By DOH JAMES SONKEY
Pioneer General Conference of Local Councils has ended with the over 600 participants (360 mayors and 14 Government Delegates to city councils, municipal councilors, representatives of council personnel syndicates, Members of Parliament, Magistrates from Administrative and Audit courts, ministries, administrative and traditional authorities, development partners, economic operators, university dons and civil society organizations) urging government to allocate 10% of State Budget in order to fast track decentralization as promised by the President of the Republic, Paul Biya.
Representing the Head of State at the opening ceremony last February 6, 2019 at the Yaounde Conference Centre, the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Joseph Dion Ngute stated that councils ought to be prepared to take their place and fully play their role in the Great Opportunities seven-years mandate of President Paul Biya.
To this effect, the PM explained, since 2010, some 63 competences have been transferred to local councils by 20 ministries with resources of more than FCFA 350 billion and in 2019, government has allocated FCFA 100 million to be invested in each council.
PM Dion Ngute who is also President of the National Decentralization Board announced the setting up of local councils’ public service.
In his inaugural lesson, former Regional Director of UN Habitat, Alioune Badiane said it is very important for mayors to have adequate financial resources for the full implementation of decentralization. Citing that Kenya allocates 15% of its budget to decentralization, South Africa about half of its budget, Alioune Badiane urged government to allocate a reasonable percentage of the state budget to push the decentralization agenda to higher heights.
Closing the gathering on behalf of the PM, the Minister of State for Tourism and Leisure, Bello Bouba Maigari reassured that government will make good use of the pertinent recommendations adopted by participants in order to improve the standard of living of the local population.
Decentralization and Local Development Minister, Georges Elanga Obam explained to reporters that the conference enabled them to take stock of the situation of councils, in order to give a new impetus, through a participative approach expecting to bring in new dynamics in the organization and functioning of local councils and city councils.
Mayors and Government Delegates in what they termed, Yaounde Declaration, expressed the wish that the General Conference of Local Councils be a regular event to enable decentralization stakeholders evaluate the path covered and rectify lapses encountered in the process.
Organized on the theme “Deepening decentralization for a new face of local councils in Cameroon,” the conference featured reflections on the legal and institutional framework governing councils, transfer of powers, planning and local development, council resources and local governance.
Recommendations are pertinent but I fear implementation may be slow as usual
Dr Num Elias Ihimbru, Mayor of Benakuma in Menchum Division, NW
Discussions were very serious in addition to critical reflections as we were asked to go even beyond what we could suggest to fast track decentralization in the country as was promised by the Head of State, H.E Paul Biya when he said the competence of the councils will be broaden beyond the 2004 Law applicable to the functioning of councils. Working in the Transfer of Competence Commission, we recommended that human resources be transferred to councils, councils should have competence over land and landed properties, sand, gravel and other related local materials for road construction and that the 2004 Law on councils be revised.
If resolutions at this conference are handed with faith to the powers that be for them to be transformed into laws to speed up the decentralization process, the standard of living of the local population will be improved upon, but, knowing the bureaucracy in Cameroon, I am afraid the implementation phase may still take decades.