Expected Regional Elections: Stakes, Challenges
The regional election which president Biya promised will take place this 2020 is increasingly triggering fireworks within the political class.
Some political actors see it as an opportunity to take Cameroon’s decentralisation drive to the next level while others are already trying to use the opportunity to foment trouble within the country.
While there is increasing expectation that the Head of State, Paul Biya would anytime soon convene the electorate for this historic political consultation, many are yet to fully grasp the import of this exercise to the nation.
Government through the directives of President Biya has repeatedly made known its resolve to devolve powers to local communities to enhance grass root development.
The stakes of the elections are even higher in the restive North west and South west regions wherein a Special Status is highly awaited. The Historic Major National Dialogue of October 2019 already sanctioned that provision.
Two Months after, Parliament voted a law that outlines the composition of the Regional Councils. By December 2019, that law was promulgated by the Head of State.
Thus the anticipated election if held will be coming at a time when, across the 10 regions, everyone is looking forward to see and feel the workability of the new law on regional and local authorities.
Analyst says despite the political dust being raised by some stakeholders who have been accused of being bent to frustrate the action, the state should remain focus on ensuring that before the current year runs out, the country’s decentralisation enters a new era.
For the English-Speaking region, it will be a challenge of seeing that, traditional rulers regain their palaces and play their community roles of stimulate development in this new dispensation.
Despite the pockets of resistance recorded, the state has the daunting task of ensuring the elections, if announced takes place across the 10 regions and the structures implemented immediately.
Those at the central government too must be ready to support president Biya by willingly devolving some of their powers to the regional bodies so that the people can become a part of the development process.
The upcoming regional elections will also mark a turning point in the political history of Cameroon as local administration will become more feasible, relevant and indispensable in advancing the nation’s development will.
Councillors and chiefs are already being mobilized to size up the chances of enabling an equitable and succinct representation with respect to electoral norms.
Interest of NW, SW
Since 2016 when the Anglophone crisis broke out, the 65 municipalities of these two regions have been faces with relative instability and economic slowdown.
The local machinery has been rendered redundant until February this year when local elections held. New mayors and councillors were installed. This new dawn redefined the path to effective decentralization. The regional elections will be taking place at a time when these two regions are grappling with putting an end to the stalemate that has greatly punctured smooth operations.
One of the major outcomes of the historic Major National Dialogue was the granting of the North West and South West regions a special status. This status which is exclusively for these two regions is expected to start seeing the light of day as soon as the regional councils go operational. The resetting of the House of Chiefs and other key reforms within a specific frame will signal the fruition of the Special Status.
The Regional platform would take a much bigger twist and trend in the two English-Speaking regions. This will give the regions an opportunity to preserve the Anglo Saxon culture and heritage.
Greater Local Autonomy
The wish of local government bodies is to possess much control and influence on the day-to-day running of their municipalities. And also, to have command over resources exploited and exported.
The powers of regional and local councils enshrined in the General Code for regional and local authorities simply allows them to exercise financial and legal authority in the management of their affairs.
Officials of the elections management body, Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, have been on the field for the past weeks. They’re finalising arrangements ahead of a crucial political consultation that will define the fate of the country’s development.
The Board chairman of ELECAM, Enow Abrams Egbe, was in the North West last week to assess the rate of voter registration and probably take stock of preparations ahead of the first ever regional council elections.
Regions on the move
Preparations are hitting up in the regions as speculations are rife that the President of the Republic may this week, convene electorates to the pioneer regional council elections. Lobbying and camping are already taking central stage across the country.
Councillors and chiefs are reportedly holding acrimonious meetings in the regions about the yet-to-be scheduled elections.
According to Article 55, decentralized territorial communities of
the republic are regions and councils. The law adds that they enjoy
Administrative and financial autonomy for the management of regional and council interest. The constitution defines their missions to include promotion of economic, social, and sanitary educational, cultural and sports development.
Every Regional Council headed by a President is supposed to reflect the sociological composition of every region. Regional Councillors have a mandate of five years. Each region is entitled to 90 members; 70 delegates of divisions and 20 representatives of traditional rulers. The law further states that each subdivision shall provide at one councilor.