EDITORIAL: Chief Ephraim Inoni Deserves President Biya’s Pardon and Freedom

Chief Ephraim Inoni, Former PM
Chief Ephraim Inoni, Former PM

July 11, 2016

Cameroon Journal, Washington D.C – Among all the former government officials imprisoned and serving long terms of imprisonment at the Kondengui maximum security prison in Yaounde, the situation of Chief Ephraim Inoni former prime minister stands in a class of its own. It stands in a class of its own not because Chief Inoni is the highest government official convicted and sentenced so far.

The specificity of his trial, conviction and sentence is informed by the fact that he is one person who was not shown to have personally misappropriated public funds as such or personally benefitted from alleged misappropriated public funds.

It was not firmly established that he was even complicit in the events surrounding the purchase of the supposed defective presidential plane so-called the albatross. His alleged role in the crimes in which he was convicted was secondary. In other circumstances, his alleged role would have been found to be immaterial to the perpetration of the crimes alleged.

In this regard, we consider him to be an unfortunate wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Differently put, once he was appointed to high office in the present government, he made the mistake of forgetting that his Anglophone origin barred him from dreaming and aspiring too high. He trusted too much, forgetting that political rhetoric and slogans apart, he did not truly belong to the political and administrative crowd appointed and sent to work with him.

As an Anglophone he failed to know or acknowledge the hard reality of Cameroon politics. Although a very efficient and competent public servant who strove to prove his mettle in every service he rendered, as an Anglophone he was and remained in the estimation of some powerful forces surrounding the President a dispensable outsider.

To this coterie of power brokers and power seekers, who had the ear of the President, every laudable effort Chief Inoni made to improve the national life which was praised nationally and internationally was portrayed negatively as power seeking efforts or attempts to undermine the President and to preposition himself as a contestant for the supreme state office.

Yaoundé political jealousies and rivalries apart, the fall of Inoni was also either facilitated or applauded from politicians from his own supposed political power base. He trusted and worked tirelessly to elevate some of these constituency political brokers to the political positions they are occupying today when he had the power to do so. From the political platform Chief Inoni provided these individuals, they joined in blackmailing him and calling for his head once he was down and in problems with presidential power brokers and the law.

As as we write, Chief Inoni finds himself almost alone with only his family and his God watching over him. The entire mystery surrounding the purchase of the presidential plane so-called albatross will never be known so soon. From the available information gathered in the main, from the evidence adduced at trial, it is obvious that no single individual can venture to put the pieces of the puzzle in place for the whole truth to be known.

However, at The Cameroon Journal, we believe that President Biya who ordered the investigations and prosecution in this and other cases has had the time to calmly reflect on the case and personal circumstances of each convict. We hold this belief because the President has exercised his prerogative of pardon to some of the convicts and granted amnesty to others. We hold that the personal circumstances of Chief Inoni require a presidential pardon or amnesty for several reasons.

Former PM Ephraim Inoni inside Kondengui prison. Photo taken February 2016.
Former PM Ephraim Inoni inside Kondengui prison. Photo taken February 2016.

The first reason is that when the President went to Buea for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of reunification, one of the main requests submitted to him by South West Chiefs through their President, the Fon of Fontem of blessed memory was for the President to pardon and release their peer Chief Inoni from jail.

The President is alleged to have promised then that he would reflect over the matter and take the action he deemed appropriate.

We also recall the President promising former American Ambassador to Cameroon Janet Garvey that Chief Inoni’s alleged crimes were not as severe as those committed by other convicts of corruption. And the President actually promised releasing him within a short time.

We believe the President has had sufficient time to reflect on the South West Chiefs’ request, including the observations made to the US Ambassador and it is but fair that he provides a positive reply by releasing Chief Inoni to his South West peers and to his family.

The President has released two French Citizens of Cameroonian origin on the intervention of the French government. In the Presidential decree pardoning and releasing Thierry Atangana , a French citizen, the President took the opportunity to release Titus Edzoa and some Cameroonians who were serving various jail terms nationwide.

The Cameroon Journal asserts that the constitutional prerogative on which the President relied on to release the two French citizens Thierry Atangana and Lawyer, Nelly Eyoum is indeed meant for Cameroonians too and should be invoked to release Chief Inoni.

The release of French and foreign nationals in Cameroon jails is regulated in international law by bilateral treaties based on the principle of reciprocity in international relations. Chief Inoni rendered great services to Cameroon and to President Biya in particular.

He organized two elections which although highly criticised as rigged, favoured the President. The amount of money spent on the said elections was very high. There was no accusation of misappropriation levied against him after the poll. Also, Chief Inoni was the President’s leading foot soldier in the anti-corruption war code-named operation antelope. It is possible that due to his participation in the fight against corruption in that operation, he stepped on many toes and made several enemies.

It will not be surprising that those enemies evinced every effort to incriminate him and get him jailed when an opportunity arose. The President should seriously consider the impressible foundation Chief Inoni laid in the fight against corruption and the risks he faced for his participation in the said fight in releasing him.

Chief Inoni filed an appeal against his conviction and sentence. His appeal has delayed without any reason. The delay in hearing his appeal is of serious concern and sends the strong signal that the only available means of redress to him through the legal process is not readily available after all. The president should therefore release him.

In conclusion, we at The Cameroon Journal call for an end to the humiliation and indignities to which Chief Inoni has been subjected through his conviction and sentence. We call on the President to personally review Chief Inoni’s case and grant him presidential pardon or amnesty.

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