The Claws Of Corruption Tear Into Cameroon’s Memve’ele Hydroelectric Project

The National Anti Corruption Agency of Cameroon with French acronym CONAC released its 2014 anti corruption report on Monday the 27 of June 2016. Reverend Dr. Dieudonne Masi Gam, President of CONAC revealed to the public that the state of Cameroon has lost over 17 billion frs cfa to corruption with respect to several major projects including the Memve’ele hydroelectric project.

Cameroon Tribune dated the 28 of June 2016, reports that an alarm was raised by the affected population of the Memve’ele hydroelectric dam project in Nyabizan, a locality found in the South region of Cameroon of gross malpractices in the payment of compensation to victims. Several teams from CONAC were sent to the field in 2014 to investigate these malpractices. It was realized that over 1.7 billion frs cfa which was supposed to be given to victims who had lost buildings and crops because of this very important project was swindled. According to Cameroon Tribune and other local papers like Le Messager, many people who were not to benefit from such compensation falsely benefited.

There were signs of joy and satisfaction on the faces at the locality of Nyabizan, host to the highly economic-driven Memve’ele Hydroelectric Power Project on June 15 2012 when the Head of State, President Paul Biya laid the foundation stone for the project to officially kick off. According to a report by Cameroon Tribune dated 18 June 2012, the population was indeed edified by this ceremony personally presided by the President of the Republic. For a state whose electricity supply merely reaches 900 kilowatts for an ever growing population coupled with an estimated demand of almost double that amount pending the realization of many announced industries, it was but normal for Cameroonians from all over the country to have braved the thick Equatorial forest and poor state of road to be part of this important event.

“Without energy, there can be no real development. There can be no industry. Our agricultural and mineral raw materials cannot be processed. In short, there can be no modern economy.” These revelations from the President of the Republic captured in the above mentioned Cameroon Tribune report of 18 June 2012 gave a true picture of the chronic energy situation the country faces. The President acknowledged that the chronic power outages in the country have made the lives of a great portion of the population unbearable. “The often extended periods of load shedding have also disrupted work in government services, social services such as hospitals, and even security agencies”, he added that the chronic electricity crisis in Cameroon has not only led to material damage but also led to the loss of human lives. The Head of State promised Cameroonians that the construction of Memve’ele hydroelectric dam was just the beginning of good things to come. “In the coming months, construction works on the Lom Pangar and Mekin dams and power plants will be launched and further studies for the Warak and Menchum hydroelectric dams will be conducted, pending the completion of the Sanaga hydroelectric power project”, he added.

It is rather a shame that five years after, this long awaited hydroelectric project should be entangled in a claws of corruption. There is no gainsaying that Cameroon is ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This is evidenced by Transparency International reports as well as reports from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. Several authorities have been arrested because of corrupt malpractices especially with respect to water and energy projects but the situation continues to get worse. Part of the reason why Cameroon is still plagued by such scandals is that there are so many uncoordinated and inadequate legal and institutional safeguards in place to fight corruption. It is true that the country has several anti corruption units especially housed in ministerial departments, but in actual fact these anti corruption units are inefficient and poorly staffed. It is very disturbing that an anti corruption agency such as CONAC should produce its 2014 report in 2016. The production of a report of such magnitude should be twice a year. Besides findings of other corruption agency in the country remain a secret to the Cameroon population and the international community. There is no need for the creation of several ineffective anti corruption agencies which are heavily funded by taxpayer’s monies while the country continues to be ranked as one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The country has to thus revisit its anti corruption strategy especially with respect to hydroelectric projects such as the Memve’ele hydroelectric project. Government officials commissioned to undergo such compensations need to be well trained. There is equally a need for mixed commissions which include anti corruption experts, members of the companies carrying of the projects, representatives of the populations like Mayors and Parliamentarians and Senators. Such measures may go a long way to curb corruption.

Chofor Che is Chair/Cofounder of the Central African Centre for Libertarian Thought and Action, Cameroon. He is also an Atlas Leadership Academy graduate, analyst with and