THE AUTONOMY OF MUNICIPAL COUNCILS IN CAMEROON, CASE STUDY OF THE BUEA COUNCIL
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This work was aimed at The Autonomy Of Municipal Councils In Cameroon, Case Study Of The Buea Council. In this, it was broken down into different specific objectives which were; To investigate whether the Buea Council supplies clean, portable pipe born water to the Buea municipality, to explore if the council provides infrastructure to the municipality, to decifer whether the Buea council provides health facilities to the Buea municipality.
The slow growth in Africa today can be attributed to little or no space for local governments to exercise certain powers. There is the need for political space to mobilize autonomously from the state and from the party in power to foster development. Municipal councils cannot undertake major developments without taking permission from the central government. There is need for adequate decentralization to ensure balance of power and in the long run balance development.
One of the most fundamental problems which the African societies are confronted with is the transition from the state centered economy or neo-centralism to liberal or neo-liberal economic systems. The transition from centralist to liberal systems is complicated by the fact that the new paradigm stresses decentralization, subsidiarity, use of public-private partnership and Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in former public functions and citizen participation in policy formulation and implementation. Institutional reform towards strengthening decentralization policies is becoming increasingly important in Africa.
As a result, local governments are gaining in authority, powers and legitimacy in the political processes. The role of local governments in the delivery of social services like health and education is growing too. Thus the scope and possibilities for local governments to play a significant role in improving economic governance and public-private dialogue (both major drivers for a better business environment and creation of balanced growth and wealth) are gaining momentum (Van Der Val & Hilhorst, 2007, p. 4).
Local leaders are prone to better understand local situations, and local governments, especially mayors, if provided with adequate resources and autonomy can provide critical leadership concerning decisions on resource allocation. Their day to day knowledge of local resources, local needs and other community factors provide them with insights and capacity for making sound and more timely judgments than central governments. Citizens look to their elected officials for immediate responses to their problems.
In many arenas, Local Governments execute certain expenditure programs better than national governments due to their physical proximity to the community which gives them a better capacity to determine and assess local interests and requirements (Bidus 1995). – Jager (1997) also contends that Local Governments have the ability to provide services more efficiently and cheaper compared to central governments. Citing the example of El Salvador, the analysis points to the fact that many public works were implemented by municipal governments at costs from ‘one-third to two-thirds lower than when the same types of works were executed by central government agencies. The reasons for this include: greater control over work crews, closer supervision, and shorter travel distances to work sites, scrutiny by the electorate and greater accountability by elected and appointed local officials’. This highlights the advantages inherent in local level decision-making, service delivery and control.
The capacity of LGs to mobilize local resources cannot be over emphasized. Because they can more accurately reflect local priorities, they can also more accurately develop a sense of accountability among their constituencies. More still, LGs ensure that local processes are democratic and good democratic practice at the local level greatly improves construction, reconstruction and service delivery. Attuned to voters’ needs and reactions, local governments have the potential to build community consensus around controversial issues, including infrastructure building, and other environmental programs.
In sum, this is to reveal the ability of LGs to act generally as catalysts to economic and social development. This general notion of the contribution of LGs in socio-economic change will provide a basis for the evaluation of LGs in Cameroon if they are structured to function in an adequate manner and if their performance meets the expected standards.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND TO LOCAL GOVERNMENT IN FAKO DIVISION.
The Fako Municipalities began as a village council in Bona-Bille headed by King Bille William of Bimbia. This settlement was named Victoria in 1858 by Alfred Saker. A treaty was signed with Queen Victoria of England and a Council was set up. The membership of the council was mainly made up of missionaries and some natives with a common court headed by Reverend Wilson of the Baptist mission as president of the Court (Sonde, 1978, p.10).
In 1866, a court and a twelve-man City Council were created to promote hygiene, prevent crimes, and foster economic growth. In 1884, the Germans annexed Kamerun and set up a Native Court which acted as the Town Council. After the death of King Bille William in 1908, John Manga William was made Chief and he took over the chairmanship of the Mixed Court and Town Council. In 1916, the German Victoria District was reconstituted to include territories of the Rio-Del-Rey District and renamed Victoria Division by the British who had evicted the Germans in 1915 (Ewumbue-Monono, 2001, pp.30-31).
The British introduced a system of native administration based on three institutions controlled by local chiefs: • The Native Authority regulated by the 1914 Native Courts Ordinance;
The Native Courts regulated by the 1914 Native Courts Ordinance; and
The Native Treasury regulated by the 1918 Native Revenue Ordinance (Ewumbue-Monono, 2001, p.31).
Between 1918 and 1922, Victoria Division was divided into eight districts. The local chiefs, that is, the District Heads constituted Native Authorities. From 1935 to 1938, the Divisional Officer for Victoria created three main Native Authorities in the Division: The Bakweri Native Tribal Native Authority, the Victoria Federated Native Authority and the Balong Clan and Native Authority. In 1948, the Bakolle Clan Native Authority was created. Each of the Native Authority had a Native Authority Council (Ewumbue-Monono, 2001, pp.31-33). On April 23, 1958, The Victoria Division Native Authority System was reformed creating six local authorities: the Bakweri Council; the Tiko Area Council; the Victoria Area Council; the Balong Council; the Bakolle Council; and the Victoria Divisional Council. The British colonial council architecture of 1958 remained until 1962 when the Kamerun National Democratic Party (KNDP) began the introduction of a new system of local government. The composition of councils in Victoria Division was amended by 1962 through 1964 to allow for equal representation between the indigenes and the settlers. In 1966, the six councils were dissolved and by 1968 the 1961 modified Local Authority Ordinance transformed the Native Authorities to Local Authorities: the Bakweri Council, the Tiko Area Council, the Muyuka District Council and the Victoria Area Council. The 1968 territorial reorganization removed the Bakolle area and changed the name Victoria Division to Fako Division (Ewumbue-Monono, 2001, pp.34-33).
Between 1961 and 1972 Cameroon was a Federation in a union between West Cameroon (British Cameroon) and East Cameroon (French Cameroon). Local governments still existed but did not maintain a British style where they could exercise some authority over their people. This was because the French believed they had annexed British Cameroon. They implemented French policies whereby the local elites had no say in any project that directly or indirectly affected their lives. In so doing, they undermined local governments.
In 1972 a referendum was organised in which the people of Cameroon voted for a unitary state. A centralised government which ensued after the abolition of the federal system made local governments’ autonomy undermined. In 1974 councils were organised as local governments. The reunification of West and East Cameroon in 1972 changed the pattern of local government in Fako Division.
After two years, Decree N0 74/23 of December 5, 1974 reorganised local councils in Cameroon creating three types of councils: the special urban council under a Government Delegate, the special urban council under a Mayor, and the rural council under a Municipal Administrator. According to Decree N0 77/203 of June 19, 1977 setting councils and defining their boundaries, four councils were created in Fako Division. This system remained until Decree N0 95-082 of April 25, 1995 creating the Idenau Rural Council for the Idenau district. Thus the new local administration system implanted in Fako Division evolved into five main municipalities: Buea1, Limbe2, Tiko3, Muyuka4 and Idenua5(Ewumbue-Monono, 2001, pp.44-55).
BRIEF PRESENTATION OF THE BUEA COUNCIL.
Location of the council The Buea Municipal council is the Sub Divisional headquarter of Buea and the South West Regional head quarter of Cameroon. Created on the 29th of June 1977 by presidential decree No. 77/203, the Buea municipality has a surface area of 870 Sq.km, 67 villages, four distinct identified urban spaces as per outlined criteria (Buea station, Soppo, Molyko/Mile 17 and Muea).
It is a highly complex community caught between a blend of urban, semi urban, rural and traditional settings. Buea Municipality is bounded to the north by tropical forest on the slope of mount Cameroon (4100m above sea level). The mountain range extends to the beautiful sandy beaches of Atlantic Ocean. The town also share boundary with other major towns like the City of Limbe to the South West, Tiko municipality to the South East, Muyuka municipality to the East and Idenau district to the West. With an equatorial climate, temperatures are moderate with a slight seasonal variation (rainy and dry season).Buea has moderate economy with agricultural, administrative, business, tourism and the financial sector taking the central stage of the town.
Buea has an estimated population of above 200.000 inhabitants (2005 BUCREP figures and annual growth rate of 5% as per UN projections for urban population growth rate for Africa) constituting essentially of the Bakweris (the indigenes) in the villages and a highly cosmopolitan population within the urban space putting the indigenes at a minority. The Bakweri language spoken by the natives is equally written and documented. English and French are two official languages used for general interaction while pidgin is the lingua franca. The average life expectancy of this area is 50 years (1999 statistics) literacy rate is on the rise with some 60-75% of the youths having access to education. According to a 2004 survey carried out by the Ministry of public health in Cameroon, about 40% of the population do not have access to quality health care while close to 60% have financial difficulties to afford basic healthcare services. This citation is currently true for rural areas of the municipality and much less realistic for the urban zones.
Buea is one of the fastest growing towns in Cameroon today with a mix cosmopolitan setting and a constellation of about 67 villages. These villages are inhabited by the Bakweris who, according to social scientists, have lived around Mount Cameroon for at least 4,000 years. Its urban rims now includes: Molyko, Buea station, Muea, GRA, Mile 16, Clerks and Federal quarters, Great Soppo, Likoko-Membea, Bokwaongo, and Bonduma. Buea is presently the headquarter of the South West Region of Cameroon. It remains the only one having the Senior Divisional Office, most of its Divisional Sectorials offices and a few regional offices located in another town (Limbe).
According to Law No 74-23 of 5 December 1974 organising councils in Cameroon, a ‘rural council shall be a council whose territorial jurisdiction covers a built up area, with or without a town plan and rural areas whereas an urban council is a council whose territorial jurisdiction is confined to a built-up area having a town plan.’
In Cameroon, according to law N° 2004/017 of 22 July 2004 on decentralization guidelines(refers to the transfer of power from the central government to representative and downwardly accountable actors, such as elected local governments. Ribot, 2002) and N°2009/011 of 10 July 2009 relating to the Financial Regime of Regional and Local Authorities (RLA), Regional and Local Authorities are corporate bodies governed by public law and are endowed with a legal personality as well as administrative and financial autonomy with respect to the management of regional and local interests.
The 2004 laws cited above, precisely in Article 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 provide for the empowerment of local councils with function such as: social care, health care, promoting economic development, culture and sport development with the aim of promoting local development and good governance which as well aims at achieving sustainable peace in every community and generally in Cameroon.
This study attempts to investigate the role which LGs as decentralized public institutions can play in the development process. It recognizes their importance as possible avenues through which the goal of socio-economic change can be realized in the presence of empowerment. In line with the laws creating local councils in Cameroon, Buea council is expected to freely utilize the resources at their disposal to provide services to the municipality such as: promoting economic and infrastructural development, providing water, health, creation of jobs, providing social care Centre for resolving conflicts at the local level, etc. This can be said, are good measures for peace sustainable and development within the communities and Cameroon in general.
This study seeks to investigate if Buea council and councils generally in Cameroon fall short in this regard. As stated by Gildenhuys, (1991) the provision of resources must satisfy the collective needs of individuals. The objective of local government is to serve individuals in communities. In democratic theory, local government exists for the sake of the individual and the individual does not exist to support the local government financially or otherwise. In addition, 2004 law recognizes local councils as legal personality with administrative and financial autonomy over the management of local interests in Cameroon. However, Buea council and councils generally in Cameroon seem to not perform their duties well because of the inadequate availability of financial resources to satisfy the collective needs of individuals in their communities due to the fact that, they do not have financial autonomy over revenues they raise from taxes in their areas of authority since they rely on the central government for financial provisions. Thus, impedes their efforts to bring peace and development in their communities.
For instance, how is possible to finance developmental projects like construction and maintenance of roads, create job opportunities without adequate resources or to meet the collective needs of individuals in the communities? So, this study seeks to verify if Buea local council adequately serve individuals in their communities or not and whether such failure poses a threat to their community life and loyalty to the local government.
1.3 RESEARCH QUESTIONS OF THE STUDY
The research question of this study comprises the General and Specific Research questions.
1.3.1GEENERAL RESEARCH QUESTION
What services does the Buea Local Council provide to the Buea municipality?
SPECIFIC RESEARCH QUESTIONS
Does the Buea Council supply clean, portable pipe born water to the Buea municipality?
Does the council provide infrastructure to the municipality?
Does the Buea council provide health facilities to the Buea municipality?
The objective of this study comprises the general and specific objectives.
1.4.1 GENERAL OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
This study seeks to investigate what services the Buea Local Council provides to the Buea municipality.
- SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
- To investigate whether the Buea Council supplies clean, portable pipe born water to the Buea municipality.
- To explore if the council provides infrastructure to the municipality.
- To decifer whether the Buea council provides health facilities to the Buea municipality.