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ASSESSMENT ON THE IMPACT OF POWER CENTRALIZATION IN CAMEROON DEMOCRACY

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ASSESSMENT ON THE IMPACT OF POWER CENTRALIZATION IN CAMEROON DEMOCRACY

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

Democracy is considered a fundamental value and aspiration for many societies, as it provides a framework for peaceful coexistence, social progress, and collective decision-making based on the will of the people. However when when the practice of centralizing political power sets into any state, Ndong (2019) maintains that this will inevitably lead to conflict, a war of all against all, and thus lives that are solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. To escape this state of war, Hobbes cited in Bayart (2019) recommends that men in the state of nature should accede to a ‘social contract’. He calls for the establishment of a terror of some power to implement laws of nature such as justice, equity, modesty and mercy. The only way to erect such a power, as may be able to defend people from foreign invasion and the injuries of one another, is for men to confer all their power and strength upon one man, or upon one assembly of men. This omnipotent will then reduce all their wills unto one will, and all their judgments into one judgment - his (Hobbes, 1651)

According to Ojong (2022), the concentration and control of political authority within a specific entity or individual, often at the expense of democratic principles and institutional checks and balances. In the context of this study, power centralization refers to the dominance of the executive branch, particularly under President Paul Biya, in Cameroon's political system.Highlighting the features of centralization of political power in Africa, Awasum (2018) maintains that African governments usually engage in extensive gerrymandering, manipulation of voter registration and harassment of opposition parties. It also involves the harassment of a nominally free press and the government’s stringent control over radio and television. Certain groups, notably key members of the executive branch and the military are above the law. The judiciary is formally independent, but is poorly trained, overworked and easily compromised. The author argues further that regardless of their constitutional arrangements, power in most African states is intensely personalized and centered in the figure of the president. He is literally above the law, controls in many cases, a large proportion of state finance with little accountability, and delegates remarkably little of his authority in important matters. In most African countries, the presidency emerges as the dominant arena for decision-making, to the point that regular ministerial structures are relegated to an executive’s role. Supporting this view, Nkwi (2018) confirm that African states, especially after independence, were highly centralized in administrative and juridical terms.

Cameroon, a diverse Central African nation, has experienced a complex political trajectory since gaining independence in 1960. Over the years, the country has navigated through various political systems, from the authoritarian rule of Ahmadou Ahidjo to the prolonged presidency of his successor, Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982 (Cheeseman & Fomunyoh, 2016). Amidst these political transitions, a recurring theme has been the centralization of power within the executive branch, which has had profound implications for the country's democratic governance.

Evidently, the centralization of power in Cameroon's political landscape has been characterized by the dominance of the presidency, control of state institutions, and limited political pluralism. President Paul Biya's presidency, marked by a combination of electoral manipulation, suppression of dissent, and the dominance of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), has contributed to the concentration of authority within the executive branch (Munene, 2021). This centralization has had far-reaching consequences for Cameroon's democracy, affecting the functioning of institutions, the rule of law, and the protection of human rights.In the words of Young (2015), the reinforcement of power centralization is facilitated by the governing parties' control over political institutions, election processes, and resources and  in nation like Cameroon,  dominant political parties have successfully retained absolute control for extended periods of time by employing tactics such as electoral manipulation and establishing networks of patronage. This dominant control restricts the existence of other political perspectives, silences dissenting opinions, and maintains an atmosphere of autocracy. For instance, the prevailing influence of the ruling party, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), strengthens the power dynamics in Cameroon. The CPDM, led by President Biya, exercises control over political institutions, electoral procedures, and resource allocation. The hegemonic control enables the governing party to effectively retain power, stifle dissenting opinions, and sustain its political supremacy by manipulating elections and utilizing patronage networks.

1.2 Statement of the problem

In recent, centralization of power in democratic systems can have profound implications for governance, representation, and citizen participation. In the context of Cameroon, the impact of power centralization on the country's democratic processes remains a subject of concern. While centralization may ostensibly aim to streamline decision-making processes and ensure efficiency, it raises questions about the distribution of power, accountability, and the protection of democratic principles. According to Teguia (2019), the concentration of power in the hands of a few political elites in Cameroon has led to a lack of checks and balances, undermining the principles of democracy and fostering a culture of impunity. This centralization of power has been observed in various aspects of governance, including the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, where decisions are often made without sufficient input from marginalized groups or civil society.

Despite the nation's transition to multiparty democracy in the early 1990s, Nfor (2020) contends that Biya's prolonged incumbency has resulted in a consolidation of power within the executive branch, curtailing genuine political competition and democratic engagement. This dominance has perpetuated an authoritarian political atmosphere rife with electoral irregularities and suppression of dissent, posing formidable obstacles to Cameroon's democratic evolution and stability. Awasum (2018) similarly observes that Biya's leadership has ushered in a centralization of authority, concentrating decision-making powers within the presidency and undermining crucial checks and balances vital for democratic governance.

Moreover, power centralization in Cameroon has been associated with allegations of corruption, nepotism, and human rights abuses, as highlighted by Human Rights Watch (2019). This raises concerns about the ability of citizens to hold their government accountable and participate meaningfully in the democratic process.The perpetuation of Biya's authority has been further bolstered by tactics of harassment, arbitrary detentions, and censorship aimed at quelling dissent and opposition, thereby fostering an atmosphere of fear and self-censorship. Moreover, international backing for Biya's regime, particularly from France and other strategic allies, has shielded the government from external scrutiny, allowing for the persistence of authoritarian tactics, the problem emerges from the concentration of power and the absence of accountability within Cameroon's political landscape, impeding the nation's democratic advancement and undermining principles of good governance and rule of law.Upon this premise,the study seeks to investigate the impact of power centralization in Cameroon democracy.

1.3 Objective of the Study

The aim of this study is focused on impact of power centralization in Cameroon democracy. Specifically, the study seeks:

To assess the extent of power centralization within the political framework of Cameroon under President Paul Biya's leadership.

To analyze the implications of power centralization on governance, accountability, and political pluralism in Cameroon.

To explore the mechanisms through which power centralization perpetuates authoritarian practices and hinders democratic progress in the country.

1.4 Research Questions

What are the key indicators of power centralization within the political system of Cameroon, particularly under President Paul Biya?

How does power centralization impact governance effectiveness, accountability mechanisms, and political pluralism in Cameroon?

What strategies and mechanisms are employed to maintain and reinforce power centralization within the political landscape of Cameroon, and what are their implications for democratic progress and stability?

1.5 Research Hypotheses

Ho: There is no significant impact of power centralization in Cameroon democracy.

Hi: There is a significant impact of power centralization in Cameroon democracy.

1.6 Significance of the study

The study on the impact of power centralization in Cameroon's democracy holds significant importance for several reasons. Firstly, it sheds light on the governance dynamics within Cameroon, particularly under the long-standing leadership of President Paul Biya. Understanding the extent and implications of power centralization is crucial for assessing the state of democracy, accountability, and political pluralism in the country. Secondly, by examining the mechanisms through which power centralization perpetuates authoritarian practices, the study contributes to a deeper understanding of the challenges facing democratic governance in Cameroon. This understanding is essential for policymakers, civil society organizations, and international stakeholders seeking to promote democracy, human rights, and good governance in the region. Lastly, the findings of the study can inform advocacy efforts aimed at promoting political reforms and strengthening democratic institutions in Cameroon, ultimately contributing to the advancement of democratic governance and socio-political stability in the country.

1.7 Scope of the study

The scope of the study will focus on assessing the impact of power centralization within the political landscape of Cameroon, with a specific emphasis on the presidency under President Paul Biya's leadership. The study will analyze the governance dynamics, accountability mechanisms, and political pluralism within Cameroon, examining how power centralization influences these aspects of democratic governance. Additionally, the study will explore the strategies and mechanisms employed to maintain and reinforce power centralization, including the role of the ruling party, electoral processes, media control, and international support. While the study will primarily focus on the period under President Paul Biya's tenure, it may also provide insights into historical and contextual factors contributing to power centralization within Cameroon's political framework. The geographical scope of the study will encompass the entire country of Cameroon, with a consideration of both selected urban and rural areas.

1.8 Limitation of the study

One limitation of the study may be the availability and reliability of data, particularly regarding sensitive political issues such as power centralization in Cameroon. Access to accurate and comprehensive data may be constrained due to government restrictions on information dissemination and the lack of transparency in governance processes.Another potential limitation could be the difficulty in accessing key stakeholders and informants within Cameroon's political landscape. Government restrictions, security concerns, and fear of reprisals may limit the willingness of individuals to participate in interviews or provide insights into sensitive topics related to power dynamics and governance.Political landscapes are dynamic, and power dynamics may evolve rapidly over time. Consequently, the study's findings may not capture the most current or emergent trends in Cameroon's political landscape, hence may not be used for generalization. Regardless, of the limitations, conscious efforts was  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

Power Centralization: The concentration of decision-making authority and control within a single entity or institution, often at the expense of decentralized governance structures and democratic principles.

Authoritarianism: A political system characterized by strong centralized power, limited political pluralism, and restrictions on individual freedoms and civil liberties, often enforced through authoritarian practices such as censorship, repression of dissent, and arbitrary use of state power.

Good Governance: The effective, transparent, and accountable management of public affairs and resources by government institutions, characterized by adherence to the rule of law, respect for human rights, promotion of social justice, and responsiveness to the needs and aspirations of citizens.

Democracy: Democracy is a system of government characterized by the participation of citizens in decision-making, either directly or through elected representatives. In a democratic society, political power is vested in the people, who exercise their authority through regular elections, freedom of speech, assembly, and other democratic institutions and processes.


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