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THE STATE OF CAMEROON POLITICS – 20 YEARS LATER

 

Some twenty years after Cameroon first adopted multi-party politics, the political opposition in Cameroon has still not been able to organize itself and present to the people a viable and feasible alternative to the current system. As of this writing, Cameroon has some 250 political parties, for a country with a little less than 20 million people and some 300 tribes, almost attaining the one to one ratio between political parties and tribes.

  

There were some 35 people running for President in the 2011 Presidential election for a country with a little less than 20 million people. Since multi-party Politics was adopted in Cameroon, the opposition in Cameroon has still not –at least officially--won an election. They have not held a majority in the National Assembly, the main legislative body of the Nation. The opposition has not been able to organize itself around a common theme on the ground, mobilize the people, organize it’s constituency in any meaningful and significant way, create a functional and credible coalition for change, demonstrate any persuasive ability to lead the country in a different direction, and to bring about the change that the Cameroon people seek. So twenty years later, I am not overstating the case, nor am I being histrionic by saying that:  The Political opposition in Cameroon has been a dismal and abject failure. But there sure has been some lessons learned.

 

The current system in power has capitalized on these deficiencies, inherent incapability and absence of Leadership on the part of the opposition to maintain its grip to power, perhaps in a much stronger way than before Multi-party politics was adopted. The current system has succeeded in dividing, out-maneuvering --intellectually and politically-- and ridiculing the opposition in Cameroon which is now reduced to a divided handful of people, many of which are seeking power for their personal gain.“These people are creating tiny political parties –based on tribes--and running for president because they want to be nominated for a ministerial position”, said one journalist. “They are hungry people seeking to play the politics of the stomach” says another. This is what the movement for change seems to have been reduced to. A movement that began with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people in the 90s, has now lost its steam and “mojo” and morphed into this ridicule gang of people --pejoratively-- referred to as “Opposants”, to paraphrase one Cameroonian. An opposition that has been so conspicuously incapable, incoherent in its strategy, --intellectually and politically-- incompetent and to some extent laughable in its inability to put on a viable and feasible alternative to the current system of Government. However, beneath this gloomy and pessimistic picture of the state of  our country’s Politics, there exists a parallel thread of optimism and hope. The thread that informs that the Cameroonian people are becoming increasingly aware, vigilant, conscious and knowledgeable of the trickeries of Democracy. The thread that informs us of the subtleties, the complexities and the shenanigans associated with the practice of Democracy in a multi-tribal, multi-ethnic and multi-lingual environment. The knowledge that instituting a vibrant Democratic system of Government is a long lasting journey of learning and understanding the intricacies and subtleties of the art of changing a society and a country.

 

It is fair to say that the current system –as bad as it is – has outmaneuvered the opposition to ridicule. Cameroon is truly in a crisis of leadership. The objective Cameroon politician is coming to the sobering realization that changing a Country is not just about registering a political party or having a political program on paper, or an alternate constitution to the current one. It’s not about having a few people of your tribe or your lingual background sign up to your tiny party. It’s not just about having a few ideas for the country here and there. It’s not just about having a PhD in some field and run for President.  But that it’s first and foremost about a vision for the country. A vision of Unity and inclusiveness. A vision that transcends tribes, ethnicity and lingual origins. A vision that summons the good will of the Cameroonian people to want to be part of something that is bigger than themselves or any one man. A vision that informs the collective psyche of a people to be a stake holder of the future of their country and reveals to them that we are a people –and not a loosely affiliated bunch of tribes arbitrarily bundled at the whim of the colonial master within a triangularly shaped piece of land called Cameroon-- connected at the core by our love for Country, our common aspirations, our profound desire for freedom, respect and dignity, justice and respect for the rule of law.

The art of leadership consists of coming to the understanding that a vision in and of itself may not be sufficient to change a Country. It’s just an idea but it is also just a starting point. A vision has to be defined with tactical and strategic achievable goals and milestones. A vision has to be progressively elaborated into a plan consisting of various phases such as preparation, planning, design and implementation. Each phase of the plan must be further elaborated and broken down to concrete actions on the ground such as mobilization, education, sensibilization and militantism. All the phases in the Planning guide require funding, logistics and infrastructure. And that’s why and how as a leader, you come to the understanding of the necessity –not by choice but by necessity-- to establish a coalition of leaders such as Chiefs, Fons, Sultans, Lamidos, lawyers, justices, military men, police officers, doctors, people of all works of life, all tribes, all ethnic groups, all lingual background –and what have you-- who share the same vision for the country.  A leader must have the ability to build consensus –beyond tribal, ethnic and lingual grounds--with other local leaders in order to share and sell the vision to the country. The plan must be viable, feasible, sustainable, achievable and practical. The people have to be able to comprehend the tactical and strategic parts of the vision and what will be required of them to bring about its materialization. The movement for change –as we know it today-- that swept the country by storm in the 90s seems to have lost its sense of direction and sustainability. It does not seem to carry in it --any longer-- the characteristics required to mobilize and change a country. The people of Cameroon will have to wait a lot longer for the change they aspired to occur because the current political opposition has failed to deliver the promise for change.

At this moment in time of Cameroon history, the current ruling party --unfortunately and regrettably-- appears to be the only movement that has the logistics, the structure and the infrastructure in place to govern. As unsatisfied as some of us can be with its agenda, as much as we may not agree with its leaders, it’s the only viable structure that has a demonstrable capability –albeit with much room for improvement--to govern the country at this point in time of its history.  That’s perhaps why –in my view--the current system and President should remain in power until the opposition in Cameroon gets its act together and is ready to assume an alternative.

I have argued that all the people running for the Presidency, all the political parties of the opposition should focus their energy and attention to the legislative election. Their tactical goal should be to win a majority at the National Assembly and start changing the current laws in the books as written in the current constitution such as: re-instituting the term limits for the President and making it harder for any future President to change it. For instance, they can pass a law that says that the term limits in the Constitution can only be changed through a referendum as opposed to just a majority at the National Assembly. They can amend the constitution to require that the Presidential election must have a first and a second round, and that it will require a referendum for it to be changed in any way. They could write a law that requires that the Government, led by its prime Minister be more accountable to the National assembly, by requiring that the national Assembly conducts quarterly hearings. On a quarterly basis, the prime Minister along with all or some of his key Ministers, must appear before the National Assembly to answer questions pertaining to the actions of his Government.  They could write a law that gives the National Assembly more oversight and the power to investigate issues of corruption, misuse and abuse of Power. They could pass a law to require more separations between any ruling political party and the Government for more transparency. That way, a ruling party can’t use Government money --which is really the peoples money-- for its party’s activities. This will level the plane field for all political parties and not give an unfair advantage to the ruling party in the future. They could pass a law that effectively put older citizens above 65 years of age on retirement, making room for the younger University graduate. They could amend the constitution to create more separation –and better distribution-- of power between the branches of Government. This will pave the way for a more independent Judiciary while limiting the overreaching powers of the current Executive branch led by the President. They could craft laws that crackdown corruption in a very severe way. They could write Laws that lower the tariffs and custom duty for foreign imported products like cars and trucks –since we do not manufacture these products locally and therefore do not have a local market to protect--. They could write a host laws that are intended to ease the burden on the people and improve their daily lives. How about trying a health care law ? Medical and pharmaceutical reforms ? Town and urban planning reform ? Education reform ? 

 There are many other prerogatives within the current laws in the books that the National Assembly can assume. The current laws in the books –as bad as they are—still grants a great deal of power to the National Assembly. The opposition should seek to win a majority at this Chamber and exercise this power. This is a goal that can be achieved when people dedicated to cause of changing their country come together and work selflessly towards a common goal or towards something bigger than their individual selves. Resistance to change must be expected as people for the status-quo fight to preserve the current system, but the National Assembly is the place to stage an intellectual, philosophical, political and constitutional debate for change.

The Cameroon political opposition does not need the presidency –for which, honestly it is not ready to assume-- to deliver these changes. It can be done through the legislative body by winning a big majority at the National Assembly and using the current Laws in the books. And as a result, they will be building the Leadership blocks for the future, among which a Leader with a sound record for change will emerge. Someone who will have demonstrated for several years, the competence, the experience, the knowledge, the exuberance, the gravitas, the commitment and the passion to the cause of change, the charisma and the character to be the modern Leader of the Cameroon of the future.

But it all begins by electing the people with the right set of skills and credentials to the National assembly, and not just the Chiefs, Fons and Lamidos –for whom I have enormous respect—but who may not necessarily have the philosophical and intellectual credentials to understand and carry on the banner of change, or who –like many Cameroonian senior citizens that I have met -- may not necessarily relate to the aspirations of this new generation of Cameroonians.  The new generation –unlike the generation prior-- that has travelled, schooled and lived in virtually every part of the modern world of today. The new generation to whom the touch must now be passed to.

We must seek to elect people with uncompromised integrity, full dedication and commitment to the cause of change. People who will be patient, persistent, consistent and determined to respond to the noble call of our time and deliver on the promise so dear to this new generation. The call to leadership, integrity, commitment and dedication to the cause. The call for change as expressed by the yearnings of the Cameroon people at this point in time of the history of the Nation. The call that summons the good spirit of this new generation upon which there is so much hope, so much promise, so much capacity and capability.

The cause for change is virtuous, righteous, just and worth fighting for. It’s a creed that takes root in the depth of the human spirit, animated by the profound desire to be free and pursue happiness. It’s an instinctive and intuitive impulse within the human soul to want to engender the progressive leap that will make life better for himself and his fellow human beings. It’s a cause that will eventually and ultimately be crowned with success, necessarily. But it depends on us, the people.

 

 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”-- Albert Einstein—

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. --Albert Einstein--

"There is always a better way to do anything. It's your responsibility to find out how" --The ANST--

 “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.”—Martin Luther King Jr--

 

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