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Corrupt Police, Gendarmes Should Be Punished – Human Rights Lawyer 

Interviewed By Chris Mbunwe

The Regional President of the Cameroon Association for Human Rights and Peace, Barrister Richard Ndi Nji, has said every place in Cameroon reeks of corruption and the police, gendarmes and taxation officials are perhaps the worst in the practice of this ill.

He recommends drastic sanctions on police and other officials who have, and continue, to milk the country dry. In this interview Barrister Nji also talks about the human rights situation in the Northwest and ELECAM. Excerpts:

The Post: Corruption smells everywhere in Cameroon, and at one time President Biya said the judiciary was topping the chart according. Since then, anti-corruption bodies have been created here and there, what is your organisation doing in this light?

Barrister Richard Ndi Nji: Corruption is an offence punishable under the Cameroon Penal Code. Cameroonians seem to be born corrupt. Despite Operation Sparrow Hawk which has netted some people, this ill is gaining more grounds. To say the judiciary is topping the chart to me is not true. There are still very many honest judges. I think the police, gendarmes and some of the taxation officials are worse.

Just go to the Bamenda-Fundong road, Bamenda-Nkambe road and see glaring examples of what these guys do. It is quite shameful for a nation like Cameroon. Go to police and gendarmerie cells, fabulous sums are collected as bail money. No receipts issued. Once a complaint is made against a person, immediately you step into those places, you are sure to pay dearly even if you are not detained.

I have equally been learning about CONAC (National Anti-corruption Commission). It seems as if it exists only in Yaounde. It is not regional. I don’t know whether this institution really exists. For this institution to succeed it must be given the powers to prosecute corrupt officials.

What is the human rights situation in Bamenda and the Northwest in general?

I think the human rights situation in Bamenda has drastically improved and it is only in the rural areas where there are still a lot of abuses of human rights. There are still some traditional concepts which violate human rights, especially women, children are mostly affected.

As the Regional President for Cameroon Association for Human Rights, Democracy and Peace, I have drawn an educative programme in the Northwest Region on human rights, fostered peace which is very primordial for development and equally explained to the people what democracy actually means.  Mot people in the central town of Bamenda do not longer take the law into their hands. They use the law courts once their rights are violated.  

Have you visited some detention centres and what did you discover?

We have visited some cells and prisons in the Northwest Region authorised by the Delegate General for National Security and found out that the conditions were not quite deplorable as they used to be in the past.

What is your opinion on ELECAM considering that six additional members were appointed recently?

Before ELECAM came into existence, there was NEO. NEO could easily be judged whether they did a good job or not. NEO was purely observatory but ELECAM manages, controls and supervises elections. I think the problem is not with the appointment of the six additional members that will determine the end result.

ELECAM will be judged from its performance. A celebrated English judge said, "The thought of a man is viable for the devil himself knows not the thought of a man." If ELECAM fails in its mission, maybe another structure will be created to improve on what it did.

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