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Cameroon's Democracy: Assessing the Past, Present, and Future

  •  2023-11-03
  •  Viban Promise Nteh

Cameroon's Democracy: Assessing the Past, Present, and Future.  By Viban Promise N.

Democracy in Cameroon has a long and complex history, dating back to the country's independence from France in 1960. Since then, Cameroon has experienced a variety of democratic systems, including multi-party elections, a unicameral legislature, and an independent judiciary. However, the country has also faced a number of challenges to its democracy, including political corruption, weak institutions, Poverty and inequality, and violence.

Authoritarian rule: Cameroon has been ruled by the same party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), since 1985. President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, is one of the longest-serving leaders in Africa. His rule has been characterized by centralization of power, repression of dissent, and corruption.

Lack of free and fair elections: Elections in Cameroon are often marred by irregularities, including voter intimidation, fraud, and violence. The CPDM has routinely won elections by landslide margins, but there is a widespread belief that these victories have not been legitimate.

Weak institutions: Cameroon's institutions, such as the judiciary, the media, and civil society, are weak and ineffective. This makes it difficult for them to hold the government accountable and to protect the rights of citizens.

Corruption: Corruption is endemic in Cameroon. It undermines the rule of law and stifles economic development. Endemic corruption is a serious problem that threatens Cameroon’s democracy. It’s the pivot around which most social, economic, and political crises revolve including the inequitable distribution of national wealth, marginalization of minority groups, centralization of power, and inadequacy in infrastructural development.   

Poverty and inequality: Cameroon is a poor country with high levels of inequality. This makes it difficult for many Cameroonians to participate fully in the political process. The minimum wage in Cameroon is 41,000 FCFA, that is approximately $67 or about $2USD per day. This Puts many  Cameroonians in difficult position where the have to prioritize other things such as food, health, accommodation over issues like, “which political party is in power?”    

In addition to these challenges, Cameroon has also faced a number of security threats in recent years, including the Anglophone crisis and the Boko Haram insurgency. These crises have further weakened the government and made it more difficult to promote democracy. For example, some highlights of the ongoing Anglophone crisis has been the shutdown of internet services in restive regions, dissent  on anti-government voices and arbitrary arrests. Thus, in a desperate attempt to crackdown  on secessionists,  or control the narrative the government sometimes resorts to the use of absolute power.

Despite the challenges, Cameroon remains committed to democracy. The country's constitution enshrines the principles of multi-party democracy, the rule of law, and respect for human rights. Additionally, Cameroon is a member of the African Union and the Commonwealth of Nations, both of which promote democratic values.

Despite these challenges, there are some signs of progress in Cameroon. In 2018, the government launched a national dialogue in an effort to address the Anglophone crisis. The dialogue has been slow and difficult, but it has made some progress. In addition, there is a growing civil society movement in Cameroon that is working to promote democracy and human rights.

However, there is still a long way to go before Cameroon can be considered a fully democratic country. The government needs to take steps to strengthen institutions, promote free and fair elections, and combat corruption. It also needs to address the security threats facing the country.

Engage its vibrant youth and women population in civic democratic process and decision making.

Promote free and fair elections: The government should reform the electoral system to ensure that elections are free and fair. This includes ensuring that all voters have equal access to the polls, that votes are counted accurately, and that the results of elections are respected.

Strengthen institutions: The government should strengthen its institutions, such as the judiciary, the media, and civil society. This will make them more effective in holding the government accountable and protecting the rights of citizens.

Combat corruption: The government should take steps to combat corruption. This includes strengthening law enforcement, improving transparency and accountability, and punishing those who engage in corruption.

Address security threats: The government needs to address the security threats facing the country, such as the Anglophone crisis and the Boko Haram insurgency. This will create a more stable environment for democracy to flourish.