High time for changeover in Cameroon

Posted on | juni 6, 2011 | No Comments

We have a nearby neighbour whose political system is worrisome and may attract chaos in no distant future if not reformed. Cameroon has a bizarre type of democracy and its leader, Paul Biya has the right to stay as long as he wants in power and the successor would inherit the same system. But there appears to be no successor for now, therefore Biya can rule forever.

The country is not in West Africa and its location in central part of the continent may compel us to think that it lies faraway and calls for little bother but any implosion within that country would soon have impact on our country especially our citizens in Cross River state.

Even if not for the discomfiture that might attract, the fact that Nigeria still regards Africa as the centrepiece of its foreign policy requires that we start getting concerned about governance in that country as a preventive method.

Granted that it is not the only country in Africa with such strange democratic model whereby a president must stay forever, Cameroon has all the characteristics of Nigeria.

It is pluri-ethnic. It has a northern part conquered by the duelling Fulanis Muslims who believed power must be retained by them; like as in divine mandate but something remarkable happened in early in 1980s when Biya was still a prime minister.

Late President Ahmadu Ahidjo, a Muslim from the north voluntarily stepped down on November 2, 1982 and handed over power to Biya but since then there is no sign that the later can do that or there is any constitutional process that would make him handover to someone else.

When he discovered that the 1996 constitution limited his tenure to two terms, Biya, after winning a re-election in 2004 opted to use an unlimited presidential power at his disposal to make the terms of a president indefinite.

He used a new year’s message in 2008 to say that it is undemocratic to limit peoples’ choice, hence he proposed the removal of term limit. With his party, (Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement) RPDC controlling the National Assembly overwhelmingly, his wish was granted.

Cameroonian president is like a king with infinite power to create policy, administer government agencies, appoint officials of government at all levels including provincial governors, divisional officers and urban-council members. The president appoints judges at all levels. In fact, Biya is the state and the state is Biya.

How can democracy progress with the president having such overwhelming powers and we are complaining about Libya and Colonel Muamar Ghadafi.

The result is that corruption in Cameroon has run lose with Transparency International placing the country at number 138 amongst the 163 countries in recent ranking.

Like Nigeria, prisons are overcrowded and criminal suspects are tortured. Even traditional rulers have their own types of prisons and they’re notorious for holding political opponents.

There has never been a time the national assembly was able to change or block any law proposed by the president.

Opposition parties do exist and the most popular is the Social Democratic Front (SDF) run by John Fru Ndi but the government disrupt the evolution of oppositions, civil rights groups and journalists.

The issue I wish to raise here is that Cameroon cannot remain like this. Democracy recognises limit for the terms of a president and the country must allow this.

Failing to do so, I foresee a situation whereby the northern part of the country would start feeling unease with the continued stay of Biya and recent experience has shown that such discords are not easy to resolve. It may even results to arm hostilities.

These are issues that could be tackled now before Western powers start mulling no-fly zone or US, France or NATO commences to think of defending civilians.

AUTHOR: Paul Ohia
URL: www.paulohia.blog.com and www.paulohia.blogspot.com
E-MAIL: paulohia [at] yahoo.co.uk


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