DECENTRALISATION AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT IN CAMEROON: CASE STUDY OF THE LIMBE URBAN COUNCIL
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The work was aimed at Decentralization And Political development in Cameroon: Case Study Of The Limbe Urban Council. It was thus broken down into down into different specific objectives which were; To assess the impacts of the process of decentralization on the political development of the Limbe Urban Council ; to identify the challenges faced by the Limbe Urban Council authorities in political development due to the process of decentalisation, to examine the objectives of decentralization process in Cameroon. This study also found out that the Limbe Urban council faces significant challenges like power gravity from higher authorities, inadequate finances to execute council affairs as well as interference from higher authorities.
Findings equally revealed that the process of decentralization in Cameroon has not successfully brought about the improve1.ment of administrative and economic efficiency in the allocation of scarce resources. There is little encouragement to community participation and the council has inadequate means of generating revenue
One of the most striking, but probability least noticed, political trends today is that of decentralization. Decentralisation refers to the transfer of powers from a central government to lower levels in a political – administrative and territorial hierarchy (Agarwal and Ribot 1999). Kumera (2006:1) state the current global trend towards entrenching decentralized governance systems. Since the late 1980s, decentralized form of governance is gaining currency as a strategy for political and economic development in developing countries. Nearly every country in the world, regardless of its political system, geographic location, history, levels of economic development and cultural tradition, is now experimenting with new form of regional and local governance. In 1999 the World Bank estimated that decentralisation was happening in 80-100% of the world’s countries.
States embark on decentralisation with the objective of bringing the government closer to the people and thereby involve them more actively in the process of development. Decentralisation “furthers popular participation” (Midgley 1986). Some theorists like Wunsch et al., (1990), Cheema et al. (1983), and Esman et al. (1984), on their part, view decentralisation as a means of combating corruption and alleviating poverty; considering that decentralisation provides avenues for participatory management and better use of available resources.
The primary objective of introducing strategies of decentralization was to bring about institutional innovation in the sphere of governance through a structural change in state-centered governance systems. As Maro (1990) notes, it implies the transfer of power and functions concentrated in the central government to subnational levels, such as regions, provinces, sub-provinces, districts, sub-districts, or other local community-based administrative units (Maro, 1990: 673). The conflict-reducing potential of decentralization is especially appealing in countries where ethnic, linguistic, religious, and cultural groups are concentrated in distinct territories or regions. Decentralization in these settings can accommodate diversity by giving sub national officials in the regions the power to offer differentiated programs that respect local preferences and cultural practices. This provides assurances to minority groups that their priority concerns will be considered. Additionally, whereas minority groups may have a difficult time accessing national decision-making arenas, decentralization increases the likelihood that they can get what they need from sub national governments and administrations in order to feel protected and secure (USAID, 2009:28).
The elaborate entrenchment of provisions on decentralisation in African constitutions is usually associated with Anglophone African countries such as South Africa and Kenya. Nonetheless, this is gradually being adopted in Francophone constitutions like those of Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Decentralisation reforms have been pursued throughout Africa over the last 30 years with the aims of improving governance efficiency and making policy more responsive to the needs of local people, particularly the poor. Decentralisation has often been used to expand the power of the ruling elite to local levels or to neutralize challenging forces emerging from below. There is a lack of systematic analyses of decentralisation in Africa and its impact in service delivery and poverty reduction. The limited evidence available suggests, however, that decentralisation is yet to deliver its promised results. There is hardly any evidence that service delivery and poverty indicators have improved as result of decentralised governance. Institutional weaknesses at both central and local level are also a major constraint in Africa, particularly the failure to design reform packages with a systematic sequencing and to coordinate all actors involved in decentralisation processes.
One of the factors that led to adopting decentralization has been the realization of the difficulty to manage countries political, social and economic activities only from the center. The center has increasingly proved to possess neither the capacity nor the time to deal with all issues surrounding service and local development, which could be better handled at the local level. Therefore, most countries are experiencing some form of decentralization characterized by both differing and similar objectives. Among these objectives devolution is one of the motives that propel the drive towards a decentralized governance system (Kumera, 2007:103).
Decentralization is one of the ways to improve the performance of the government in addressing the needs of the nation, especially in rural communities. Cameroon experienced different forms of decentralisation before the 1990s. Decentralisation 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, “decentralised local entities of the Republic shall be regions and councils… decentralised local authorities shall be legal entities recognised by public law. They shall enjoy administrative and financial autonomy in the management of local interests. They shall be freely administered by boards elected in accordance with conditions laid down by law”. In Cameroon therefore, decentralisation constitutes part of the framework of national policy on democratisation that started in the 1990s. From 2000 onwards international institutions urged the government of Cameroon to implement decentralisation as part of its efforts to achieve the cancellation of its international debts. The government responded with the introduction of the Laws on Decentralisation in 2004. The purpose of the study is therefore to examine the political development of the Limbe Urban Council as a result of the decentralization process of the country.
A strongly centralised system of government has been a major factor in the governance and service delivery shortcomings witnessed in Cameroon. A major consequence of a strongly centralised system of government is that the lower spheres of government, especially the local councils, remain poor and underdeveloped. There is also an atmosphere of discontentment in the two English-speaking regions of the country, the North West and South West regions, which is evident in claims of limited political, administrative and financial autonomy in the management of their own affairs (Che Christian, 2019: 18).
The anticipated increases in local political participation, on which many of the expected benefits of decentralization are based, are in most cases very limited in practice. Complaints are always heard that local officials generally do not provide sufficient space for citizens, civil society organizations or the private sector to be meaningfully involved in decisions that affect them directly or indirectly (Paulos, 2004).
Under the provisions of the laws of 2004, there is a devolution of powers accompanied by the transfer of means, financial, material and human, to local entities that are made of 10 regions and 339 councils. However, the ambiguity of key provisions of the law has enabled central government officials known as “supervisory authorities” or “autorites de tutelle”, in French, to encroach upon the powers and prerogatives of local government officials. These “supervisory authorities” have instead transformed their authority merely to “supervise”, to their authority to command, to issue orders, to give instructions, to direct, to the right to employ resources, to make commitments, to exercise formalized control (Bjorkrnan, 1968) over local government resources.
The decentralization policy has by all accounts been a failure in the sense that there has in fact been little or no substantial transfer of power and resources to local councils (Rondinelli et al., 1983). An analysis of the provisions of the 1974 law and its implementation over the past twenty years reveals that it has not achieved and cannot lead to the achievement of an effective and viable decentralization programme.
It is as a result of the above problems that the researcher embarks on a scientific enquiry on the impact of decentralization on the political development of the Cameroon, placing particular attention on the political development of the Limbe Urban Council.
- Main question
Is Decentralisation and Political Development in Cameroon: Case Study of the Limbe Urban Council?
- Specific questions
This study has the following research questions
- What are the impacts of the process of decentralization on the political development of the Limbe Urban Council?
- What are the challenges faced by the Limbe Urban Council authorities in the process of political development due to the decentalisation of the country?
- What are the objectives of decentralization process in Cameroon?