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An Evaluation of the Impact by which local people through their representatives participate in governance: The case of Limbe II council

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1.0 Introduction.

This chapter of the work will highlight the background to the study, statement of the problem, research questions, research objectives, and hypotheses, significance of the study, organization of study and definition of terms.

Background to the study.

Participation in developmental decision-making is being viewed both as a matter of right as well as a step towards democratization ( Participation can be interpreted in various ways. It may be viewed as a matter of right. This means all policy and decision-making in the public sphere and all expenditure incurred must have an in-built and direct system of public participation.

It may also be considered an essential part of the process of democratization. This means all administrative decisions and actions must be subjected to public control and scrutiny.

Participation may also be viewed as empowerment. In other words, it means enabling people to influence public policy and to take decisions in matters concerning them. For some, participation is an essential feature of freedom and human development. It is also one of the conditions. This means participation is both the means and the end of development because it enhances the capabilities of human beings and helps them take control of their own lives (

Although the concept of local governance is as old as the history of humanity, only recently has it entered the broad discourse in the academic and practice literature, for instance, John peter (2001), and his publication on local governance in Western Europe, Robson. W (1937), published the book the development of local government, Odalen Jorgen (2013), and his work on how should local government be organized and host many others.

Globalization and the information revolution are forcing a re-examination of citizen-state relations, roles and the relationships of various orders of government with entities beyond government and thereby an enhanced focus on local governance.

The concept, however, has yet to be embraced fully by the literature on development economics, because of the longstanding tradition in the development assistance community of focusing on either local governments or community organizations while neglecting the overall institutional environment that facilitates or retards interconnectivity, cooperation, or competition among organizations, groups, norms, and networks that serve the public interest at the local level. (Anwar, 2006).

The local government constitutes the most critical level of government in the movement for sustainable national development. Over the years, national development has been canvassed to take off from the grassroots as the local government is widely known as a vital instrument for rural transformation and machinery for effective delivery of socio-economic services to the people (Adeline, 2014; Otoghile and Edigin, 2011).

The origin of modern local administration is often traced back to the politics of ancient Greek city-states or polis; there were traces of decentralized governance in almost all parts of the world before and after the middle ages. In Britain for instance, the Norman kings maintained a hierarchical system to local administration known as the parish system.

The system of parishes provided a network of order which touched the lives of every inhabitant. Between the parish and the king, there was a system of county government and in each county, the representatives of the king were never allowed to become the independent heads of petty kingdoms. The parish system of local government was further strengthened by the appointment of the leet jury and they were to keep peace and the repairing of roads in the 13th century (Smellie, 1946).

Nevertheless, contrary to the political structuring of Greek city-states where the polis, were governed by an elected official with higher levels of autonomy, the system of local government that existed in Britain prior to Greek civilization was merely deconcentration of power from the King to his appointed officials to ensure centralized control of the parishes and counties (Kum, 2016).

Prior to the pre-colonial Africa on its part had various forms of local government systems. In many Africa countries, there was a recognized leader in form of a chief ruling a decentralized community of quarter heads and a council of elders. Prior to this period leadership was greatly associated with secret societies, to a great extent; they shape the socio-economic, religious and political life of the people. Their origins are diverse and some cannot be traced. The societies have particularities that differentiate each of them as a group, and members stratified into classes (Halle, 2005).

The study area is dominated by the Bakweri people and they were governed by a set of secret societies that distinguished between the men for “maley” the elephant or “Njoku” dance is a popular traditional dance which portrays the beliefs of the Bakweri culture (Celestin, 2016) and women for “Liengu” which was out to protect and maintain order in the society.

They also trace their ancestry to mokuri or mokule a brother of Duala’s forebear Ewale, who migrate to the Mount Cameroon area for hunting. Historically, the Bakweri are territorial people and fierce fighters who have always defended their rights, land and culture against successive colonizing powers of Germany and Britain.

It must be noted that the Bakweri people were one of the African people to resist the spoliation of their lands by German imperialists ( The village administration at this level of the community, the villages were autonomous from one another consisting of family compounds separated from one another by a fence called “NkotoMboa”.

The village political leaders had a similar source of power as those at the family level. The variation here was among the family of the village founder that a leader was chosen. Consequently, the family of the village founder was automatically considered the royal family.

At the level of village administration, the chief did not execute this heavy task alone. He was assisted by a village council that had effective powers over the village. It was an ill-defined body with no precise number of members. ( The decisions of the council were made public by the village council spoke man “Sango Mboa” and the members of the village council were called “Vanbaki” (  

The quarter heads were in charge of administering justice and ensuring sanitation in their respective quarters while the council of elders made decisions on very important issues affecting the life of the community such as security, welfare, an outbreak of serious diseases, famine, environmental conservation, depredations of wild animals (the Republic of Tanzania, 2010).

Between the 1870 and 1900, Africa faced European imperialist aggression, diplomatic pressure, military invasion and eventual conquest and colonization. At the same time, Africa societies put up various forms of resistance against the attempt to colonize the countries and impose foreign domination. By the early twentieth century, however, much of Africa, except Ethiopia and Liberia had been colonized by European powers (E.G.lweriebor, 2011).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               The European imperialist push into Africa was motivated by three main factors; economic, political and social. By 1900 much of Africa had been colonized by seven powers, Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Italy. After the conquest of African decentralized and centralized states, the European powers set about established colonial state systems.

The colonial state was the machinery of administration domination established to facilitate effective control and exploitation of the colonial societies (E.G lweriebor, 2011). Partly as a result of their origins in military conquest and partly because of the racist ideology of the imperialist enterprise, the colonized states were authoritarian, bureaucratic systems.  Because they were imposed and maintained by force without the consent of the governed, the colonial states never had the effective legitimacy of normal governments.

Second, they were bureaucratic because they were administered by military officers and civil servants who were appointees of the colonial power, while they were all authoritarian, bureaucratic state systems, their forms of administration varied, partly due to the different national administration traditions and specific imperialist ideologies of the colonizers and party because of the political conditions in the various territorial that they conquered for instance in Nigerian, the Gold coast in West Africa and Kenya, Uganda, Tanganyika in East Africa for examples. Britain organized its colonials at the central provincial and regional or district levels.

There was usually a governor-general in the colonial capital who governed along with an appointed executive council and legislative council of appointed and selected local and foreign members. Colonial policies and directives were implemented through a central administrative organization or a colonial secretarial with officers responsible for different departments such as revenue, agriculture, trade, transport, health, education, police, prison and so on (E.G lweriebor, 2011).

The British colonies were often subdivided into provinces headed by provincial commissioners or residents, and then into districts headed by district officers or district commissioners, laws and policies on taxation, public works, forced labour, mining, agricultural production and other matter were made in London or in the colonial capital and then passed down to the lower administrative levels for enforcement.

The system had three major institutions; the native authority made up of the staff the native treasury which collected revenues to pay for the local administrative staff and services and the native courts which purportedly administered native law and custom the supposedly traditional legal law of the colonized that was used by the courts to adjudicate cases (E.G lweriebor, 2011). At the provincial and district levels the British established the system of local administration popularly known as indirect rule.

This system operated in alliance with preexisting political leadership and institutions. In the post-colonial era, there have a lot of institutional reforms in African countries, recent years has been marked by trials of various forms of decentralization. In general, hitherto centralized governments have initiated a reform agenda with the aim of transferring some powers, tasks and resources to regional governments and local authorities. Cameroon is one of these countries. (Cheka, 2007).

Cameroon is divided into ten administrative areas called regions. Regions are in turn divided into divisions (departments), which are further divided into sub-division (arrondissements) which correspond to the 374 local government councils. Constitutional amendments in 2008 made provision for an intermediary regional level of local government, but this has not been implemented (  

Cameroon experienced different forms of decentralization before the 1990s. Decentralization in its current form here is based notably on the Constitution embodied in Law No. 96/06 of 18 January 1996. On the strength of the provisions of article 55 of the said constitution, ‘decentralized local entities of the Republic shall be regions and councils decentralized local authorities shall be legal entities recognized by public law.

These councils within the country are properly managed by the elected mayors of the municipality. The local people within the municipality shall enjoy administrative and financial autonomy in the management of local interests.

Decentralization can be defined as the transfer of authority or responsibility for decision making, planning, management, or resource allocation from the central government to its district administrative units, local government, regional or functional authorities, semi-autonomous public authorities, private entities and non-governmental private voluntary organizations(D.A. Rondinelli, 2001).

Further, local government is a departmentalization of the state’s work, based on the territorial distribution of services, as contrasted with (1) division into departments at the centre or (2) decentralization of functions to public corporations.  In local government, the territorial distribution of power is the essence (Encyclopaedia Britannica).

The World Bank Report (1994) indicates that there are 150 constitutionally decentralized countries in the world with all countries in Africa having some sort of shared responsibility in governance among centralized and decentralized units. These numbers have been on an increase since 1994. Local governments around the world increasingly play key roles in the delivery of basic public services and in the provision of public infrastructures necessary for business development.

These roles of local governments are developing against a backdrop of multiple challenges in the global arena including environmental and natural resource crises, increasing urbanization, and growing backlogs of infrastructure demands, all of which are likely to aggravate the financial difficulties faced by local governments. Local authorities are endowed with legal personality and administrative autonomy by law.

These structures are administered by entities whose organs are elected through direct universal suffrage (Cheka, 2007). Local governance is a broader concept and is defined as the formulation and execution of collective action at the local level.

Thus, it encompasses the direct and indirect roles of formal institutions of local government and government hierarchies, as well as the roles of informal norms, networks, community organizations, and neighbourhood associations in pursuing collective action by defining the framework for citizen-citizen and citizen-state interactions, collective decision making, and delivery of local public services (Shah, 2006).

Local governance, therefore, includes the diverse objectives of vibrant, living, working, and environmentally preserved self-governing communities.

Good local governance is not just about providing a range of local services but also about preserving the life and liberty of residents, creating space for democratic participation and civic dialogue, supporting market-led and environmentally sustainable local development, and facilitating outcomes that enrich the quality of life of residents.

Local governments are usually responsible for a relatively small geographical area, which allows them to be close in proximity to their constituents. As a result, they are in a privileged position to understand the short term interests and needs of citizens.
Implementing policies aimed at regulating the daily complex relations of multiple actors while achieving an inclusive long term vision for development requires local governments to take a proactive approach beyond the provision of basic services. (Ferragut, 2010) A national policy on decentralization was adopted in 2000.

The extent to which these policy documents, coupled with local government measurement tools have helped improve the performance of local councils in Cameroon is what this study intends to investigate and to an extent the local people’s participation in the governance of the council.

It is believed that an increase in finance will automatically result in efficiency and improved council performance in service provision.  It is very possible for council performance to remain irresponsive to change in finance to be able to provide developmental infrastructure.

That is to say, an increase in finance may not necessarily lead to increased participation of local people in governance and development. It is on the bases of this reflection that the current research sets out to investigate the level of participation of local people in the governance and development of the Limbe II council.

Statement of the Problem.

In most developing countries, local authorities are unable to carry out effective governance, due to the partial implementation of their governing laws which has influenced the local government within Limbe II. Within Cameroon, the policy is not fully implemented; some of the important aspects of these laws are to have a relief to top-level management, quick decision-making, promote initiative and creativity, and develop initiative among subordinates and develop managerial talent for the future (Samikoha, 2001). Following the decentralization law in Cameroon, the state has resorted to bringing the administration closer to the people and incorporate people in the administration of local municipalities.

This study seeks to address the problem of incomplete participation of the elected representatives in the governance of the Limbe II council. The high offices have been reserved only for certain individuals with a particular political affiliation and political interests. Most of the people nominated as councillors do not represent the interests of the local masses.

This is a fundamental problem as there continues to be an accentuation of grievances within the local population as their key needs are not met. Like within Ngeme the village has gone for many years without portable drinking water and the inhabitants of Bota-land continue to carry about their poor state of the road leading to their community.

The provision of basic services equally lies within the scope of local authorities, which has witnessed a stable mediocre performance for many years. In Limbe II municipality there are many villages that do not have basic amenities such as access roads, proper hygiene and sanitation, portable drinking water.

 This situation is further aggravated by the massive level of rural poverty and stagnation within the area. The local people find it difficult to transport their agricultural output like maizes, plantains, vegetables, tomatoes, yams and many more to the market. Coupled with this, there is a lot of financial dependence on the central government which has helped to slow down development within the area.

For instance, the road along Fini Hotel lacks a good drainage system which has led to the flooding toward that area in raining season and within the old road of Mokindi (Isokolo), the tarred road is infested with potholes and creating a lot of problems for individuals around there. Recently, sanitation has been a major problem for the people of this municipality.

In instances where rearing of animals is done within the residential areas has been a call for concern as the sanitation officers within the council do not carry out regular visits and the only waste managing company is able to enter the neighbourhood to take care of the daily waste used by the individuals of the municipality.

Over Bureaucracy within the whole aspect of decentralization whereby for a developmental project to be executed it has to pass through the hierarchies of the government that is governor, Senior Divisional Officer (S.D.O), Divisional Officer (D.O), Government Delegates and the Mayor of Limbe II.

The city council has financial control over the sub-divisional councils, whereby there is no developmental project that can be carried out within the Limbe II council without forwarding their documents to the city council. They will then pass through the S.D.O, Governor, Ministry of Decentralization and the Ministry of Public works.

Some major projects like road construction, health centre, schools, and market. Most of the time, their projects are turned down or it may delay being approved or end up awarding them to the wrong contractors because it will pass through many offices. By so doing the cry of the local people will fall on the other side of the table and the participation of their elected representative will have no effect.

For example, before the speed bumps were applied on the Karata to Mokundange stretch of road, a council officer said that it took a very long period and the number of lives lost was also on an increase. The local people within the area have complained many times to their local council but it is said that works cannot commence because it has not been approved by the powers that be. It is on this backdrop of issues that this study seeks the level of participation of local people through their representatives.

1.3 Research Questions

1.3.1 Main Research Question

To what extent do the local people through their representatives participate in the governance of Limbe II council?

1.3.2 Specific Research Questions

  1. What are gaps exist within the governance system that makes the local people not to be fully represented in the governance of their municipality?
  2. What strategies are adopted by the local council in involving the local people in the developmental projects?
  3. What are the challenges faced by the representatives of the local people in the participation in the governance of the council?

1.4 Research objectives

1.4.1 Main Research Objective

The main objective of the study is to evaluate the impact by which local people through their representatives participate in the governance of the Limbe II council.

1.4.2 Specific Objectives

Specific objectives are as follows:

  1. To evaluate the extent to which the local people participate in local governance.
  2. To examine the strategies adopted by the council for the participation of the local people
  3. To identify the challenges faced by the council in the provision of services to the local population
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