Transparency International Calls For Release Of Cameroon Whistleblower

Paul Eric Kingue

By Samuel Malik

Transparency International has demanded the immediate release of Paul Eric Kingue, the former mayor of Njombe-Penja in Cameroon, who blew the whistle on corrupt practices involving Plantations du Haut Penja, a French-owned company based in the West African country.

Kingue accused PHP of tax evasion in 2007 and following protests in the poverty-stricken province, he was arrested in 2008 for allegedly masterminding the protests. He has since been in prison.

In 2012, he was sentenced to life for “aiding and abetting gang looting and inciting rebellion” and “forgery and misappropriation of public property”, accusations viewed as trumped up.

“Why is this brave corruption fighter who dares to hold the powerful to account being treated like a criminal? The Cameroonian judiciary should release this important and vital advocate for workers’ and people’s rights immediately,” José Ugaz, head of Berlin-based TI, said.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in 2014 questioned the charges and “arbitrary” proceedings against Kingue, calling for his immediate release and compensation.




     

     

    Thus, the charges were dropped early this year but he is still been held, which TI and other human rights organisations say is in violation of his rights. He was expected to be released on June 18 when the case was heard but “the judge required the public prosecutor to produce the original documents of the previous judiciary instances, adjourning the case to next month on what can only be described as a technicality,” TI said.

    “Paul Erick Kingue must be released immediately and the Cameroonian judiciary must stop delaying this case in apparent retaliation against an anticorruption champion. Cameroonian authorities must guarantee the independence of the judiciary, investigate allegations of abuse against workers and make every effort to ensure taxes are paid where due for the benefit of the population of Njombe-Penja,” Ugaz said.

    In addition to tax evasion, PHP is also accused of using pesticides banned in Europe in the Cameroonian province, thereby degrading the environment and putting the health of the people at risk. Transparency International said it is investigating the allegations through its Anti-Corruption and Legal Advice Centre.

    PHP denies the allegations and in October 2014 published an open letter to Cameroon President, Paul Biya, signed by 5, 000 of the company’s 6, 000 staff, which said staffs were treated right by the company.

     

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