By Isidore Abah, (Originally published by The Post Newspaper, Cameroon.)
(Buea-Cameroon) Apologists of the New Deal Government have always prided Cameroon as an Advanced Democracy and a model for other countries to emulate.
During political rallies and television debates, these cronies of the New Deal regime have often credited President Paul Biya for being the pathfinder of Cameroon’s democracy.
There is no gainsaying that democracy saw the light of day in Cameroon during President Biya’s stewardship. It is also a fact that it was Biya who gave the nod for the liberalisation of the political landscape by promulgating Law No. 90/056 of 19 December 1990.
But it took the audacity, stamina and the gumption of some daring Cameroonians led by Ni John Fru Ndi under the umbrella of the Social Democratic Front, SDF, to force open the doors of democracy, which were firmly shut behind a one-party system.
Some of the patriots, who dared to upset the status quo, were slaughtered in broad daylight in Bamenda. From 1992 to 1997, there was some facade of democracy in Cameroon. The opposition was strong and the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, depended on allies to enjoy her overwhelming majority in Parliament.
Today, there are close to 300 political parties in Cameroon, but less than five genuine opposition parties exist. The rest are satellite parties created and moulded in the image and likeness of the CPDM.
These clone parties of the CPDM cooperate in all aspects of national life, especially when the interest of the main party is threatened by adversities. In exchange for their loyalty, the leaders of these so-called opposition parties are rewarded with Ministerial appointments. Others are made Directors and Board Chairs of parastatals by the CPDM -led Government.
Decades after the introduction of democracy and multi-party politics in Cameroon, the country is progressing regressively in the sphere of democracy. Many thought that after 30 years, Cameroon would be consolidating her democratic process, strengthening her democratic institutions and giving the people the right to choose their leaders and representatives.
However, the Government of Cameroon has done everything but the above stated. If one were to go by the definition of democracy as a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives, then one may be tempted to say that Cameroon is operating a junta.
Some of the tenets of a democratic State are its ability to protect basic human rights such as freedom of speech and religion; the right to equal protection under the law; and the opportunity to organise and participate fully in the political, economic, and cultural life of the society. Democratic States conduct regular free and fair elections open to citizens of voting age.
If one of the attributes of a democratic State is the participation of people in government through their elected representatives, then the February 9 Legislative and Municipal Elections have robbed the people of the Northwest and Southwest Regions of their legitimate right to choose their representatives. Instead, representatives have been chosen for the people of the two Regions, and in the days ahead, they will be imposed on them.
In Buea for example, hundreds of military officers deployed to the Region under the guise of coming to maintain law and order in the troubled Region became the main electorate. While a specific polling centre had been allocated to the military, these officers moved from one polling centre to other, voting under the pretext that they have been instructed to vote anywhere that is convenient for them.
Their intimidating presence coupled with separatist-imposed lockdown had scared-off veritable voters in the Region. At Ecole Francophone in Buea, a military officer stood at the door wielding his rifle and threatening that if anybody votes for any other party than the CPDM, then that person will pay with his or her life.
At GBPS Lower Muea polling station, ballot boxes were stuffed with CPDM ballots without the corresponding electors signing the register. At the Buea Appeal Court, one of the opposition polling agents had to engage the ELECAM representative and the CPDM polling agent in a fight after both connived to stuff the ballot boxes.
Some polling stations were transferred overnight without prior notification of other political parties. This was the case with the Mile 16 polling station which was moved to GTTC Mile 17 Polling Centre, but when voters got there, they were told to go back to Mile 16.
The electorate in Ndian was practically disenfranchised as their polling stations were fused into one polling centres and located several kilometres away from them. People were expected to trek over 30 kilometres just to go and cast their votes, even as cars were barred from circulating.
In Bamenda, military trucks allegedly transported CPDM militants to and from polling stations. ELECAM officials, who were supposed to be the umpires, became players. Again, some administrative officials connived with CPDM and ELECAM officials to ruin the polls. A case in point was in Limbe, when an aspiring Councillor was caught with CPDM ballots trying to stuff ballot boxes. When she was reported to the Fako SDO, he simply waved the complaint aside.
The February 9 twin elections were never about the people in the Anglophone Regions. How can elections adequately hold in areas experiencing an armed conflict? Why would people leave Kouseri, Djoum, Monatele, Mugodi and Aghem to vote in Buea, Fontem, Bangem, Mamfe, Akwaya and Benakuma? Who were they voting for? Would those they voted for on February 9 represent them?
The electoral shortcomings that characterised this year’s polls were alarming. Instead of spending huge sums of taxpayers’ money organising such charades, it is time for Cameroon to go back to a one-party system and continue enjoying her monocracy.
Better still, if Government wants veritable democracy in Cameroon, it should review the electoral code and expunge the numerous obnoxious provisions that favours one party over others, it should create and Independent Electoral Commission, introduce a single ballot paper and guarantee a level playing ground for all political parties so that people can truly choose their representatives and not have representatives imposed on them on the pretence elections.
It is time to go back to the future.