Red card against corruption in Central Africa

N’Djamena, Chad, World Anti-Corruption Day, 09 Dec. 2013 (ECA) – “It is about an all-out war we are currently waging against corruption,” said the Secretary General in Chad’s Ministry in Charge of State Control and the Promotion of Good Governance, Mr. Djamal Dermy Haroun as he opened a two-day forum on governance in post-conflict countries in Central Africa. Organized by the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) and the Government of Chad, the forum brings together key figures from national institutions charged with fighting corruption, sub-regional and regional organisations as well as independent experts in the domain. 

According to Mr. Haroun, the choice of Chad as host-country of the forum did not happen by chance, given the country’s status as a post-conflict nation which is making strides to promote good governance via its adherence to various international conventions and setting up of state institutions to fight corruption. “Chad’s doors remain widely open to partners who could walk with us on this road against corruption”, he intimated, as he wished the participants a productive sessions.

The Director of ECA’s sub-regional office in Central Africa, Mr. Emile Ahohe, who spoke soon after the Chadian official, enumerated several ways in which corruption plays out across Africa: bribery, influence peddling,  the siphoning of resources, fraudulent management, illegal amassing of wealth, favoritism, illegal profit making, the misuse of public goods and money laundering in context. All of these, he said constitute serious obstacles to the socioeconomic development of African countries. The situation, he added, was quite serious if we considered the 2012 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, in which four countries in Central Africa were identified among the ten worst in the world. Mr. Ahohe said it was for such reasons that ECA has been working alongside various African countries, especially those that have come out of conflict situations, to fight the ill and promote good governance.

After a presentation of the forum’s main working document by Mr. Muzong Kodi of Chatham House in London, which constituted an overview of issues surrounding governance in post-conflict countries, participants at the forum went into a heated discussion on the root causes of corruption and ways of addressing them.

Mr. Paulin Ekoua Sima, member of Gabon’s National Anti-Corruption Commission, posited that long term investment in education would be a key factor in rolling back corruption in post conflict countries in particular and across Africa in general. “We must invest in training our children to be modern citizens”, he said.

On his part, Mr. Gabriel Rufyiri, Head of the Observatory on the Fight against Corruption and Economic Fraud in Burundi, said “we cannot concentrate on fighting corruption on a purely technical level. It cannot work without the political will to do so!” 

From the point of view of Mr. Lucas Olo Fernandes, Regional Representative of Transparency International in Central Africa, tackling corruption should be given priority in any country that just came out o conflict. “The fight against corruption cannot be sustainable if there are no counter-forces such as a strong civil society, strong media and a strong judiciary,” he pointed out.

Mr. Etom Alfred, Coordinator of the Anti-Corruption Strategy at the National Anti-Corruption Commission of Cameroon (CONAC) had a different proposition. “We need to convince those who wield power that it’s in their best interest to fight corruption in other for their power not to dwindle; because it’s when there’s a power vacuum, when controls are weak, that corruption thrives.”

Discussions at the forum are expected to culminate in recommendations that would improve governance and quicken economic and social development in countries within Central Africa trying to reconstruct their societies after going through periods of conflict.