15 Months After Successful Historic Major National Dialogue: Analysis, Impact
15 Months After Successful Historic Major National Dialogue:
Story, Victor Cham
Cameroon is witnessing changes closely linked to the Major National Dialogue, MND that held in Yaounde 15 months ago.
The dialogue was convened by the President of the Republic, Paul Biya, on September 10, 2019 to address genuine concerns raised by the people of the North West and South West Regions.
The outcome of the week-long heated debates was reflected in a 36-point recommendation advanced by some 700 delegates who constituted eight committees at the Major National Dialogue.
These recommendations were inspired on grounds that there would go more than a mile to put an end to the socio-economic impasse initiated by the crisis which broke out in October 2016.
To effectively find concrete solutions to these problems, eight working committees were created namely: Bilingualism, Cultural Diversity, and Social Cohesion; Educational System; Judicial System; The Return of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons; Reconstruction and Development of Conflict-Affected Areas; Disarmament, Demobilisation, and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants; Role of the Diaspora in the Crisis and in the Country’s Development; and, Decentralisation and Local Development, respectively.
After five days of brainstorming and group work, these eight committees came up with 36 recommendations. These are the pillars that cemented the foundation of building a new North West and South West in particular and Cameroon as a whole.
They came from all over the national triangle and from all works of life to chart the destiny of fatherland on Yaounde. It was a serene but tensed atmosphere at the Yaounde Conference Centre with divergent voices each trying to outshine the other on what best solutions were needed to solve the crisis in the North West and South West regions. At the end of the five days’ deliberations, commissioners adopted the following as recommendations;
Bilingualism, Cultural Diversity and Social Cohesion: Enhancing the practice of Bilingualism in all segments of society through the creation and implementation of programs starting from pre-school ages; Enrooting Cultural Diversity through a strict implementation of regional balance and equitable access to public service and security forces; Conceive and implement a curriculum on inter community Fellowship; Rebuilding Fraternal Trust and Civic Engagement in an effort to strengthen National Social Cohesion; Pass legislation that spells out the equitable use of both official languages in all areas of national life; and Develop and codify principles for social dialogue, social cohesion and living together.
Ensure that educational reforms integrate the need to keep the two educational subsystems afloat, buoyant and futuristic; recognising the unique strengths and specificities of each subsystem; building on the strengths of each one to train well rounded and excellent Cameroonian graduates who will excel wherever they go; ensure that Teachers’ Trade Unions should work in collaboration with the government; and lastly, Regulate the proliferation of Teachers’ Trade Unions and promote better organization of the Trade Unions to ensure synergy from the regional to national level.
Translate all legal instruments into both official languages and ensure their simultaneous publication in both official languages; take into account the prerequisite of English language proficiency and the mastery of the Common Law legal system when deploying judiciary staff to the North West and South West Regions; set up a Law School for training lawyers and all legal practitioners at large in Cameroon; upgrade the Common Law section of the Supreme Court of Cameroon into a fully-fledged Legal Bench comprising all sections dealing with specific matters of the common law; and improve mechanisms for legal cooperation in view of commencing proceedings to call to book those financing terrorism from foreign countries.
The Return of Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: The State should set up communication channels for a better deployment of the Army and freer movement of the people, as well as take measures for the construction of decent homes for displaced persons; proceed to the physical headcount of all displaced persons and come up with an estimate of their basic socio-economic needs(schools, health facilities, accommodation…); Provide ‘resettlement and reintegration kits’ to refugees and internally dis mplaced persons.
Reconstruction and Development Of Conflict-Affected Areas:
To formulate a vast programme for the Recovery, Reconstruction and Development of the North West, South West and Far North regions, aimed at improving the living conditions of the populations and consolidating social cohesion and national unity, the following actions were recommended; the immediate resumption of projects whose works have been suspended over the past three years due to the crisis in the North West and South West Regions such as the Babajou-Bamenda road; the Loum-Tombel-Kumba-Mundemba-Akwa Road etc; the rehabilitation of public facilities and public infrastructure destroyed or rendered obsolete as a result of lack of use because of the crises, particularly in the areas of education, health, transport, energy, water and communications infrastructure; the reconstruction of priority economic infrastructures in order to provide support or revive productive systems through the public agro-industrial companies in the affected regions(CDC, PAMOL, UNVDA, SEMRY, SODECOTON); the compensation for losses suffered by private individuals, religious congregations, Chiefs’ palaces, communities and private production and service provision units as well as direct social assistance schemes for victims; and finally, the voluntarist creation of sustainable jobs for young people and women with a special focus on those from the crisis-affected regions.
Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of Ex-Combatants: Develop and implement a holistic communication strategy that emphasizes the offer of peace that the Head of State, His Excellency Paul Biya has kindly offered to young combatants; Build bridges between these young people, the CNDDR defense and security forces and suspend the manufacture of home-made weapons and strengthen the fight against the dissemination of small arms; consider the treatment of young people at the spiritual, psychological and physical levels through programs of detoxification due to excessive drug consumption and intensive indoctrination by individuals in the diaspora; and integrate the Community Violence Reduction aspect into the DDR program.
Role of the Diaspora in the Crisis and in the Country’s Development:
The revision-reform of the nationality code such that dual or multiple nationality be authorised; the adoption of the principle of parliamentary and governmental representation of the diaspora(A Ministry dedicated to the Diaspora); the creation of a High Council of the Diaspora in the host countries with elected leaders, membership being conditioned by the possession of a consular card; the creation of a team responsible for mediation with radicalized members of our Diaspora and; the creation of a transnational investment and Development agency for the Diaspora.
Decentralization and Local Development: the endowment of the North West and South West Regions with a special status in conformity with section 62 sub 2 of the constitution which states that the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain regions with regards to their organization and functioning; the effective putting in place of regions as soon as possible; the disbursement of special allocation to each of the councils in the North West and South West regions to facilitate the effective resumption to certain agglomerations; the suppression of the provision for the appointment of Government Delegates provided for within the special regime applicable to certain agglomerations; a substantial reduction of the powers of the supervisory authority; in view of the reinforcement of the financial autonomy of local authorities, the Commission recommended the: effective implementation of section 32 sub 2 of the law on the orientation of decentralization which stipulates the finance law will determine, on the proposal of the government, the proportion of the state revenue dedicated to the Common Decentralization fund. In this connection, the participants proposed that a margin of 10-15% of the state budget be allocated to the councils; and secondly, the waiver of the principle on the single treasury account which delays the effective transfer of funds to local authorities.
Out of these 36 recommendations, eight were highlighted to be of utmost priority.
These include the recommendation to: grant a special status to the North West and South West regions, in conformity with section 62 sub 2 of the constitution; take specific measures to ensure equality of English and French in all aspects of national life; Reinforce the autonomy of decentralized local entities; improve upon the infrastructure of judicial services throughout the country; strengthen the humanitarian assistance program to better serve internally displaced persons; institute a special plan to reconstruct the conflict-affected areas; popularise the Head of State’s offer of amnesty to combatants who drop their weapons and enter the reintegration process; and finally, create a team responsible for mediation with radicalized members of the Diaspora.
Since then, some of the eight recommendations have been implemented while others are still unfolding.
Since the adoption of these recommendations 15 months ago, much have been said and done with regards to concrete action on the ground aimed to fast track the rapid realisation of these recommendations. While many have expressed frustrations over what may rightly or wrongly be apt, majority are still grappling to abreast themselves with the exact picture on the achievements and shortcomings so far. Below is a detailed insight on road covered and still to be covered by government.
On Bilingualism, Cultural Diversity and Social Cohesion
The law on the promotion of official languages in Cameroon was promulgated on December 24, 2019, that is, close to three months after the Major National Dialogue took place. This lays down the general legal framework for the promotion of official languages in Cameroon. Section 2 sub 2 of the law states that; the official languages of Cameroon shall have equal value. The National Commission on the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism has carried out sensitization and education on this law in most parts of the country.
Ensure that teachers’ Trade Unions should work in collaboration with the government.
This recommendation is the reason why few months back Basic Education Minister, Laurent Serge Etoundi Ngoa, met with some Teachers’ Trade Unions to strategise and improve on their working relationship. Other meetings have been organized to chart teachers’ plights reason for the limited strikes actions from these trade Unions. The education system was committee number two at the major national dialogue.
Upgrade the common law section of the Supreme Court into a fully-fledged legal bench: This recommendation of committee number three has been achieved.
All legal instruments are now translated into both official languages and ensuring their simultaneous publication in both official languages too. Government has started taking into account the prerequisite of English language proficiency and the mastery of the Common Law legal system when deploying judiciary staff to the North West and South West Regions. Other recommendations are said to be under review for proper implementation soon.
The return of refugees and IDPs
The government has kicked off with the process to bring back refugees based in Nigeria. On December 31st 2019, over 70 refugees returned to Cameroon via the Nsimalen International airport in Yaounde. In 2020, another group of refugees arrived Buea from Nigeria. On January 7, 2021, some 600 refugees and 3000 IDPs arrived Mamfe, Manyu Division of the South West Region. They came in from neighbouring villages and some from Nigeria.
Thousands of IDPs in Yaounde, Douala and Bafoussam have started returning home thanks to government’s program to assuage plight of refugees. Latest information suggests a top level arrangement to ferry in more displaced persons and refugees back to the North West and South West regions. The recommendations of commission number four are gradually taking shape, but must rapidly be done to put an end to the sufferings of people out there.
Reconstruction and Development of Conflict-Affected Areas
The recommendation by committee number five for government to effectively reconstruct the North West, South West and Far North regions stood out prominent. Barely five months after the Major National Dialogue, the President of the Republic created the Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the North West and South West regions. On April 3, 2020, Prime Minister, Head of Government, Chief Dr Joseph Dion Ngute signed a decision laying down the organic framework for the implementation of the plan. Article 2 of the Prime Ministerial order states that “Under the supervision of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, the PPRD-NW/SW aims at implementing projects in the North West and South West Regions focusing on the; Rehabilitation and development of basic infrastructure, economic revitalization and promotion of social cohesion.”
This was followed in same April 3 with the appointment of the National Coordinator and Deputy National Coordinator of the Presidential Plan.
The National Coordinator, Minister Paul Tasong and Deputy National Coordinator, Njong Donatus, were commissioned into their functions by the Prime Minister who doubles as supervisory authority of the PPRD-NW/SW. PM Dion Ngute tasked the Tasong-led team to get to work immediately. In response, Minister Paul Tasong on the high instructions of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, embarked on a two-week meet-the-people tour in the North West and South West regions, respectively. It was a critical moment with key stakeholders of the development sector who shared their experiences on how the plan could better be materialized.
The two weeks’ field awareness and sensitization campaign of the National Coordinator of the Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the North West and South West Regions, PPRD-NW/SW, Minister Paul Tasong, and his team set in motion a spirit of inclusion for the sake of reviving affected communities. Tasong and his team during their awareness campaign engaged at least 1500 community representatives from all walks of life across the two regions who without any reservation embraced President Biya’s resolve to make the two English-speaking regions better than they sue to be.
An encompassing message from the population is the resolve to champion the planned reconstruction and development of the North West and South West regions. Minister Tasong for one thing, succeeded during his stay in the two regions to give the population a true picture of what the project is before all parties involved strengthened strategies on how projects will be realised. This inclusive approach is what characterised the two weeks’ campaign. For two weeks the team and the population engaged community actors to thinking the best path for the reconstruction and development of ravaged communities. The civil society, elite, women, youth, persons with disabilities, administration, traditional rulers, politicians, and experts took part in the deliberations that saw the adoption of blueprints for the reconstruction of both regions. For one thing, the overwhelming endorsement pundits say is because the Tasong team functioned on the premise of putting the people, Cameroon, and development in the limelight, not political ideology or other factors of polarization. Minister Paul Tasong cum National Coordinator of the Plan unveiled the packages earmarked for both regions, and emphasized that the reconstruction plan is apolitical, knows no colour, origin and political party. He talked to the people of the North West and South West regions to bury their hatchets and forge ahead the first phase of the close to 90 billion FCFA development plan that is already enjoying outstanding global approval. All parties affected by the crisis were assured of proper attention and focus. The recovery to be done will be void of preconditions, the National Coordinator maintained throughout discussions. The beneficiary population, especially those in green zones will be of prime priority. For one thing, Minister Tasong and his team has scored points in causing a mind shift in the grass root to get the population think development and revival of their communities.
Reconstruction As A Path To Peace
The Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the North West and South West Regions, PPRD-NW/SW is increasingly being accepted as the most vital road to sustainable peace and development across the two English-Speaking regions. The package, observers agree is huge enough to appease ravaged communities, promote social cohesion and revive the local economy of these regions. The quest for the return to peace in the Anglophone part of Cameroon has preoccupied state and non-state actors. Divergent views and opinions on how peace can be achieved have reigned to provide lasting solutions to this worrying situation. Apparently, this quest has never met with no better option than the current Presidential Plan to reconstruct and develop the North West and South West regions. Did nelson Mandela not say, “Peace is greatest weapon for development that any person can have.” Mandela in a similar quote asserts that: “Negotiation and discussion are the greatest weapons we have for promoting peace and development.” The people now believe in rebuilding their villages at personal and group levels. They now feel it is time to let go manipulations and distractions of the past and embrace the planned facelift for their communities. The reconstruction and development agenda is a package in itself destined to assuage the plight of the populations of this regions. As an end to the crisis nears, the plan remains timely and strategic to put the hammer on the nail to restoring peace to these communities. More so important is the fact that, the reconstruction plan guarantees community engagement. It is now evident that reconstruction as articulated by the National Coordinator is a path to peace. This triggers the place development plays in the peace building process. Reconstruction and development which is another form of appeasement is a major way to peace. When people feel concerned, important and valued they stay away from unholy and peace-destruction activities. The role peace plays in the development process is as important as development itself. A people in peace are bound to live together, and happily too. The over FCFA 90 billion presidential plan, cost for first phase, to be executed is a litmus test to this assertion that reconstruction and development are two pillars capable of bringing peace back to the community. For example, the 26 bridges,314km of roads, over 5000 homes, and other infrastructure to get facelift across the South West region are constructive actions in the right direction towards achieving peace. This package signals a good start to attract the thousands of Internally Displaced Persons, IDPs in and out of the country to return home. The National Coordinator reechoed last year in Bamenda and Buea that being an Internally Displaced Person is not a permanent status.
In the North West Region, the people through their elected representatives stated their position and way forward: to the Bamenda City mayor, Paul Achobang, the “Reconstruction Process Should Be Holistic- World of hatred should not divide us but should be United… Let’s forgive each other and bury our hatred of the past and choose the path to peace. Reconstruction and development is iota of hope the people are ready to grasp. The reconstruction process will be used as a lever to further propel the development of the region to an admirable level…Reconstruction process should be holistic. Private school teachers need reconstruction too as the pre- vailing situation has devastated them.”
On his part, Bafut Mayor, expressed readiness to assist Government to access his Municipality: “The implementation should be done so as to rekindle hope for my people. This will go a long way to make the people have confidence in government action. I am ready to penetrate my area to assist the Head of State realise this great initiative,” the mayor said.
The women made their voices heard and in a clarion call, the Member of Parliament for Momo East said it was time for their Children to drop arms and join their mothers in reconstruction: “I want to thank the Head of State for putting together this reconstruction and development team. The women and children are highly touched and the women in particular. The women are the mothers of those children in the bushes. So even us women are not at peace, we are not happy. You cannot be happy seeing your child being irresponsible. You cannot be happy seeing your child sleeping in the bushes uncomfortably. This is an opportunity we are using to call on the children in the bushes that we have suffered a lot. They should keep down their arms and come back to the community for reintegration so that we can continue to live like a family. Peace is a common word of five letters, so common but precious. We have all this time been tired and restless so let them leave the arms and come back for full integration. Our hands are open to receive them like the prodigal son in the Bible. On that day when they will drop arms and come back, it will be a call for celebration for the people of the North West and South West regions. People have been talking about reconciliation and so on, so I call it a peace committee and by the time we go out as one man, the churches, media men, traditional rulers, civil society, we talk peace as one man. We talk peace to the children in the bushes, all and sundry preaching peace, they will see reasons to put down their arms. All of us must speak one language for if we have others talking negatively and positive ideas countered, it will not work. The reconstruction plan is a strategy to succeed. We need to identify groups and bring them to reasoning, if we do like that things will get better,” the MP said.
The South West Region was not indifferent to their plight and how government’s intervention remains timely. Grass root leaders all came to register their ideas to better shape the reconstruction agenda. One of them was Mme Agbor Magdalene, Chief Executive Officer of CHAMEG Cameroon and South West BIP Vice President; “Frankly, I really commend and appreciate their efforts. You know in our country we always have this gap where we have allowed social media to interpret our actions. The fact that they took up the initiative to create this awareness and sensitize the population is very important. I was privileged to have attended the meeting that was organised by the UNDP. The way the Plan has been explained and the answers of the Minister to our worries makes it so fulfilling and easier for us to go back to our community and see how to take time and explain with an open heart to the people because there is no Cameroonian who is ready to see our people continue in suffering. Despite the challenges, there is no doubt that this plan will go operational and we will take good sensitisation, words, education to send the appropriate information and turn the hearts of those who had misgivings about the plan.”
The Mayor of Isangele confessed that the reconstruction plan, if well implemented will transform the entireMunicipality; “Now that the president has come with a reconstruction plan, it will enable peace in our communities and some of our brothers and sisters who were against our national integrity will join the trend. I recommend that the reconstruction plan should target the educational and administrative sectorwhich have registered severe casualties. After the reconstruction session today, I hope that in the years ahead, Isangele will be a better place to because most of our infrastructures and facilities like schools, infrastructures from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, MINADER have been damaged will be reconstructed.”
On September 15, 2020 the Steering Committee meeting in their 2nd session reviewed and adopted the Procedures Manual of the PPRD-NW/SW. The Procedures Manual was developed by UNDP and the National Coordination of the PPRD-NW/SW. It is structured into three parts: social cohesion, vital basic infrastructure, and revitalisation of the local economy. It is on these three pillars that the 25 points recovery/reconstruction plan rest.
- Supply of housing reconstruction kits
- Supply for the acquisition of means locomotion
- Support for the reconstitution of lost personal documents
- Setting up of a database of local actors
Organization of Socio-cultural events
- Organization of capacity building workshop for civil society actors and community leaders
- Creation of a network of influential community leaders
- Creation of a platform of young actors of change
- Creation of support groups for facilitators/focal points
- Setting up of early warning and monitoring units
- Rehabilitation of multifunctional centres for women and youth
Basic Social infrastructure
- Rehabilitation of schools
- Rehabilitation of health centres
- Rehabilitation of solar-powered water points
- Rehabilitation of roads and bridges
- Rehabilitation of community infrastructure
- Rehabilitation of farms
- Supply of farming materials and tools
- Construction of solar ovens for cocoa and coffee
- Rehabilitation of small businesses
- Support for the revival of community savings banks
- Rehabilitation/construction of markets
- Support to CIGs for the development of pilot agro-pastoral projects
- Support to farmers with the framework of agro-pastoral development
- Support to start-ups
The first two to three years of the plan shall be focused on recovery and then followed by reconstruction proper.
In his address to the nation last December 31st 2020, the President of the Republic, Paul Biya reaffirmed his commitment to fast track the PPRD-NW/SW. On the Presidential Plan for the Reconstruction and Development of the North West and South West regions, Biya disclosed that: “Thus, a decision was taken to continue to implement plans for the reconstruction and development of the North West, South West and Far North Regions.”
Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration of Ex-combatants
This sector has remained one of the much talked about since its creation.
The Disarmament, demobilization and reintegration centres of Bamenda and Buea have continued receiving ex-combatants who voluntarily drop their arms. The recommendation of committee number six was to elaborate a plan to effectively popularise the Head of State’s offer of amnesty to combatants who drop their weapons and enter the reintegration process. This particular recommendation is still continuing because it is a process, not an event. The Bamenda disarmament centre is headed by former College Principal, Sixtus Gabsa, and the Buea Centre is headed by former senior administrator, Bernard Ndode Messape. Hundreds of separatist fighters have already surrendered and embrace the DDR process.
Role of the Diaspora in the Crisis and in the Country’s Development
The creation of a team responsible for mediation with radicalized members of the Diaspora was done shortly after the Major National Dialogue took place.
This team has travelled abroad on several occasions. Shortly after the major national dialogue, a team of three government officials traveled to the United States of America to hold talks with some influential persons. The content of such meetings have barely filtered because of its sensitivity nature but it is also an inspiration adopted at the major national dialogue. The results of these trips are only manifested through constructive actions and new positions of some diaspora separatist leaders. This however, meets the aspirations of this recommendation advanced in committee number seven.
Decentralization and local development
The committee number eight on decentralization and local development received the highest attention and attraction at the historic Major National Dialogue. At the end of the week long deliberations it came up with six recommendations. Five of the six recommendations are currently been implemented. The special status for the North West and South West regions has been signaled with the election of members of the regional assembly comprising of House of divisional representatives and House of Chiefs.
The powers of supervisory authorities have been reviewed. The post of appointed government delegates has been replaced with that of elected city mayors.
Inside Special Status
This topic has animated the public scene since the Special Status for these English-speaking regions was first raised at the Major National Dialogue last year. Delegates emerged from that gathering endorsing the Special Status as a positive step to give more powers to the local population alongside sustaining the peculiar Anglo-Saxon heritage of the English-Speaking population within a bilingual, bi-jural and indivisible Cameroon.
The law articulated a new vision of President Paul Biya for effective decentralisation, in fulfillment of the 1996 constitution that made Cameroon a “decentralised unitary state”.
The law on Regional and Local Authorities expanded and expounded on the mission of regional and local authorities, especially following the creation of the Senate in 2013. It also spelled out the content of the Special Status in Book Four Part V from sections 327 to 370.
Section 3 in sub(1) of Law 2019/024 of 24 December 2019 states that: “The North West and South West regions shall have a Special Status based on their language specificity and historical heritage”.
Sub two(2) further states that: “The Special Status referred to in sub section (1) above shall be reflected with regard to decentralisation, in specificities in organisation and functioning of these two regions.”
In this same light, subsection three (3) makes it clear that: “The Special Status shall also entail respect for the peculiarity of the Anglophone education system and consideration of the specificities of the Anglo-Saxon legal system based on Common Law”.
In subsection four (4), where every task now lies, it states that: “The content of the specificities and peculiarities referred to in subsections (2) and (3) above shall be specified in separate instruments”.
The content is elaborated in Book Four Part V of the December 24, 2019 law on the General Code of Regional and Local Authorities. Article 62 of the Constitution backs this provision.
The question on special consideration is articulated in the 1996 Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. Article 62 (2) expressly states that: “Without prejudice to the provisions of this Part, the law may take into consideration the specificities of certain regions with regard to their organisation and functioning.”
According to section 327(1) on the general code of Regional and Local Authorities; “The North West and South West regions shall have a special status in accordance with the provisions of article 62 of the constitution.” Section 328 (2) states that “The Special Status referred to in Sub-section(1) above shall confer on the North West and South West regions, a specific organizational and operational regime based on the historical, social and cultural values of these regions with due respect for the primacy of the State and national unity and solidarity.”
Section 328 further articulates that “In addition to powers devolved on regions by this law, the North West and South West Regions shall exercise the following powers;
-participating in the formulation of national public policies relating to the Anglophone education sub-system;
-setting up and managing regional development authorities;
-participating in defining the status of traditional chiefdoms.”
In sub (2); “The North West and South West Regions may be consulted on issues relating to the formulation of justice public policies in the Common Law system.”
Sub (3) outlines that “They may be involved in the management of public services established in their respective territories.”
On the organs of the North West and South West regions, sections 329 and 330 state that these regions “Shall be administered freely by elected organs, under the conditions laid down in this law,” adding in the proceeding section that these organs shall be “the regional assembly and the regional executive council.”
Section 332 clarifies that “the regional assembly shall be composed of 90(ninety) regional councillors elected for a five-year term of office. Sub(2) further indicates that; the regional assembly shall comprise of two houses: the House of Divisional Representatives and the House of Chiefs, respectively.
COVID-19 & Impact on Major National Dialogue Recommendations Implementation
At the time the government was settling down to fast track implementation of major national dialogue recommendations, a disturbing pandemic broke out. The Coronavirus pandemic greatly upset the global order and Cameroon was not indifferent. All sectors were grounded. Nothing was left untouched. A general lockdown was announced. Just when the follow-up commission on the implementation of major national dialogue recommendations was created by the President of the Republic not long from the COVID-19 outbreak, Government refocused its energy and resources to fight the pandemic. From our findings, it was practically difficult to execute meaningful development projects anywhere across the world that was gripped by fear, panic and tension. But one glaring factor is that, it didn’t down play on weight government had given the lucrative recommendations. With the pandemic gradually being contained, actions in the right direction aim at assuaging the plight of the Anglophone community have been relaunched.
Protecting Anglophone heritage
The huge impact the Major National Dialogue will have on the Anglophone community in the weeks ahead will focus on protecting the cultural, historical and social heritage of the English speaking people. Key recommendations adopted at the major national dialogue and highlighted as priority recommendations have received the blessings of hierarchy for immediate implementation.
Measures have been taken to safeguard the educational, judicial and linguistic heritage of the Anglophones with regards to Anglo Saxon culture. Within the context of the special status, President Biya in his address to the nation last December 31st 2020 underscored that: “Furthermore, after the Major National Dialogue, the Government fast-tracked the implementation of an ambitious decentralization policy which includes a special status for our North West and South West Regions, which takes into account their specificities and aspirations.”
The Regional Election has just taken place and the job description of the Public Independent Conciliators of the North West and South West regions have been spell-out.
The special status era has begun. It is envisaged that the President of the Republic may in the days ahead appoint pioneer Public Independent Conciliators.
Why Anglophones must Appropriate Plan
One thing which political pundits opine is that, Anglophones must see and take the reconstruction plan personal and community owned. This way, another school of thought thinks that Anglophones should equally forgive each other and fully embrace the scheme.
In all, of the eight prioritised recommendations, seven have effectively taken off but for the improvement of infrastructure of judicial services which is in the offing, reliable sources have told Municipal Updates.
Other recommendations have been programmed to take off in due course.
Gov’t Open To Dialogue
However, government’s effort to mobilise resources and energy to find palpable solutions to this crisis has been at work.
Biya in his address on December 31st 2020 stated that: “Yet our Government has continued to demonstrate its commitment to openness and dialogue by, for example, releasing many former secessionists and facilitating their reintegration into society.
“Furthermore, after the Major National Dialogue, the Government fast-tracked the implementation of an ambitious decentralization policy which includes a Special Status for our North West and South West Regions, which takes into account their specificities and aspirations,” Biya told Cameroonians.
See full sections relating to Special status
Book four part five on the General Code of Regional and Local authorities’ focuses on the Special Status granted to the North West and South West regions.
Section 327: (1). The North-West and South-West Regions shall have a special status in accordance with the provisions of Article62of the Constitution.
(2) The special status referred to in Sub-section (1) above shall confer on the North-West and South West Regions, a specific organizational and operational · regime, based on the historical, social and cultural values of these regions with due respect for the primacy of the State and national unity and solidarity.
Section 328: (1) ln addition to the powers devolved on regions by this law, the North West and South West Regions shall exercise the following powers.
-participating in the formulation of national public policies relating to the Anglophone education sub-system;
-setting up and managing regional development authorities;
-participating in defining the status of traditional chiefdoms;
(2). The North-West and South West Regions may be consulted on issues relating to the formulation of justice public policies in the Common Law subsystem;
(3) They may be involved in the management of public services established in the respective territories.
ORGANS OF THE NORTH-WEST AND SOUTH-WEST REGIONS
Section 329: The North-West and South-West Regions shall be administered freely by elected organs under the conditions laid down in this law.
Section 330: The organs of the North-West and South-West Regions shall be;
-the Regional Assembly;
-the Regional Executive Council
- Regional Assembly
Section 331: (t)The Regional Assembly shall be the deliberative organ in the North-West and South-West Regions.
(2) It shall exercise all the powers devolved upon regional councils by the laws inforce.
Section 332: (1) The Regional Assembly shall be composed of 90 (ninety) Regional Councillors elected for a five-year term of office.
- It shall comprise two houses:
-the House of Divisional Representatives;
-the House Chiefs. ·
I-1House of Divisional Representatives
Section 333: (1) The House of Divisional Representatives shall comprise 70 (seventy) members elected by the municipal councillors of the region by a one round mixed list vote comprising a majority system and a proportional representation system.
(2) The House or Divisional Representatives shall reflect the sociological components of the region as well as gender.
Section 334: (1) The House of Divisional representatives shall rule on all matters falling within the powers of the regional assembly.
(2) It shall comprise 5 (five) committees, namely:
-the Committee on Administrative and Legal Affairs and Standing Orders;
-the Committee on Education;
-the Committee on Health, Population, Social and Cultural Affairs;
-Youth and Sports;
-the Committee on Finance, Infrastructure, Planning and Economic development;
-the Committee on Environment, Regional development, State Property, Town Planning and Housing.
(3) Parliamentarians of the region may take part in the proceedings of the House of Divisional Representatives in an advisory capacity.
(4) The President of the House of Divisional Representatives may also involve members of civil society in proceedings on specific issues, without voting right. These personalities may come from the Economic and Social Council, professional bodies or social groups interested in the issues under review.
Section 335: (1) The House of Divisional Representatives shall be chaired by the President of the Regional Executive Council
(2) When chairing the House of Divisional Representatives, the President of the Regional Executive Council shall be assisted by a Regional Executive Council Secretary, the Secretary-General of the Region and members of the Regional Executive who are not members of the House of Chiefs.
(3) Where the Regional Executive Council President is absent or unavailable, the eldest regional Councillor shall chair House proceedings.
II 2- House of Chiefs
Section 336: The House of Chiefs shall comprise 20(twenty) members from among traditional rulers elected in accordance with the laws in force.
Section 337: (1) The House of Chiefs shall rule on all matters falling within the powers of the Regional Assembly.
(2) It shall give its opinion on the following issues:
-the status of the traditional chiefdom;
-the management and conservation of historical sites, monuments and vestiges,
-the organization of cultural and traditional events in the region;
-the collection and translation of elements of oral tradition.
Section 338: The House of Chiefs shall comprise 2(two) committees; namely:
-the Committee on Administrative and legal affairs and Standing Orders, Education, Health, Population, Social and Cultural Affairs, Youth and Sports;
-the Committee on Finance, Infrastructure, Planning, Economic Development, · Environment, Regional Development, State Property, Town Planning and Housing.
Section 339: (1) The House of Chiefs shall be chaired by the Regional Executive Council Vice President, assisted by a Regional Executive Council Secretary.
(2) Where the President of the House of Chiefs is absent or unavailable; the eldest member shall chair House proceedings
(3) Parliamentarians of the region may take part in· the proceedings of the House of Chiefs in an advisory capacity;
1-3 -Functioning. of the Regional Assembly
Section 340: House of the Regional Assembly shall be convened by the President of the Regional Executive Council under the conditions laid down in Sections 280 and 281 of this law.
Section 341: (1) The two houses shall meet separately on the same dates.
(2) They shall hold a joint meeting:
(a) at the opening and closing of the session;
(b) when the agenda items relate to:
-the approval of the Regional Executive Council action programme
-the validation of the Regional Executive Council progress report at the of the financial year.
(c) when circumstances so require.
Section 342: (1) The two houses of the Regional Assembly shall also hold a joint meeting to initiate impeachment.
(2) The standing orders of the Regional Assembly shall lay down the procedure and scope of impeachment.
Section 343: Questions to be submitted to the Regional Assembly shall be initiated concurrently by the Regional Executive Council President and by two thirds of the members of each how of the Regional Assembly.
Section 344: (1) The Regional Assembly shall be chaired by the Regional Executive Council President.
(2) Where the Regional Executive Council President is absent or unavailable, the Vice-President shall chair the Regional Assembly and, where the latter is unavailable, the Commissioner for Economic Development shall deputize for him.
section 345: (1) Where the regional deliberation is adopted by the House of Divisional Representatives, it shall be forwarded within 24 (twenty-foùr) hours to the House of Chiefs, which may make amendments and return it for a second reading to the House of Divisional Representatives, together with the reasons for its rejection.
(2) The rejection of all or part of a deliberation by the House of Chiefs shall be valid only where it is decided by an absolute majority of House members.
(3) Where the disagreement persists, the House of Divisional Representatives shall adopt the deliberation by a simple majority of its members and forward it to the Regional Executive Council President for implementation.
(4) All deliberations adopted by the Regional Assembly shall be forwarded to the representative of the State.
Section 346; (1) The Regional Assembly shall adopt the standing orders of the entire House.
(2) The House of divisional Representatives and the House of Chiefs shall adopt their respective standing orders separately.
Section 347: Parliamentarians and mayors of the region shall take part, as of right, in the proceedings of the joint meetings of the Regional Assembly in an advisory capacity.
Section 348: The participation of the representative of the State or his duly authorised representative at Regional Assembly meetings shall be as of right. Whenever he so requests, the representative of the State or his duly authorized representative shall be heard, but may neither vote nor chair the Regional Assembly. His statements shall be recorded in the minutes of the proceedings.
Section 349: (1) ln January following the end of the financial year, the representative of· the State shall present a special report on the activities of State services in the region to the Regional Assembly. The special report shall be discussed in his presence:
(2) During the said session, the Regional Executive Council President shall present to the Regional Assembly, a special report on the situation in the region, the devolved powers, the activities and functioning of various services and bodies of the region as well as appropriations. The report shall specify the status of the deliberations of the Regional Assembly and the financial situation of the region. It shall be discussed, forwarded to the representative of the State and the Senate for information purposes and made public.
Section 350: The deliberations of the Regional Assembly shall be recorded in chronological order in a register numbered and initialed by the representative of the State.
Section 351: Subject to the specific provisions of this Part; the operating procedures of the Regional Council shall apply to the Regional Assemblies of the North West and South West Regions.
- Regional Executive Council
Section 352: (1) The Regional Executive Council shall be the executive organ of the region. (2) It shall comprise:
-1 (one) President;
-1 (one)Vice President;
-1 (one) Commissioner for Economic Development; 1 (one) Commissioner for Health and Social Development;
-1 (one) Commissioner for Educational, Sports and Cultural Development;
-2 (two) secretaries;
-1 (one) Questor.
III: -1 Election of Regional Executive Council Members
Section. 353: (1) Regional Executive Council members shall be elected during the as of right session from among the regional councillors of the region and for the duration of the term of the Council.
(2) The President and Vice President of the North West Regional Executive Council shall be native personalities elected from among members of the Regional Assembly for the duration of the term of office.
(3) The President and Vice President of the South West Regional Executive Council shall be native personalities elected from among members of the Regional Assembly for the duration of the term of office.
Section 354: (1) The distribution of positions in the Regional Executive Council shall, as far as possible, reflect the configuration of the Regional Assembly.
(2) ln any case, three members of the Regional Executive Council may not hail from the same division.
Section 355:(1) During the session provided for in Section 353 above; the Regional Assembly shall be chaired by its eldest member; with the youngest member acting as secretary of the sitting.
(2) Voting shall be by a list system, secret ballot and absolute majority of the Regional Assembly members present and voting.
(3) Where, after two rounds of voting, no list obtains an absolute majority, a third round shall be held and winning shall be by relative majority. ln the event of a tie, the list with the highest average age shall be declared winner.
(4) The Regional Assembly may deliberate only in the case provided for in subsection 1 above where two thirds of its members are present. Where that condition is not fulfilled the meeting shall be convened as of right 8 (eight) days later. It may be conducted without taking into account a quorum.
Section 356: (1) The election of Regional-Executive Council members shall be established by order of the Minister in charge of regional and local authorities.
(2) It may be the subject of an appeal for cancellation in accordance with the rules provided for by the laws inforce for the cancellation of the election of regional councillors.
(3) Where the election is cancelled or for any other reason one or more members of the Regional Executive council cease to perform his duties, the Regional Assembly shall be convened to replace them within a period not exceeding 1 (one) month.
Section 357: The list of elected members of the Regional Executive Council shall be made public through posting at the regional headquarters by the Chairperson of the meeting within a period not exceeding 4 hours after publication of the results. The list shall within the same period, be notified to the representative of the State.
Section 358: Members of the Regional Executive Council shall take oath before the competent Court of Appeal before assuming their duties. The oath, pronounced in English, shall read as follows: “l swear on honour and peldge to serve the interests of the region and to loyally and faithfully discharge my duties without discrimination Or favouritism, in compliance with the law and in accordance with the values of democracy, and by the principles of unity and integrity of the Republic.”
- 2: President and Vice-President of the Regional Executive Council
Section 359: (1) The President of the Regional Executive Council shall be the Chief Executive of the Region. As such, he shall
-be the interlocutor of the representative of the State;
-represent the region in all Civil matters and before the law courts;
-chair the sessions of the Regional Assembly;
-Chair the sessions of the House Divisional Representatives when it sits separately from the House of Chiefs;
-prepare and implement the deliberations of the Regional Assembly;
-authorize the revenue and expenditure of the region, subject to separate provisions laid down by the laws in force;
-manage the property of the region and monitor such management; particularly with regard to movement on such property, subject to the duties devolving to the representative of the State and mayors.
(2) The President of the Regional Executive Council shall come from the category of divisional representatives.
Section 360: (1) The Vice-President of the Regional Executive Council shall come from the category of traditional rulers
(2) He shall assist the President in the discharge of his duties and benefit from a delegation of signature for the discharge of the duties entrusted to him.
Section 361: The provisions of Chapter 2 of-Part 3 of this book relating to the President of the Regional Council shall apply to the President of the Regional Executive Council, subject to the separate provisions laid down in this Part.
- 3 – Regional Commissioners
Section 362; The Commissioner for Economic Development shall be responsible for implementing the policy of the region on the exercise of devolved powers in the fields of economic actions; environmental and natural resources management; planning; territorial development; public works, town planning and housing.
Section 363: The Commissioner for Health and Social Development shall be responsible for implementing the policy of the region on the exercise of devolved powers in the fields of health and social action.
Section 364: The Commissioner for Educational, Sports and Cultural Development shall be responsible for implementing the policy of the region on the exercise of devolved powers in the fields of education, literacy, vocational training, youth; sports; leisure, culture and the promotion of national languages.
Il- 4 – Secretaries and Questor
Section 365: (1) Secretaries shall perform secretarial duties within each of the houses of the Regional Assembly.
(2) The duties of secretary and questor shall be laid down by the standing orders of the Regional Assembly of the North-West and South-West Regions.
II – 5 – Regional Administration
Section 366: The rules relating to regional administration, in accordance with the provisions. Of Sections 323 and 324 above, shall apply to the North-West and South-West Regions.
PUBLIC INDEPENDENT CONCILIATOR
I – Status and Duties of the Public Independent Conciliator
Section ·367: (1) A public independent conciliator is hereby established in the special status of the North-West and South-West Regions.
(2) As an independent regional authority, the Public Independent Conciliator shall be a highly experienced personality with reputed integrity and proven objectivity.
(3) The Public Independent Conciliator in the North-West and South-West Regions shall be:
-responsible for examining and amicably settling disputes between users and regional and council administrations;
-defending and protecting rights and freedoms with regard to the relationship between citizens and the region or the councils thereof;
-designing and implementing measures to prevent and combat direct or indirect discrimination that may affect users of regional or council services;
-ensuring that persons serving in the regional or council administration comply with their ethical obligations;
-conducting. any investigation on the functioning of regional and council public services at the request of 5 (five) parliamentarians or 5 (five) regional councillors;
-preparing a report on the functioning of regional and council services.
Section 368: (1) The Public Independent Conciliator shall be appointed by decree of the President of the Republic for a six-year non-renewable term, upon the concerted proposal of the representative of the State and the President of the Regional Executive Coüncil.
(2) The duties of the Public Independent Conciliator shall be incompatible with the holding of a public office or employment, or the exercise of any paid professional activity. Any elected representative who accepts his appointment as Regional Public Independent Conciliator shall, as of right, forfeit his office.
(3) The Public Independent Conciliator shall not receive or seek instructions within the limits of his powers.
(4) professional secrecy shall not be enforceable against him.
(5) He shall take an oath before the competent court of Appeal before assuming office,
II – Referrals to the Public Independent Conciliator
Section 369: (1) A complaint may be submitted to the Public Independent Conciliator by any natural or legal person who considers that his rights and freedoms have been infringed by the functioning of the regional or council administration or regional or council public institutions. (2): A complaint may also be submitted to the Public Independent Conciliator by any person who considers himself to be a victim of direct or indirect discrimination prohibited by law or by an international commitment duly ratified or approved by Cameroon.
(3): The Public Independent Conciliator may intervene only where the following conditions are fulfilled:
-the dispute must be between a natural or legal person or a public employee and a regional and council public service;
-the applicant must have filed a prior appeal with the body involved in the dispute;
-no competent court must have ruled on the matter.
Section 370: (1) Where a dispute is referred to the Public Independent Conciliator, he shall have the power to make recommendations with a view to ensuring respect for the rights and freedoms of the aggrieved party and settling the dispute submitted to him or preventing it from reoccurring.
(2) where the recommendation is not implemented, the Public Independent Conciliator may order the regional or council administration concerned to take the necessary steps within a specified period.
(3) Where his injunction is not heeded, the Public Independent Conciliator shall prepare a special report which shall be communicated to the defendant and the representative of the State in the local authority concerned. The report and the respondent’s response, as appropriate, may be published·
(4) The Public Independent Conciliator may propose legislative and regulatory amendments to the President of the Republic.
Section 371: A decree of the President of the Republic shall lay down the terms and conditions for discharging the duties of the. Public Independent Conciliator.