Far from having genuine intentions of resolving the Anglophone crisis through the devolution of powers, government appears to have rather tightened its noose on powers.
Cameroon is constitutionally a decentralized unitary state, and all power remains concentrated in Yaoundé. In fact, the central authority has proven beyond every reasonable doubts that the so-called decentralization drive is actually a way of compensating regime apologists while holding a firm grip on power.
If anyone had doubts, the election of regional council executives has confirmed that President Paul Biya is using the Anglophone crisis to compensate is retired cronies.
In the South West Region, retired civil administrator, Bakoma Elango Zacheus was ‘elected’ as president of the executive bureau of the region. At a time when youths are without jobs, it is retirees that are entrusted with the mandate of developing local collectivities and driving the country to emergence by 2035.
CPDM militants in the South West, thanked Biya for ‘appointing’ Bakoma Elango Zacheus as President of the executive bureau of the regional council. This is proof that the so-called December 6 regional elections and the December 22 election of regional executives was a well-rehearsed script.
The likes of Chief Atem Ebako Bisong Andrew (President, House of Chiefs), Gobina Mokoko Simon, Itoe William Elangwe, Walter Tarkang Ayuk, Effoe Limunga Rebecca, Chief Foto Felix Asongana and Dr. Mbencho Andrew Tazi are either retirees or CPDM apologists who have been rescued from starvation.
The case is no different in the North West Region. Professor Angwafo III Fru Fobuzshi, Director-General of the Gynaeco-Obstetric and Pediatric Hospital in Yaoundé, who is months away from retirement was given the North West Regional Council as retirement benefit. It is also to compensate his father, Fon Angwafo III of Mankon. The monarch has been Vice President of the CPDM party since 1990.
Fon Yakum Kevin Teuvih, President of the North West House of Chiefs is a civil administrator tired of working under Governor Okalia Bilai Bernard at the South West Governor’s Office. The son of late Governor Yakum Fusi is also being compensated by the Biya regime.
The likes of Ghejung Awunti and Dr. Mrs. Sakah Fondufe Lydia Yuveyonge, as well as Dr. Mrs. Anjoh Fru Manyi Rose who have had unsuccessful political careers see the regional council as compensation. The same is true for little known Kalak Flavius Boteh, Fon Bagmbi III Mathias Njuh of Aghem and Waindim Jude Nsom who served as Secretary General of the Bamenda City Council and made wealth for himself.
And the public purse will bleed
The regional executive that comes to complete the decentralization process is another wasteful government effort. It adds to the bilingualism commission and the disarmament committee.
Section 134 of the Law to institute the general code of regional and local authorities makes provision for very juicy benefits for the newly elected regional officials.
“Members of the executive of a local authority shall be entitled to a monthly remuneration, a duty allowance and an entertainment allowance, the payment terms and conditions of which shall be laid down by regulation,” the law states. “The amounts of the allowances due to members of the executive of a local authority, borne by the budget of the local authority concerned, shall be fixed by resolution approved by the minister in charge of regional or local authorities.”
The right to housing enjoyed by the chief executive, includes maintenance cost and charges for electricity, water and telephone consumption, as well expenses for domestic and security services, to the local authority’s budget within the limits set by applicable regulations.
They will also be provide service cars among other bogus benefits. As at now, the regional councils will have to rent office space. This is going to be at the cost of taxpayers.
Governors, SDOs, DOs remain powerful
It is a sad day for especially Anglophones who see appointed Governors, Senior Divisional Officers and Divisional Officers serving as though they are colonial officers.
Hopes of autonomy under the decentralized unitary state have finally been lost, even after the putting in place of the regions.
Section 73 (1) of the law on Regional and Local Authorities states that under the authority of the President of the Republic, the minister in charge of local authorities and the representative of the State in the local authority shall exercise State control over local authorities and their establishments.
The representative of the State in this case refers to Regional Governors, SDOs and DOs.
The Governor, appointed by decree of the President of the Republic, shall be the representative of the State in the region. In this capacity, he shall be responsible for national interests, administrative control, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, as well as maintaining law and order. He shall, under the authority of the Government, supervise and co-ordinate civil State services in the region.
He shall exercise the supervisory authority of the State over the region. The Senior Divisional Officer shall be the representative of the State in the council.
In this capacity, he shall be responsible for national interests, ensuring compliance with laws and regulations, as well as maintaining law and order. As representatives of the President of the Republic, the Government and each of the ministers, the Governor and the Senior Divisional Officer shall be only authorities empowered to speak on behalf of the State before the deliberative organs of local authorities, council unions and management bodies of establishments of local authorities.
Notwithstanding the provisions of Sections 74 and 75 of the abovementioned law, all decisions taken in the following areas shall be subject to prior approval by the representative of the State and forwarded to the local official of the ministry in charge local authorities:
- budgets, accounts and special expenditure authorizations;
- loans and loan guarantees;
- international cooperation agreements;
- land matters;
- delegation of public service beyond the current term of office of the deliberative organ of the local authority; agreements on the execution and control of public contracts, subject to the relevant limits provided for by the regulations in force; and
- recruitment of staff in accordance with the conditions laid down by regulation.
To say the least, the Governors and SDOs will be even more powerful than before. And at the end of the day, it is the masses that suffer as more money is wasted to run a less productive administration. The Secretaries-Generals of the Regional Councils will again be appointed by the President of the Republic and will serve as an internal mole in the house.
Rather than check the excesses of overzealous Governors, SDOs and DOs, the office of a Public Independent Conciliator to go operational in the North West and South West Regions will rather be out to control the service delivery of elected officials.
It is now clearer than only a federal system of governance, one with elected governors, will give relative power to the people.