Prosecuting the offence of misappropriation of public funds: an insight into Cameroon's Special Criminal Court
The fight against the misappropriation of public funds perpetrated by individuals, especially public servants, for private gain, enjoys different degrees of commitment by different countries. The enactment of laws and establishment of institutional mechanisms towards this end are partly a reflection of the attainment of such a mission and can also be the measure by which such a commitment can be assessed. Rated as one of the most corrupt countries in Africa by Transparency International, the global anti-corruption watchdog, the Republic of Cameroon recently enacted a law that created a Special Criminal Court. This comes as one of the most robust and significant legislative developments in the fight against the misappropriation of public funds. The mandate of the Special Criminal Court is to bring to justice persons who "cause loss of at least 50.000.000 CFA Francs (equivalent to about USD 100.000) relating to misappropriation of public funds and other related offences provided for in the Cameroon Penal Code and International Conventions ratified by Cameroon". This paper examines the offence of the misappropriation of public funds. It looks at aspects of the Special Criminal Court as provided by the Law that established it as well as supplementary legislation enacted to address specific issues related to the Special Criminal Court. The paper also examines the offence for which individuals are prosecuted in the Special Criminal Court. As a bold step in fighting and defeating the "invisible enemy amongst us" (that is, corruption), this paper argues that an institutional mechanism like the Special Criminal Court that has docked several top-notch politicians and former cabinet members for trial, is an example to emulate and confirms that corruption can be fought if and only if the political will to do so is present.
Keywords: Corruption; misappropriation of public funds; Special Criminal Court; embezzlement; political corruption