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EXAMINATION OF REGIONALISM AND DECENTRALIZATION IN CAMEROON

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EXAMINATION OF REGIONALISM AND DECENTRALIZATION IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

Regionalism is the idea of dividing a nation into several administrative areas, each with its own degree of self-governance and power. Decentralisation refers to the delegation of power, resources, and decision-making authority from the central government to local or regional authorities. Regionalism and decentralisation have played significant roles in Cameroon's political rhetoric and government system (Essomba, 2020). The origins of regionalism and decentralisation in Cameroon may be attributed to the period after independence, during which the nation inherited a centralised administrative structure from its colonial masters. The centralised paradigm, however successful in exerting authority over the extensive and varied areas, nevertheless worsened regional disparities and marginalised certain ethnic groups (Edjogo, 2020).

In Cameroon, 14 political parties participated in the regional elections held on December 6, 2020. These elections were conducted under the constitution that was enacted in 1996 and came into effect in 2020. The purpose of the elections was to choose 900 regional councillors who would serve a five-year term. Each of the 10 regions had 90 councillors to be chosen [Edjogo, 2020].The electoral system allocates 70 councillors to each area. These councillors are elected by an electoral college consisting of delegates chosen by the municipal councillors of each department. Additionally, 20 councillors are elected by the traditional chiefs from among themselves [Mfewou, 2019]. In order to take part in the regional council, representatives of traditional leaders are chosen via a closed list of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree traditional leaders using a first-past-the-post mechanism. The ongoing implementation of decentralisation is anticipated to have a substantial impact on local decision-making and is predicted to profoundly shape local government mechanisms. In both rural and urban governance systems, traditional authority persists in the form of many power centres, which are presently reflected in the organisational structures and documents of the Ministry of Decentralisation. Nevertheless, the configuration of regional decentralisation in Cameroon and the participation of traditional chieftainships give rise to several inquiries (Mfewou, 2019). 

Cameroon began a process of decentralisation in the early 1990s in response to increasing demands for political changes and more local involvement. The process reached its peak with the enactment of Law No. 96/06 on January 18, 1996, which laid out the structure for decentralisation and local government throughout the nation. The objective of the legislation was to transfer administrative and budgetary authority to councils that were elected at the local level, with the intention of fostering grassroots democracy and boosting development (Mfewou, 2019).

Nevertheless, the execution of decentralisation in Cameroon has been riddled with difficulties and hindrances. Notwithstanding the existing legislative framework, the process of transferring authority and resources to the regions has been characterised by a lack of speed and consistency. Progress towards successful decentralisation has been impeded by political centralization, bureaucratic lethargy, and opposition from established interests. Furthermore, regionalism in Cameroon is not only related to administrative decentralisation, but is intricately connected to ethnic, linguistic, and cultural processes. There are more than 250 ethnic groups in the nation, each possessing a unique identity and making territorial claims. Regionalism is closely related to matters of identity politics, resource distribution, and conflict resolution (Lepoint, 2017).

In light of this context, the objective of this research is to conduct a thorough examination of regionalism and decentralisation in Cameroon. The research seeks to analyse the historical, political, and socio-economic aspects of these events in order to gain insight into the possibilities and problems that Cameroon faces in its pursuit of effective governance, equitable development, and national unity (Bios. Nelem, 2018). The project aims to enhance the current body of knowledge on decentralisation and regionalism in Africa by rigorous empirical research and comparative analysis. It will provide valuable insights for policymakers, researchers, and practitioners involved in the area of governance and development. Therefore, the researcher will examine regionalism and decentralization in Cameroon.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Cameroon still faces several obstacles that impede the efficacy and fair allocation of resources and authority, despite the adoption of regionalism and decentralisation policies. Nevertheless, the challenges are complex and include several aspects. Inequities endure in the degrees of advancement, infrastructure, and availability of fundamental services among various areas of Cameroon. A comprehensive analysis is needed to determine the degree to which regionalism and decentralisation have either worsened or alleviated these inequities (Bios. Nelem, 2018). Although the objective of decentralisation is to transfer authority to local authorities, political power often stays centralised at the level of the central government. Gaining a comprehensive comprehension of the magnitude of political decentralisation and its consequences for local government and autonomy is of utmost importance. The adoption of regionalism and decentralisation in Cameroon is complicated by the country's unique ethnic and cultural environment. The efficiency and consequences of governing systems are influenced by the intersection of ethnic conflicts, identity politics, and cultural preservation attempts (Zelao, 2017). The capability and resources at the disposal of regional and local authorities are crucial factors in determining their effectiveness in governance and service delivery. Evaluating the initiatives to enhance capabilities and distribute resources is crucial for comprehending the difficulties and possibilities in decentralised government. An assessment is needed to identify deficiencies, contradictions, and opportunities for improvement in the legislative and institutional structures regulating regionalism and decentralisation in Cameroon. It is essential to ensure that governance is successful by adhering to constitutional mandates and international best practices. Hence, the study examine regionalism and decentralization in Cameroon.

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of the study is to examine regionalism and decentralization in Cameroon. The specific objectives is as follows

Evaluate the effectiveness of regionalism policies implemented in Cameroon in fostering decentralization processes

Explore how regionalism and decentralization policies have influenced socioeconomic development disparities among various regions in Cameroon.

Examine the political motivations behind the adoption and implementation of regionalism and decentralization policies in Cameroon

1.4 Research questions

The following questions have been prepared to guide the study

What is the effectiveness of regionalism policies implemented in Cameroon in fostering decentralization processes?

How has regionalism and decentralization policies have influenced socioeconomic development disparities among various regions in Cameroon?

What are the political motivations behind the adoption and implementation of regionalism and decentralization policies in Cameroon?

1.5 Significance of the study

The findings of the research will contributes to the academic discourse on governance, regionalism, and decentralization, particularly within the context of a diverse and dynamic country like Cameroon. By examining the challenges and opportunities inherent in these governance mechanisms, the study offers insights that can inform policy-making, institutional reforms, and capacity-building efforts aimed at promoting inclusive development and democratic governance.

1.6 Scope of the study

The study focuses on regionalism and decentralization in Cameroon. Empirically, the study will evaluate the effectiveness of regionalism policies implemented in Cameroon in fostering decentralization processes, explore how regionalism and decentralization policies have influenced socioeconomic development disparities among various regions in Cameroon and examine the political motivations behind the adoption and implementation of regionalism and decentralization policies in Cameroon.

1.7 Limitations of the study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, and interview), which is why the researcher resorted to a moderate choice of sample size. More so, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.

1.8 Definition of terms

Regionalism: a political ideology that seeks to increase the political power, influence and self-determination of the people of one or more subnational regions

Decentralization: the dispersion or distribution of functions and powers. 


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