Cameroon: Legal Despotism and the Ideology of Numbers


In legal despotism, facts and arguments matter little from the perspective of the accused who is never allowed to mount a proper defense. However, as with all the political prisoners charged with corruption, the regime consistently manipulates numbers nobody is allowed to challenge and are promoted to stand as facts and brandished through Ad Nauseum massive propaganda to justify massive incarceration of high ranking officials who are, whether they approve or it or not, perceived as “political opponents.”


In this “numbers make law ideology,” the massive incarceration of most prominent officials in Cameroon are tied to the creative accounting linked the “Albatross,” a plane that the president attempted to acquire against the advice of the International Monetary Fund which, in fact, has privatized Cameroonian’ finances, after, the president’s repeated claims that “Cameroon was not ready for the IMF”. This subversion of economic policy translated into legal subversion after the illegal acquisition of the Albatross was found out to be beset by many problems which the president interpreted as politically motivated against him. Had the Albatross been flying, it is very unlikely that the like of prime minister Ephraim Inoni and technocrats such as Marafa Hamidou Yaya, Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara and Yves-Michel Fotso, and the list is in no way exhaustive, would not have been sitting in prison without the opportunity to mount proper legal challenges against their jailers and even though they are recognized as political prisoners by many international legal institutions.


This massive incarceration, consequently, brings to the forth important questions regarding values and our relationship with facts, accounting and ideology, notwithstanding, the idea that accounting and statistics are based on mathematics and science to reinforce notions of objectivity. Accounting and statistic are ideological and that explain the term of “creative accounting,” and how, in the United States, accounting seems to benefit widely Wall Street and how in other countries such as Cameroon, the politics of numbers are so politicized to the point that even census numbers are not revealed, nobody really know for sure how many Cameroonians are supposed to be on the electoral rolls and the Cameroonian diaspora is marginalized and rendered superfluous.


Accounting and statistic have normative effects and numbers are used to justify laws as mathematical and physical laws. Numbers have symbolic and dogmatic power and ordinary people believe in these numbers as acts of faith. Hence, a legal system based on faith. In ritualistic traditional societies, laws are not imposed from the outside but through the disciplining of appropriate norms, behaviors, attitudes and reciprocal duties. Ritualism is neither natural nor artificial because rites evolve overtimes but rely on a system of stability and predictability to keep making sense and cultivate a sense of duty, loyalty and sacrifice.


In legal despotism, law is whatever the power structure says it is. Laws are imposed from top-down.


It is consequently important to change that number-based discourse whose only purpose is to humiliate professionals perceived as political opponents. Humiliating the professional class might make for good political circus and a politic of resentment but it does not make for real social justice, sustainable and strong political community and public good.


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