Participating in Positive Change

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2011 Elections: Participation and political change in Cameroon

By Aloysius AGENDIA
The massive registration and voting of Cameroonians in the 2011 Presidential Election in Cameroon is indispensable for change  in the country, whether the elections would be rigged or not.
Registration and voting may not be an immediate panacea to our problems, but it is a significant step towards signalling that we want change and even implementing the change and in the direction that we want.

Massive registration would definitely mean that the people are ready to defend their votes.  This will make would-be riggers to be cautious in the way they go along with
their malicious business. It is equally easier to rigged elections when there are less registered voters and actual voters, than when there are many people who registered and actually vote.  Massive turn out is always a very important signal.

Unfortunately, the SDF and other misguided "opposition" parties in Cameroon are again telling Cameroonians not to register, by not encouraging them to register.  They are creating voter apathy already and, they would be the first to claim that voters' were disenfranchised and elections rigged.

Amateurish, lacklustre and lackadaisical political leadership.

In a recent interview in Le Jour published online on August 23, 2010, SDF natural Chairman and candidate, John Fru Ndi, was too ambiguous, saying it is not him to tell Cameroonians to go or, not to go and register and subsequently vote. His focus was more on Elections Cameroon-ELECAM. I understand his concerns but he must equally know that politics is about tactics. Massively mobilising his militants and sympathisers to register is a better tactics than keeping them in the wilderness. It is even a condition sine qua non for the success of any party; if at all the SDF wants real business.

It is not only the duty of the opposition to verbally criticise. What are they doing to turn the tides?

Still in the same newspaper, (Le Jour), Hon. Jean Mitchell Nintcheu, SDF MP in the Littoral Region, was even more radical by vibrating that no elections will take place in Cameroon under ELECAM.
The SDF has always made such similar comic statements at best, before. During the era of National Elections Observatory-NEO, it was that they (SDF) would not participate in elections, but they did. When government signalled the creation of ELECAM, they changed strategies by saying; No ELECAM NO ELECTIONS.

Yet, the 2007 Municipal  and Legislative Elections were  conducted without ELECAM and the same parties which never asked it members to register, took part in the elections and are now  managing councils  and have seats in parliament. Though ELECAM has been created with its flaws, now, the same rhetoric is ongoing.

Instead of focusing on winning more militants  and sympathisers through the selling
of party programs on different issues affecting public life and also by encouraging people  to register, vote and defend their votes, the SDF, which remains the main opposition party is still engaging in fruitless hide- and-seek "belly" politics. This pushes some people to believe that the SDF is either complicit with the CPDM, or the party decision making body is highly incompetent and not motivated.

In the same dossier in Le Jour, little known Progressive Movement party of Jean Jacques Ekindi, also took rather radical stand on voter registration. According to the article MP says, it would not collaborate with ELECAM.

Furthermore, in an online article published by  the National Bilingual daily, Cameroon Tribune  on September 5, 2010, it was revealed that there are dissenting voices in the SDF as to its participation in elections, which should begin with calling on its militants and Cameroonians to register on voters’ registers.

Anembong Monju, the Communication Secretary for the party said without any shame that the SDF as of now, will not tell Cameroonians to go and register, neither would it instruct its militants not to register. I wonder who are the communication and political advisors for this party which started with a lot hope in the 90s.

The recent declarations of the SDF and the  of little known MP parties   are nothing  short of  amateurish political gimmicks, which smacks of senile political leadership just as the leadership of the CPDM itself. This is because, the same political parties receive funding from the state, have MPs in the National House of Assembly and some of them manage councils won from elections which the same parties have always described as always flawed.

I find it utterly ridiculous for the "opposition" not encouraging people to register and subsequently vote. Time is running out and we are left with just a few months to the elections if at all they are held within the first 9 months of next year. That notwithstanding, when the results would be declared, the same parties who are mute now on registration of voters, would be the first people to call on Cameroonians
to go and defend their votes. Which votes? Funny indeed.

These parties just as the CPDM are terribly wanting. Unfortunately, change in Cameroon without any possibility of a coup d' etat, is likely to come from two main parties- CPDM or SDF. But when leaders of the ruling and opposition parties choose just to behave alike, it becomes really hard for the voters to decipher.

Don't ask me to go and create my own party because it is virtually impossible for any new party to succeed now. This is partly because; the hopes and aspirations of the people have been destroyed by the outdated leadership of both the SDF and the CPDM. Most Cameroonians do not believe in political parties again. Many think on ethnic lines. Most importantly, implanting a viable opposition beside SDF or the CPDM would need several years of education, selling of manifesto and sensitisation.

All these require considerable political and economic capital which most of us do not have. A bit of political capital may be there, but the economic/financial capital needed to set the ball rolling is missing or very difficult to garner. That is why we have not been able to see a better and an organised opposition in Cameroon.

The SDF profited from the benefit of doubt and the overwhelming frustration
of people in the early 90s. It is not the same now. Frustrations have grown even further albeit this time around, our people are so scared of political parties again. They gave their trust to these parties, but mostly got nothing in return but disappointments.

However, I still see a few elements in both parties (CPDM and SDF) who can turn the tides. Unfortunately, the issue is that the old ideology of dominance and suppression
is still very strong in the main parties. Proponents of this old and centralised ideology sack opponents from the parties or simply demote people with different views from strategic positions in the parties.

Theoretical true and practically false perception of youths

Claims on by Cameroonian youthful journalist, Carole Yemelong, who works for Equinox Radio and presently (as of September 07 2010)  taking a professional course in France,  that Cameroonian youths are dead-ready to see  the out-come of 2011 are theoretically true. But, if you investigate more, they would be practically false. You can start by asking the same lady if she has registered for the elections. You may be surprised with what you will hear.

No change will come from people sitting at home and making wishes. They must register and make sure they vote and defend their votes. Registering to vote is the first step towards defending your votes and defending your vote should be the last step toward ushering political change.  It is not an issue of rushing to polling stations for the counting when you did not even register, talk less of voting. It is not a matter of resulting to violence and claiming that your vote has been stolen when you did not even register to vote.

Pacific change can only take place in Cameroon through meaningful political participation and with the concerted efforts of all Cameroonians.  Let the opposition plays it role and stop doing the gallery. A stable Cameroon oriented political base will then set the pace for developments in other sectors, social, health, economic, etc. Cameroonians at home: Register and vote if you want change

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