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The role of women in fighting corruption in Cameroon: A case study of Southwest Region

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Corruption is a serious problem in almost every society around the world. Different governments and societies have identified this harmful societal ill in different sectors and are shown to be ever present and so doing, corruption affects efficiency of output in the society. Different governments and organizations have set up various mechanisms in the fight against corruption in the societies. Corruption is ever present in Cameroon and in almost all sectors, the government has invented numerous measures to fight this phenomenon but it isn’t enough. Women are also trying to contribute significantly in the fight against corruption in Cameroon, but their efforts aren’t stopping corruption either due to limited tools and resources at their disposal and sometimes barriers from members of government which makes it difficult to fight-off corruption in Cameroon.



Corruption is a form of dishonesty or a criminal offense which is undertaken by a person or an organization which is entrusted in a position of authority, in order to acquire illicit benefits or abuse power for one’s personal gain. Corruption may involve many activities which include briberyinfluence peddling and the embezzlement and it may also involve practices which are legal in many countries. Political corruption occurs when an office-holder or other governmental employee acts with an official capacity for personal gain. Corruption is most common in kleptocraciesoligarchiesnarco-states, and mafia states. (Ede O. 1986: 176)

Corruption and crime are endemic sociological occurrences which appear with regular frequency in virtually all countries on a global scale in varying degrees and proportions. Recent data suggests corruption is on the rise. Each individual nation allocates domestic resources for the control and regulation of corruption and the deterrence of crime. Strategies which are undertaken in order to counter corruption are often summarized under the umbrella term anti-corruption. Additionally, global initiatives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 16 also have a targeted goal which is supposed to substantially reduce corruption in all of its forms.

Since independence, corruption has been more than prevalent in Cameroon. In fact, corruption has become pervasive and has affected all sectors of the government and civil society including the executivejudiciary, police, and even the private sector. The main causes being a deep lack of political will to fight corruption and neopatrimonialism. Other causes include; personal interests and absence of duty conscience, weak judiciary and almost non-existent opposition in the legislativenepotism and favouritism, ineffective system of accountability, among others. (Bassey E. 2000: 172-180)

Corruption in Cameroon has been called “Cameroon‘s worst-kept secret” by Thomson Reuters, and Cameroon has had “persistent problems with corruption” according to BBC News. The police are seen by Cameroonians as the most corrupt institution in the government.

The 2022 Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index gave Cameroon a score of 26 on a scale from 0 (“highly corrupt”) to 100 (“highly clean”). When ranked by score, Cameroon ranked 142nd among the 180 countries in the Index, where the country ranked first is perceived to have the most honest public sector. For comparison, the best score was 90 (ranked 1), and the worst score was 12 (ranked 180).

The government of Cameroon has taken some steps addressing the problem of corruption in the country: in order to increase transparency in its oil sector, Cameroon joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative in late 2013.

Cameroon also witnessed the prosecution of corruption committed by a former prime minister, Ephraim Inoni, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2013 for embezzlement. Several high corruption risk sectors, such as customs and public procurement, pose obstacles for doing business in Cameroon.

Cameroon’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) has been consistently poor throughout the history of Transparency International. According to Transparency International, corruption in Cameroon was at its worst in the late 1990s when Cameroon topped the ranking of most corrupted countries in the world in 1998 and 1999. (Brownlie I. 1985: 553-555)

Two decades later, even though Cameroon does not top the said ranking any longer, it is still among the top 30 most corrupted countries in the world. The reasons for this according to Transparency International  are; a weak judiciary, strong executive, and widespread poverty. Furthermore, transparency of the civil society and freedom of the press are still weak and efforts engaged to combat these have been extensively criticised by national and international actors.

As previously stated, neopatrimonialism is one of the main causes of corruption in Cameroon. D. Beekers, and B. van Gool (2012: 47) define neopatrimonialism as “a type of regime in which ruling elites use the state for personal enrichment and profit from a public administration that is patently unstable, inefficient, nontransparent, and that fails to distribute public resources to large segments of the population.” In a neopatrimonial state, real power and real decision-making lie outside its institutions (Chabal & Daloz, 1999; Bratton & van de Walle, 1997). Here, power is held not by high-ranking government officials, but by those who have connections/clientelist networks that exist inside and/or outside state structures (Cammack, 2007: 112). Office power is used by civil servants who are void of the concept of the superior interest of the nation and instead motivated by personal uses and gains. Furthermore, government officials and members of parliament (MPs) account upwards to the president rather than downwards to the people.  In this way, the president is able to control the local branches and institutions in order to prevent these local institutions/branches to ‘rebel’ against him. This is done by the central power (the government in general or the president) in a bid to maintain a firm grip on power at all cost, even if it means slowing down policy implementation.

In Cameroon, the central government’s fear of losing power to local institutions is showcased by the lethargic ‘implementation’ of the decentralisation law passed in 2004, but actually, the constitution of 1996 already mentioned the creation of a decentralised state. Till today, this law has never been fully implemented and in the meantime, the government has found a way to regain control of local institutions (should this law be fully implemented one day) by creating a position called délégué du gouvernement (Government delegate). Local institutions (the mayor, etc.) will be under this government delegate and will report to him. The government delegate is appointed by the president of the republic and he accounts to the central government. In this way, the end product of the 2004 decentralisation law will resemble more the false product of a political devolution than anything else. (Abimbola S. 1992: 264)

In ancient times, moral principles based on religious beliefs were common, as several major religions, such as BuddhismChristianityHinduismIslamJudaismSikhism, and Taoism condemn corrupt conduct in their respective religious text.

The described legal and moral stances were exclusively addressing bribery but were not concerned with other aspects that are considered corruption in the 21st century. Embezzlementcronyismnepotism, and other strategies of gaining public assets by office holders were not yet constructed as unlawful or immoral, as positions of power were regarded a personal possession rather than an entrusted function. With the popularization of the concept of public interest and the development of a professional bureaucracy in the 19th century offices became perceived as trusteeships instead of property of the office holder, leading to legislation against and a negative perception of those additional forms of corruption. Especially in diplomacy and for international trade purposes, corruption remained a generally accepted phenomenon of the political and economic life throughout the 19th and big parts of the 20th century. (Asiwaju. 1984: 23)

In the 1990s corruption was increasingly perceived to have a negative impact on economydemocracy, and the rule of law, as was pointed out by Kofi Annan. Those effects claimed by Annan could be proven by a variety of empirical studies, as reported by Juli Bacio Terracino. The increased awareness of corruption was widespread and shared across professional, political, and geographical borders. While an international effort against corruption seemed to be unrealistic during the Cold War, a new discussion on the global impact of corruption became possible, leading to an official condemnation of corruption by governments, companies, and various other stakeholders. The 1990s additionally saw an increase in press freedom, the activism of civil societies, and global communication through an improved communication infrastructure, which paved the way to a more thorough understanding of the global prevalence and negative impact of corruption. In consequence to those developments, international non-governmental organizations (e.g. Transparency International) and inter-governmental organizations and initiatives (e.g. the OECD Working group on bribery) were founded to overcome corruption. (Kapil. 1996: 659)

Since the 2000s, the discourse became broader in scope. It became more common to refer to corruption as a violation of human rights, which was also discussed by the responsible international bodies. Besides attempting to find a fitting description for corruption, the integration of corruption into a human rights-framework was also motivated by underlining the importance of corruption and educating people on its costs.


Over time, women have always been relegated to the back when it comes to the fight against corruption in Cameroon and the Southwest Region as men have always taken the centre stage in the fight against corruption. This is a perception promoted by individuals without any backup by science. This study is aimed at addressing the wrong perception that only men have the ability to fight corruption in Cameroon and the southwest region in particular and that women are very significant when it comes to this fight against corruption in the Southwest Region as it has been proven in other areas.

The following consist of the three research questions;

  • Are women efficient actors in the fight against corruption in Cameroon?
  • What are the mechanisms women are supposed to use in their fight against corruption in Cameroon?
  • How can women using efficient tools in their fight against corruption in Cameroon be successful in the Southwest Region?
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