A STATEMENT BY THE SOUTH WEST CHIEFS CONFERENCE ON THE IMPLEMENTATION OF THE 1996 CONSTITUTION BEARING ON THE NATURE OF THE STATE AND THE DECENTRALIZATION PROCESS DURING THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING IN KUMBA ON JUNE 6TH 2015.
During the Annual General Meeting of SWECC, holding in Kumba on June 6th, 2015, the SOUTHWEST CHIEFS reviewed the state of development and economy of the South West Region as well as several issues affecting the life of our Nation and populations. Among these issues was the Process of Decentralization now underway in Cameroon and as one of the cornerstones of Cameroon Unity following the failed expectations of 1961 Reunification of Cameroon.
Let us situate ourselves in the proper context.When the two political entities of Southern Cameroons, English speaking, and the Republique du Cameroun, French-speaking, reunified in October 1961, the Southern Cameroons brought into the Union, among other traditions,
1. The Parliamentary System of democracy
2. The English Language
3. The Common Law judicial system
4. The Anglo-Saxon Educational system
5. The Traditional Chieftaincy InstitutionThe above traditions carried in them The Promise of Reunification,i.e. the building blocks of our cultural and political identity and personality with which we had to build our expectations of success and sociopolitical and economic development with the demise of colonial rule.
The 1972 Referendum resulted in a Unitary Decentralized State characterized however by a very Centralized governance system and little powers to the people as well as little regard to the above-cited traditions of the English-speaking Cameroonians, who rather perceive the ascendancy of the francophone system.
It was in light of the above context that several dissenting voices and groups such as the Anglophone Movement, All Anglophone Conference, and the Southern Cameroons National Congress emerged in the 90s with very dangerous agendas. The South West Chiefs Conference and to some extent the South West Elite Association all imbued with a sense of moderation and Nationhood asked for and championed the calls for profound and meaningful constitutional and legal changes and reforms as the way forward for a new Cameroon inclusive of its daughters and sons in the effort of building National Unity, Integration andDevelopment.
The South West Chiefs championed the course for a Political System of Provincial Autonomy with shared powers between the Central and Provincial governments. They sought audience and obtained it in September 1993 with President Paul Biya who gave a keen and favorable ear to their proposals. By January 18th, 1996, President Paul Biya promulgated the Constitution making the Republic of Cameroon a Unitary Decentralized State with Regional and Local Councils. It also provided for consideration of some degree of specificities in the setting up of Regions.
There have recently been some pockets of social expression that 54 years on since Reunification, 19 years on since the promulgation of the 1996 Constitution the State and Government may not have done anything significant
1. To stop the disappearance of the English Language in Cameroon
2. To promote the parliamentary system of democracy in English speaking Regions
3. To promote and consolidate the Common Law system in English speaking Regions
4. To promote the Anglo-Saxon Educational system built on Science,Technology, Engineering and Mathematics as was the case in CCAST Bambili and Ombe in the 60s and 70s.
5. 19 years on, the Regions exist only on paper are yet to be fully set up. The Local councils are not run as decentralized collectivities with full devolution of powers but are managed as deconcentrated services of the Central government in total spite of Chapter 10 of the Constitution
6. The Chieftaincy Institution is tossed around by Local Administrative officers who constantly encourage disputes and fan flames of disorder for their sole purpose of power and money and in total disregard of the high recognition of this Institution by theHead of State.
7. However, on a positive note, you all remember the Head of State’s personal decision to pay a monthly salary to all the chiefs in Cameroon since September 2013, following a unanimous nationwide proposal by the Chiefs.
THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM
Evidently, these disquieting perceptions, rightly or wrongly, have somehow revealed the need to restate the political will in the system and complete the legal voids and processes in view of strengthening the operationality of the new system ushered in by the 1996 Constitution. This should be done so that it is not perceived as a betrayal of the REUNIFICATION spirit in all civil and political State Institutions.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE PROBLEM
The consequences of this problem are the mounting disenchantment of the populations and groups in the English-speaking Regions. Some political sociologists have called it THE ANGLOPHONE PROBLEM.
In the official public domain English speaking Cameroonians can not communicate well because it is French that is largely used in the publication of Laws, Decrees, Policies, Ministerial Arretes and texts,rules and regulations and development programs, which are indispensable for information and education of all Cameroonians especially in the pursuit of National and community development.
A case in point is the current crisis in the ranks of the Common Law lawyers who see themselves being nabbed by the Civil Law system. The Chieftaincy Institution is one case too many that is gradually being turned into a village civil service headed by the Divisional Officers.
THE WAY FORWARD
Considering that Cameroon has adopted its Human Development Road Map,Vision 2035 and its Growth and Employment Strategy Paper alongside the Millennium Development Goals, The African Human and Peoples Rights and several other International Conventions that consider the full participation of all citizens in the social, cultural, economic and political development efforts;
Considering again that the President has promulgated 3 laws with regard to setting up and running Local and Regional Councils;
Considering further that the Government has set up the Inter-Ministerial Committee and Steering Committee on Decentralization,respectively chaired by the Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization and the Prime Minister;
Considering, furthermore, that the Government has decided to set up the Regional Councils by 2015 as provided in the 2004 Laws on Decentralization and the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper;
And besides, in order to restore the spirit and expectations of belonging in one Nation, Cameroon, as enshrined in the Promise of Reunification as well in Decentralization in the 1996 Constitution
SWECC humbly urges His Excellency Paul Biya, President of the Republic of Cameroon to urgently
1. Enact a law in the likes of the Canada official Languages Act to put at par the English and French languages and criminalize the neglect of one language in the conduct of official business;
2. Enact a law to put at par the Common Law and Civil Law systems with application of the Common Law system in the English speaking Regions and the Civil Law system in the French-speaking Regions
3. Enact a new law regulating the Chieftaincy Institutions, totally regulated by the traditions and customs of each tribe or clan especially on matters of chieftaincy succession.
4. Enact a law to preserve the distinct characteristics of the Educational systems of Cameroon with particular attention to the Anglo-Saxon Educational system of the English-speaking Regions.
5. Deliver on the decision to set up the Regional Councils in 2015 taking into account the specificities of each Region in its functioning with particular regard to the
a. The English Language
b. The Common Law judicial system
c. The Anglo-Saxon Educational system
d. The traditional Chieftaincy Institution
6. Strengthen by a law the Inter-Ministerial and the Steering Committees on Decentralization by transforming them into a Decentralization Commission with full powers and autonomous budget to conduct the Decentralization process now underway in Cameroon.
We the South West Chiefs have presented this statement as a duty we owe to our people and Nation in our leadership role to point out and to make our humble suggestions to our Head of State and the Government for the improvement in the conduct of National and State Affairs especially those that impact directly on the development and quality of life of the populations under our charge. We equally commend the President and his Government to continue in their tireless efforts to create and strengthen social, economic and political institutions capable of making Cameroon emerge collectively by 2035 as a modern state truly united, democratic and industrialized.
We firmly restate our unshakable stand for a One, United and Indivisible Cameroon Nation.
Once more we want to reassure the Head of State of our total support and unflinching commitment in the fight against Boko Haram.
It is more than a year since these chiefs forwarded a statement to the Government. What have they been doing in terms of follow up? Did the regime reacted to their worries? All what they stated in the document, what has been achieved? What mechanisms do they have to see that it is being done? It is the view of BaretaNews that these chiefs will no power. They remain a puppet of the regime. They have been reduced to common beggars. They cannot make any tangible political statements which could be taken seriously. Biya knows them so well. They are silent in the face of the purported transfer of CDC head office from Limbe to Yaounde. The Chiefs must rise up and asserts their independence. They must be able to dish off politics and stand on the side of truth and justice. History shall situate each and every one of them.
God is still saying something.