Regional Assemblies at last

EDITORIAL 21 Jan 2019
Regional Assemblies at last

It is worth the pains to appreciate the move taken by the head of state to announce that regional elections shall be conducted within this election year. The decision may be described in some quarters as belated. We, however, wish to believe that it will remove some heat from the expectations of some Cameroonians.
The truth remains, however, that government had all along displayed its overt reluctance to respect the spirit of the 1996 constitution, which provided for a decentralised system of government on the premise of ten autonomous regions. It might not have been the best option, but it soothed some aggrieved minds.
It is worth noting that if the political situation in the country today has had to transform into a crisis, in which blood has had to be shed, it is more so for the fact that the regime failed once more, as has always been the case, to respect provisions of the constitution. We stand to be corrected that, to ignore a vital constitutional provision for more than twenty years is being dishonest and even unpatriotic on the part of the regime.
There is every possibility that this Ten Autonomous Region provision could have served as a middle course, as well as a new experiment in our body politics. All what can be deduced from this glaring dragging of feet is that, even this “Ten Region provision” of the 1996 constitution did not land well on the thinking of those presently running this country.
Today, and even in the farthest future, history will continue to remind us that this country had once been entangled in a political crisis in the early 90s, a crisis which developed into a stalemate, producing on its way, violent street protests reinforced by a strange experience of “Ghost Towns’’ never before known in the history of Cameroon. It should also be recalled that these country-wide street protests and “Ghost Towns” organised by a grouping of very vibrant opposition parties at the time, was calling for the incumbent president Biya to step down, following allegations by the opposition that the results of the presidential elections had been manipulated upon in favour of Mr. Biya.
This wave of civil disobedience almost brought the Biya regime on its knees. The country was heading towards a dramatic show-down that would cost much more than could be imagined. At the background of all this tension, was the Anglophone endurance of what they loudly described as their marginalisation. Something needed to be done. It required that people had to sit and make a breakthrough out of this stalemate and save the country from a likely blood bath. For the sake of history, and to be fare to the man, Mr. Biya, he accepted a recommendation to summon what became known as the historic “Tripartite Talks”, an all inclusive dialoguing gathering which produced among other recommendations, the decentralisation of a highly centralised state. It should be recalled that the Anglophone case which emphasized a return to the federal structure was among the options of the recommendation. It was therefore the Tripartite Talks that paved the way for the Joseph Owona Constitution Review Commission.
Unfortunately, however, for the Anglophones their proposal for a return to the federal system was systematically dropped. In effect the option of Ten-Autonomous Regions was upheld. We would want to believe that if after this constitution was adopted, and the Anglophones had to wait for twenty years for them to openly agitate, it was because it was an improvement on the obnoxious super-imposed centralized state structure. The question to ask now is: Why did the head of state drag his feet to wait until things had to go off-hand.?
If the head of state found the Tripartite Forum as an appropriate forum to dialogue for a lasting solution at the time, why has it become unreasonable today for him to see the necessity for a similar gathering for a dialogue? While we welcome his latest move to hold regional elections, we still believe that he is again putting the cart before the horse. There is still need for dialogue. We should accept the truth that the last elections were not the best, with a reasonable population of voters still in the bushes or on exile. Let reason prevail.

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