CRISIS OF DEMOCRACY IN CAMEROON BETWEEN 1996-2008
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Peace is not a natural attribute of man. Disputes and democratic crisis are bound to occur; States just like man are conflict prone. When the wind of change blew in Africa in the late 1980s and early 90s most countries made the error of aping neoliberal democracy as if no other innovative and home-grown democratic choices existed.
It was as if ‘greater democracy’ automatically meant multipartyism and multipartyism was seen to be succeeding only if elections were free and fair. Whatever the reason for the emphasis on multiparty election it is misleading and threatening to the process of democratisation in Africa because it trivialises democracy (1).
The Cameroonian experience proves that while the ruling party sees multiparty election as a source of pretend, the opposition supports it as a strategy of power. Each one wants to sustain or inherit the system not necessarily to change it. The democratic crisis in Cameroon has its roots during the adoption of the federal constitution in 1961.The process leading to the reunification of Cameroon is the heart of the democratic crisis in Cameroon.
Barely eleven years after the adoption of the federal constitution, was a referendum organised in 1972 leading to the unitary constitution,the autocratic nature of Ahidjo’s regime helps to slow down the democratic process in Cameroon (2).
This chapter introduces a brief and political evolution of the democratic crisis inCameroon and its background, the statement of the problem relating to the study, the significance of the study, the objectives set out, the research questions, the hypotheses employed and the study area and operational definition of terms.
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
As an overview of the history of democracy in Cameroon, we shall look at the brief history of democracy in Africa; democratic crisis has been a global phenomenon that has befallen many nations.Democracy involves a vigorous or strict exchange or a propagation of democratic ideas and opinion especially by the elite population of the state (3).
Democracy works more when people do things for themselves not depending very much on the state (4).thinks along the same line that democratic states develop the democratic techniques of a free society and place checks upon the power of the ruler and administrator and thus prevent it from becoming vexatious.
Therefore, democracy constantly strives to avoid dictatorial moves by their leaders. This is relevant to the present research as the democratic element of power check runs through the history of democracy in Cameroon since the pre-colonial period. However, the democratic crisis in Cameroon started as far back as 1961 when the federal constitution was promulgated. Our focus is on the democratic crisis between 1990 to 2008
According to liberals, democracy is a legal system that makes it possible for people to live with their differences. It is the inclusive nature of political institutions that makes democracy successful.
They combine the ideals of liberalism and democracy, they see Liberal democracy as a constitutional government characterized by popular rule, respect and protection of basic rights, political and economic competition, and dynamic or opened to continual reinterpretation.
Liberalism is a political policy that insists on government intervention in the interest of public welfare, social justice and fair play (5)Azhar 2015; Pradhan 2016). This argument will justify the continuous adaptation of Cameroonian democracy to change and for the interest of its people especially from the 1990s .
Beginning of the 1980 was a gradual, but concerted attempt to reverse the trend of political despair and disillusionment, which characterized political life in Africa. This attempt manifested in the demand for political pluralism and democratization.
The long years of political misrule and of course bad governance exemplified by personalized political regimes and ruthless dictatorships left most African States politicelly demobilized and economically incapacitated with an immiserated population ravaged by poverty, illiteracy and disease.
The poverty of the people accentuated by the economic crisis seems to have provided a basis and indeed, a common platform in the demand for democratic change by the people.
Thus, the struggle for democratization in Africa has relevance not only in liberalizing the political arena and achieving civil and political liberties, but also to ensure better living standards and social welfare of Cameroon (6) (Mamdani 1987, Lisulo 1991).
However, the extent to which the current democratic project with its weaknesses, uncertainties and sometimes reversals, could usher in a viable democracy and ensure good governance particularly in the 21st century remains a question for determination.
In other words, what is the future of democracy and good governance in Cameroon? At independence in 1960, the then Cameroon Republic experienced the first wave of democratic expression defined in terms of multipartism.
The same phenomenon was manifested in what was then the Southern Cameroons. With the advent of a Federal constitution in 1961 developed the Federation of Cameroon whose body politic continued to be characterized by democratic experimentation in the shape of multipartism. By 1966, the Federation opted for a different form of political process defined in terms of the One-Party form of politics in line with the desire to accelerate nation building, rapid economic development and national unity.
The year 1966 thus saw the end of the first wave of democratic politics and the beginning of a new and, at the time, most popular form of politics in the Developing World the Single Mass Party model of politics.
The transition to true democracy in Cameroon began in 1990, in 1990 multiparty politics was officially introduce. This was manifested by the emergence of opposition groups who began to stage pro-democracy demonstration. InJune 1990, the government declared her interest in multiparty politics and their interest to compete for multi-party elections
The above overview on democracy in Africa and in Cameroon must therefore be considered when assessing the democratic crisis in Cameroon Hence this study set out to examine the democratic crisis in Cameroon between 1996 to 2008 and the possible recommendations to improve on democracy in Cameroon
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
Several attempts by democrats to ensure strict implementation of democracy and ensure the respect of the 1996 constitution as amended in 2008 have failed. This research paper sought to examine the causes of the crisis of democracy in Cameroon between 1996 to 2008.
The study problematizes the issues of crisis of democracy and good governance in Cameroon between 1986 and 2008 and tries to analyze their future prospects especially in the modern world. Liberal democracy and its crisis in good governance are puzzle words on the global agenda.
However, there are inherent problems and contradictions in the nature of the domestic and the International Political Economy of African States, which may significantly undermine democracy, good governance project in Cameroon and Africa at large.
Thus, evolving democracy and good governance in Cameroon will require not only the discipline of the state and the reconstitution of politics, but also the animation of the civil society and its democratic potentials, re-adjustment in economic policy and agenda.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Based on the problems identified above a number of critical questions can be posed
- Was there a significant crisis of democracy in Cameroon between 1996-2008
- What are some of the causes and challenges of the crisis of democracy in Cameroon between 1996 and 2008?
- How far has the crisis of democracy transform democracy in Cameroon over time?
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
H0 =There is no significant crisis of democracy in Cameroon from 1996–2008
H1 = There is a significant crisis of democracy in Cameroon from 1996-2008
1.5 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The objective of this research shall be divided into two, general and specific objectives. The general objective will be to;
- To examine the extent to which the implementation of democracy has affected the population of Cameroon from 1996-2008
1.6 SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES
- To assess the challenges and the causes of the democratic process in Cameroon from 1996-2008
- To identify the various techniques and reforms that can be used to enhance the administration of democracy in Cameroon
- To propose possible solutions on what can be done to solve the crisis associated with democracy in Cameroon
Further readings: The economic impact of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon