“Historic” regional elections in Cameroon, but what next?

“Historic” regional elections in Cameroon, but what next?

N Melo
by N Melo
December 16, 2020 0

“Historic” regional elections in Cameroon, but what next?

The first Cameroonian regional elections on December 6 completed the decentralization process. This ballot, without object for part of the opposition, is presented on the other hand by the power of Yaoundé – which unsurprisingly won – as the solution to the separatist crisis. Will this option be effective?

On December 22, 900 regional advisers will officially take up their duties. They were elected on December 6 following the very first regional elections in Cameroon’s history. The Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (RDPC), the formation of President Paul Biya in power for 38 years, unsurprisingly won the ballot in nine of the ten regions . Three parties, including two from the presidential majority, share the rest of the seats, including the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP) which wins the Adamaoua region, the only one that escapes the CPDM.

Cameroon armed forces soldiers

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If 14 parties were in the running , the CPDM left largely the favorite. Indeed, at the end of the municipal election last February, the ruling party now has more than 10,000 municipal councilors and manages 316 municipalities out of 360 in Cameroon. Municipal councilors who mostly constitute the electoral college for regional elections. In each region, 70 councilors are elected by a college made up of delegates, themselves elected by the municipal councilors of each department, and 20 councilors elected by the traditional chiefs within them. The majority acquired by Paul Biya’s party in this election allows him to control the Regional Council, an institution at the heart of the decentralization process.
Elections without object for the opposition
Across the country, the ballot was boycotted by the two main opposition parties: the Social Democratic Front (SDF) and the Mouvement pour la renaissance du Cameroun (MRC), led by Maurice Kamto, the fierce opponent of Paul Biya. One of the reasons given by the two formations is the persistence of violence in the English-speaking regions of the country, still in the grip of the separatist crisis for four years. Moreover, a CPDM city councilor was assassinated on polling day by separatists who threatened to disrupt the vote.

However, for its part, the government continues to say that the elections were held in ” calm and transparency “. A ” masquerade “, for Maurice Kamto. In a press release published on December 9, the opponent, who has finally regained his freedom of movement after several weeks of house arrest, qualifies this deadline as a ” forced passage ” by the power of Paul Biya.

“The conduct of these regional elections has shown that, despite its incantations, the regime remains incapable or little concerned with ensuring the security of citizens. The masquerade of December 6 will in no way change the daily life of the Cameroonian people, whose deep aspirations will clearly not be realized under the current dictatorial regime, ”wrote the opponent.
Within the ranks of the ruling party, the reaction was not long in coming. Jacques Fame Ndongo, national secretary for communication of the RDPC, qualifies in a tweet the logic of Maurice Kamto as “ nihilist and fictional ”.

For him, the president of the MRC ” perseveres in the path of demonizing the Yaoundé regime ” and ” refuses to recognize the efficient functioning of the Cameroonian political model “.

Decentralization as a solution to the crisis?
Although already enshrined in the 1996 Constitution, the acceleration of decentralization was put back on the table during the Grand National Dialogue at the end of 2019 in Yaoundé. An option brandished by the power in place with the bonus of granting a special status to the two regions of the North-West and South-West as a solution to the current separatist crisis. This in place of the federalism desired by the moderate English-speaking leaders.

However, believes Aristide Mono, professor of political science at the University of Yaoundé 2, if this ” election completes a vacuum in the institutional engineering of decentralization in Cameroon, it may only be useful at the level of form. Basically, there are several shortcomings which unsubstancialize the ideal of empowerment of decentralized territorial communities ”.

“Already, the electoral college was not sufficiently representative. In some cases, traditional chiefs did not justify their legitimacy and found themselves contested in their own localities. The college of municipal councilors was the result of boycotted and contested elections with a very high abstention rate [February 2020 poll]. A large number of those who elected regional advisers therefore suffer from a problem of legitimacy, ”concludes the political scientist at Sputnik’s microphone.
Yaoundé presents these regions as ” historic ” and affirms that they will settle the crisis in the English-speaking areas. But Aristide Mono stresses that there is ” no link between the demands of the armed separatists who are waiting for a discussion with the State and the establishment of regional councils “.

Dialogue or military option, how to resolve the separatist crisis in Cameroon?
For the political scientist, there is even ” a big confusion ” between the Anglophone crisis and the Anglophone problem. “ The Anglophone crisis is the violent expression of the Anglophone problem which is the imperative desire of Anglophones to return to an autonomous or semi-autonomous system which guarantees them a socioeconomic life a little more above that offered by the ‘Unitarian state. ”
“Following this distinction, we can therefore clearly see that the establishment of regional councils completes the elaboration of the special status granted to the English-speaking regions by devoting the beginning of a return to the form of the State claimed by several English-speakers. It therefore asserts itself as a step towards the resolution of the Anglophone problem and not of the crisis which, for its part, requires either an understanding between the belligerents or a recognized defeat of one of them ”, estimates the analyst at the microphone. by Sputnik.
As a reminder, the Southern Cameroons, this southern part of the former British Cameroon which represents the two English-speaking regions in crisis today, had previously declared for independence and its attachment to the former French-speaking Cameroon. The two entities formed a Federal Republic from 1 st October 1961. In 1972, a referendum ended the federalism. The two federated states have merged into one. Today, the English-speaking separatists want to mark the break with the French-speaking part by questioning the clauses of the 1961 attachment.

While in the country, the time has come for the implementation of the resolutions of the Grand National Dialogue, on the ground, the conflict has seriously stalled and acts of barbarism are recorded on a daily basis. The fighting has left more than 3,000 dead, according to NGOs, and at least 700,000 displaced.

N Melo
NM
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