Cameroon: Biya Gov’t to Hold High Risk, No Stakes Regional Elections December 6
On December 6, Cameroon will be holding its first-ever regional elections across the country. The holding of the poll is expected to accelerate the decentralization process in the country, leading to devolution of powers from the central administration in Yaounde to the regions. The elections come 24 years after the creation of regional assemblies in Cameroon’s 1996 Constitution.
The move has been hailed by some friends of Cameroon who see in it an effort to halt the near disintegration of the country with myriad complaints of power confiscation by a tiny political elite based in the capital, Yaounde. They have expressed hope that the actualization of regional assemblies would give the local population the chance to directly determine their development priorities and hire or fire officials not serving their needs.
This optimism notwithstanding, experts on the ground say the regional elections are unlikely to lead to any real change in the way of doing things because of the logic of over-centralization which runs through the entire Cameroon government apparatus. They point to the Constitutional provisions which spell out that the President of the Republic shall continue to appoint administrators with powers above the elective regional assemblies.
Prof Willibroad Dze-Ngwa, Executive Director of ANICHRA (Twitter)
Prof. Willibroad Dzengwa, Executive Director of the African Network against Illiteracy, Conflicts and Human Rights Abuse (ANICHRA) with headquarters in Yaounde, Cameroon tells Timescape Magazine that “Nothing is going to change, we are likely to see things even get worse off. The constitution is very clear that the President of the Republic shall still appoint people to lord it over elected regional representatives, this means the governors, the divisional officers and senior divisional officers would still be there and all-powerful”.
He intimated that those hoping something is likely to change in the direction of devolution of powers must be mistaken. The regulation as it this still allows budgeting in the hands of the central administration, requiring the vote holders to only delegate to the regions what they dim fit. It would mean that only the treatment of some files like payroll and retirement documents could be handled at the regional level.
“The 1996 Constitution provides that the Head of State can dissolve any of the regional assemblies at will if they do not align with the policies of the central administration at any given moment. This provision makes their existence merely an opportunity to expand sinecure offices to gratify more loyalists,” Prof Dze-Ngwa emphasizes.
To make matters worse, the said elections are being boycotted by the main opposition parties in the country. Prof. Maurice Kamto’s MRC party, Ni John Fru Ndi’s SDF part and the CPP of Ms. Edith Kahbang Walla have all elected to skip the poll. They are blaming the Paul Biya-led regime for insisting to organize elections when parts of the country are facing armed conflicts and are for the most part accessible to politicians only in military armoured cars. This leaves the ruling CPDM party already assured of victory everywhere since its candidates would be standing unopposed.
Though running unchallenged in the Once Independent State of Southern Cameroons, CPDM bigwigs are warming up their arsenal to ensure campaigns in the war-torn area. They face boycott calls launched by leaders of pro-independence movements in the area who consider the elections foreign in their territory. Similar calls for a boycott of local and parliamentary elections on February 9, 2020, were heeded at more than 97% in the region.
In anticipation of such troubles, CPDM electors made up of local councillors from 33 of the 34 councils in the North West have been advised by their party hierarchy to vote rapidly on December 6 and protect their votes until they are counted and validated by the election management body, Lections Cameroon (ELECAM). This call was made on Sunday, November 22, during the regional launching of campaigns in Bamenda.
In the Northern regions of the country, trouble is also brewing. The Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization, Paul Nji Atanga recently banned a movement there known as “10 Million de Nordistes” (10 million Northerners). Following the ban, the people of the three regions there; Adamawa, North and Far North announced street protests for November 29 against poor road network, lack of social amenities like electricity, water, along with infrastructure like classrooms, hospitals and the likes.