Statement from Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh on the deteriorating Security and Political Situation in Cameroon.
On October 7, voters cast ballots in the presidential poll which had nine candidates in competition. I congratulate those who participated in that exercise. I also commend the candidates who created opportunities for citizen engagement, and raised hopes for genuine democracy and meaningful change through the ballot box. Unfortunately those hopes did not materialize and the legitimacy of the presidential election is now in question.
In July, many months before Election Day, I publicly shared my concerns about the political and security environment, and stated categorically that the country was ill prepared for the polls. Unfortunately, the handling of major aspects of the electoral process have left many Cameroonians wondering about the impact of these polls and the future of democracy in our country. This includes concerns about the inability to conduct elections in the Anglophone regions of the North West and South West; the lack of transparency in the tabulation and transmission of election results nationally; and the contentious litigation of electoral disputes and lack of unanimous acceptance of results. The legitimacy of the presidential election outcome is contested by the main opposition candidate and many Cameroonians. At the same time, despite my repeated appeals for high-level, inclusive dialogue since the beginning of the Anglophone crisis in 2016, the killings in the Anglophone regions continue unabated, and every loss of life deepens the pain and suffering and further undermines prospects for national reconciliation.
Today, Cameroon is more divided, more polarized, more fragile and more insecure than ever before in its modern history. Despite the legal trappings of today’s government, its legitimacy is seriously questioned by millions of our fellow compatriots and friends of Cameroon across the world. The credibility of many of our key institutions, including the newly established Constitutional Council, is at stake. Force, physical violence, hate speech and ethnic stigmatization have become instruments of choice in public discourse and impact negatively interactions between state authorities and civilian populations.
Under these circumstances, Cameroonians of good will have a civic duty to rise and strongly demand a significant course correction to avoid more violence, further disintegration and eventual state collapse. The following ten recommendations are submitted in that spirit, and require urgent consideration.
On Peace and Security: We need a holistic, comprehensive approach to stop the killings.
1) Release all political prisoners and detainees not charged with violent crimes and held solely because of the Anglophone crisis, and create an enabling environment for high-level, genuine dialogue to seek long lasting solutions.
2) Order an immediate ceasefire and lift curfews in the North West and South West regions to restore normalcy, enable youth to resume gainful employment, and facilitate the return of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees.
3) Stop immediately the killings and destruction of property in Anglophone regions, and all forms of violence against civilians and security personnel.
On Elections: The contested legitimacy of the electoral outcome cannot be ignored.
4) To dissipate the lingering cloud of illegitimacy over the election results, commit an international reputable auditing firm such as Price Waterhouse Cooper or Deloitte & Touche to conduct a technical audit of ELECAM documents related to the October 2018 presidential poll.
5) Make public the findings of such international audit in order to restore confidence in elections and the institutions in charge of electoral administration and oversight.
6) Launch immediately a high level Ad Hoc Committee on reforms to review the Constitution, election laws and other legal instruments, and propose by a set deadline recommendations on major reforms that must be undertaken in all sectors.
7) Assign the chairmanship of the Ad Hoc Reform Committee to an independent, seasoned, and well respected jurist with an in-depth understanding of democratic governance processes.
8.) Commit to implementing the reforms as soon as they are enacted, and prior to any further elections at the local, regional or national levels.
9) Under the new electoral framework to emerge from the Ad Hoc Reform Committee, organize early presidential elections that would allow for more transparent and credible polls whose legitimacy will not be questioned.
10) Avoid the manipulation of security and administrative services and pull back the country from the negative spiral of hate speech, ethnic stigmatization, violence and harassment of independent professionals, notably journalists, lawyers and teachers, who are pillars of every democratic society.
I call on the government to take concrete measures to regain peace, rebuild the country’s reputation and restore the dignity of Cameroonians. This requires extraordinary steps, including those listed above, to address head-on the multiple crises we confront at this time.
Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh
The Fomunyoh Foundation