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EXAMINING THE ROLE OF TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE IN CAMEROON

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EXAMINING THE ROLE OF TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background of the study

Cameroon, situated in Central Africa, with a profound historical background moulded by a wide array of ethnicities and colonial impacts. Traditional institutions have a substantial impact on the political environment of the nation, often functioning as crucial cultural and social foundations. Traditional institutions existed prior to colonisation. Upon achieving independence, the entity has portrayed itself as a "representation of established customs" while also endeavouring to function as a facilitator for "contemporary initiatives" (Sami, Jusoh, Nor, Irfan & Qureshi, 2018). The challenges and changes experienced by traditional institutions or chiefdoms in the postcolonial era have been extensively studied by scholars, and these institutions have performed various functions in the process. The British used indirect rule as a strategy to gain legitimacy for implementing colonial policies by relying on traditional authority (Wooi & Ismail, 2017). The chiefs appointed as Native Authorities in the Bamenda region of Cameroon were given the authority to collect tax revenue in their areas and use it as directed by the colonial rulers. Under section 40 of the Federal Constitution of Cameroon in 1961, they were organised into the House of Chiefs, which has since been dissolved (Songwe, 2021). Since the introduction of democracy, traditional authorities have functioned as influential voting blocs, particularly in single-party states (Songwe, 2021). Additionally, they have been appointed as members of the 'Land Commission' based on the provisions outlined in section 12 of Decree No 76-166 (27 April 1976), which sets out the rules for the administration of national lands.

Cameroon had a multitude of ethnic groups, each with unique customs, government systems, and chiefdoms. During this era, traditional institutions played a crucial role in maintaining order, settling conflicts, and safeguarding cultural customs. Chiefdoms and kingdoms were prevalent, characterised by leaders who often had both political and spiritual jurisdiction (Enor & Frank, 2015). Cameroon was colonised by European powers, mainly Germany, and subsequently France and Britain, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The colonial period significantly influenced traditional institutions, as European powers enforced their administrative structures and governance systems. The colonial authorities often assimilated preexisting traditional leaders, integrating them into the administrative structure of the colonial regime. Cameroon achieved independence from France and Britain in 1960 and 1961, consecutively. The political environment of the country was first characterised by a combination of Western-style institutions and traditional structures (Hales, 2015). Ahidjo, the first President of Cameroon, aimed to strengthen his control and concentrate power, resulting in the marginalisation of traditional leaders. Paul Biya, who succeeded Ahidjo, maintained the pattern of centralization. Traditional institutions had difficulties when Biya embraced a unitary state model, consolidating authority under the president. The government established alternative administrative frameworks that reduced the influence of conventional authority in political affairs. Cameroon's constitution acknowledges the significance of traditional institutions, notwithstanding the difficulties they may face. They are recognised as cultural entities with the power to actively participate in local administration and development. The 1996 constitution clearly acknowledges the "cultural and moral values" of traditional institutions and their contribution to the cohesion of the country. Efforts to decentralise government in Cameroon have been made in recent years (Kah & Henry, 2015). The government has implemented decentralisation measures with the aim of granting local communities and traditional authorities more authority and autonomy. Nevertheless, the execution of these policies has been sluggish, and obstacles persist, including concerns over the distribution of resources and the representation of political interests. Cameroon's traditional institutions encounter several obstacles, such as the loss of institutional power, intervention from the central government, and the need to conform to contemporary governance frameworks. Nevertheless, they also provide prospects for cultivating cultural identity, resolving conflicts, and promoting community development (Hales, 2015). The effect of colonial legacies and subsequent government initiatives has shaped the changing significance of traditional institutions in Cameroon's political environment. Amidst difficulties, conventional establishments persist in their vital function of safeguarding cultural legacy and aiding in local administration, particularly as the nation grapples with the intricacies of modernization and political devolution.. Therefore, the researcher sought to examine the role of traditional institutions in the political landscape in Cameroon.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Cameroon, known for its abundant cultural variety, has always depended on traditional institutions as essential elements of its social structure. Nevertheless, in the current political environment, these institutions have many obstacles that hinder their efficacy and significance (Kenneth and Toyin, 2018). Historically, traditional institutions in Cameroon have played crucial roles in government, dispute resolution, and community bonding. Nevertheless, as the political environment evolves, these institutions are confronted with a range of problems that undercut their conventional roles (Linnea, 2018). The central government often marginalises and disempowers traditional institutions in Cameroon. This hampers their capacity to properly tackle local concerns and undermines their conventional authority. The confrontation between conventional and contemporary political frameworks is a substantial obstacle. The coexistence of traditional institutions with formal political structures in Cameroon is sometimes hindered by power disputes and a decrease in influence. Hence, the need to examine the role of traditional institutions in the political landscape in Cameroon.

1.3       Objective of the study

The objective of the study is to examine the role of traditional institutions in the political landscape in Cameroon. The specific objectives is as follows

i.          Examine the historical role of traditional institutions in Cameroon's political landscape, tracing their origins, evolution, and impact on governance.

ii.        Investigate the current status and relevance of traditional institutions in the face of modern political structures in Cameroon.

iii.      Explore the dynamics and interactions between traditional institutions and the formal political structures in Cameroon, such as the government and legal system.

1.4       Research questions

Te following questions have been prepared to further guide the study

i.          What is the historical role of traditional institutions in Cameroon's political landscape, tracing their origins, evolution, and impact on governance?

ii.        What is the current status and relevance of traditional institutions in the face of modern political structures in Cameroon?

iii.      What is the dynamics and interactions between traditional institutions and the formal political structures in Cameroon, such as the government and legal system?

1.6       Significance of the study

The findings of the study will be significant to the Cameroonian government as the study will reveaal the the important roles been played by the traditional institutions in promoting , contributing and sustainance of the countrys political landscape.

The findings of the study will be significant to the academic community as it will contribute to the existing literature.

1.7       Scope of the study

The study focuses on examining the role of traditional institutions in the political landscape in Cameroon. Empirically, the study will examine the historical role of traditional institutions in Cameroon's political landscape, tracing their origins, evolution, and impact on governance, investigate the current status and relevance of traditional institutions in the face of modern political structures in Cameroon and explore the dynamics and interactions between traditional institutions and the formal political structures in Cameroon, such as the government and legal system.

Geographically, the study is delimited to Cameroon.

1.7       Research Methodology

Research methodology deals with the different ways or methods the researcher applied in order to carry out the research as well as the instrument used for gathering the data. There are several research methodologies appropriate for answering the research questions. The type of research methodology used in this research to gather data and relevant information is the historical research. This will involve the making of oral interviews and collections of materials from secondary sources, such as books, journal articles, magazines, internet sources, international and national conference proceedings, published and unpublished articles.

1.9       Definition of terms

Traditional institution: built upon or based on history, ancestry, culture, custom, religion and values of the people

Political landscape: a network of players—government figures, business leaders, and other non-profit people—who combine to create the opportunities for and impediments to success for inner-city residents


This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research



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  • Methodology: Yes available


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