*Cameroon’s Political Cup of Tea 1990 till the Creation of ELECAM
“I was there & As I Saw it”
Rev. Prof. Tita Fon Explodes (Ph.D) National Chairman - Cameroon People’s Party (CPP)
The roughness of the political road from one party system to multi-party system in Cameroon,can be seen with the good eyes of a political analyst to have been caused by a mad rush to apply the phenomenon called democracy without a sound grasp of its application. There was a call which was like jingling a bell to stop hungry babies from crying. It was a call for freedom to form political parties as we thought, without the clear vision on how we were going to destroy dictatorship of the one party system and give a smooth way to the flow of democracy in multi-party system.
In 1990, a small group of some brave persons stood on the hills of Bamenda and sniffed the air of democracy blowing from various directions of God's globe, something no body thought could ever happen in Cameroon. Embracing the strange phenomenon called democracy, the drama that immediately surrounded the request for an extra-ordinary political change, brought and left Cameroonians confounded more than ever. The anarchy that followed the blind move from one party system to multi-party system was such that till date, Cameroonians have remained blind to see the degree to which democracy has changed other nations of the world.
With a blind rush to apply democracy, Cameroonians held by their tradition of monarchy, have continued to believe that liberal democracy is uniquely Western artifact that can only be applied in Western Cultures. Thus, the multiparty system is accepted in principle, but it remains in the armpit of the ruling party of the former one party system. There are no clear democratic institutions that can legitimately handle the aspirations of the parties in multi-party system for good governance. Political freedom and civil liberties that are the two essential criteria for a sound democracy are found lacking. For many years of the said multi-party system, true democracy that would have clothed the nation of Cameroon in dignity, is yet a practice hanging in the wind. The political practice has moved in principle from one party system to multi-party system, still carrying the yoke of the former system. Cameroonians blindly in search of freedom, have moved far more better into oppression and might leave that behind as the destiny of their children. We have failed to build a democratic political system that can be the destiny of our children.
Multi-party system looks a very fine baby in a menger as Christ was. But Cameroonians have failed to use it as a democratic tool for good governance. For twenty years of moving in the darkness of multi-party system, the right face of the one party system is still behind the mask. The point to make clear is that ignorance and poverty in the Cameroon community are two stubborn diseases that have and are eating deep into the people. Ignorance of what is good for all and to all, and poverty that the poor gets poorer, the rich grow richer, puts democratic principles at the mercy of the crude decisions of a few persons. They do not want to know the durability of democracy. We have to see here that our desire all these twenty years fighting for freedom is innate, but we failed to know that to be free, we ought to learn how to acquire and practice democracy. Out of greed, Cameroon went to a one party system of government. Contrary to perceptions that the return to multi-party system is a healthy democratic move, I want to hold the strong observation that greed still has a place on the minds of the politicians. The return to the present multi-party system would have been such that democracy is allowed to flourish in a manner that the government is answerable to the governed. That all citizens ought to have the right of individual freedom and can collectively shape a Cameroon nation that has the fundamental values of freedom and good governance. But the reverse is the case.
The contemporary Cameroon politicians like their predecessors of the one party system, have made it difficult for anyone with a vision for the democratization of Cameroon to sell in the political market. Rather, the ocultic spirit of "from some to some, and not from all to all", is the applied principle.
As it stands, the present multi-party system has no vision to democratize Cameroon for the well being of all her citizens. Out of greed and fanaticism, there was a cry for an independent electoral body (ELECAM), but if greed and fanaticism gave way to clear visions of what is good for all and not a few individuals, the creation of ELECAM would have been the foundation on which multi-party system can be build for free and fair elections. It must be understood that where there is free and fair elections, those with visions for the democratization of Cameroon will sell well in the political market.
It is true that the contemporary Cameroon politicians have succeeded to pin democratic labels on their political parties. But because they are working out of greed and fanaticism, they have all misunderstood and equally misused the concept of democracy being government of the people, with the supreme power of the people, elected in a free and fair election by the people.Where less than four millions get to the polls and give a government to more than seventeen millions, then something is wrong with the democratic practice of the country.
In every match, the referee and his lines - men get into the field before the players. It has never been a situation where the players get into the field and start playing, waiting for the referee and lines-men. How rationale is it that political parties in Cameroon have been in the field playing without a referee and lines-men?
Democracy has a lot of institutionalization that when we look back at the political scenario of the 1990s, we have to agree that the concept of democracy is misunderstood and equally misused. For that reason, Cameroon has remained in the limbo of a one party system with no vision of the direction to take and arrive to democracy. We are left floundering in the storm of political ignorance and only God knows what will happen next.
ELECAM that we are now having out of tears, would have been the first institution to be enshrined in the political system. Because the work was more out of greed and fanaticism and not out of love for democracy, there was no vision for the creation of ELECAM. We can further see that, because of the late coming of ELECAM into the field of play; it is deprived from deciding on our multi-party system and the number of political parties to be created by law for the good health of democracy. We blundered and today still out of greed and fanaticism, the complaint on every tongue is that of too many political parties. It should be maintained that many political parties erroneously put at the disposal of the Cameroon nation can provide many heads with many different ideologies for nation building. Should we put aside greed and fanaticism and political brotherhood is given a chance, political parties will marry and merge their ideologies to be stronger. The number of political parties will reduce for sound politicking. It is possible in politics to have many branches on the same tree for a good harvest.
A point that has not been understood, but necessary to be understood in Cameroon politics, is the crucial analysis of democracy as a set of constitutional rules and procedures for good governance. We cannot see ourselves to be democratic when there is no good governance. In democracy, government is an element co-existing in a social fabric of many and varied institutions, political parties, organizations and associations, all for the purpose of good governance.
This diversity is referred to as pluralism and it is taken that the many organized groups and institutions in democracy do not depend solely on government for their existence. But for the health of the game of democracy, political parties have to depend on government for proper functionalism. The Cameroon government should out of the clean spirit of democracy give yearly a sound subvention to all legalized political parties, because they are the channels through which democracy can penetrate for good governance. The ruling party (CPDM) alone cannot channel Cameroon to good governance without some or all the legalized political parties. The ruling party (CPDM) has all the incumbencies, state money and properties at its disposal during elections. Other political parties are left in the cold. This gives no room for free and fair competitions in the game of multi-party system.
When water runs to one part of the river, all the fishes are bound to be there. The saying goes that poverty causes the majority to rush to where the incumbencies, state money and properties are. Political parties with no incumbencies, state money and properties are bound to have little or no following. Democracy does not tolerate this forum of political arrangement, where the incumbent is in power, having asses to state money and properties even at the last voting second of election time.
To talk of free and fair elections, equal state support should be given to political parties yearly. Where this fails and the incumbent keeps everything alone, multi-party system remains a farce. It should be understood that yearly subvention from the state to political parties is an obligation because with equal financial and material ability, there can be equilibrium in political struggles and only the party that can truly present to the people a convincing program of leadership will be mandated. But when parties go to the field just to create the impression that Cameroon is multiparty, to get hold of some drops of whatever pleases the incumbent, the people go to the polls for election with little or no understanding of what the whole gimmick is all about. The incumbent struggles with much and the other parties too struggle with little to buy consciences and nothing is presented on the soap-box that should hold each and everyone responsible.
We can all agree that the political struggle in Cameroon has been the type that militancy has not been out of sound understanding of party ideologies but because money and ignorance dine on the same table, and consciences are bought. Again great militancy in some parties particularly those of the incumbents, goes because of appointments in government offices.
This is where the messages of support are always addressed to incumbents, even when they have out lived their usefulness. Cameroon has failed to understand that all should be for all and all ought to be treated the same, no matter the political camps and their ideologies. How can appointments that ought to have been based on merits, become compensations for being loyal to a political party?
Going back to equilibrium in politicking as mentioned earlier, people of substance from all the political parties ought to be appointed because, their existence indicates that they are zealous equally as the incumbent to build the nation. Leaving then out completely in the cold and considering only those who fanatically supported the incumbent, goes to destroy that burning zeal for corporate building of the nation through multi party system that is a democratic tool.
At this point, I am glad that President Paul Biya in his speech after the elections of July 2007, made it quite clear that he was going to work for a better Cameroon together with the vanquished. This goes that the American President once was right when he said, "after an election; we are one till next election". Paul Biya declaring to work with all and for all, means he knows that every Cameroonian has a story to tell in the building of his nation It is sad that this marvelous promise of the President has not been accomplished. Its accomplishment will be saluted tremendously because the harvest shall be from all, and to be shared to all- appointments by merit.
As Cameroon struggles to build a democratic country, I wish to observe that there are so many cracks on the walls of our political house, caused by a bad foundation that was put in place by the early fathers of our struggle for independence. Now for our safety and that of our children, it requires that the walls be brought down and a sound adjustment be made to the foundation.
Whether we accept it or not, the arrow of adjustment is pointing at the various constitutions since independence. For the democracy that we so desire to penetrate and flourish in this beloved land, the need should arise for the various constitutions to be declared null and void. By the time people with democratic spirits get working to give Cameroon a democratic constitution for good governance, there shall be a head way in our struggles for freedom. This inspiration is such that we should not leave it lying down. As inspired. God has a plan for Cameroon. We should allow him accomplish that plan through us, for the safety of all, no matter the political learnage. We are Cameroonians, in one and indivisible Cameroon, serving one and the same God - Islam, Christianity etc.
Our present political formation has little or nothing but oppression of the people. Our children have nothing beneficial from such a crooked building. They will surely harvest regrets as their destiny just as we did. The Cameroon of today unlike yesterday is rich with learned citizens and more will be of the younger generation. If those who lived before us handed the baton to us regretting because they were not educated, I wonder each day what we shall do when it shall come to the handing over period to our children. Shall we also claim that we made a lot of mistakes because we were not educated? I sit with my hands crossed and I wonder what politics Cameroonians have played for 20years - 1990 to 2010. I become more worried as the clock ticks fast to declare 2011 Presidential election. ELECAM, what is Cameroon going to find new (democratic) in you?
As suggested above that we declare the constitutions null and void, the reason I hold for such a proposal is that from the day of independence, all attempts to provide Cameroon with a constitution that has the strong pillars of democracy have failed. Such pillars as:
- True Sovereignty of the Cameroon People. That is making sure that the former colonial master (France) hands over to Cameroon People their complete sovereignty like Britain did to the people of Nigeria.
2. Design a new Cameroon State with a new government based upon the consent of the governed. That is, a government put in place with enough avoidance of the present authoritarianism of the former colonial master and neocolonialists working hand in glove to maintain in place a government that is not accountable to the governed.
3. Majority tole that must take care of minority rights-the role of majority is undemocratic as it does not protect individual rights and equally minority rights- whether ethnic, political or religious. When minority rights depend upon the goodwill of the majority, the nation is given undemocratic laws and institution that can not provide good governance. Democratic laws are made when there is good working relationship between the majority and minority for the protection of the rights of all citizens, and not for a privileged fanatical majority only.
4. Guarantee of Basic human rights such as: a) Individual right and freedoms that one enjoys as an individual and not because he belongs to a particular community, social grouping, or any particular political party. These are rights that are civil, political, socio-economic and cultural for the well – being of an individual.
b) Peoples rights being the rights of the community to determine their governance, socio-economic and cultural development. These include right to peace and security.
5. Guarantee of free and fair elections that will always put in place a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. The elections that Cameroon has had have never gone for the truth about what is just, but only what is plausible of injustice. The lack of morality in elections (free and fair elections) places enough doubts on the slogan, "let the best team win". For example, take the 2007 elections and from the results of the supreme court, we can see how the executive arm of government suppressed the legislative. A parliament was formed that protected the interest of a one party system. How democratic then is such a parliament when it has no room for rational debate of matters in the interest of the people? It is more of a one party parliament for a one party system in disguise. A government of such a system can not be seen to be democratic. Its constitution can not protect democratic principles for good governance.
6. Guarantee of equality before the law - equality before the law in Cameroon is that of the animals farm where some animals are more equal than others. Where the executive arm of government suppresses the legislative, citizens cannot benefit a constitution that sees all to be equal before the law. Equality before the law in Cameroon is displayed to satisfy the concept of democracy only and remains as displayed.
7. Guarantee of the process of the law-due process of the law ought to keep away phone calls over certain matters in courts. Citizens of the country heard for the first time the cry of the Supreme Court that its hands were tied. Because hands were tied, there was no due process of the law and decisions were influenced by an undemocratic constitution. There should be total liberation of the judiciary from the executive.
8. Guarantee of constitutional limits of government-Government should have powers that are by law clearly defined and limited. It is very undemocratic when government with her unlimited powers, nose un-necessary into matters so private, claiming that it is for state security. The state is majority, while the private sector is minority. Minority interest to privacy should be protected and private sector allowed to operate in a democratic atmosphere. The government should give individuals opportunities to always exercise their rights and responsibilities as citizens of democracy.
Socio — economic and political pluralism of the country should be the interest of true democracy for the growth of the nation. Where interest is not given to socio – economic and political pluralism as vital aspects of democracy, authoritarianism comes in through the door as democracy finds its way out through the window.
A good democracy should be established on values like; tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise between political parties. As these values are lacking in our politicians, the struggle to democratize Cameroon is far fetched. These values are lacking because the nation came into existence and immediately fell into terrorism that gave room for a constitution that established a very undemocratic government with unlimited powers of dictatorship. This undemocratic government with unlimited powers was inherited and that is our fate today. That even goes to explain why the constitutions are completely silent on the present multi-party system that was forced through the threat of dictatorship. It concludes that the parliaments of the past and present were not created in good fate for a healthy democracy. Thus, declaring them null and void is the best thing that can be done for our betterment as we dearly cherish democracy.
Let us go into the class room of democracy and there we shall discover how complex the phenomenon is. We need to study the first democrats like the city - state of Athens in the fifth century B.C. The Athenian democracy was strange and unfamiliar to later political theorists and statesmen. They had a central political institution that was an Assembly usually composed of 5.000 to 6.000 members all adult male, not women, slaves and foreigners. By simple majority vote, the Assembly decided with legal restrictions. As they believed that any citizen was capable of holding public office, the Assembly was not elected, but chosen by lot. They worked without executive institutions such as President, Prime Minister, cabinet etc. The weight of decision making was on the Assembly only.
With no constitutional limits, they were prone to eloquent orators. This very democratic Athens condemned Socrates to death. This goes to say that democracy is not absolutely uniform, but the basic concepts world — wide are the same.
As I look at Cameroon moving into the class room of democracy, I am not going to be concern with the length of her political life to grasp true democracy, but to be concern with the depth and breath other democracy. The multiplicity of political parties not guided by a democratic constitution has rendered it difficult for leaders to be chosen wisely and democratically. A citizen could have well inquired, " is this or that political party worth while that I should take the pains to give it my mandate?" "Do I have to vote because a friend or family member who perchance does not know my needs, recommends that political party?" what purpose will that political party serve when mandated" will it contribute to the economic growth of my nation, my happiness and that of my fallow mankind?""What really is the objective of voting a particular political party?" "What is it that is guiding the choice of a political party?,' what guides a choice should not be fanaticism, but the ability to sift the worthwhile from the many in sheep's clothing. We have in the past elections voted and stocked the nation with people who are not read enough and are very inexperienced to handle the complex issues of democracy. If the many questions in the class room of democracy cannot be answered, I wonder if ELECAM at the polls is going to be capsuled to treat our lack of sound knowledge of democracy and to give us a free and fair election for the best to win.
In the past elections, we failed to be self - thinkers, to choose rightly which cap fits what head. Some waited to say, "majority carries the vote". But the self - thinkers are earnest, direct and original for a political building process, than fanatics. Those that wait to be driven by the nose like a donkey even where ELECAM is incharge of elections, are flat conventional, and good for nothing as far as building a democratic state is concern. Voting with a definite purpose gives those mandated the alertness to deliver the goods for which they were voted. We can from there put those mandated to the test by recalling their election campaign promises. They have to work feeling that they are confirming the promises they made and that they are constantly being watched by us who mandated them.
It is no use voting people who during election campaigns talk copiously and carry the faces of people of many - sided knowledge, but there after in the field for nation building, they are found pregnant with falsehood. During campaigns, they are plausible speakers presenting no convincing and persuasive political programmes for sound judgment.
Election as we should know is a means to an end. The best of it comes from the eyes of the electorates. When the electorates form the habit of voting with definite purposes, building a political system with an inexhaustible source of decent election is easy. The profound wisdom is to vote always with definite purposes. That is, who can do what, where, how and for who? Election should not be a question of tying a tag on the neck of a goat, and instead of expecting it to eat grass, you expect it to eat rice and stew. In this case, what do we expect of ELECAM? Garbage in and garbage out!
When elections in Cameroon will take on a new charm and helpful influence, there will no longer be the cry of election rigging. There will also be no need spending state money in ELECAM, and foreign bodies will have nothing to observe. Cameroonians are going about with flat stomachs and some are suffering from stomach ulcer because of no work to earn a living. But we still have the courage to pump into poorly organized elections huge sums of money for the benefit of some persons, and not for a search to have a democratic government. ELECAM and foreign observers can not give us good voting habits.
Cameroon is for Cameroonians, and only Cameroonians can nurse for themselves voting habits that will lead to free and fair elections. This search for decent voting habits-.needs that the block of fanaticism resting in the electorates be first dismantled to avoid voting habits that are chained by biases.
When people are suffering from biases they rashly and unconsciously form voting habits that lead to the wondering of minds as to who the mandate can be given. In this case, mandates can cheaply be given to very wrong candidates. With the nursing and building of very sound voting habits, the electorate will be alert, fastening their minds on candidates identified to be having sound qualities of modem politics for the advancement of democracy in Cameroon. Modern politics is not for any goat that is prepared to let a tag be tied on its neck. It is meant for those with sound intellectual culture, that can build up a force of thoughts which can be turned at will on subjects that politicians are called upon to pass clear and clean judgment. From 1990 - 2011, Cameroon is yet to see the light of political advancement that can enable us read our future in the present. Permit me say here that as we look ahead for subsequent elections our great need is not the putting in place of an angelic ELECAM, but the need to elect a decent thinker, genius, enlightener, a President who is well read and not one who is fitful like a lighted candle on a windy hill. He should be some - one with high quality of the head, mind, and nerves because modern politics is not just for anybody to carry a tag and militate in a political party. The Presidency needs only (people like me). As we look forward 2017 elections, we should begin to look and identify a Cameroonian who has a sound intellectual culture, and can build up a force of thoughts that can be turned at will on all subjects of a democratic President, in democratic government, and not a dictator in authoritarianism.
Prof. Tita S.F. (Ph.D)
• Member of the Academy of Political Science New — York, USA.
• Laurate of the American Biographical Institute of a Gold Medal for Cameroon,
World Medal of Freedom, International Peace Prize, Fellow (abi).