Cameroon:Defiant Biya Sets First Regional Election for December 6

The regional elections were one of the measures arrived at the end of the major National Dialogue of September 30 to October 4, 2019.

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

The polls will put in place councils provided for in a 1996 constitution in a move towards decentralisation
The polls will put in place councils provided for in a 1996 constitution in a move towards decentralisation

Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has announced the country’s first regional elections in December. The Anglophone areas that have been hard-hit by violence are expected to participate in the elections. Four years of fighting between the government and separatist fighters have cost some 3,000 lives.

The President Paul Biya, signed a decree on Monday authorising the holding of the elections on December 6 in the country’s 10 regions, including in the troubled North West and South West Regions.

The polls will put in place councils provided for in a 1996 constitution in a move towards decentralization. Each region will elect 90 councillors who will have limited powers on local issues. Twenty of them will be representatives of traditional authorities.

In late 2016, long-standing complaints of political and economic discrimination against English speakers by the central government spilt over when lawyers, students and teachers began calling for reforms.

The government’s lethal response to the protests provoked rebels to declare in 2017 independence for a region they call “Ambazonia”, triggering a stronger crackdown by the authorities. Both sides have since been accused of committing atrocities in a conflict that has forced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes.

John Fru Ndi, leader of a key opposition party, has said he will boycott the election unless there is a ceasefire first in the English-speaking regions. Maurice Kamto, leader of the MRC Party has also pulled out from the Regional elections. For the case of the latter, he was called for a national wide protest this September 22.

“If you look at the special status that came with a lot of euphorias after the Grand National Dialogue, which at the end of the day there is nothing special in the special status because it is like an empty shell; nothing fundamentally changing. They talked about that we will have a house of chiefs as if that is something new,” renowned Human Rights Lawyer Barrister Felix Agbor Balla said.

He added: “Most people are focused on us to have an end to this conflict. Politics and politicking, electioneering will only come after we have found a solution. You do not expect people who are leaving in the forest, people who cannot have a decent meal because the economy has been strangulated as a result of the strike, for them to bother about politics. So for the time being politics is a non-issue in the North West and South West Regions.”

The government, through the voice of its Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Nji says it wants to speed up the decentralization process and threatens against any attempt to disturb public order. And it is a Paul Atanga Nji, Minister of Territorial Administration, resolutely offensive who presented himself to the press, only a few hours after the convocation by Paul Biya of the electorate for December 6, 2020.

“We have heard that certain leaders of political parties in decline have launched irresponsible slogans by laying down preconditions for the holding of the election of regional councils, failing which they will initiate actions aimed at destabilizing the institutions and against the one who embodies them, his excellence Paul Biya,” Atanga Njie noted.

According to the constitution, each region is managed by a regional council led by a President. The President of the council is the representative of the Head of State in that region, CRTV reported. At the end of the regional elections, 900 regional Councillors will be elected nationwide made up of 700 divisional Councillors and 200 traditional rulers.

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