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« Britain Called To Ensure Justice In Kohtem’s Murder | Main | Cabinet Meeting To Decide Fon Doh’s Fate »

Sunday, 29 August 2004

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FEN GROUP

Dear Editor,
Kindly cause this to be sent to the members of the coalition. It is just an eye opener
FEN GROUP
To members of the
NATIONAL COALITION FOR RECONCILLIATION AND RECONSTRUCTION
THE NEED FOR A SOCIAL CONTRACT.
Ladies and gentlemen,
When Jean Jacques Rouseau analyzed his view of the responsibility of government to the governed in his “Du Contrat Social”, it was because there had been a total breakdown in his society in the bond between the two. Indeed a document was never signed to redefine this relationship but what ever came of it, a system was forged out that clearly outlined the responsibility of one to the other. In Africa today we see not only a total breakdown between the two but a demonic loathing on the part of the government against the citizens - and then comes other aspiring politician brandishing outlandish promises of establishing a responsible and subservient government - just to lure the people to support them to gain office. But as soon as they get into office it suddenly turns out that the people are not ready for democracy – that studies are underway to create a free press; and then foreign aid is needed to introduce democratic reforms and the organization of free and fair elections etc., etc. Why do we have to undergo this vicious cycle over and over again? From the word go let us simply ask our politicians craving for people support to sign a binding document – a sort of SOCIAL CONTRACT, which though might never be used to pursue legal action against them in case of default, it will surely ridicule them and rid them of all legitimacy even dictatorships still want. The document will also be an attempt to put a stop to all the fantasies they conceive for the electorate to consume and be flattered with e.g. good roads, schools, health care, civil liberties etc. This document in its simplicity will let the politicians know that the people know and understand that only they the people will and can do all these things by themselves and the politicians acting only as supervisors. Democracy only works when the people have the liberty to control their destiny - indeed when there is a real devolution of power. There is no other way,; no short cuts, and that is the only way a people can develop themselves and their societies.
Politics involves convincing the population and also making strategies to gain support. All these would involve high level of psychological approach by the politicians. In this light we would assume that you of the NCRR understand perfectly what level of support you have in Cameroon today. You obviously equally understand how this population might respond if some tough decisions have to be made - e.g. popular uprising to force the present regime to do one thing or another. Taking you back to the '90’s tumultuous launching of the SDF and the following controversial presidential elections with its violent aftermath, it would be appropriate for you people to honestly ask yourselves whether or not you can expect such support from Cameroonians anymore. Yes, it is possible and even more because the level of frustration today is unprecedentedly high. Many who even still support the ruling party's policies today are doing so more out of shame than of conviction. Our Africanness and interpretation of what manhood really is makes it sometimes humiliating and cowardly to concede to another so easily - and that has contributed to political stalemate in Cameroon today. The government is in a quagmire too. They find it “politically incorrect” to make meaningful changes since they must have to step on each other’s toes along the way - a decision none of them is bold enough to take. But Ladies and gentlemen, in as much as it is believed there is great support for the coalition, the level of hopelessness and despair in Cameroon today is in an all time high. It has resulted to complacency, and lethargy. Since 1990 it has been a daunting task to dislodge the CPDM from its stranglehold of Cameroon. The members of this party have been drained of every ounce of humanity an average man can possess. They cling to power by all thinkable and unthinkable means. Today very few Cameroonians would accurately explain to anyone the political direction of the ruling party. From simple developmental projects like municipal road repair to complex and gigantic national undertakings like air and railway transport, the government must have shattered every world record in its inability to conceive and execute any of these. The country has retrogressed to pre-colonial days. From water to electricity supply; from transportation to health care, security education and cultural development, the CPDM has left a horrible and probably indelible legacy for posterity.
In English we say every dark cloud has a silver lining. Does the CPDM cloud have one? We can't see it. In every aspect in Cameroon the CPDM has dashed the hopes, aspirations and ambitions of the young, confused the lives of the working class and devastated the tranquility of the elderly. In fact majority of Cameroonians would like to see the CPDM just obliterated from their lives forever but the greatest unanswered question now is - HOW? Cameroonians have used every trick in the book to make this curse on the nation go but to no avail. Foreigners who know a bit of what is actually happening in Cameroon gape in horror in the manner in which people have resigned their fate into the hands of the CPDM. Yet it does not need any scientific analysis to determine that Cameroonians desperately want a regime change. But has it ever occurred to anyone that the urgent, necessary and even overdue reason for change is the very reason for this complacency and lethargy that has overwhelmed the people today? Even if many Cameroonians cannot adequately articulate their feelings or logically analyze their thinking to express their state of mind wouldn't it be simply logical to conclude that no matter how desperately they really want change they are also questioning the logic of casting their lot to other politicians who might just turn out to be no different from those of the ruling party? Can Cameroonians afford to vote out Paul Biya only to vote in “Biya Paul”? Contrary to what many people think even illiterate Cameroonians know that there are wars in most African countries because of power struggle. They also know that a regime change does not mean a change for the better. How many regime changes in Africa can members of the NCRR cite that can convince the Cameroonian of today to sacrifice his life for a change? Some people can even think that experience from other African countries demonstrate adequately that it was even good the CPDM was not kicked out in 1992. But just as the Cameroonian people have all along demonstrated an unprecedented, unique and above all an angelic preference for peace as a means for political change, we are appealing to the NCRR to make one giant leap forward to spare the Cameroonian the pain of doubting the usual political promises of change they are so used to. It will be something no political grouping has ever done in Africa. The coalition should take this proposal for what it is and avoid giving undue interpretations to it which will just only help to exaggerate a complexity that it does not even carry. It is not a suggestion to alter your political program in any way. It is a very simple but efficient and automatic manner that puts power into the hands of the Cameroonian people directly without the need for legislation of any sort. In a way it can be like the NATIONAL CONFERENCE all Cameroonians had once called for – something you all in this present coalition asked Paul Biya to do. But a national conference with a difference because the delegates will be legislators independently voted by the Cameroonian people in a real legislative election; they will be committed to their task without being partisan. This is the only way to avoid parties fighting each other for supremacy thereby creating conflicts before a real government is even in place. It won’t cost money or time to implement it. We have been under a sterile system since independence. How much more would it hurt Cameroonians to wait just for three more months to start building a genuine democracy by the people themselves? But the only way to make it work is to avoid delays in implementing the strategy. The primary reason for this document is to assure the Cameroonian people that the NCRR can also be easily dislodged from power if the Cameroonian people have to. Our inability to send the CPDM packing is the reason why we simply give a lukewarm support to the NCRR today despite the fact that deep down in our hearts we want change. So if we support the NCRR to get in, how do we send them out whenever we want to? Just by you promising openness? The people have been hearing that for decades. We therefore want a social contract documented and signed by you all. The document should become binding immediately the NCRR candidate is sworn in as interim president. By this document Cameroonians would be empowered to vote within three months a brand new parliament of independents whose task is to oversee the implementation of the NCRR program for three years. As mentioned above this contract is just as simple as it is except someone deliberately decides to give it some complications it does not have. It will not interfere with the constitution. It will not interfere with the program of the NCRR. It is not a law. It is just like a binding promissory note from the politicians. The important thing here is that it provides additional muscle to the people of Cameroon to effectively chart their destiny with the political leaders of their choice – in this case members of the NCRR and the newly elected independent members of the National Assembly. If we seriously and objectively look into our present constitution with all its shortcomings in democratic principles it can still provide some level of fairness under the helm of a real benevolent and patriotic leader. But human inconsistencies and weaknesses make such constitutions very wanting since there are hardly any safeguards for the citizen. He just depends on the good will of the benevolent despot. So that is why a real democratic constitution must be drawn to replace this one. However since the administrative structures it provides cannot be replaced automatically, the only sensible, automatic, practicable, cost and time effective alternative is to allow for a real independent parliament from the start - whose decision must not be overruled by any presidential decree – this to guarantee its independence. The new president must during the swearing in ceremony announce the date for new legislative elections to be held within three months of the date of swearing in. So in three months or less we can have a newly elected independent National Assembly and work begins. No state activity is permitted within the three months, including spending except to pay civil servants. After the elections the work of reconstruction and reconciliation, and other political activities begin according to every available law the new assembly has just come up with. Here the new assembly works with the executive to alter what is necessary: and in the three years a new nation is born with the active participation of a real national assembly of the people.
The social contract should have a plan like this.
1 – The old regimes National Assembly dissolves automatically as the new President is sworn in.
2 - During the swearing in ceremony the new President announces date for the new legislative assembly – not more than three months from date of swearing in.
3 – The Eligibility of candidates would be simple. 35 years or older and No previous political affiliation with any party.
4 – The mandate would be a special one - that is only as long as the interim government is there to implement the new program - that is, three years as the NCRR promises.
5 –To give all political parties in the coalition a chance to sell their individual plans to reconstruct our country to the Cameroonian people these parties will each select two of their influential members to be members of the National Assembly. These will try to convince their elected independent colleagues to introduce, vote or deliberate such legislation they deem might help push the country forward.
6 – The new government goes on with its program and parliament is there to work with them on behalf of the people of Cameroon.
This contract is meant as a documented proof that these politicians are determined to deviate from the usual African pattern of sterile government solutions to problems. Societies, Communities, nations make progressive developments just because the people do it themselves, The USA, France, GT. Britain, Germany Austria Spain etc. each in their own various ways operate only with the direct participation of the people from the very local level. Once the citizen by any trick, falsehood, or deceit, is circumvented in the process even in its most minute detail, it will eventually disrupt democracy - no matter how remote we think the possibility is. The mistake most African leaders make is their blatant disregard for long term effects of their actions. To them what does not happen within their term will never happen - or to be candid - it does not matter. It seems what they can only speculate will never happen. Most of them do not even think of the immediate future, let alone the distant future. All of us are witnesses of how western governments design their policies in anticipation of how that policy might affect people even in the next one hundred years. The document is not meant only for the upcoming elections. Whether elections are postponed or not the document can still be valid whenever these new people come to power. It is meant to remind the NCRR of their obligations to the people – something African politicians always choose to forget as soon as they take office. If our aspiring leaders sign this pact with the Cameroonian people we will take out the present regime as soon as possible. What we need is a documented assurance that we will get a better deal. Otherwise let the present regime continue. The devil you know is even better than the angel you don’t. If you by any means manage to dislodge the regime from power and choose to retaliate on the people for not giving you the necessary support what else can you do the present regime has not done.? We don’t think Cameroon can go any lower than it has already gone. Just because we are not yet shooting each other with guns does not mean we are better off than those who do.
But there are certain simple things politicians fear might destabilize their new governments. This unfounded fear often forces them to curtail the very liberties they were voted to guarantee the people who put them there. Curtailing liberties is like giving democracy in doses. Democracy never works in measured doses. But these undemocratic moves usually have reverse effects because the more the people see what you keep away from them the more they want it. Countries that undergo regime changes and the new regime resorts to holding back civil liberties and the devolution of power never succeed. Unfortunately they think they do because they use the military to cling to power. The length of time they stay in office means success to them.. Democracy does not work when the people right from the grass roots level are not directly involved in decision making Right from health care to schooling, and road construction, the citizen through his elected officials both at local and national level should be involved in shaping the destiny of the nation. If a community does not want a police commissioner, a school principal or office employee etc. the administrator of that area fires the employee immediately. By the way he should be able to do so because he hired him in the first place. The director of a local government service should be able to hire and fire personnel. His actions too are monitored by the elected official who appointed him so that he toes the line too. The elected official too has to toe the line because we the people are monitoring him to do same. But if someone has to stay hundreds if not thousands of miles away and then to determine what is good for us, that defeats the purpose of a government of the people. No matter how free and fair a presidential, legislative or gubernatorial election is, when the municipal level does not have the power to direct its own immediate affairs democracy stalls and fails. It does not matter how you look at it.
Before 1972 the local and municipal governments in West Cameroon controlled everything at local level – Schooling, health care, road construction water supply, etc. The supervisory role of the central administration did not overlap in anyway with that of the local administration and there was no conflict of interest. This was because minute details were never overlooked when definition of roles were put down. The role of the police and the military being sensitive ones are easily dealt with too. But the police should have a local dept and a national one too. That does not however spell a conflict of interest. It simply allows for local issues to be settled at local level and easy accountability. The local police turns to the national police force in matters it cannot handle but the national police does not automatically impose its weight on the local police. All these things just need to be worked out carefully and roles established. Other countries do it. Why can’t we? Countries who don’t fail. It is however unfortunate that most African governments and that of Cameron in particular use the police as a tool of repression rather than of peace keeping so they can never understand why somebody else other than the president should have control over a police force. A unit of the army too could be placed under local administrations but the commander in chief remains the president. Americans call the army unit at the disposal of the local administration “The National Guard”. Every detail can be worked out to avoid misuse of these men of arms for selfish reasons. Keeping them under the tight command of one man who cannot be reached in local matters if need be gives room for abuse by the officers themselves knowing that they cannot be held accountable except by that one man who is too high up there. This begins the breakdown of democracy regardless of all the good intentions. Accountability is the key to democracy and so even the simplest detail in government must be taken into consideration. If the police cannot be held accountable by the local population how can it be put on line if need be? Human rights abuse can go unchecked if the central government is slow to act as the case is all over the third world. The municipal government can have their police force well equipped to deal with local realities. This does not spell chaos. The central government prescribes training, performance standards and procedure to be met by all forces. Countries have done so and are succeeding doing it.
With a notorious legacy of inattention to details in setting up a federal type administration, African governments and that of Cameroon in particular have succeeded in scaring the population when they only mischievously highlight incompatibilities, diversities and mentality as impediments to autonomous local governments. Even they have equally succeeded in scaring some individuals too who had helped set up autonomous municipal administrative units sometime during and after colonization. Today Cameroonians and especially those of French expression would automatically plunge into a psychotic trance when the name West Cameroon is mentioned in any political discussion. That part of their brain responsible of processing reason and logical analysis simply freezes. What automatically goes on in that area is a mirage of Sonara in a blaze of Biblical proportions or Sonara in an unreachable cosmic domain. They cannot handle that.
They are simply scared of loosing that valuable portion of the country. But do areas of countries that possess substantial natural resources just cut off because of the wealth? If that is the case, then the South west province should in turn cut away from the North west and then Victoria should cut off from the rest of the South west again. That does not make sense. A country stays as one because the government makes life worth the union. But West Cameroon should always be remembered and attempts made to revive its system of government. It had a local government system that worked. Surprisingly today we hear people going abroad to attend seminars on local government management. If parents can manage PTAs, and village development groups can supply their villages with pipe borne water, electricity, health care centers, road network systems without the benefit of taxing non indigenes who benefit from these projects, how come an all inclusive locality with a taxing ability and local elections to legitimize officials which will broaden the scope of the organization from a mere ethnic group to a broad based metropolitan entity won’t do a better job?
The examples above are to illustrate a simplicity dictatorial governments have twisted and complicated to avoid the devolution of power just for selfish reasons.
By no means should this paper be considered as an attempt to teach anybody what he or she does not know. The point here is, why should something be so simple yet painted so complicatedly to the point where even Western countries believe we don’t know how to do these things? People leave Bamenda, Douala Yaounde, etc. and attend seminars all over Africa and Europe to be taught how to raise money to pick up trash from their streets? How ridiculous can we get?
Finally one of the greatest problems confronting African countries is total lawlessness and an insane penchant for retribution. When a new government takes over it goes on the offensive at once to “teach the other people a lesson.” Well, the other people won’t just sit there to be taught a lesson. With the wealth they have accumulated and the fear of revenge action they take every measure to protect themselves. If a new government can just stop the witch hunting and carry on with the work of improving the lives of Cameroonians the law will eventually catch up with whosoever it has to. This does not mean being soft on criminals but the law is a better instrument to deal with various issues than our egos. So until some fairness is established these laws cannot adequately be utilized.
This paper cannot deal with the details involved, as simple as they are because it may need some modifications if it can even be considered
Thanks for reading
FEN GROUP

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