The Paradox of The Implementation of Decentralization Policy in Cameroon: Case Study of Limbe II Council
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This study is based on the “Paradox of the implementation of decentralization policy in Cameroon: case study of Limbe II council”. The aim of the study is to check the extent to which decentralization law has been applied in Cameroon in general and Limbe II council in particular. To check the population reaction to this law, bring out the problems encountered in implementing this law.
Using both primary and secondary data and through the prism of dependency theory, the study found out that decentralization policy left the people of Limbe II municipality unsatisfied as they preferred a centralized state to decentralized state through their opinion seen in the result of findings.
It was thus recommended that government has to transfer all the competencies and powers which it still holds to councils and train the local authority. At any time that the Limbe II council will possess and exercise all its powers to attain development, decentralization will be said to have commenced in that municipality.
As defined in the lexicon of Judicial terminologies, decentralization could be defined as a system of administration that permits a group of human beings or community otherwise known as a human collectively (thus, making allusion to territorial decentralization to administer itself under the watchful control of the state which gives this community or service a judicial personality a distinct authority and its own resources to manage (UNDEF, 2015:6).
From the above definition, it comes out clearly that decentralization depends on three essential ingredients namely: the political, sociologic and judicial ingredients. Consequently for there to be true decentralization, three conditions must emerge, namely
The collectively must be a self-administered entity. This implies that there are certain recognized and acceptable individual interests.
These individualized interests must be recognized as such, as well as the competence of the decentralized that has to resolve these problems must be affirmed or recognized. This autonomous administration must be carried out under the auspices of an elected organ in the collectively.
The decentralized organ must have certain autonomy to manage certain affairs of the collective. Here, it implies giving the decentralized structure a judicial personality. This means that decentralization of the state must be capable of managing itself through its elected officials.
The assessment of the legal framework and of its stake holders shows that the decentralization law passed in 2004 in Cameroon has local development and governance as their main thrust. The new laws certainly create an environment that represents irreversible step forward for the process of decentralization but are in a need of completion by the passing of legal instruments of application for them to effectively accelerate the pace of the decentralization process and good governance. There is also need for better organization and coordination of interventions of the stakeholders. The process is currently hampered by especially financial constraints on local authorities and limited capacities of the actors and beneficiaries of development process (Cosmas, 2007).
According to part 10(Article 55) of the 18thJanuary 1996 Cameroon constitution, it emphasizes on the aspect of decentralization by legalizing the creation of local councils and brings out their functions. It also spells out their jurisdictions and grants them autonomy that is power to make rules governing the municipality under the supervision of the central government.
It is worth nothing that Article 55 (2) state clearly that “regional and local authorities shall be public law corporate bodies. They shall have administrative and financial autonomy in the management of regional and local interests. They shall be freely administered by councils elected under conditions laid down by law. The duty of the regional and local authorities shall be to promote the economic, social, health, educational, cultural and sports development of the said authority.”
This already creates the understanding that the objectives of the policy of decentralization in Cameroon is for development.
It is important to understand that decentralization is different from federalism in the sense that the decentralized collectively has autonomy but is not totally independent of the central government because the central authority exercises supervisory authority over the decentralized collectivity. With this in mind, this study says that decentralization is a search for new legitimacy by the state in a constantly changing environment and whose permanent preoccupation is to confide to the local population the management and development of their locality.
In Cameroon law, territorial decentralization is defined in Article 55 of the 18th January 1996 constitution and its modification when it states that “the territorial collectivities of the Republic are the regions and councils” some fundamental principles of territorial decentralization include:
The concept of local affairs or territorial specificity
The principle or co-administration of the territory
The principle of judicial and financial autonomy
In 2004, the state of Cameroon embarked on the process of decentralization which entails transferring some competences to the local government or council for proper management. Since the inception of this policy, there have been accusations and counter arguments from political and opinion leaders who claim that the policy will remain a nightmare in a centralized state. Decentralization is a first step to development in Cameroon. This is because any municipal development tends to influence national development. The Limbe II council was created in accordance to the presidential Decree No 2007/117 of 24th April 2007 to enhance development in that local area of the state. The mayor is to ensure and see to the success of this objective. Since the time of its creation till date, the council has had just two mayors. It is not possible in the present state of affairs for councils to be decentralize and autonomous. Decentralization cannot be practiced in a centralized state like Cameroon where all decisions come from the head quarters and are imposed on councils; the S.D.O is controlling council’s .i.e. the reason for its paradoxical nature in Cameroon as a state and Limbe II municipality in particular.
This municipality harbors the lone National Oil Refinery company (SO.NA.RA), an international football stadium, National ship yard company CNIC, the largest Agro-industrial company- CDC and numerous touristic site especially due to its coastal location. This gives more reason why this local council has to be more; if not the most developed in Cameroon through fiscal decentralization by the huge taxes it will receive from these companies, thus reaping the benefits of decentralization. Ironically, the municipality still has some challenges which by now ought not to be existing, this brings out the problem that the council have not been handed all its competences like the collection of taxes from these major companies thus, the situation which is different from what ought to be.
- To what extend has decentralization policy been implemented in Limbe II council?
- What are the challenges faced by the local government in the implementation of this Law?
- What are the proposed solutions to the problems?