Tuesday, November 17, 2009

France Proposes Re-instatement of Vice Presidency in Cameroon

-Rules out the possibility of any Anglophone occupying the post.
-See an Anglophone President in Cameroon as handing the country to Great Britain and America.

A news report by Michel Michaut of Aurore Plus newspaper on August 18, 2009 has revealed that Mr Biya, President of Cameroun, has been imposed the task of re-introducing the post of Vice President in Cameroun by his French counterpart, Mr Nicholas Sarkozy. The curious thing about it is that the news report also reveals that the French would not, for any reason want to see an Anglophone in that position, for this would mean handing Cameroon to Great Britain and America.

This imposition that was put to Biya during his recent visit also imposes that the Vice President should have right of succession in case for any reason the Etoudi tenant is forced to leave power.

The most difficult part of it, the report comments, would not even be a change of constitution but to find a competent Anglophone or Northerner to occupy this post. Irked by what happened in Ivory Coast in 1993 when Félix Houphouët Boigny died, in Togo after the sudden death of Etienne Eyadema Gnassingbe where his son, Faure, took over power through what only resembled elections in April 2005 and worried about what is presently going on in Gabon after the August 30 Presidential elections where it is alleged Ali Ben Bongo Ondimba has succeeded his father El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba who died on June 8, 2009 after 42 years of absolute rule; the French Rightists and their corollaries deep in business want a smooth democratic transition in Cameroun only to preserve their personal interests.

The report further says Paul Biya accepted the proposal made by the French President though with some deep reservations. How is he going to change the constitution to re-introduce this post of Vice President that had already existed during the Federal State and that had been occupied by John Ngu Foncha? It would be probably through the National Assembly or by Referendum.

It will surely not be by referendum just to avoid the syndrome from Niger where the President Mamadou Tanja is leading the people straight towards a stone wall. The other argument will be that a referendum will be too expensive.

Consequently it would not be unexpected that in the days ahead the august chamber (National Assembly) will have to sleep over the matter. The majority CPDM will surely vote for this modification. But several questions will arise that will make concordance very difficult even among the CPDM members: the status of the Vice President, will the post of Prime Minister be scrapped or will remain; but the greatest will be the origin of the President Biya’s anticipated Vice President: would he be running mate of the President for the anticipated Presidential elections coming up in 2010; or would the elected President appoint his Vice?


Paul Biya, well-groomed in Law and Political Science, has already started perusing the old constitutions of Cameroon, especially the Federal Constitution that governed the Federal States of West and East Cameroons from 1961 to 1972, on which date Ahidjo made Cameroon a unitary state on his own volition.

Biya has or will also consult Cameroonian Constitutional Law experts. He will consult, as he has done in the past, French experts in this domain. It will be recalled that to make the incomplete 1996 Constitution the Head of State had to make recourse to France. Certain problems could arise in the course of this revision like what form the State will take. From 1961 to 1972 the State was a Federal one and was well-suited for a Vice President: Ahmadou Ahidjo was a Francophone and automatically the post of Vice President went to an Anglophone. Today, Cameroon is a decentralized unitary State.

Will this same form of a State be conserved with the re-institution of a Vice President? What will be the powers of the Vice President? Shall we function like in the American system where the Vice President is only a ceremonial post with no powers, as all the executive powers are vested with the President though all of them were elected under the same ticket? Would the post of Prime Minister and Head of Government remain as it is in the present, or would it be given another content or be simply abrogated? Or would it take Mugabe’s Zimbabwe form where there is a President of the Republic, Vice Presidents and a Prime Minster. These and more are the tasks that will be facing the constitutionalists who will draw up the project to deposit on the table of the parliament. This is a lot of prospective work for Joseph Owona, Augustin Kontchou Kouomegne, Maurice Kamto, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo, Bipoum Woum and many other CPDM personalities.

Operational Difficulties

The big question is: who will be Paul Biya’s Vice President or running mate in the CPDM? In neighbouring Nigeria it was made very simple: if a Northerner, for example is the Presidential Candidate his running mate must be a Southerner and vice versa. Thus in the 1999 and 2003 Presidential elections the PDP (People’s Democratic Party) of Nigeria presented Olusegun Obassanjo, a Christian Yuroba from the South West of Nigeria and Aboubakar Attiku, a Moslem from the North of the Federation of Nigeria to be his running mate and Vice President. Similarly the PDP presented the present President of Nigeria, Umaru Mussa Yar’Adua during the April 2007 elections as President and an Ibo man from the South East as his running mate.

Is this well-organised scheme in our great neighbour also possible with us? That is where we are cornered. If we go by the North-South Nigerian example which was instituted by France and Ahmadou Ahidjo, Paul Biya would naturally choose a Northerner for a running mate. This is a very difficult choice given the actual sociopolitical context caused by the fight for positions, mean and tribal calculations not forgetting the failed coup d’etat of April 6, 1984 against Paul Biya orchestrated by the Northerners. Above all the Anglophones have the greatest right to claim this post of Vice President with their right of succession status, argues Michel Michaut.

It is a very delicate situation for Paul Biya, who can, by no means, put a native of the Fang-Beti cultural origin in this position. Equally excluded from this post are the Bulus, Ewondos, Etons, and other Manguissas, etc. Others even feel that all the originals of the Centre, South and East regions should be excluded from this race, even if these regions are occupied by other ethnic groups other than Betis like the Bassas, Bafias, Tikars, Baboutés, Banens, Makas, etc. This problem had already arisen when Biya appointed Emmanuel Rene Sadi as Secretary General of the CPDM in April 2007. The Betis wanted the post for the likes of Gregoire Owona, present assistant Secretary General and erstwhile Minister Delegate at the Presidency in Charge of Relations with the National Assembly.

Many other ethnic groupings or regions were eyeing the post but Biya took René Sadi, a Babouté from the Mbam et Kim Division in the Centre Region whose lineage also extends to the Adamawa Region where they come from and also from the East Region of the country. Could Biya also use the logic he used on René Sadi that he comes from three parts of the country to make him Vice President knowing he could attract many votes from the Adamawa Region, more inclined to vote Bello Bouba Maigari’s UNDP, leader of the opposition party allied to the CPDM and also Minister of State in charge of Transport in the present government.

Calculations of underlying politicians

If the post of Vice President is created, the Northerners would make their voices heard. For some nostalgic proponents of the North-South axis of northern origin, this would have actually been the situation given that that their defender or flag bearer is considered the constitutional successor of Biya. This is just like this same Biya was, from 1975 to 1982 Prime Minister, according to the constitution of the time the constitutional successor to President Ahmadou Ahidjo.

The contenders are many in the Grand North. They include: Ahmadou Ali, Cavaye Yeguié Djibril, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, etc. One thing should not be forgotten: Biya, if it comes to nomination, will never appoint a Peulh Moslem or anyone from the Benoue Division (Ahidjo’s Division of origin with Marafa), but rather from the Extreme North who is not Peulh and not a Christian. The choice could therefore be Ayang Luc, a Toupouri Christian from the Extreme North, the present President of the Economic and Social Council for more than 20 years and who had been Biya’s Prime Minister in the 80s. This would be in consideration to the crushing weight of the Peulh population of this part of our country. How will the Parliamentarians of the Extreme North behave in such a Parliamentary Session? It is difficult to tell now, but suffice it to say that the debates will be stormy in any such Parliamentary session when it shall come within the ranks of the CPDM and from members of all the regions without regard to tribe.

The Anglophones of the country will not be left out in this fierce debate, they who rightly claim it is their right to occupy the Etoudi Palace after the lengthy reigns of the Grand North with Ahidjo (1960 – 1982) and Biya from the Grand South from 1982 to present day, abut 27 years. Would their voices be heard? Yes, they would, if it were only Paul Biya, but his French mentors who suggested this modification would not take it kindly, for they would never trust any Anglophone at the helm of affairs in Cameroon especially through a smooth democratic transition. This would mean to them auctioning Cameroon to Great Britain and the United States of America. To avoid returning power to the North Biya would have loved to hand over power to an Anglophone one day, but for the French obstacle.

Finally, Biya who would not, at any cost, want to return power to the Grand North may turn his eyes to the Sawa Community. Effectively many Cameroonians would not look at a pure breed Douala at the helm of State affairs with a bad eye. Nor would they mind a Yabassi, an Abo, a Pongo, a Mbo, a Bakoko occupy the post of Vice President and later President of the Republic. A Duala Head of State will calm the Anglophones of Southwest origin for a good section of the inhabitants of this part of the country have the same cultural heritage like the Dualas. Wait and see.

By Nke Valentine with translation from Michel Michaut’s report from Aurore Plus newspaper.

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