17/11/2010 19:22:27
Picam:"The sickening reality of democracy and governance in Cameroon"
Cameroon government's international campaign of Deception.
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A press release of PICAM.


1. Introduction

The Government of Cameroon has lunched an international drive to gain the approbation of the United States and the international community through deceit about purported ‘progress being made towards democratic reform and improved governance in Cameroon’. This campaign involves sending delegations to lobby various foreign governments and inter-governmental organizations. PICAM considers the subject of this campaign to be incongruous with the reality of the Cameroonian society. This document is an alternate presentation of the Cameroonian landscape regarding democracy, human rights, rule of law, and public accountability. PICAM notes that having government sponsored delegations to misinform the international community about democratic progress in Cameroon is not only an insult to Cameroonians, but equally a mockery of the very people the Government of Cameroon wants to mislead.

2. Paul Biya’s Cameroon in Perspective

The change from colonial rule to indigenous leadership at independence provided Cameroonians the opportunity for self-governance, the prospect of democratic participation, and a people centered development agenda. Unfortunately, the state of democracy and development in the country has not progressed as expected. Cameroonians are cognizant of the fact that democracy is just a word used in Cameroon for political manipulation because it has no place in government policies and practices. Instead, the Government of Cameroon has embarked on measures deliberately intended to forestall democratic reform. Rather than talk about democratic progress, we should be talking of democratic regression, oppression, and dictatorship as these best depicts the Government of Cameroon.

The current and long time President of Cameroon Paul Biya, bowed to domestic and international pressure in the early 1990s to reinstate multi-party politics in what was hoped to be a new phase in Cameroon’s democracy. However, no significant achievement can be cited as tangible democratic progress in the country since then. Instead, Paul Biya has steadily secured his position in power by surrounding himself mainly with members of his ethnic group and political party, and arrogated to himself absolute control over all branches of government. He controls a judiciary that is completely dependent on executive directives; a legislature elected by fraud and rubberstamping government bills; and an armed force that execute even unconstitutional orders at the pleasure of the President.
Mr. Paul Biya has implanted in Cameroon a political system of corruption and intimidation that has infected the entire political culture of Cameroon. By law, public officials are required to declare their assets upon assuming office but this law has never been respected because of the lack of will from Mr. Biya to declare his wealth. Public servants are tacitly forced to militate for the ruling CPDM party or face demotion and possible firing. Traditional leadership has been heavily politicized and prominent Chiefs, Fons, and Lamidos have been rewarded for loyalty with prestigious positions in government and public corporations for doing great jobs in suppressing their people. A sense of entitlement felt by public officials of Mr. Biya’s inner circles has led to a lack of accountability and a culture of corruption, manipulation, and cronyism.

3. The Predicaments of the People of Cameroon

Under Paul Biya’s reign, poverty in Cameroon has steadily increased and life expectancy steadily decreased. Cameroonians have become disillusioned and apathetic due to continuous electoral irregularities. All elections conducted in Cameroon have been marred by massive fraud and calls for an Independent Electoral Commission have gone unheeded. The country’s elections management institutions operate as an entity of the ruling CPDM party thereby guaranteeing its success at all elections. The country’s constitution has also been subject to presidential manipulation. Having been in power since 1982, President Biya's last seven year mandate was supposed to end in 2011. In April 2008, term limit in the constitution was illegally terminated making it possible for Paul Biya to seek limitless terms in power despite the fact that the amendment was hugely unpopular.
Freedoms of speech, expression and assembly are routinely abused through regulations. Public meetings require notification to government appointed authorities, who often reject applications for meetings they deem run contrary to the ambitions of the government. Peaceful demonstrations by Cameroonians to voice their frustrations and their desire for change have been met with violent crack down by government armed forces. Security forces and police continue to disrupt meetings of opposition political parties and human rights groups, and harass and arrest their members. Strict licensing rules exist for radio, newspapers, and television to deter them from criticizing the government, while threats, arrests, harassment, and executions have been employed against journalists to enforce self-censorship.
Mr. Paul Biya and members of his government take great pride in describing Cameroon as an oasis of peace in the troubled Central African sub-region. What many, especially in the international community do not know is that beneath this ego-boasting claim, lives a people with a very uncertain future; a people who live in fear because of oppression and human right abuses; a people who are unable to use the power of the ballot to effect much needed change; a people who are unable to benefit from the national resources of their country; and a people with very little opportunities to achieve their legitimate economic, development, and political aspirations. The political culture of corruption and violence in Cameroon has encouraged savage behavior, allowing government administrators, traditional leaders, and security operatives to torture and kill with complete impunity.

4. Conclusion

Despair with the regime of Paul Biya is clearly visible on the faces of Cameroonians. The people of Cameroon have been starved of democracy and basic human rights and the economic prospects of their country remain bleak. The political system has become sick, weak, inherently unstable, and the future of the country hangs in the balance. Consequently, Cameroon is at risk for political and economic instability - a devastating prospect for the socio-economic and political stability of the country, the Central African sub-region, and the African continent as a whole. Three decades of failed political, economic, educational, social, and development policies has led Cameroonians to completely lost confidence in Mr. Paul Biya and his ability to bring any meaningful change to their lives or the direction of the country. After serving for 46 years at the highest levels of government in Cameroon, PICAM is calling on Mr. Biya to pave the way for true democracy in the country beginning with his retirement at the end of his current and legal last Presidential term in 2011.

Done this day, November 16, 2010.


Presented on behalf of PICAM,

 

Eric NGONJI NJUNGWE.
President/Executive Director.
Progressive Initiative for Cameroon (PICAM).

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