The Role of the Councils in Building Sustainable Peace and Development in Cameroon: Case study of the Buea and Tiko local council
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The quest for peacebuilding in developing countries remains a requisite action when interactions among the people, groups and communities are flawed by numerous social vices. Moreover, retaliation is most often the order of the day among the conflict-driven people, groups and communities. Hence, the imperativeness of peacebuilding becomes thus essential so as to establish resolution strategies, thereby thwarting the menace of vengeance in the societies. The objective of this study was to examine the role of local council (Tiko and-Buea) to build sustainable peace and development in Cameroon.
Specifically; the study seeks to identify the mechanism by local councils in peace building and development in Cameroon, to examine the extent to which the activities of local councils bring peace and development at the local levels and to examine challenges affecting local council performance in the building of sustainable peace and development. In order to achieve the study objectives, a survey design was employed using a simple random sampling and convenience sampling techniques to sample 30 staff strength of Tiko and Buea councils using a semi-structure questionnaire.
Results showsthatprovision of basic amenities such as pipe borne water, provision of holiday’s jobs and scholarships, fight against ghost town, organizing social programs and gatherings such as football tournaments were some of the major ways employed by the councils in the fight for peace and sustainable development in the municipalities. Results further revealed that the major challenges hindering the council activities were; Inadequate financial resources, occurrence of separatists’ activities and ongoing arm conflicts, lack of means to carry out major projects, lack of control and power of politicians, difficulties in revenue collection, administrative bottleneck, slow implementation of the decentralization process, lack of sufficient collaboration with the local communities and decrease in tax collection. It was recommended that the Government and Municipals heads should work together in the resolution of the Anglophone arm crisis which is the major disruptor of the activities of the Municipal councils.
1.1 Background to the study
To understand contemporary local government, it is essential to grasp the basis of its historical development and evolution. Local government was not evolved to provide a coordinate system of administration for the logically defined range of services; it emerged, piecemeal as an answer to a succession of the separate needs and demands of the society. The very origin of modern local government was part of the libertarian trends in the first half of the 19th century. The need to bring government closer to the people was a powerful ideological element in the introduction of local government system in European countries. Local self-government was perceived to be an expression of freedom of society. The creation of local self-government in the first half of the last century in the Scandinavian as well as other countries like United States of America, and Britain was in an attempt to limit the intrusion of central government in the affairs of local communities (Smellie, 1994).
The rise of local government is closely tied to the process of industrialization which gave momentum in Britain form the middle of the 18th century. Until the beginning of the 19th century the system of local government by cooperation in the justices of peace in the countries had worked reasonably satisfactorily because the needs of communities were deemed to be small and their tasks were primarily judicial and administrative. The mid-19th century saw the culmination of the first great phase of urbanization in the United Kingdom history caused by the development of machinery and the factory system of production and the comparative reduction of dependence on subsistence agriculture production.
The movement of the population from the rural to the urban areas was accompanied by problems of overcrowding, maintenance of law and order, and basic healthcare. The existing system had proved inadequate to meet the needs of the new urban areas. The immediate response to this was the creation of a series of adhoc, single purpose bodies which included poor law boards and boards of improvement commissioners. The improvement commissioners were responsible for paving, cleaning, and the lighting of streets and provision of watchmen. These adhocbodies were effectively controlled by traditional land owners. Equally, the prosperous entrepreneurs who dominated the expanding cities and towns resented their lack of control over the full range of civic affairs. Under these pressures the 1835 Act created elected municipal councils and gave to them a range of powers and property. (Kalin,1999).
More generally, present day local government administration provides a platform for genuine participation of the people at the grass-roots level in state affairs. People become active citizens through association with government and do not remain mere subjects of the government. Being the closest to the people, local government is also most easily accessible to them and people can generally relate to a greater degree on local council than on the central government. Decentralized areas of administration pave way forward a better understanding between citizens and the government officials. The importance of local government lies in the involvement in the community with local public affairs not only of those who are elected but also indirectly of the community at large who elect them and to whom they are ultimately accountable, Barber, 1972.
According to Francesco Kjellberg, 1995local government exist, because they are perceived to be major vehicles for citizens’ participation in public affairs. It is an instrument for strengthening democracy in the society at large. The democratic ideal in local government implies that active participation of the citizens in local affairs is both a goal in itself and an instrument for strengthening democracy in society at large. First, participation represents a real occasion to influence the decisions that affect everyday life; it narrows the gap between the rulers and the ruled. Second, it creates the possibility for political education. Active participation in local affairs has been perceived as most important training ground for democracy. Through participation citizens become familiar with public issues.
Decentralized local governance remains one of the best global strategies to rid developing countries like Cameroon from underdevelopment and economic backwardness (Dijk 2008; Crawford and Hartman 2008; Crawford 2008; Crawford 2004). With the emergence of globalization and good governance as major paradigms driving government policy and development agenda since the early 1980s, it has been speculated that through the process of decentralized local governance, rural poverty torturing communities could partner local government authorities to achieve the goals of rural community transformation and poverty reduction (See: Inkoom 2011; Conyers 2007; Robinson 2007; Robinson 2004). This agenda became even more prominent when poverty reduction and rapid development, became mandatory requirement by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) of its developing member countries after the September 1999 annual meetings.
International peace actors have repeatedly observed that the most legitimate community representatives are often found in local-level governance systems that either survive or spring up to provide basic protection and order in dangerous, lawless environments. Not surprisingly International mediators have wanted to tap into local administrations and their leaders as participants in peace processes.
In an impressive number of cases for example community-driven reconstruction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Kyamusugulwa et al 2014, 813), Republic of Yemen (Grandvoinnetet al, 2015, 259) and Ghana 1992 local governance arrangements in conflict and post-conflict settings have not only provided basic law, security, and routinized dispute resolution, but have also helped to solidify inter-communal peace accords at the local level. Syrian, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone case studies in particular highlights concrete local efforts at inclusive grassroots organization and self-rule that have tried to resolve the most destructive and persistent fighting. For millions of people caught in zones of protracted violent conflict and ruptured authority, local governance arrangements are the only form of protection and order they have. This has earned some local governance arrangements “performance legitimacy” among their populations and has attracted the interest of diplomats and mediators seeking to identify grassroots representation in peace processes.
Legitimate local governance systems in violent settings work because they embody advance shared communal interests in law, order, security, disaster risk management and access to basic services. These are tangible and essential needs that cut across conflict lines and focus communities on functional cooperation for mutual benefit. Local governance arrangements also routinize conflict over resources (which at the local level are usually quite modest) in ways that reduce the likelihood of renewed violence. It’s important to note that,one of the most classical approaches in conflict resolution is to distinguish between positions and the underlying interests in conflict situations. Positions are the concrete demands held by each party or one party’s solution to an issue in conflict situations. While interests are the underlying issues that are usually easier to satisfy than positions since several positions may satisfy them.
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, 21and 22 provide for the empowerment of local councils with functions such as: social care, health care, promoting economic development, culture and sports 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.
According to the United Nations, in its Capstone Doctrine, describes peace-building as a process which “involves a range of measures targeted to reduce the risk of lapsing or relapsing into conflict by strengthening national capacities at all levels for conflict management, and to lay the foundation for sustainable peace and development. Peace-building is a complex, long-term process of creating the necessary conditions for sustainable peace. It works by addressing the deep-rooted, structural causes of violent conflict in a comprehensive manner. Peace building measures address core issues that affect the functioning of society and the State, and seek to enhance the capacity of the State to effectively and legitimately carry out its core functions.
Peace-building involves a long term commitment to a process that includes investment, gathering of resources and material, laying of solid foundations, construction of walls and roofs, finished work and ongoing maintenance” (Lederach, 1997). It is the transformation and automation of societies affected by conflicts to manage and check its threats to durable peace.
Thus this study seeks to examine specifically the role of Buea and Tiko councils and generally council’sinCameroon towards building sustainable peace and development. However,it’s yet to ascertain whether local council administration is a myth or reality in the increasing challenges to sustainable peace and development in Cameroon.
1.2 Statement to the Problem
In line with the laws creating local councils in Cameroon, Buea and Tiko local councils are expected to freely utilize the resources at their disposal to promote sustainable peace and development. Such as: promoting economic and infrastructural development, creation of jobs, sensitizing the population on their civil rights and the importance of participating in public affairs, and providing social care Centres for resolving conflicts at the local level. This can be said, be good measures for peace sustainability and development within the communities and Cameroon in general.
However, from the point of this study, it can be said that local council to an extent carried out their assignment as provided by the law, but to a greater extentBuea and Tiko council administration and councils generally in Cameroon fell short in the aspect of Intensive political mobilization programs to galvanize the public into active and meaningful political involvement through initiatives such as partnering with peace advocates from the within or outside the community, community-based mechanisms such as dialogues, consultations and public information campaigns. By working with such strategic partnerships, citizens learn to recognize and avoid electing incompetent or corrupt representatives, debate on their needs and priorities based on community budget and revenues and above all, to think of projects for tomorrow. Now, because there is a weakness in the aspect of political education and involvement of citizens especially in decision-making, it, therefore, poses a problem for Buea and Tiko local council to bring sustainable peace and development their communities.
As stated byGildenhuys, (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 personalities with administrative and financial autonomy over the management of local interests in Cameroon.
However,Buea, Tiko and local councils generally in Cameroon do 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, the failure of Buea and Tiko local council to adequately serve individuals in their communities poses a threat to their efforts towards peacebuilding and development since citizens out of frustration will turn to lose confidence and loyalty to the government and turn to take violent actions in order to meet their needs.
1.3 The objective of the study is twofold:
1.3.1 Main objective
To examine the role oflocal council (Tikoand-Buea) to build sustainable peace and development in Cameroon.
1.3.2 Specific objective
- To identify the mechanism by local councils (Tiko and Buea)in peace building and development in Cameroon.
- To examine the extent to which the activities of local councils (Tiko andBuea) bring peace and development at the local levels.
- To examine challenges affecting(Tiko andBuea) local council performance in the building of sustainable peace and development.
- To what extent do(Tiko andBuea) local council contribute inbuilding peace and developmentinCameroon?
- How effective are the(Tiko andBuea) localcouncilin providing peace and developments their jurisdictions?
- What are the challenges preventing (Tiko andBuea) local council performance in Cameroon?