Former Cameroon Health Minister Sentenced to 20 years for Corruption

Urbain Olanguena Awono (Former Health Minister)

Urbain Olanguena Awono (Former Health Minister)

A former Health Minister of Cameroon, Urbain Olanguena Awono has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for corruption. The sentenced was handed down on Monday 12, August 2013 by a Cameroonian special criminal court, charged with fighting high-level graft.

The court found Mr. Urbain Olanguena Awono guilty of embezzling more than 80 million CFA francs (122,000 euros or $162,000). He was accused in relation to a fake contract to deliver mosquito nets to hospitals according to Cameroonian legal sources.

His accomplice (co-accused) or partner in crime Mr. Yves Rodrigue Soue Mbella was sentenced in absentia to life in prison. In absentia, because, Mr. Yves Rodrigue Soue Mbella is currently on the run, and therefore not yet arrested, or in the custody of the Cameroonian authorities.

Soue Mbella is purported to have won successive public contracts to supply the insecticide-treated mosquito nets to hospitals in northern Cameroon, but never delivered the anti-malaria treatment despite being paid in full by the Cameroonian government.

Legal sources say the judges found that Mr. Olanguena Owona “facilitated” the misappropriation of public funds by signing the paperwork that allowed Soue Mbella to get paid by Cameroon’s state Treasury.

The former minister has always denied the charges while claiming that his signature had been faked.

Mr. Olanguena, has been in detention since 2008. It should be duly noted that, before this verdict of 20 years in Prison, he had been already sentenced in June 2013 to 15 years in prison over a separate case involving the embezzlement of public funds. It is not clear if the 20 years will add to the initial 15 years resulting to a total of 35years in prison.

In 2006, the Cameroonian government led by His Excellency President Paul Biya, launched a high-profile campaign to tackle rampant high level corruption referred to by the media in French as “Opération Épervier” or “operation Hawk” in English. So far, the campaign has led to the arrest and imprisonment of a number of prominent figures including former Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni and several other ministers and heads of public companies.