Thursday, December 3, 2009


Column by Sylvester Gwellem

Cameroon is a one party state wearing the cloak of a multiparty democracy. A one-party system was inspired in the early 1960s by paternalism, a hangover of colonialism, which assumed that Africans were not yet ready to assume political responsibility or that political maturity was the preserve of only those who were in power while the rest of the population was regarded as immature and ignorant who must be guided and directed by the masters in authority.

While this concept was rejected in neighboring countries as patriotic coups swept out the dictators, Cameroon is yet to see something wrong with a one party system. Changes in leadership are necessary because no single person can claim a monopoly to the solutions of a people. Somewhere along the line one runs out of ideas and initiatives. It is intolerable for Cameroon to be parading only two presidents. We can boast that we are above them in football but what benefits has football brought to Cameroon?

That Cameroon has only two heads of state since 1960 is an insult to the dignity and intelligence of Cameroonians. This could have been tolerated in a way if the quality of life of the people had improved. Instead, Cameroonians now have danced back to the standard of living they had before independence.

The griots and sycophants keep on telling the ignorant citizens how good the system is as long as they remain to be political vampires. Citizens watch helplessly as the cake they baked is shared by those who had nothing to do with the baking.

When the Wind of Change blew across Africa in the 1990s Cameroon was not spared. Ni John Fru Ndi dared President Biya and his CPDM. In the Presidential Elections of 1992 Biya lost power but was put back by the army, the Supreme Court and the French. Since then he has enjoyed the support of these groups. That is why he does not even go out for campaigns during elections. He does not even rule, but reigns like an absolute monarch.

All democratic structures that were in place in 1992 have been crushed, fake ones with different Christian names have been manufactured and installed. In short, Cameroon is still toddling at 50 with two or more constitutions which are selectively used always in favor of government.

Elections are mere formality. The CPDM has become an election-winning machine after ever five years even though they have nothing positive to write home about apart from profligacy and extreme tribalism. Parliament is just a paper tiger because it does not even have the political spine to cut a ‘t’ or dot an ‘i’ yet some claim that it controls government action.

The question that arises is whether Cameroon will remain the sleeping giant of Africa for forever. It is said that beer and hemp have brought about this docility. There is visible disillusionment and disenchantment among the Cameroonian people over what is going on. Tribalism has become a Religion, corruption a way of life, exploitation of Anglophones, an assignment for all Francophones, the denial of the citizenry from political participation and impunity that leads to inertia which Biya paradoxically condemns everyday.

Where political parties, student unionism and Trade Unionism have failed to effect a change of leadership, “People Power”, with the help of powerful civil societies can play the trick. It has happened so in so many countries. Can it not also happen in Cameroon? Yes, Cameroonians have constantly and helplessly witnessed open violations of those vital ingredients that make democracy work.

Motions of Support inherited from a feudalistic system have replaced Griotism. People deserve the government they have. It is only people power that can dismantle the one-party CPDM structure put in place. Now a rigging committee called ELECAM is being brandished as a structure that will conduct free and fair elections. This is a big lie. ELECAM will remain the target of “People Power” when the time comes.

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