall our judiciary and legislature belong to us? Those who have been transformed to praise-singers may readily hit back at me and say that the judiciary is doing its job. Didn’t I hear somebody say: « La justice est indépendante. On la laisse agir et les résultats qui en sortiront, nous les accepterons’
If the judiciary were independent why did the author of the above statement militarise Garoua on the eve of the declaration of the judgement of the Marafa affair? If the judiciary were independent why did the commander in chief of the armed forces deploy heavily armed troops to the Mfoundi High Court whenever Marafa was to appear there? If the judiciary were independent why did the armed troops molest journalists and confiscate their work equipment? Answers to these questions are not far-fetched as Machiavelli had advised the Prince on how to act in certain circumstances. Machiavelli advises the Prince in the following words concerning security and fear: “It is unnecessary for a prince to have all the good qualities but it is important to appear to have them.” He goes further to say: “And I dare say this also, that to have them and always to observe them is injurious, and that to appear to have them is useful; to appear merciful, faithful, humane, religious, upright.” Well, in our situation, our troops were deployed to maintain peace and order around the Mfoundi High Court and in Garoua because we are loved and our leadership is faithful to its concern for our safety; they are pious and the crowds around the Mfoundi courts might have caused harm on other citizens. Machiavelli’s Prince is so religious to his master’s teachings.
In the present circumstances, many acclaim Marafa’s imprisonment as a step in the right direction. They say Marafa is having a taste of the system he helped build. Such arguments sound just and fair for Marafa was one of the untouchables of the present regime. He was said to be the brain behind rigged elections, behind the constitutional amendment of 2008 and many other ills that befell Cameroon. The question I would like to pose at this juncture is whether Marafa like the Chief Justice and Fornjidam Judge worked under pressure or had his hands tied? From his open letters, one may conjecture that Marafa was under pressure during his tenure in the government of Cameroon.
This pressure inadvertently caused fear in the hearts and minds of servants of the Cameroon nation. When Amadou Ali states that they are waiting for Paul Biya to depart before they get into real business or when Fame Ndongo says that they are all creatures of Paul Biya, it dawns on us that there is institutionalised fear in Cameroon. This definitely is one of the biggest lessons Machiavelli gave to his Prince to wit: “Nevertheless, a prince ought to inspire fear in such a way that if he does not win love, he avoids hate, because he can endure well being feared whilst not being hated. Fear preserves you by a dread of punishment which never fails.” There is no doubt that the fiercest critics of Cameroon’s government are out of the country. Lapiro de Mbanga a firebrand musical critic recently sought and got asylum in the US, he did this because of fear. Due to the institutionalised fear that reigns in Cameroon, one is tempted to believe that Cameroon is a nation at peace.
The contrary is true. We hear how people preach patriotism, national unity, peace, integration and so on but is this what truly happens in Cameroon? I will provide an answer to this question in the exact words of Machiavelli when he says: “One prince, of present time, who is not well to name, never preaches anything but peace and good faith, and to both is most hostile, and either, if he had kept it, would have deprived him of reputation and kingdom many a time.” That is the exact situation in Cameroon nowadays.
In a nutshell, suffice it to say that we need a judiciary that is truly free from the shackles of the Executive; a Judiciary that is able to acquit suspects without fear of reprisals from the executive head. We need a legislature that can regain the powers it has lost to the executive, and we need an executive that can respect other branches of government by giving them the right to check her excesses. Until that is done, we shall live in perpetual fear, institutionalised by Paul Biya. Sadly enough, the blame is put on other people while he shirks the responsibility of accepting blame for a failed nation. The governmental apparatus in Cameroon needs to be overhauled. This can be done only if there is a powerful intellectual lobby that seeks ways of replacing the present Machiavellian structures with those proposed by Montesquieu.