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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Governing Council at its 194th session
(Geneva, 20 March 2014)

The Governing Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Referring to the case of Mr. Dieudonné Ambassa Zang, a former member of the National Assembly of Cameroon, and to the resolution it adopted at its 193rd session (October 2013),

Taking into consideration the letter from the President of the Senate dated 9 January 2014,

Taking also into consideration the letter from the Director General of the French Development Agency dated 7 January 2014,

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 National Assembly Bureau lifted Mr. Ambassa Zang’s parliamentary immunity to permit an investigation into allegations of misappropriation of the public funds managed by him when he was Minister of Public Works; although Mr. Ambassa Zang 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 audits 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 was 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); according to the source, Mr. Ambassa Zang was never informed about the audits, invited to contribute to the audit process, informed of the conclusions or invited to comment on them;

  • On the basis of the audits, the Head of State first opted for criminal proceedings on a charge of misappropriation of public funds; however, on his orders, a decision was signed on 12 October 2012 bringing the accusations against Mr. Ambassa Zang before the Budget and Finance Disciplinary Council (CDBF), before which, unlike in a criminal procedure, defendants can be represented in their absence by legal counsel; it would seem that the decision was notified to Mr. Ambassa Zang’s counsel in May 2013, or nearly seven months after it was signed, without any explanation; on 20 August 2013, Mr. Ambassa Zang received a partial request for information from the CDBF Rapporteur, to which he responded in two defence memoranda,
Considering that, more than two months later, the CDBF Rapporteur sent, reportedly in violation of the CDBF rules of procedure, a second partial request for information, to which Mr. Ambassa Zang responded on 13 December 2013 with another defence memorandum, and that, according to the source, the CDBF Rapporteur has also broken the rules of procedure by making accusations in addition to those mentioned in the audit,

Considering that, according to the source, there was no wrongdoing or misappropriation in Mr. Ambassa Zang’s favour of any sum whatsoever, the accusations 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; moreover, on 13 July 2010, the International Chamber of Commerce handed down an arbitral award in UDECTO v. State of Cameroon, a dispute concerning the execution of the Wouri bridge rehabilitation works; the source affirms that, since Cameroon won the case, the company UDECTO being sentenced to pay it substantial sums, and on the strength of the legal principle non bis in idem, the charges brought against Mr. Ambassa Zang regarding a prejudice he allegedly caused Cameroon are no longer applicable; the AFD Director General stated in her letter of 7 January 2014 that the AFD wished to specify that it had filed no complaint against Mr. Ambassa Zang and relating to his activities in the context of the proceedings concerning him before the CBDF, and that, owing to the blocking statute, it was not in a position to provide any observations on the matter that could be used as proof in administrative or judicial proceedings abroad, except pursuant to an official request made as part of international judicial assistance procedures,

Considering the source’s affirmation that Mr. Ambassa Zang, who enjoys official refugee status abroad, 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 source expressed fears in 2013 that he was the subject of an international arrest warrant for a new case, Mrs. Ayissi et al, concerning the execution of government contracts for the maintenance of rural roads in Mefou-et-Afamba department; the source points out that 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 because, contrary to the insinuations made, although the manager of the enterprise awarded the contract is very close to him, he never secured a single government contract for her or took the slightest step to see that she won the contract in question; considering that on 4 March 2014, the source said that corroborating reports had been received that the amounts involved in this case had been returned by the two main suspects in detention in Cameroon and that there was no longer a case,

Recalling 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,

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; recalling also the concerns expressed by human rights agencies, in particular the United Nations Human Rights Committee, on the independence of the judiciary in Cameroon,

Considering that, in his response of 9 January 2014, the President of the Senate stated that he had not yet been able to collect all the information requested by the Committee because the Senate had been in session, but that the relevant authorities were preparing the necessary clarifications and that he would communicate them to the Committee as soon as he had them,

  1. Thanks the President of the Senate for his communication; appreciates his commitment to help solve this case; regrets nevertheless that further official details regarding the Committee’s concerns and requests for information have not been forthcoming in the meantime;

  2. Thanks also the AFD Director General for her response; points out that, contrary to what the Cameroonian authorities have stated from the outset, the AFD, which was fully involved both financially and operationally in the rehabilitation project that led to Mr. Ambassa Zang’s parliamentary immunity being lifted, did not file any complaint against him; can but consider that this piece of information, in addition to Mr. Ambassa Zang’s detailed rebuttals, lends added weight to the allegation that there is in fact no case against him;

  3. Is therefore all the more concerned at the allegation that the CDBF Rapporteur exceeded his authority; trusts that the CDBF will ensure that its rules of procedure are scrupulously followed and that Mr. Ambassa Zang’s right to defence is fully respected, including by allowing him access to all the reports on which the charges against him are based; trusts also that, as the matter is now before the CDBF, Mr. Ambassa Zang is no longer the subject of criminal action; reiterates its wish to receive confirmation from the authorities on all these points;

  4. Trusts that the CDBF will examine Mr. Ambassa Zang’s case as a matter of urgency, given that 10 years have elapsed since the alleged events; wishes to ascertain whether a timetable exists for completion of the proceedings and to be kept informed of their progress;

  5. Trusts also that the CDBF will take due account of the arguments presented in Mr. Ambassa Zang’s defence, including the arbitral award of the International Chamber of Commerce in UDECTO v. State of Cameroon; suggests that the State of Cameroon seriously explore the possibility of obtaining, through a formal request for assistance, the information the AFD has at its disposal that could help shed light on this case;

  6. Takes note with interest that the investigation regarding Mrs. Ayissi et al, to which Mr. Ambassa Zang was apparently linked, has been closed; still wishes to know whether Mr. Ambassa Zang is being officially investigated with regard to the contracts awarded for the work done on the bridge over the Moungo river in 2004 and, if so, on what factual and legal basis;

  7. Requests the Secretary General to convey this resolution to the competent authorities in order to obtain the necessary clarifications on the aforesaid points; requests him also to convey the present resolution to the source and any third party likely to be in a position to supply relevant information;

  8. Requests the Committee to continue examining this case and to report back to it in due course.

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