The Cameroon Federalists Movement (CFM) is pleased to bring to you a booklet that will explain the path we plan to take to bring about Federalism in Cameroon. We believe, very strongly, that Federalism remains the best solution to democratic governance in Cameroon. While there may be other solutions, Federalism is the only one that will address most of the challenges we face, with due regard to our rich diversity in culture, ethnicity, tribal language, predominant official language, system of education, system of law, religion, and way of living.
Cameroon is very diverse. How do we recognize and promote this diversity and at the same time stay united? How do we find a common purpose and a common vision? In other words, how do we achieve “Unity in Diversity”? It is not by chance that the motto of CFM is “Unity in Diversity”.
We are fully aware that this mission is going to be a daunting task requiring a lot of work, a lot of political will, a lot of giving and taking. But we also know that there is no challenge we face that cannot be fixed by the genius in us.
It is our hope that you will read this blueprint with an open mind and reach the same conclusion as us.
God bless us.
Wilson L. Eseme, General Coordinator of the CFM
Before we go any further, let us define some of the important terms that will often be used in this conversation.
The Anglophone Problem
This refers to the purposeful, systemic and systematic Discrimination, Marginalization and Assimilation of the people and territory of the former British Southern Cameroons by a neo-colonial governance model inherited from France, and conceived to perpetuate French access and control over Cameroon’s natural resources and economy. However, Anglophones are not the only minority group to be treated unfairly in Cameroon. Other groups like the Pygmies and the Bororos also experience unfair treatment and may be considered also as having a ‘problem’. This leads us to the next definition.
The Cameroon Problem
The Cameroon Problem is the result of all the array of problems existing in Cameroon, including the Anglophone Problem. It can be attributed to personalization of power, governance without accountability, and a total absence of the democratic tenets of checks and balances. The result has been mismanagement, endemic corruption, graft, lack of accountability, disenfranchisement, disrespect for the rule of law, a partial judicial system and favoritism in all its forms. The Cameroon Problem is due to the fact that power is in the hands of a very few people. In other words, power is very centralized. This leads to the next definition.
As noted above, this is when power is in the hands of a few individuals who often live and work far away from the people they govern. This is the case in Cameroon where, for instance, one man (The Police Boss) signs the identity cards of 24 million Cameroonians. It is a very ineffective way to govern and leads to all kinds of problems. In Cameroon, power is not just centralized, it is hyper-centralized. Actually, it is concentrated in the hands of one man; the President. Nothing of significance happens in Cameroon without his prior approval or without those doing it claiming to act on his instruction. Nothing!!! With his signature, he makes it rain or shine.
How do we then fix this problem? This brings us to the next term-Decentralization.
Decentralization is everything that Centralization is not. It means power is close to the governed (the people). In Decentralization, officials responsible for the welfare of the people live among them. They go to the same places; religious houses, markets, shops, meetings, entertainment centers, and bars. Their children attend the same schools. The advantage of this system is that those with power can be held accountable and directly by the people. Therefore, problems are easily identified and resolved promptly. In the example of identity cards cited above, in a Decentralized system, the cards would be signed by local officials who live within the same region or district, perhaps even in the same town or village. So, instead of taking, say, six months and sometimes even one year to get your I.D card, you will receive it within a few days or weeks.
Should we, then, support Decentralization as proposed by the Government? Not really, because, as is often said, “the devil is in the detail”. In this case, not only is the devil in the detail, there is also a history of bad faith.
Let us explain. In 1996, after the last cycle of discussions on the Anglophone problem, a commission headed by the constitutional law expert Pr. Joseph Owona, who at the time was the all-powerful Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic, wrote a new constitution. That constitution provided, among other things, that the system would be decentralized and that the responsibility for its implementation lay with the government. Two decades after the enactment of the 1996 constitution, the Government started implementing decentralization but it was at best a half-hearted implementation that surreptitiously continued to keep the essence of power in the centralized structures of State, thus undermining the benefits of sharing power with the grassroots. A recent “Decentralization Law” passed by parliament places elected Regional Council Presidents under appointed Regional Governors while elected Municipal Council Executives shall be under appointed Senior Divisional Officers and elected council area Executives shall be under appointed Divisional Officers. Truly, what our Government has imposed on us is not Decentralization. It is a smokescreen, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, a dictatorship masquerading as a democracy. Although it now uses the term ‘Decentralization’ the Government has not abandoned its unitary system of governance that promotes the assimilation of the Anglophone territory and people.
What, then, is the solution?
The answer is Federalism, which is the next term we will define.
Federalism is more than a word. It is a system of Government, an enforceable agreement based on laws. The central tenet of Federalism is that the day-to-day power to govern lies within Federated (decentralized) entities and not on the Federal (central) Government. Federalism empowers the people through local Authorities by ensuring that the people are directly involved in identifying and solving their own problems. The Federal or Central government is limited to four main areas:
-Monetary Policy and Operations
-Customs and Immigration
The functions of the Federal Government in all other areas are mostly regulatory, as defined by law.
In a Federated system, most power belongs to the Federated entities. Internal Security, Education, Agriculture, Power, Water, Roads, Healthcare, Judiciary, Promotion of Culture, Technology, Business, Commerce, Transportation, exploitation of natural resources, etc., all will lie with the Federated Authorities
Another important tenet of Federalism is that Local Authorities are elected directly by the people living in the entity concerned. Therefore, power is accountable to the people directly and not to the Central Government. This point is very important to note because, unlike in the Centralized system that we currently have, where Local Authorities (Governors, Senior Divisional Officers, Divisional Officers, Government Delegates, etc.) are all appointed by the President of the Republic and are accountable to him only, in the case of Federalism, these Authorities are accountable to the people who elect them. This is genius, since, by its very nature, Federalism limits the powers of the Central government.
It is now easy to see why our Government is doing everything not to accept Federalism. It is constant that true power lies with the people. Any other type is usurpation.
In the pages that follow, we will endeavor to show how Federalism will improve our system of Government, using specific examples and illustrations from the current system.
The Current System of Government
While it should be recognized that most of the recent laws passed by Parliament manifest a clear disposition to make Cameroon a State of Law, the practice by the Judiciary and the State security services belie this noble intention.
There are several instances of the State violating its own laws. Some have not hesitated to call Cameroon an Authoritarian Dictatorship where everything is centered around one individual, the President. The legislative arm (The National Assembly and the Senate) function to perpetuate the dictatorship rather than cater for the welfare of the masses.
Most bills are hardly read in their entirety by Parliamentarians, before they come up for vote, and when they do, the bills are passed almost always intact for the President to enact.
The Judicial Power is no different
The President appoints all Judge and prosecutors. He determines their promotion and reassigns them at will. Under these conditions, no judge or prosecutor would dare rule against the President or the Government.
The truth is that, in Cameroon today, there is only one branch of Government. The Legislative and Judicial branches act as extensions of the Executive branch. Take the Speaker of the National Assembly, for example. Every time the House meets at the start of a new legislative year, he and the entire Bureau have to stand for re-election, and every single time, after the Speaker has been re-elected, he gives a speech; the same speech. In this speech, he always thanks the President first. It is true, the Speaker and the President both belong to the same political Party, but the Speaker is supposed to be head of a co-equal branch of Government that should serve as a check on Executive Authority. This balance of power that is present in any true democracy, has always been absent in Cameroon.
This reverence for the President is seen all over the Country at every administrative level. Ministers, Governors, Senior Divisional Officers, Divisional officers, Government Delegates, all, at every turn, try to outperform each other in singing the President’s praises.
In addition to the above, there is the issue of widespread corruption, mismanagement, graft, and favoritism at a level that is mind-boggling.
In all fairness, our President has tried to tackle the ill of corruption and we give him credit for effort. But the results have been mixed. While, it is true that a good number of ex-Government officials have been successfully prosecuted and found guilty, it is also true that these verdicts have hardly made any impact on governance.
We think this is because the President is treating the symptom, not the cause.
Corruption is only a manifestation of the bad system we have. It is not the problem, but a symptom of the problem. The system itself is the problem. Until this is addressed, throwing individuals in jail is only chasing after the wind.
While this picture of Cameroon is true, it is incomplete. The real system is as complex and complicated as it is inefficient. Though the President is the undisputable head of the system, the people carrying his orders are organized in what can be called cartels of power and these cartels are often in direct conflict, not only with the directives of the President, but with one another. The result is a confusing mix of power structures and interests that are in competition with the interests of the State to the disregard of those of the Nation. It is for this reason that some people have said that the President is a “good man” and it is the people around him who are “bad”.
Whatever the case may be, the truth is that if you are the head of a system that you created, you own that system and are, therefore, take responsibility for it, for better or for worse.
In this Chapter, we will identify the main problem areas of the current system that will be changed when Federalism is implemented.
Centralization of Power
In Cameroon, all things that are important must be handled by the President himself or by delegation to a small group of unelected and unaccountable officials that report directly to him. While this kind of system may work for a small company of a few thousand people, it may not do so, for a nation of twenty three million citizens. Take the current Anglophone crisis that has since spiraled into a full blown civil war, as a case in point. Everyone is looking up to the President for solutions. Not even the Senate or the National Assembly have taken up resolutions or passed laws to address these legitimate concerns. Every decision that has been taken to date; from the appointment of the Commission on Bilingualism and Multi-Culturalism to the Opening of Common Law Sections at the School of Administration and Magistracy, to the Opening a Common law section at the Supreme Court, to the opening of Common law degree programs at all State Universities, to the recruiting of one thousand bilingual teachers, to the creation of the Committee on Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration, have been signed by Presidential decrees. This highlights the restrictions inherent in a Centralized system. It is just hard for a single individual to solve such a complex problem by decree. The Legislative branch, representing the people should be involved in the solutions. In a democratic Federalist system, rigorous debate would have taken place, both in the Senate and in the National Assembly to modify existing laws or pass new ones to comprehensively deal with the problems. The President alone cannot solve this crisis.
B. Top-Down Bureaucracy
All efficient systems in the world work on a structure based on a bottom-up model. This means that ideas for resolution of problems should come from those at the bottom. The bottom people are those who feel the pains of society most. They understand the problems best since they live at the frontlines. It, therefore, makes sense, when someone is looking for solutions to problems, to first talk with the people who experience those problems most. This is a common sense practice that all successful businesses use worldwide, because, it is only by knowing the problems and their causes that appropriate solutions can be found.
Unfortunately, in Cameroon, the system is turned upside down. In 2016, when Teachers and Lawyers manifested their frustrations, a normal system would have rushed to listen to them to address their concerns promptly. Instead, the Cameroon Government, because of its top-down structure, saw that as defiance of established Authority and sent armed police officers to attack the unarmed protesters. This one small act of foolishness is why we have this huge tangled mess today.
In Federalism, the Police would be under the command of an elected State Governor who would be accountable to his electorate. It is very unlikely that such a Governor would send the Police to intimidate, beat and arrest unarmed and peaceful protesters. If this were to happen, Federalism would put in place mechanisms for the indictment, prosecution and possibly removal from office of such an official.
C. The Absence of Rule of Law
In Cameroon, the law and rules only apply to the poor, the weak and those without “connections”. If you know someone in an office, a bank, for example, you don’t have to stand in line. You walk right through. If your friend or relative works in the immigration service, you can have your application for a new passport processed within a day. If your sister is a customs officer, you may only pay half the tariff or nothing at all for goods that you import.
If you are a police officer, or in the military, your car doesn’t need to have any identifying document. All you need is to show your military or police I.D. No system can survive these kinds of assaults on it. None!
Federalism will ensure the rule of law. This will mean no one will be above the law and everyone will be treated equally, no matter the age, race, gender, region of origin, tribe, social class, profession, position in society, religion, etc.
D. No Checks and Balances
In normal democratic societies, the Legislature acts as a check on the powers of the Executive branch. However, as discussed in the last chapter, the House of Assembly and the Senate in Cameroon are nothing but direct extensions of the Executive Branch. Most of their work consists of adopting bills tabled by the Government all of which they pass, without exception. If the President sends a bill today to Parliament asking them to self-dissolve, it is likely to be passed. That’s how subservient our Legislature is. It exists only to make it easy for the Government to masquerade as a semblance of democracy.
Federalism will ensure that there are three co-equal branches of Government: The Executive, The Legislative and the Judiciary, each acting to check the other, in the supreme interest of the people.
E. Unelected Local Officials
The President appoints all local officials, from a Divisional Officer (who in certain cases) has to travel through Nigeria to reach his workstation in Cameroonian territory, to the Governor of the most populous Region. These officials owe allegiance only to the President. Cases abound where a subordinate would deliberately ignore the directive of a superior because he is more connected to the President. Because these officials serve the President and are not accountable to the people they govern, they often act in ways contrary to the interests of the people.
In Federalism, all officials with Authority to govern will be elected directly by the people in the area they govern.
The South Region of Cameroon with barely a little more than 300,000 inhabitants has 11 Parliamentarians in the National Assembly. This is nine more than they deserve given that there should be one parliamentarian per 126,000 inhabitants, based on our population of roughly 23 million. Compare this to the Littoral region that has only 19 MPs, 10 short of what they deserve. Our system is structured to favor the President’s Region of birth.
Federalism will level the playing field such that Parliamentarians will be apportioned proportionally.
G. Widespread Corruption.
The 2018 Corruption Perception Index, an annual ranking of least corrupt nations by Transparency International, places Cameroon at 152 out of 175 nations. For two successive years in the mid nineties, the Berlin-based anticorruption Non Governmental Organization ranked Cameroon as the most corrupt country in the world. Corruption is so endemic in Cameroon that it has become a way of life.
For example, Cameroon was given the hosting rights of the 2019 African Cup of Nations Football tournament. Thousand of Billions of public money allocated for infrastructural development to meet the hosting standards of the African Football Confederation have been wasted or outright stolen resulting in Cameroon’s inability to meet CAF’s hosting standards. This led to the withdrawal of the hosting rights of Africa’s biggest sporting event. To this date, no one has been prosecuted, indicted or jailed. This is only one example.
Since an independent Judiciary is the hallmark of Federalism, those who mismanage, waste or steal public resources will be swiftly held accountable.
Cameroon has many so-called major professional Schools. These are institutions that train future high-level Government officials. They include the School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM by its French acronym), the Military Academy (EMIA), the Higher Police Academy, among others. Entrance into these grandes écoles is open to all Cameroonians, but the majority of those who get in are mostly connected to people in “high places”, mostly from one region.
There is the recent case of a candidate who died before he completed the first (written) part of the entrance examination into ENAM. Miraculously, when the results were published, the deceased candidate (who naturally could not have been present for the oral part of the examination which is reserved only for candidates who pass the written examination) was not only declared successful, but he was also first by order of merit.
In 1997, out of 135 military cadet officers who were admitted into the EMIA, 19 were from the Southwest, Northwest and West Regions combined, while 35 were from the South Region alone.
At one time, 5 of the nation’s 10 Regional Governors were from the President’s Bulu ethnic group.
Federalism will ensure that only the best are recruited into the Public Service, based on education, skills, certifications and experience. Governors will be elected. Magistrates will be appointed from the private sector or academia by Elected Governors and Presidents after approval by the Legislature.
I. The Anglophone Problem
Anglophones are never allowed close to real power. The closest they have gotten since 1992 is to the post of Prime Minister which elsewhere is a position of great political power, but which in Cameroon has been largely emptied of any real power. Consequently whereas in other countries the position of Prime Minister is first or second in the order of precedence of state protocol, in Cameroon the Prime Minister (a position occupied by Anglophones since 1992) is 5th in State Protocol after the Head of State, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Assembly, and the President of the Constitutional Council. Anglophones have never been in charge of the Police, Military, Foreign Affairs, Finance, Chief of Staff at the Presidency or Secretary General of the Presidency. In addition, 11 of the 13 Senior Divisional Officers in the Northwest and Southwest Regions are Francophones, who speak mostly French to their predominantly English-speaking populace.
This will change in Federalism, as the Federal Presidency will rotate between Anglophones and Francophones, such that when the President is an Anglophone the Vice President with a constitutional right to succession shall be a Francophone, and vice versa.
In addition, Governors will be elected and the posts of Senior Divisional Officers and Divisional Officers shall be abolished.
J. Absence of Civil Liberties
The current system is intolerant of fundamental civil liberties, notably freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. In fact, freely expressing oneself in Cameroon is a sure way to get into trouble.
Peaceful demonstrations and Community gatherings require prior authorization from a Divisional officer, who is likely to deny the request to hold them, if the demonstration or the gathering is to express criticism of, or dissatisfaction with, Government policy or action. This way of governing prevents citizens from freely expressing ideas that may be beneficial to the development of the Nation.
Federalism will recognize, enforce, and protect Civil liberties, without exceptions.
K. Absence of a Credible Electoral system
The Ministry of Territorial Administration (the Government department that regulates the conduct of elections); all the members of the Electoral Board (the organ that conducts the elections); and all the members of the Constitutional Council (the organ that adjudicates electoral disputes and proclaims without appeal the results of the elections) have all been appointed by the current President. Therefore, there exists a serious conflict of interest, because if the same President or his party members are on the ballot, these appointees willingly or unwillingly show favorable bias toward them. For this reason alone, the electoral process in Cameroon cannot be fair, balanced and credible.
In Federalism, Elections shall be under Independent elected Elections Officers. The Federal Government will stay out of it completely.
L. Absence of Presidential Term limits
Currently, there is no term limit for the President. This is a serious situation. Term limits are the best way to curb excesses or to get rid of corrupt leaders, if the Justice system fails. Their absence invariably produces corrupt and power-drunk leaders. Is there any reason why one individual would want to stay in power for life? Yes, if there are skeletons in their closet for which they don’t want to be held accountable. In our opinion, this is the textbook definition of dictatorship.
In the Federalism we seek, all elected officials, including the Federal President will be limited to two terms in office.
M. Absence of Women and Youths in Leadership
Cameroon is a paradox. More than 80 % of the population is below 30 years of age, yet more than 80% of those who hold the reins of power are above 70. In fact, the average age of the first 6 Constitutional officers is 77, and none of them is a woman. This is troubling. No woman has ever been Governor or a cabinet member in charge of a Ministry of Sovereignty. The number of women in Parliament or Senate is less than 20 % whereas they constitute more than 50 % of the general population. We need to change these statistics.
Federalism will ensure that half of all Federal Cabinet members and Federal judges will be women. It will also put in place mechanisms to encourage women to run for elective offices around the nation. Special programs will be put in place to encourage youths to take interest in Public Service.
After reviewing the main problem areas of the current system, we now present a list of suggested solutions that we of The Cameroon Federalists Movement will be taking to any dialogue table.
The Nature of the state shall be unitary, and Federalism shall be the form and system of Government.
The number of Federated States shall be determined by the people.
No State shall be created that combines territories from the former British Southern Cameroons with those from the former La République du Cameroun.
Every Cameroonian shall be free to move about and settle in any Federated State of their choice and eventually become a Resident of that State, without being labeled non-indigene.
The Federal Presidency shall be limited to two 5-year terms.
The Federal Presidency shall alternate between an Anglophone and a Francophone.
The Post of Federal Vice President shall be created.
The Federal Vice President shall be elected on the same ticket as the President.
The Federal Vice President shall be an Anglophone if the President is Francophone and Vice Versa.
The Federal Vice President shall be the Constitutional successor of the President in the event of a vacancy before end of term.
The Federal Cabinet shall not exceed 16 members and shall include at least 7 women.
All Governors shall be elected alongside their Deputies who shall be their successors, in case of vacancy of power.
Each Federated State shall have an elected independent Attorney General who will be the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the state.
All State elective posts shall follow the Federal model of term limits.
The posts of Senior Divisional officer, Divisional officer and Government Delegate shall be abolished and replaced with elected District officers and Mayors.
Each State shall have its own elected Legislative Assembly as determined by Law.
No State shall pass any Law that violates the Federal Constitution.
Each State shall be in charge of their own internal security (Police), Healthcare, Utilities, Infrastructure including intra-regional roads, Agriculture, Education, Commerce, Labor and any other domains regulating the daily lives of its citizens.
The Federal Government shall be in charge of Monetary Policy, National defense, External Relations, Immigration and Inter-State Coordination.
Appointed Supreme Court Justices and Federal Judges shall include at least 40% women.
All Elections, including Federal elections, shall be handled by the Federated entities through their Independent Electoral Boards (IEB) without interference from the Federal Government.
Each State shall elect an independent Elections Officer (IEO) for a term determined by law.
There shall be uninhibited freedom of speech in idea, ideology, opinion, writing, belief, religion, art and activity.
There shall be uninhibited freedom of peaceful assembly.
There shall be freedom to practice or not to practice Religion.
All Federal and State cabinet appointments shall be subject to approval by the Federal Senate or the State Legislative Assembly, as the case may be.
The number of Federal Parliamentarians from each State shall depend strictly on the population of that State as determined by an independent Census Bureau.
The School of Administration and Magistracy shall be abolished. It serves no modern purpose. More modern and development-oriented institutions shall be designed to train Federal and State civil servants.
Federal Judges and Prosecutors shall be appointed by the Federal President from the private sector or from Academia and must be confirmed by the Federal Senate.
Federal Judges including Supreme Court Justices shall serve for life to guarantee their independence.