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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 193rd session
(Geneva, 9 October 2013)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Dieudonné Ambassa Zang, a member of the National Assembly of Cameroon, and to the resolution it adopted at its 192nd session (March 2013),

Taking into account the letter from the Secretary General of the National Assembly of Cameroon dated 4 October 2013,

Recalling the following information on file:

  • Mr. Ambassa Zang, Minister of Public Works from August 2002 to December 2004 and known, according to the source, for having fought corruption within that ministry, was elected in 2007 on the ticket of the Cameroon People’s Democratic Rally;

  • On 7 August 2009 the Bureau, meeting in extraordinary session, lifted Mr. Ambassa Zang’s parliamentary immunity to permit an investigation into allegations of misappropriation of the public funds managed by Mr. Ambassa Zang when he was Minister of Public Works; although Mr. Ambassa Zang had left Cameroon on 12 July 2009, he had a defence note sent on 3 August 2009 to all members of the Bureau; there is no indication that the note was included in the file before the Bureau;

  • According to the authorities, the charges laid against Mr. Ambassa Zang stem from an audit prompted by a complaint by the French Development Agency (AFD), the funding source for the rehabilitation of the Wouri Bridge, for which Mr. Ambassa Zang had been responsible; according to the Prosecutor General, State companies, ministries and other State structures managing public funds are subject to annual audits by the Supreme State Audit Office (CONSUPE); the Minister of Justice has linked the audit of Mr. Ambassa Zang’s management to the fight against corruption initiated by the Cameroonian State in 2005;

  • According to the Minister Delegate to the Office of the President in charge of the Supreme State Audit Office, the final audit report was submitted to the Head of State, who opted for criminal proceedings on a charge of misappropriation of public funds because of the need, highlighted by the international community, to put public finances on a sound footing; the file had therefore been referred to the Minister of Justice; a new, thorough examination had been conducted of the accounts and, after the lifting of Mr. Ambassa Zang’s parliamentary immunity, the file had been handed over to the Prosecutor General of the Court of Appeal; the case was at the preliminary investigation stage;

  • According to the source, Mr. Ambassa Zang has replied with defence memoranda to each of the charges, which he has rejected as unfounded; the few CONSUPE documents that Mr. Ambassa Zang has been able to obtain point to no wrongdoing or misappropriation in his favour of any sum whatsoever; according to the source, the final audit report was not forwarded to Mr. Ambassa Zang; moreover, it is clear that at least one new charge was apparently introduced into the file submitted to the judicial authorities that had not been mentioned in the request for information originally addressed to him; the source affirms that the acts of which Mr. Ambassa Zang is accused can be seen at worst as mismanagement of public funds and in no way amount to an offence; the source has therefore affirmed from the outset that the charges should not lead to criminal proceedings but should have been referred to the Budgetary and Financial Discipline Council (CDBF), particularly since it offers Mr. Ambassa Zang an opportunity to be represented by a lawyer;

  • The source affirms that Mr. Ambassa Zang cannot at present return to Cameroon because he would be arrested as a fugitive without ever having been sentenced or prosecuted, and that his safety is no longer guaranteed in Cameroon,
Recalling that the authorities have repeatedly stated that Mr. Ambassa Zang is not specifically targeted by the investigation, which concerns many others, all of whom are at present free, that the authorities therefore suggest that Mr. Ambassa Zang return to Cameroon to defend himself before the judicial authorities in the case, in which only his testimony is missing, and that the source has replied that the charges laid against Mr. Ambassa Zang have to do with objective facts and the relevant documents are available at the Ministry of Public Works, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Tenders Regulation Agency and donors such as the AFD and its German counterpart the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW, or Reconstruction Credit Institute),

Considering that upon the orders of the President of the Republic of Cameroon, the Minister Delegate to the Office of the President in charge of CONSUPE signed, on 12 October 2012, a decision bringing Mr. Ambassa Zang before the CDBF, that the said decision was reportedly notified to his counsel, Mr. Eba’a Manga, in early May 2013, or nearly seven months after its signing, and that no explanation was apparently given for this state of affairs,

Considering that on 20 August 2013 Mr. Ambassa Zang received a "partial request for information" from the Rapporteur in the case before the CDBF, giving him 45 days in which to respond; considering that, according to the source, Mr. Ambassa Zang’s lawyer was recently accused of having enjoyed liberalities amounting to some 8.5 million CFA francs during the period in which Mr. Ambassa Zang was Minister of Public Works, and that the accusation had never before been notified to the person concerned,

Considering that on 13 July 2010 the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) handed down an arbitral award in the UDECTO v. State of Cameroon case, a dispute concerning the execution of the Wouri bridge rehabilitation works; since Cameroon essentially won in respect of its claims as UDECTO was sentenced to paying it substantial sums, the source affirms that, on the strength of the legal principle of "non bis in idem", the charges brought against Mr. Ambassa Zang regarding a prejudice he allegedly caused Cameroon become no longer applicable,

Considering that, according to some Cameroonian press articles, an arrest warrant was issued in June 2013 for Mr. Ambassa Zang in a new case concerning the execution of government contracts for the maintenance of rural roads in Mefou-et-Afamba department; according to the source, Mr. Ambassa Zang cannot be implicated in this case because the Minister of Public Works is not among the parties involved in the local management of government contracts using allotted credits and, contrary to the insinuations made, although the manager of the enterprise awarded the contract is very close to him, he never secured her a single government contract or took the slightest step to see that she won the contract in question; recalling also that, according to an article published on 16 September 2011 in the Cameroonian daily Le Jour and in a number of other media, an investigation was opened into Mr. Ambassa Zang concerning the manner in which contracts were awarded for asphalting the pontoon bridge over the Moungo river in 2004 (the first bridge over that river bordering the Coastal and South-West Regions having collapsed), and that Mr. Ambassa Zang exercised his right of reply; emphasizing inter alia that the urgent measures needed to find a swift solution to the problem of the collapsed bridge were decided on by an inter-ministerial committee chaired by the Prime Minister on the orders of the President of the Republic and that the contract for maintenance of the bypasses was formalized and signed by the Minister for Economic Affairs, who guaranteed that they would be paid out of his ministry’s budget for special government works,

Recalling that, according to the source, the prosecution of Mr. Ambassa Zang must be seen in the context of "Opération Épervier" (Operation Casting Net), which was widely criticized as a campaign originally intended to combat corruption and misappropriation of public funds but instead used to purge critically-minded public figures who, like Mr. Ambassa Zang, expressed views not always in line with those of their party; thus the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, in a statement to the press as he left a meeting of the Assembly’s Bureau on 14 July 2009, reportedly expressed surprise at how fast the investigation of Mr. Ambassa Zang’s case had been completed and described the lifting of his parliamentary immunity as a settlement of scores; recalling the concerns expressed by human rights agencies, in particular the United Nations Human Rights Committee, on the independence of the judiciary in Cameroon,

Bearing in mind that Cameroon is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is thus bound to respect the fundamental rights therein guaranteed, such as the rights to freedom of expression, to freedom and security of person, and to a fair trial ensuring the rights of the defence,

Considering that elections to the National Assembly were held on 30 September 2013; considering the letter from the Secretary General of the National Assembly of Cameroon dated 4 October 2013, in which he responds to one of the IPU Committee’s requests for information by saying that "the only means of information available to the National Assembly under the Constitution lies in questions to the members of the Government. These can only be put to them during the parliamentary sessions, which themselves take place in accordance with an agenda consisting, first and foremost, of items included by the Government",

  1. Thanks the Secretary General of the National Assembly for his communication;

  2. Is pleased that the Cameroonian authorities have decided to refer the accusations against Mr. Ambassa Zang which triggered the lifting of his parliamentary immunity to the Budgetary and Financial Discipline Council; is nevertheless concerned about the alleged delay in informing Mr. Ambassa Zang’s lawyer of that decision and the allegation that the latter is suddenly obliged to defend his client against charges at a critical time for the lawyer himself; wishes to receive the official views on both points;

  3. Supposes that, as a result of bringing the case before the CDBF, the Cameroonian authorities have officially dropped the criminal proceedings against Mr. Ambassa Zang with regard to the same matter; looks forward to receiving confirmation of this;

  4. Trusts that the CDBF will ensure that Mr. Ambassa Zang’s right to defence is fully respected, including by allowing him access to all the reports which form the basis of the charges against him, will examine his case as a matter of urgency given that 10 years have elapsed since the alleged events of which he is accused, and will take due account of the arguments presented in his defence, including the arbitral award of the International Chamber of Commerce in the UDECTO v. State of Cameroon case; wishes to ascertain whether a timetable exists for completion of the proceedings and to be kept informed of their progress;

  5. Is concerned at unofficial reports that Mr. Ambassa Zang may be subject to yet another criminal investigation; is eager to receive official information on this matter and, should an investigation and arrest warrant indeed exist, to know the precise charges against him and the facts on which they are based, in particular in the light of the defence that he presents; still earnestly wishes, for the same reasons, to know whether Mr. Ambassa Zang is being officially investigated with regard to the awarding of contracts for the work done on the bridge over the Moungo river in 2004;

  6. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities, including the newly elected National Assembly, in the hope that it will exercise its constitutional powers to the fullest to monitor the case closely and obtain the necessary clarifications on the aforesaid points; requests him also to convey the present resolution to the French Development Agency;

  7. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case.
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