Akere Muna says what Cameroon need is dialogue to solve its problems that the Anglophone separatist crisis spotlights. Cameroon will have its election on Oct 7 and the 84-year-old president who has ruled the country for 36 years will be up against eight other candidates, Muna inclusive.
Akere Muna is a Cameroonian lawyer who is currently the Chairman of the International Anti-Corruption Conference Council. He is also the Sanctions Commissioner of the African Development Bank Group and a Member of the High-Level Panel on Illicit Financial Flows from Africa.
Muna is running with the Popular Front for Development party and is the son of the former Cameroon vice president and first minister of Western Cameroon, late Solomon Tandeng Muna.
He promises to bring Cameroon into a brand new era, ‘La Nouvelle Republic’.
See details of his interview with Al Jazeera below.
Al Jazeera: As Cameroon heads to the polls, it seems deeply fractured.
Akere Muna: It is fractured but I think it is important to identify the cause. How do you make sure the people are the center of governance? Ours is a country that has not really evolved from the colonial days; we have a regime in which Africans replace colonialists and behave like masters.
I am tempted to say the problems of most African countries have to do with social justice and the sharing of wealth. For as long as you have a political process in which some of the citizens feel that they are marginalised, you will then have the propensity to divide and that is the feeding ground of politicians: division. Over here, the government has tried to weaponise the Anglophone-Francophone crisis. It is absurd. Basically, a fractured society has to do with the uneven distribution of wealth.
Al Jazeera: What will be the most significant thing you would do in your first 100 days in office?
Muna: That’s easy – solving the Anglophone crisis. First, making conditions ideal for the refugees to return [and] getting to rebuilding and reorientation so the displaced can go back home. Then, adding a system that brings back all these fighters by giving them a period to hand in the guns, and integrating them into the army for training.
It might be necessary to negotiate with a third country for a force to come into those areas for a short while – a force from an Anglophone country or even Asia. They come there, maintain peace and get the locals involved in the process.
Al Jazeera: Would you say there is also be an uneven distribution of power in the Constitution?
Muna: This is why I think the South African constitution is an amazing constitution because they were writing it to fight against injustice. A constitution which is written by people who are striving to preserve power is written differently.
The South African constitution was written to reassure the blacks that they are now emancipated. That was the psychology of it. Where I think they got it wrong in trying to maintain this balance of power is their absurd process of electing the president.
That being said, I think the Cameroonian constitution evolved after colonial days and it was made to accommodate the federal system, which was truncated from the beginning.
Currently, we have a monarchy system that does not call itself that. Everybody in the judicial system is appointed by the president. He can appoint and dismiss when he wants. The national assembly is selected through a process of a list system where parties have lists and the electoral process is controlled by the government.
Then, you have the Senate; the president appoints 30 percent and then, of course, the other 70 percent are elected by electoral college.
I will scrap the Senate, reformulate and infuse it, maybe, with an economic and social council that brings the expertise – the architects, and lawyers and engineers. So, when a law comes to Parliament and you send it to them for their opinion, the drivers of that law in that council will be those who have the expertise to deal with it.
Al Jazeera: You’ve worked at Transparency International. How are you going to tackle corruption in Cameroon?
Muna: Corruption is systemic and distorts governance. Example: South Korea was instructed to install e-procurement systems with the ministry of public tenders, so we have e-procurement systems installed ready to go. For about two to three years now, we haven’t had a single electronic tender. Why? Because people have to steal. In Nigeria, there was a case of a government minister trying to bribe parliament to pass his budget.
Eight years ago, I was talking to an ambassador from a country that sends people to come and vaccinate. They supplemented their number with local nurses and the campaign was for a month, with weekly pay. They discovered that Cameroonian nurses were superbly fast and started tracking. So, they discovered some were breaking and throwing the vaccines away to get more money. They didn’t think about the fact that for every one you throw away; one child is not vaccinated.
You have to build structures to fight this corruption. You don’t build a structure fighting corruption and turn it into a political tool against your enemies. Zero tolerance is the way to go. If you are in court: my brother, cousin, friend whatever, you will go down.
Al Jazeera: Will you prosecute Paul Biya if you win?
Muna: That is a loaded question. I don’t think that as a believer in the separation of powers, it should be up to me to decide whether somebody is prosecuted or not. On the basis of principle, if there were assets identified to be stolen, there are laws for fraud, corruption, everything … but what do we gain from putting an 85-year-old behind bars? It is just a spectacle. The future is what is important.
Al Jazeera: On the Anglophone crisis, what are your thoughts and what is a lasting solution?
Muna: The Anglophones came to this arrangement in good faith and they were all fired up by the spirit of pan-Africanism.
People like Kwame Nkrumah could not really see how Cameroon should not unite when he was striving towards having a pan-African process.
[Dawda] Jawara of Gambia tried to do a Senegambia, which later on which didn’t work, of course. [Muammar] Gadaffi up north with the Arab Islamic Republic, too.
So Anglophone Cameroon, in good faith, two territories got together. It slowly eroded into a partnership of a horse and the rider.
As it stands, 40 percent of the GDP is because of the oil. All the oil facilities are in the Anglophone parts – it cannot be said that that part of the country benefited from the oil and that is something that was grossly mismanaged.
As we speak, the governors of the North-West and South-West are Francophones, which, in this atmosphere, is crazy. You arrest Anglophones and try them in the military court in Yaounde where they are sentenced in French. It doesn’t make sense. Those who use oppression are under the misconception that might is right.
The solution is dialogue. And I think that after 60 years of having only Francophones as president, now is time to have an Anglophone president.
Al Jazeera: So, what are the hopes for a coalition? Will there be one?
Muna: If you want a fight between Africans, just put a title in play. I think a coalition is likely to happen.
The first one might be me and [other contestants such as] Maurice Kamto or between myself, Serge Matomba and Cabral Libii.
If I could succeed with Kamto myself, I will be able to work on the other two to join. But if I am able to work on the other track, Kamto would have to succumb to popular pressure.
The country wants a coalition.
[SDF’s] Joshua Osi’s argument is that he has the mandate to run and not for a coalition.
Al Jazeera: Concerning the vote itself, there are questions about the independence of the Directorate General of Elections, which is responsible for organising the election and supervising the electoral board.
Muna: The system is made to favour the president and is tailored to be tweaked to make sure he wins, and the only chance we have to fight against this is the population.
People assume that those in [the Directorate General of Elections] or other government civil servants are not Cameroonians and that they are absolutely part of the government. In the ’92 elections, most of the military camps in Yaounde here voted against Biya.
Al Jazeera: Will you protest the results if you lose?
Muna: I think we have to make sure we win. If they try to steal this victory, we will protest it. But I think the people will be in the streets before us. In this country, there is war everywhere. Extreme north, there is Boko Haram. In the east, insecurity because of Central African Republic. So, many people are out of work. It is an insult to think people love a system where they are in sheer misery, have no job, and where people are dying.