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ASSESSMENT ON THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF YOUTH POLITICAL APATHY IN CAMEROON

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ASSESSMENT ON THE CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES OF YOUTH POLITICAL APATHY IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

All over the world, democracy has been projected to be the best form of government owing to the fact that it promotes all-inclusiveness in the way and manner government business is carried out. One of the underlying principles that have been observed to contribute to the sustenance of democracy is the maintenance of a political climate in which every citizen can exercise his/her political liberty on one hand, and actively participate in the political process of the state, on the other (Ndoh, 2003). This presupposes that citizens are expected to demonstrate their civic responsibilities in matters concerning leadership recruitment and leadership succession processes of the state, through registered political parties. In fact, by virtue of the tenets of liberal/representative democracy, citizens elect their representatives during elections so that decisions can be taken on their behalf, since it is practically impossible for everybody to partake directly in the governance process of their state or hold a political office (Ibaba, 2004; Nuka, Kia & Nwibor, 2015).  

Notably, a political system is said to attain a democratic status when those who would exercise powerful decisions on behalf of the collective interest of the majority are elected through a fair, transparent, honest and periodic elections in which every candidate freely competes for votes and an equal platform is provided for every eligible adult voter to exercise his/her franchise (Huntington, 1991).This is true because voting in an election at any level provides the citizens the easiest means for popular participation in democratic governance. It also provides the platform for citizens to effect the needed change of government especially when those occupying political leadership positions are not living up to expectation of providing the dividends of democracy to those who elect them. However, the experience in Cameroon has shown that a majority of the citizens prefer not to be involved in the political activities before, during and after elections. This scenario is what social scientists refer to as political apathy, where a vast majority of people demonstrate a lack of interest in the political sphere of the country. Suffice to state here that, in Nigeria, political apathy is so deeply rooted and pervasive in the consciousness of people to the extent that many have already programmed their minds that actively participating in any political activity will not produce any political relevance. In fact, it is this deep-rooted apathy that gave rise to a passive and parochial political culture. This is aptly captured by DeLuca (1995) when he argued that political apathy on the part of citizens can equally manifest in an indefinite suspension of the consciousness to form political intentions and act accordingly

Intriguingly, in Cameroon, young citizens are at the heart of what many observers deem a ‘crisis of representative democracy’. Some of the more alarming accounts proposed by proponents of the theory of a ‘crisis of democracy’ have to do with a perceived distrust of political systems, institutions, and social elites by European citizens in general and young citizens in particular (see Newton, 2001; Mishler and Rose, 1997; Kaase, et al., 1996). More generally, social scientists have tried to document what they almost unanimously perceive as a growing impression of ‘dissatisfaction’ of youth towards what the Republic of Cameroon can offer them as democratic citizens (Norris, 1999; Torcal and Montero, 2006). .  Consequently, several factors have been identified to be responsible for the high level of political apathy among citizens. For instance, DeLuca (1995) blamed the educational institutions, political parties and voluntary (civil societies) organizations for not doing enough to encourage popular participation. Specifically, DeLuca (1995) averred that rather than preparing learners for citizenship and active participation in the governance process, educational institutions are fast becoming busy centers for job preparation. Van Deth and Ellf (2000) opined that sociodemographic characteristics of individuals (in terms of age, gender and education) still account for manifestations and differences in political involvement and political apathy among the eligible voting population

While young citizens are the most likely to criticize the state of their political systems and apparently disengage from it, they are also the most likely – to a significant degree – to hold ambitious and idealist notions about what democratic participation should be like and about how involved they actually say they want to be (Bruter and Harrison, 2009). This democratic paradox, also noted by Pattie, et al. (2004), leads us to wonder what are the causes of youth political apathy, consequences of youth apathy how the participation of young citizens can be encouraged and increased using this paradoxical appetite for involvement.

Statement of the Problem

In recent years, however, there has been growing attention to addressing youth political apathy in Cameroon. Civil society organizations, youth-led initiatives, and international partners have increasingly focused on promoting youth participation through civic education, advocacy, and the creation of safe spaces for dialogue (Awa, 2018). The phenomenon is characterized by a disinterest or lack of engagement among young citizens in political processes, including voting, civic participation, and activism (Ngoh, 2017). Despite Cameroon's youthful population, with approximately 60% under the age of 25 (World Bank, 2020), their political involvement remains disproportionately low (Tchouassi, 2019).

Historically, Tchouassi, (2019) maintained that youth apathy in African countries can be traced back to several factors. Awa, 2018) argued that there's a prevailing perception among youth that their voices are marginalized or ignored by the political elite (Awa, 2018). This disillusionment stems from a long-standing authoritarian regime that has limited avenues for meaningful youth participation. Additionally, socio-economic challenges such as high unemployment rates, limited access to education, and inadequate infrastructure exacerbate feelings of disenfranchisement (Ngoh, 2017). Moreover, the lack of civic education and political literacy further hinders youth engagement (Many young people in nascent democracies are unaware of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, contributing to a sense of political alienation (Ngoh, 2017).

Consequently, the consequences of youth political apathy are manifold. Firstly, it undermines the legitimacy of democratic institutions and processes, perpetuating a cycle of political alienation (Tchouassi, 2019). Additionally, the absence of youthful perspectives deprives policymaking of diverse viewpoints and innovative solutions to pressing societal issues (Awa, 2018). Furthermore, apathetic youth are less likely to hold elected officials accountable or actively participate in civil society, resulting in weakened governance and accountability mechanisms (Ngoh, 2017).

While some studies have examined youth political participation in broader African contexts, Cameroon's distinct historical, cultural, and institutional dynamics necessitate a more localized investigation. More so existing initiatives aimed at promoting youth engagement in politics may lack empirical evidence regarding their impact and effectiveness in the Cameroonian context. By filling this gap, the study seeks to provide valuable insights that can inform the design and implementation of evidence-based interventions tailored to the needs and aspirations of Cameroonian youth. Thus, the motivation behind this study is to bridge the knowledge gap regarding on assessment on the causes and consequences of youth political apathy in Cameroon

Objective of the Study

The objective of this study is focused on assessment on the causes and consequences of youth political apathy in Cameroon. Specifically, the study seeks:

To examine the prevalence of youth political apathy in Cameroon

To investigate causes of youth political apathy in Cameroon

To ascertain the consequences of youth political apathy in Cameroon

To proffer potential solutions to youth political apathy in Cameroon

Research Questions

i. What is the prevalence of youth political apathy in Cameroon?

ii. What are the causes of youth political apathy in Cameroon?

iii. What are the consequences of youth political apathy in Cameroon?

iv. What are the potential solutions to youth political apathy in Cameroon?

Research Hypotheses

Ho: There are no known causes and consequences of political apathy in Cameroon.

Ha: There are known causes and consequences of political apathy in Cameroon.

1.6 Significance of the Study

Youth political apathy poses a significant challenge to democratic governance and can undermine the legitimacy and effectiveness of political institutions. The study's findings can provide policymakers and government officials with valuable insights into the underlying causes of youth political apathy and effective strategies for addressing this issue. Engaging young people in political processes not only strengthens democracy but also promotes social inclusion and empowerment. By amplifying the voices and perspectives of young Cameroonians, the study can help empower youth to actively participate in shaping the future of their country and addressing key social, economic, and political challenges. To Civil society, the study's findings can inform the work of civil society actors by providing evidence-based insights into the barriers to youth political participation and effective strategies for overcoming them.

Empirically, the study contributes to academic scholarship by advancing knowledge and understanding of youth political apathy within the Cameroonian context. By conducting rigorous research and analysis, the study adds to the existing body of literature on youth participation in politics and provides a foundation for future research and inquiry in this field.

1.7 Scope of the Study

The scope of this study borders on focused on assessment on the causes and consequences of youth political apathy in Cameroon. The content scope the study explores various dimensions of youth political apathy, including its causes, consequences, and potential solutions. Key themes addressed in the study may include causes of youth apathy socio-economic factors, institutional barriers, cultural influences, civic education, youth activism, and the consequences of youth apathy in the political system. Geographically, the study focuses specifically on the nation of Cameroon drawing its participant from youths in Southern Region of Cameroon.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

The researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. The significant constraint was on data collection owing that youth political apathy in Cameroon presents a multifaceted challenge with deep-rooted causes and significant, the researcher incurred more financial expenses and much time was required in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection, which is why the researcher resorted to a limited choice of sample size covering only youths in Southern Region of Cameroon.Thus findings of this study cannot be used for generalization for other states within Cameroon. Additionally, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work will impede maximum devotion to the research. Howbeit despite the constraint encountered during the research, all factors were downplayed in other to give the best and make the research successful.

1.9 Definition of Terms

Youth: For the purpose of this study, "youth" refers to individuals within a specific age range, typically between the ages of 18 and 35, as defined by the United Nations and commonly used in demographic and policy contexts.

Political Apathy: "Political apathy" refers to a lack of interest, involvement, or engagement in political processes and activities. This may manifest as disinterest in voting, low levels of civic participation, and a general sense of detachment from political affairs.

Democracy: "Democracy" is a system of government characterized by principles of popular sovereignty, political equality, and the protection of individual rights and freedoms. In a democracy, citizens participate in decision-making through free and fair elections, representative institutions, and respect for the rule of law.


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