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A GUIDE TO OPERATE A MODERN GOVERNMENT

 

In the article entitled “The Role of Government”, I indicated that the Government we inherited from the colonial age was designed and instituted by the Colonial Master and for the colonial Master’s interests only. The French never intended to teach the francophone sub-Saharan African people how to govern themselves. France’s main objective –during and after colonization-- was to brainwash the francophone black man to be eternally submissive and subservient to its will.

 

 

The Francophone sub-Saharan African man has been indoctrinated to always put the Master’s interest ahead of that of his own people, and to consider his people inferior and unsophisticated. And for this masterful scheme of brainwashing and  indoctrination to work, they had to device a mechanism of perpetual exploitation using the FCFA currency as absolute weapon to keep our people in a state of  persistent poverty, enslavement and mental stupor.

 

The scheme was designed to maintain one dictator in power –for as long as possible-- who will terrorize and tyrannize his own people to fear and submission in order to protect France’s interest. And in return the tyrant would be guarantied everlasting power --without consent and accountability-- over his own people. Hence, francophone Africa, --in the 50+ years post independence-- produced monarchic tyrants like Omar Bongo, Houphouet Boigny, Bokassa, Moussa Traore, Ahidjo, Biya, just to name a few. An estrange Government –like the one in Cameroon--, which gets all its directives from France is necessarily antagonistic and inimical to the Cameroonian people’s interest, because it only seeks to serve France’s interest at the detriment of the Cameroonian people.

 

I have urged the Cameroonian intellectuals to begin to define the role of Government that is consistent with the aspirations and the interests of our people. A Government that is responsive to the needs and demands of its people. A Government whose quintessential role is to serve its people and establish an environment that is conducive to the pursuit of happiness of its citizens. A Government that is friendly to the people and seeks to make their lives better and encourages their emancipation, mentally and spiritually. A Government of the people, by the people and for the people of Cameroon.

 

Government is a very huge and consequential institution to people’s lives. When the people are not educated on the role of Government  –as is the case of the rogue Governments of Francophone Africa--, they are at the mercy of the laws and decrees enacted by their Government --at the whim of France--. An irresponsive and irresponsible Government can be a dreadful impediment and a severe hindrance to the lives of the people, and an obstacle to their progress and upward mobility.

When one man, --be it the President or a Minister-- out of a blue –on a very short notice-- decides to increase gasoline prices –by close to 20%-- to the whole country, thereby augmenting the burden of an already heavily burdened people, we as a people must pose for reflection and ask the question: under what authority does he have the right take such a consequential ill thought decision ? When a President only governs a country through decrees, --without the consent of the people through the National Assembly--, we must ask the question: who is this rogue President –and Government-- serving? Why so much hatred and disdain for his own people? –very same people he is supposed to serve--. What about the voices of the other 24 million people –or so—of Cameroon ?  

 

In this article, we try to give our people some basic understanding of how a Government of the people should work. Our people must understand that when we get the right people elected to the National Assembly, --people with dedication, conviction, deontology, competence and love for country-- we can impact good governance in our country. The national Assembly is the ground zero to the fight to bring constitutional changes to our country.

 

For the past three decades, our country has suffered from bad governance, chronic corruption and embezzlements. A Government that is entrenched in the tribal politics of corruption, fear, oppression and tyranny.  Our people, for the most part do not understand the role of Government nor how Government should work. They don’t know what to expect from their Government.

 

This profound mistrust between the people and their estrange Government has fundamentally altered the relationship between the people and their country. Most Cameroonians that I meet do not admire or like their country, nor are they really connected to it in any patriotic or amicable way –except perhaps that they have parents back home that they love and care for--, and perhaps when they watch with indignation the very laughable and easily vincible “Indomitable Lions”— being shellacked and ridiculed over and over again.

 

In this article, we try to share with our people some basic understanding of how a modern government should operate on a day to basis.

First, let us recall that a modern Government has 3 branches.

1-                The Legislative Branch of Government –This is the National Assembly in the case of Cameroon--.

The legislative branch of Government is perhaps the most important sliver of any modern government. This is the branch of government that is responsible to make the laws of the country. That is why its members are sometimes referred to as law makers, because their job is essentially to craft and enact the laws of the country. Whenever we, as a country decide build new water plants, new electrical plants, new roads, new bridges, new hospitals, new institutions such as the CONAC or our own currency and a Cameroon Central Bank, the legislative body is the branch of Government that must design, craft, write and enact a law that describes and spells out step by step how the project is to be carried out. The verbiage or syntax of the law must describe the scope, the cost and the timeline of the project.

 

Because our country is so corrupt, the law has to describe how the project will be funded and the manner of the funding. For instance, the law may require that payments to the service providers be made in small installments approved by the National Assembly –NA--, after verification and tangible proof that the project was executed and completed satisfactorily. The NA must be the purse holder of the Nation, the watchdog to corruption and embezzlement through the laws it passes. That is why we need the smartest people of our country –lawyers, journalists, university professors, business men and smart people of all works of life— to be elected to the Parliament, because it is the quintessential institution of our country. It is the backbone of our democracy, the watchdog of Government expenses, accountability and abuses of power.

 

It is the body that truly represents the people in a participatory democracy. Having the operation Epervier is good, but Epervier is a reactive institution in the sense that it only works after the fact or after someone has stolen huge sums of money. A functional NA, through the laws that it enacts, will be proactive by preventing corruption and embezzlements to occur in the first place, because money can only be disbursed from the Public Treasury after the NA approves it through a vote. Our system of Government has to be preventive and not reactive to embezzlements.

In the US for instance, the bi-cameral Congress –-which is the legislative body of the US— is the purse holder of the nation. Every time Government needs to spend money on a project of any kind, --including wars--, the US congress must authorize it before the amount can be disbursed. So the US Congress holds the nations pocket book. –Not the President--. The US congress is also the watch dog of how Government money is spent. In order words congress has the power of oversight over every activities and operation that the Government undertakes. Through its different committees, Congress can subpoena individuals to appear to a congressional hearing to give an account of their actions.

 

So the legislative body has the following functions: Make new laws, power of the purse and broad oversight on all Government expenses, activities and actions.

So it is a good thing that the President of Cameroon is running around arresting people who –he claims-- have stolen Government money. But it is best to leave the NA to exercise its powers of oversight over all Government activities through hearings at the NA. –on public television--. And the NA through the laws that it enacts has the capacity to prevent embezzlements and corruption to happen in the first place. We must be proactive and preventive against embezzlemenst and corruption and not reactive --after the fact-- as the President with his --selective-- "Opreation Epervier" is currently doing.

 

2-                The Executive Branch of Government

This branch of Government is essentially the President and his cabinet. –including the Prime minister and all the ministers--. The role of the executive branch of Government is to follow and execute the laws that legislative body has enacted. Note that the executive branch of the government –including the President— does not make the law, it only executes and follow the law as written by the legislative branch. And it must follow the law –to the letter— as spelled out by the legislative body.

 

In modern governments today, the President has some limited powers to promulgate laws by decree. But there must be a status of limitation on the scope and magnitude of the kinds of laws that the President can decree by fiat. Decrees are meant for small and narrowly defined laws, and often times, presidential decrees can be overwritten by the legislative body which has the full authority –under the constitution— to create laws. For instance, the President should not be able to decree that his son will replace him as President when he decides to leave office.  The President should not be able to decree a broad change to the constitution. These kinds of major and consequential changes are the prerogatives of the Legislative Branch. --The NA in the case of Cameroon--.

 

The problem with Governing by decree –as our octogenarian guy in Etoudi has been doing-- is two folds:

First, decrees may not be representative of the people, because only one man, the President is deciding by fiat or ego. Second, decrees are intended for small and narrow legislative prescriptions, hence are not detailed enough in their constructs. They do not thoroughly spell out, nor are they thoroughly descriptive of how the actions are to be carried out, because they are often times a two to ten pages document.

 

 

For instance, if the President decrees the creation of CONAC in a 5 pages writing, this decree may not describe how CONAC can be held accountable if and when they abuse of their power, or if its members become corrupt. The decree may not specify whether or not that the National Assembly has oversight on the operations of the CONAC. So if there is not enough intelligence in the text --or the construct-- of the decree, it may not function as intended. A competent President should be cautious and exert restraint in governing by decree. He must seek the approval of the legislative branch of Government to enact fully intelligent laws that have accountability clauses attached to them.

 

3-                The Judiciary branch of Government

The judiciary branch of Government –or the high court--is responsible for interpreting and administering the law, and to conduct judiciary oversight. In order words, the judiciary branch of Government makes sure that the laws that are passed by the legislative branch of Government or by decree of the President do not violate the constitution. It ensures that the President or the legislative branch do not abuse of their powers. It is the branch that enforces checks and balances of power between the branches of Government.

 

For instance, if we had a functional Judiciary system, the recent increase in gasoline prices decreed by a Minister could be found unconstitutional if the Courts find that a Minister does not have such as an authority under the constitution. If the President decrees that his son should become President after he leaves office, such a decree must be found unconstitutional by the Judiciary Branch and be immediately nullified. 

 

So to summarize, the Legislative branch makes the laws, the Executive branch executes the law and the Judiciary branch interprets and and administers the laws.  This configuration of a modern government ensures separation of powers between the branches of Government. Now, for a modern country to function correctly, each branch of Government must meet its responsibilities. Remember that the legislative branch is perhaps the most important because it represents the people, as its 180 members are elected through suffrage. This is the branch of Government that we must strengthen in Cameroon today, because it is the branch that makes the law and holds the Government accountable. Your President and Ministers should not have the constitutional authority to make laws. They must only follow and execute the laws that the legislative body –which represents the people-- has enacted. This is called separation of powers between the branches of Government.

 

For instance, let’s take the case of the recent increases in gasoline prices in Cameroon. We were told that the Minister of transportation decreed the gasoline hikes. In reality, the minister –who is not an elected official-- can’t decree a law of that magnitude. He simply does not have the constitutional authority to do so. The President –for fear of popular uprising and backlash, 2008 deja vue— probably asked this minister to decree the gasoline hike. But even the President may not have the constitutional authority to do so. Only the legislative body of the country may have the authority under the constitution to pass such a broad and consequential law to the lives of the people.

 

In a modern democracy, this is how the process should have worked:

a-      Let us assume that the IMF has asked the Cameroonian Government to increase its revenue through some kind of taxation. Gasoline price hike is just one way of achieving the IMF demand. But it may not be the best way to do it. The President would go the National Assembly –which represents the people of Cameroon-- to ask that a law be passed to meet the demands of the IMF. The National Assembly could have told the President, well M. President, the Cameroonian people are already heavily burdened due to the lack of water, lack of electricity, lack of jobs, lack of decent housing and we should not make their lives more dreadful than it already is. M. President, there is a better way to meet the requirements and demands of the IMF. We can reduce the extravagant benefits of ministers by 10%, we can reduce your expensive lifestyle and lengthy travel expenses to Europe by 12%, we can ask that ELF, Total, Bolore and others --who exploit our resources and repatriates all their profits to France-- pay a little more in taxes (15% increase). We can ask that France --which is stealing our money from the "Comptes d'Opeartion" releases 10% of our money. The total could amount to the exigencies of the IMF.

b-    The President, working with the Cameroonian people through the NA, would then try to strike an agreement by finding some kind of a middle ground. It may be that gasoline prices could still be increased, but perhaps by just 3%, instead of --the punitive and unreasonable-- 20%.

c-     Then the NA whose job is to pass laws, would draft a law that meets the base of their agreement. The bill is then submitted to the National Assembly for a vote. If passed, the President would then sign it into law. At that point, the President's job would be to execute that law as it was passed by the people's house. --The NA--.

 

So that’s how the process should have worked, because our Country is a Republic, meaning that Cameroon –as a Nation-- belongs to the people, and not any one man. A President or a Minister should never, ever be allowed to wake up one morning –with hangovers-- and decide at his whim, to penalize and punish an entire nation of people because the IMF said so. The people, through the elected members of the NA, must make decisions that affect the entire country and not any one, not even a President.

 

People, this is in a nutshell how Government should work. Every law, every institution such as the CONAC, --including foreign companies such as ELF, TOTAL, BOLORE must be subjected to oversight from the NA, which represents the people. The NA can subpoena individuals for a hearing –televised on public television— on their actions and intents. The NA is the branch of Government that has broad oversight on the actions of our Government and private institutions.

 

Presidential Nomination

One of the prerogatives of the President is to nominate Ministers, Directors, delegue de Government and so forth. However, the president must only nominate individuals, but the NA must ratify that nomination by having a vote on that individual’s qualification and competence.

If the President nominates someone who is not deemed competent for some reason –perhaps he is just the President’s son or nephew--, the NA should give the President a thumb down and ask him to nominate someone else who is competent enough for the position.

Always remember that power, without accountability will corrupt the human mind. If every nominee must be confirmed by the NA –televised on public Television--, the President won’t be favoring his tribesmen, because the NA can block some of his nominations. Cameroonians have complained about this President overwhelmingly nominating Beti and Ewondo people to high positions in Government. This is only possible because the NA –which represents the people— is sitting on the sidelines and has no say or oversight in the process. When the current system comes to an end, the Cameroonian people will have to rethink the operational mechanisms of their Government. Don't leave any one man decide on the fate of an entire country, because that one man will ultimately fail us. We, as a people must be stakeholders of our country and we must express our collective ethos in all the proceedings and processes of our Government.

Corruption, embezzlements and incompetence are symptoms of a profound lack of understanding on how Government should operate.

 

The problem we have in Cameroon is a systemic lack of understanding how Government should work. I have written extensively on the topic of reforming Government, and the sub-Saharan African intellectuals must begin to elaborate on a comprehensive basic guidelines on how Government and Government institutions should operate. We need some kind of a guide to running Government in our country. The colonial master did not teach us how to govern ourselves because it was never their intention to see us be free people. We must learn for ourselves and teach our people what Government is all about.

Take a structure like the CONAC –which recently made headlines-- and ask the basic questions:

1-    What is the statutory requirement of this institution ? What do we as a people intend to achieve with this institution ? Why do we need it ?

2-    What powers are given to this institution ? What is the status of limitation to these powers? In other words, what can the CONAC do and what can it not do ?

3-    What is the oversight mechanism of this institution ? How do we hold them accountable and who holds them accountable ? What is the counter power to the powers granted to this institution ? Is there a separation of duty and separation of power within CONAC?

4-    How much will it cost to establish CONAC ? How do we pay for it ? Can our Government afford it ? How is the head of the CANAC nominated ? Does it require approval from the National Assembly ?

 

When we get the answers to all these questions, then and only then we create such an institution.

The next step in the process is how do we create it ?

We absolutely don’t want the dude in Etoudi declare it by decree. Because we know he will quickly politicize and “tribalize” the structure, and fill it with folks --from Mvog Meka-- who may not be the most competent to run the structure. And because decrees, --which should only be used for very small and narrowly defined prescriptions-- in their design and constructs are not as elaborated as a full fleshed laws passed by the legislative body. –The National Assembly--.

 

So, after we know what we need and want from CONAC, a draft of a law to create this institution is introduced at the National Assembly, which represents the people. A full and open debate on this law –creating CONAC-- must be shown on public television, so the Cameroonian people can be stake holders and understand the intent of the law and their Government. During the debate to create the new structure, there must be amendments or modifications to the initial draft of the law to improve on it.

 

Then the draft proposition is submitted to the full National Assembly for a vote. The law can either pass or fail at that point.

In the case of passage, the syntax or the verbiage of the law must clearly define and spell out items -1 through -4 above without ambiguity.

The people responsible for managing the CONAC must appear before the National Assembly every 3 or 6 months to give a detail account of their actions at the CONAC and explain how they are meeting the statutory requirements of the institutions. They must also answer questions related to any abuses that may have been reported against them. The Cameroonian people must have the right to file law suits against the CONAC if they deem that the institution is abusing of its powers, and the folks running the CONAC must be held accountable. They can be fired and replaced when it is proven that they abused of their powers.

 

People, so that is how Government should work. It is plenty of work to get Government to work right. It requires plenty of thoughtful people working together to get Government to operate correctly. That is why you see all American Presidents quickly develop bald head or grey hair once they take office. It is a 24/7/365 overtime job. Running a competent Government requires serious and dedicated people to public service. People with the dedication, the love for country, the deontology, the knowledge and competence of Government.

 

The people deserve the Government they get. We, the people of sub-Saharan Africa are simply not savvy or dedicated enough to build a modern 21st century Government. We may have learned people with PhDs, “Professeurs aggreges” with lots of colonial bibliographical knowledge. But having a terminal degree, while it makes you knowledgeable on some areas, does not necessarily make you intelligent or competent. Our Government is mostly run by learned people who do not produce intelligence.

Knowledge has to be harnessed, updated, improved, refined and applied under the right circumstance to produce intelligence. The knowledgeable people in sub-Saharan Africa simply do not produce –enough—intelligence to effect positive societal transformation.

 

We simply can’t achieve good governance when you have ---partisan-- CPDM people at the National Assembly drinking beer and dancing Makossa and Bikutsi, snoring in daylight at the peoples’ house, while the tired old man of Etoudi is spending more time in Switzerland or Germany than in the country. It was said that the President went for 3 years without having a single ministerial cabinet meeting. Think about this. Three years without meeting his ministers face to face to discuss what they doing for the country ! – This is why in the eyes of the world, the sub-Saharan African people are called the lazy black men ! The image our countries project to the world is viewed as one of a People who –simply-- refuse to dedicate themselves to the seriousness, the diligence required to build a country that dignifies their citizenry and humanity in this modern 21st century. It is through this lens that the modern world sees us.  As a result of the negative image projected by our Governments, the word Africa –or Africans-- is associated with too many stigmas, too many prejudices and pejoratives  –witchcraft, irrational, corruption, embezzlements, incompetence, unintelligent-- that hunt us all. These pejoratives have become the --virtual and subconscious-- identity of the francophone sub-Saharan African man. We have the responsibility to wake up and emancipate ourselves out of this predicament. 

 

Always remember that power without accountability will corrupt the human mind. There must be a way within the law to always hold human beings accountable. Accountability is the powerful clause and the dissuading factor –within the law-- that compels an individual to do right by society. The colonial master, who understands this, has masterfully designed a vicious system, using the FCFA as its absolute weapon to deny our people the sovereign right to hold their leaders accountable. We must change that.

 

 

 

“Knowledge has to be harnessed, updated, improved, refined and applied under the right circumstance to produce intelligence. The knowledgeable people in sub-Saharan Africa simply do not produce enough intelligence to impact any substantial positive societal change” --ANST--  

 

Power without accountability will corrupt the human mind.”  --ANST—

 

“Accountability is the powerful clause and the dissuading factor –within the law-- that compels an individual to do right by society.” –ANST--

 

 

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