By Francis Wache
Since the official proclamation of the results of the July 22 twin elections, the cabinet reshuffle had been awaited.
It had been so awaited that, in the words of the Prime Minister, this had virtually grounded government work as Cameroonians awaited - and speculated.Then, on Friday, September 7, President Biya acted. He signed a decree announcing a cabinet reshuffle.
The reshuffle was a disappointment on several scores.Firstly, it was generally expected that Biya would trim the bloated cabinet. He did not. Rather, he split the Ministry of Economy and Finance into two. In the present as in the past, there are Ministries, which, after the October 2004 Presidential elections, were created to compensate cronies.
Although it is not clear why the government needed another Vice Prime Minister, Biya created the post and gave it to a longstanding acolyte, Jean Kuete. And, so, with Amadou Ali at Justice, Prime Minister Inoni will, henceforth, be hemmed by two Deputies.
Battle For PM's Post
During the July 22 twin elections, politicians of the different regions had urged their populations to vote so that, after good showing at the polls, they could harvest Ministerial posts
The contest for the post of Prime Minister was waged between the Northerners, Northwesterners and Southwesterners.The Northerners felt that the position of Speaker of the National Assembly was purely ceremonial. They were alleged to have written a memo to the Presidency requesting that Cavaye Yeguie Djibril, who has reigned at the National Assembly for 15 years in a row, should be dropped and another Northerner be appointed as Prime Minister and head of government.
In the Northwest, the battle was rugged and ruthless. The "Baforchu Mafia", for instance, vowed that they would - by means fair or foul - capture the Santa Constituency and use it as a bargaining chip to conquer the Star Building. They failed.
The Southwesterners were bent on maintaining their grip on the Prime
Minister's post. Inoni, they argued, had performed remarkably well and
should be given another chance. To demonstrate their loyalty they won
all but one of the parliamentary seats in the Province.
In the end, Biya maintained Inoni.
It is difficult to predict what CPDM diehards in the Northwest - who
moved from one parliamentarian to nine in the last elections - will
tell their supporters after peddling the illusion that, by winning, the
plum job of Prime Minister would be handed over to them.
The Fall Of The Baobabs
In the reshuffle, heads of baobabs of the regime rolled. There was the senescent chum of the President, Ferdinand Oyono, who, of late, was alleged to stay for months without going to work. Cameroon's culture, critics said, suffered as a consequence.
The highflying Polycarpe Abah Abah, who headed the influential Ministry of Finance and the Economy, was given the boot. Before his fall last Friday, he was generally believed to have the President's ear.
Another eminence grise of the New Deal regime, Jean Marie Atangana Mebara, who had served in the key position as the Secretary of the Presidency before being transferred to the Ministry of External Relations also received the Presidential nod.Olanguena Owono has headed the Health Ministry for long. He was already being seen as an untouchable. Biya axed him.
A perplexing departure is that of Professor Njoh Mouelle, formerly the boss of the Ministry of Communication. On the day of the cabinet reshuffle, he had chaired the Board meeting of CRTV. He was relaxing with guests at a sumptuous reception when, ostensibly, he was tipped about the impending changes in government. He had hardly ensconced himself in his ministerial limousine when the news broke: He had been sacked. Mouelle joined the government in 2006.
Anglophones Fare Better
In the last cabinet, there was only one full Anglophone Minister. This time around, the number skipped to an insignificant two. Ama Tutu Muna, erstwhile Secretary of State for Commerce, was elevated to the rank of a full Minister. She is now in charge of the Culture portfolio. Another Northwesterner, a political dark horse, Paul Atanga Nji, was appointed Minister in charge of Special Duties at the Presidency.
Biya Dumps Allies
On August 14, following the proclamation of the results of the July twin elections, Biya addressed the nation and announced that even those parties which did not fare as well as they might have would not be sidelined in the business of running the nation.
This was understood as a wink to the opposition parties. But, in composing his September 7 cabinet, not only did Biya ignore the opposition parties; he went further and dumped his long-time allies, namely, the maverick Dakolle Daissala (MDR) and the survivalist Augustin Frederic Kodock (UPC).
Beti-Grand North Hegemony Maintained
As was glaringly evident in the last cabinet, the 'Beti-North Hegemony' has been maintained. Although Beti heavyweights were dropped, they were, in most cases, replaced -numerically-by other kinsmen.
The North, on its part, has a Vice Prime Minister, two Ministers of
State, …Ministers, Ministers Delegate and../ Secretaries of State.
Biya has still operated his confidence on an ethnic basis. The key Ministries - have been entrusted to faithfuls of his region of origin, notably, Finance, Economy, Defence, External Relations…The September reshuffle has demonstrated - as all the others in the past - that Biya is a maestro of political contradictions and an unpredictable manipulator of political egos.
By and large, the cabinet reshuffle was a big disappointment: those Cameroonians in general who thought the president would prune the number of Ministerial posts and reduce the exorbitant expenditure that caters for the Ministers power, privilege and prestige. It was equally a huge disappointment for the opposition who could have participated in a government of national union to jumpstart Cameroon out of its present stalemate.
To the civil society, this cabinet confirms the fact that
those who are not vociferous supporters of the ruling party can never
hope to participate in developing this country.
On the whole, Biya reshuffle his cabinet every two years. Going by that, the next cabinet is expected in 2010 on the eve of the crucial presidential elections.
Perhaps, then, Mr Biya might contemplate not disappointing the aspirations of his compatriots.