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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. 


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).  


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,  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.


The research question of this study comprises the General and Specific Research questions.


What services does the Buea Local Council provide to the Buea municipality?


  1. Does the Buea Council supply clean, portable pipe born water to the Buea municipality?

  2. 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.


This study seeks to investigate what services the Buea Local Council provides to the Buea municipality.

  1. To investigate whether the Buea Council supplies clean, portable pipe born water to the Buea municipality.
  2. To explore if the council provides infrastructure to the municipality.
  • To decifer whether the Buea council provides health facilities to the Buea municipality.
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