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INVESTIGATION INTO THE IMPACT OF GERONTOCRACY ON POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION IN CAMEROON

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INVESTIGATION INTO THE IMPACT OF GERONTOCRACY ON POLITICAL PARTICIPATION AND REPRESENTATION IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the Study

The population growth in Africa has had a profound impact on the number of eligible voters, particularly due to the inclusion of a substantial number of young voters in recent elections. The most significant age group consists of individuals born in the mid- to late-1980s, who were in their twenties during the 2014 general elections in certain countries. Statistics from South Africa indicate that there are currently 11.8 million eligible voters aged 18 to 29, accounting for 35% of the voting population. In Ghana, the proportion of eligible youth voters is particularly high, with youths accounting for 58% of the country's voting population (UN Youth, 2020). In the 2016 Ghanaian general elections, the proportion of eligible youth voters was 65% of the total voting population. The data presented indicates that a significant number of Africa's previous leaders were elected into office by the younger demographic. As per Chirimumimba's research in 2019, it was found that in 2016, the average median age of the African population was 20. Interestingly, the average age for heads of state was 66, indicating that Africa is a continent where the younger generation is being led by older individuals. 

In many African societies, it has been observed that the elderly holds a significant amount of power and influence, which is referred to as gerontocracy (Dennis, 2022). African societies have historically attributed great importance to the wisdom and experience that accompanies old age, resulting in the elevation of elders to positions of authority within their communities. The respect for older generations is deeply ingrained in cultural norms and traditions, as they are seen as guardians of societal knowledge and mediators of conflicts. As a result, gerontocracy remains a prominent aspect of governance structures in numerous African nations. In a recent study, Pinozese (2020) highlighted the significant impact of colonialism on the political landscape of Africa, particularly in relation to gerontocracy. Colonial powers established hierarchical systems of governance, often working in collaboration with local elites, many of whom were elderly. This collaboration further solidified the prevailing power dynamics that favored the privileged elderly class at the expense of a more inclusive representation of society. During the post-colonial era, the transition to democracy in numerous African countries resulted in significant shifts in political participation and representation. Nevertheless, the prevalence of gerontocratic tendencies endured, as older leaders continued to exert their influence over political landscapes throughout the continent. It became a common occurrence for leaders to hold onto power for extended periods, often well into their old age. Notable examples are Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe and Yoweri Museveni in Uganda, whose extended tenures demonstrate the establishment of gerontocracy in African politics

Historically, since gaining independence in 1960, the Republic of Cameroon has witnessed a political landscape dominated by a prominent gerontocratic system The prevalence of older individuals in political leadership positions has been a prominent characteristic of Cameroonian governance, resulting in power being frequently concentrated among senior elites. According to Cheeseman (2018), the perpetuation of gerontocracy in Cameroon often involves electoral manipulation and irregularities. These include fraudulent activities, voter coercion, and a lack of transparency on the part of older leaders. In recent years, leaders such as Paul Biya have utilized these tactics to secure their re-election, which has had a detrimental impact on the credibility of democratic institutions and the electoral process. Regardless of the ongoing efforts to foster inclusivity and encourage youth involvement in politics, significant obstacles continue to hinder meaningful participation in countries like Cameroon. where the younger generations face significant challenges due to limited access to education and economic opportunities. These constraints hinder their ability to challenge power structures that are dominated by older individuals. In addition, long-standing patronage networks and political dynasties contribute to the continued power of older elites, which in turn marginalizes the voices of young people in decision-making.

1.2 Statement of problem

In recent years, gerontocracy has presents significant challenges to political participation and representation, particularly for youth and women in developing democracies of which Cameroon is no exception. The dominance of older political elites often perpetuates intergenerational inequality, limiting opportunities for younger individuals to engage meaningfully in the political process. Moreover, traditional norms and patriarchal structures may marginalize women, further restricting their access to political leadership roles (Tripp, 2022).  According to Adeleke (2019), in some African cultures elders are never considered to be wrong even when they palpably are so; and young people may never evince more knowledge than their elders, even when they do. 

Contextually, the political landscape in Cameroon has been characterized by the enduring dominance of gerontocracy via President Paul Biya, raising significant concerns about governance, accountability, and political pluralism. Despite the country's transition to multiparty democracy in the early 1990s, Nfor (2020) opines that Biya's prolonged tenure in office has led to a consolidation of power within the executive branch, limiting the space for genuine political competition and democratic participation. This dominance has perpetuated a political environment marked by authoritarianism, electoral irregularities, and repression of dissent, posing challenges to the country's democratic development and stability. Bouka (2020) in his study mentioned that the perpetuation of gerontocracy can have profound social and economic implications for African societies. Limited youth participation in governance can exacerbate generational tensions and hinder socio-economic development initiatives tailored to address the needs of younger demographics. Additionally, the underrepresentation of women in political decision-making processes constrains efforts to address gender disparities and promote inclusive development agendas.

Despite sporadic discussions on the topic, the specific effects of gerontocracy on political participation and representation remain inadequately understood within the Cameroonian context. Therefore, this study seeks to investigate the relationship between gerontocracy and political engagement among different age cohorts in Cameroon, aiming to fill this gap in the literature and provide insights into the dynamics of political representation in the country. Thus, there is a pressing need to delve deeper into this issue to comprehensively understand its implications for political participation and representation in the country.

1.3 Objective of the study

The aim of this study is focused Investigation into the Impact of Gerontocracy on Political Participation and Representation in Cameroon. Specifically, the study seeks to:

To assess the extent of gerontocratic influence on political decision-making processes in Cameroon.

To examine the factors influencing gerontocracy in Cameroon political landscape.

To investigate the The Impact of Gerontocracy on younger generations regarding their political participation and representation in Cameroon.

To explore potential strategies for promoting inclusive political representation and participation, considering the challenges posed by gerontocracy in Cameroon.

1.4 Research Questions

What is the extent of gerontocratic influence on political decision-making processes in Cameroon?

What are the factors influencing gerontocracy in Cameroon political landscape?

What are the impact of gerontocracy on younger generations regarding their political participation and representation in Cameroon?

What are potential strategies for promoting inclusive political representation and participation, considering the challenges posed by gerontocracy in Cameroon?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho: There is no significant Impact of Gerontocracy on Political Participation and Representation in Cameroon.

Ha: There is a significant Impact of Gerontocracy on Political Participation and Representation in Cameroon.

1.6 Significance of the study

The significance of the study lies in its potential to contribute valuable insights into the dynamics of political participation and representation in Cameroon, particularly within the context of gerontocracy. By shedding light on how gerontocracy affects political participation, the study can inform efforts to create more inclusive political systems that accommodate the diverse voices and interests of all age cohorts, thereby fostering greater societal cohesion.

To policymakers and stakeholders. Finding of the study can provide them with evidence-based recommendations to strengthen democratic processes and institutions in Cameroon. This could lead to reforms aimed at increasing transparency, accountability, and responsiveness in governance.: Findings from the study can serve as evidence for advocacy efforts aimed at reforming political structures and promoting greater inclusivity in governance. Policymakers can use the insights to design and implement policies that address the challenges posed by gerontocracy and promote meaningful political engagement for all citizens.

Given that younger generations often face barriers to political involvement within gerontocratic systems, findings of the study can enhance understanding of youth perceptions and experiences which can inform initiatives to empower youth participation in politics. This could involve creating platforms for youth representation and amplifying their voices in decision-making processes. By examining the effects of gerontocracy on political representation, the study can contribute to discussions on intergenerational equity and the fair distribution of resources and opportunities across different age groups. This understanding is essential for fostering social justice and sustainable development in Cameroon.

Empirically, the study will serve as a reference material for scholar who wishes to conduct further studies in related topic.

1.7 Scope of the study

The scope of the study on investigation into the Impact of Gerontocracy on Political Participation and Representation in Cameroon. The empirical scope of the study will explore the dominance of older individuals in Cameroon’s political landscape, factors prolonging gerontocracy and its implications for youth engagement in politics. The geographical focus of study will concentrate on Cameroon (Southwest), considering its unique socio-political landscape and historical context. While acknowledging regional variations within the country, the research will aim to provide insights applicable to the nation as a whole.

1.8 Limitation of the Study

Despite its importance and potential contributions, the study into the Impact of Gerontocracy on Political Participation and Representation in Cameroon may encounter several limitations. Expediently, while the study may explore specific dimensions of gerontocracy in Cameroon, it may not fully capture the complexity and interplay of the factors perpetuating it, leading to a partial understanding of the issue. The study's scope may be limited by temporal constraints, the study's timeframe may impose limitations on the analysis, particularly in capturing long-term trends of gerontocracy. Short-term data collection or retrospective analyses may overlook important nuances or developments in the political landscape. More so, owing that the studies will rely on subjective perceptions of the researcher presented in questionnaire, data may be susceptible to bias or misinterpretation. Whereas respondents' perceptions of gerontocracy and political participation may be influenced by personal experiences, social dynamics, or cultural norms, introducing subjectivity into the analysis which affect the generalization of the study’s findings.

Regardless, of the limitations, conscious efforts were made by the researcher to maintain objectivity, reflexivity, and transparency throughout the research process, acknowledging potential biases and their implications for data interpretation.

1.9 Definition of terms

Gerontocracy: Gerontocracy refers to a form of governance or social organization where political power is predominantly held by elderly individuals or an older generation, often at the expense of younger generations. In a gerontocratic system, decision-making authority and influence are disproportionately concentrated among older members of society, leading to potential disparities in representation and political participation across age groups.

Political Participation: Political participation encompasses various activities through which individuals engage in the political process, including voting in elections, joining political parties or interest groups, participating in protests or demonstrations, contacting elected officials, and volunteering for political campaigns

Political Representation: Political representation refers to the process by which elected officials or representatives advocate for and act on behalf of their constituents' interests, preferences, and concerns within governmental institutions. 


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