Yesterday’s Washington Post featured a half page advertisement summarizing Cameroon’s renewed effort towards “Vigorous, Committed Reform.” The ad, sponsored by Cameroonian President Paul Biya, detailed numerous measures recently implemented to “consolidate the rule of law and to fight corruption” following Transparency International’s 1998 and 1999 reports naming Cameroon as the most corrupt nation in the world. We thought it would be interesting to compare the claims in the ad against our recent 2007 assessment of Cameroon.
The 2007 Integrity Indicators Scorecard for Cameroon both confirms and debunks several of the points advanced in the ad. One of those concerns the new 2006 penal code, touted as evidence of progress on anti-corruption and rule of law. On our assessment, Cameroon indeed earned a rating of “very strong” and a score of “100” for anti-corruption law, recognizing several of the penal code’s more progressive features. However, the Global Integrity score for the performance of Cameroon’s anti-corruption agency was “very weak” (53 out of 100), with our experts noting that the agency existed but had not yet proven itself effective in combating corruption or protecting the rule of law. As some of our peer reviewers alluded to, the government may not be truly committed to the full implementation of the sweeping reforms called for in the 2006 code, despite the rhetoric.
The ad goes on to describe a renewed commitment to increased transparency of public financial management, including “stepped up efforts to improve the quality of public spending” and “progressive measures […] such as [public disclosure] of a summary of investments.” While investments made with public funds may indeed be more transparent than in the past, the 2007 Integrity Indicators note that the disclosure of private investments on the part of public officials that could pose conflicts of interests remains virtually non-existent across the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, contributing to a “very weak” government accountability rating.
The 2007 Cameroon Reporter’s Notebook succinctly summarizes the conditions for average citizens on the ground and posits that the government’s newfound enthusiasm for anti-corruption efforts may not be so much “spontaneous political will” as the result of “international pressure.” Still, if the reforms heralded in the ad were to be fully implemented, there could at least be a chance of lasting reforms actually being achieved.
— By Julia Burke