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Cameroon: Dancing forward and backward with decentralisation


On Wednesday November 12, 2008, President Paul Biya signed a decree dividing Cameroon into regions and thereby replacing the hitherto provinces. This was the application of the 1996 constitution as it had been clearly stated therein. Effectively applying the regions stuff implies, Cameroon will join the ranks of Nigeria, USA, Russia etc which have various states, and regions which are like autonomous, though with a Central / Federal government. But that is not the kind of federation Cameroonians really want.

The decentralisation stuff in Cameroon is a complete farce. It is a non-starter despite the noise being made by the public media in Cameroon to laud the initiative of president Biya. Though it is enshrined in it that people will elect councils which will govern the region, it is not known when that can ever begin. More disturbing, in a country where presidential decrees take precedence over the law or constitution, hoping for veritable decentralisation in Cameroon is still long.

Article 56 of the 1996 Constitution of Cameroon and in relation to the regions states that;

: (1) The State shall transfer to Regions, under conditions laid down by law,

jurisdiction in areas necessary for their economic, social, health, educational, cultural and sports development.

(2) The law shall define:

- The sharing of powers between the State and the Regions in the areas of

competence so transferred;

- The resources of Regions;

- The land and property of each Region.

The effectiveness of regions implicitly gives more power to regions, making them autonomous. On the other hand, the head of state according to the constitution, can still overrule a region as he can dissolve a regional council Article 59 of the constitution states this.

In article 58, it is made clear that the president shall be represented in every region by an appointee who, according to the law, protects national interest…..

Article 58 :( 1) A delegate, appointed by the President of the Republic, shall represent the State in the Region. In this capacity, he shall be responsible for national interests, administrative control, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, as well as maintaining law and order. He shall, under the authority of the Government, supervise and co-ordinate civil State services in the Region.  

(2) He shall exercise the supervisory authority of the State over the Region.


What kind of decentralisation is expected in a country where in councils/municipalities are not managed by the elected mayors and the councillors, but, by appointed sycophants called government delegates who have virtually nothing to render to electorate than their political master.

How are these so-called regions really different from the present status quo of the various provinces? Appointed governors, surrogates Divisional and sub divisional officers etc. This is no form of decentralisation. If Mr Biya and his cohorts who have taken the country hostage want to decentralise, let them come up with a veritable federation. All provinces or call them regions should be autonomous with a central federal body. It is more of a mere change of name and no real issue will happen in PRACTISE. When people clamoured for a veritable independent electoral Commission, The New Deal regime came up with National Elections Observatory I and II and more recently Elections Cameroon, Elecam whose members are yet to be handpicked by the President.

Initially, it moved from NEO I and II and soon, ELECAM but nothing has changed, as, the organisation of elections and proclamation of result remains the prerogative of appointed SDO who rigged for appointments and promotion.

Inasmuch as free and transparent elections are not held in Cameroon, the issue of regions or decentralisation will still remain a farce. True decentralisation is allowing people to freely choose their leaders and the kind of government they want. Not necessarily shadow democracy practised in Cameroon with the support of some western neo colonial governments.

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