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INVESTIGATION OF YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN CAMEROON

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INVESTIGATION OF YOUTH ENGAGEMENT AND POLITICAL ACTIVISM IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

The rapid socioeconomic changes and political events in Cameroon during the mid-1990s have led to a sense of cynicism and disillusionment among the young towards the government. The nation's mostly young population starkly contrasts with the long-standing "old guard" that has maintained control for more than thirty years.  Leading the country is Paul Biya, an 83-year-old president who has held power in Cameroon since 1982, succeeding Ahmadou Ahidjo, the first president of French Cameroon. Biya initially made grand promises of a transformative agenda called the New Deal for the people of Cameroon. The initial enthusiasm for his leadership quickly dissipated as the economy plummeted, mostly due to severe mismanagement and the decline in prices of crucial agricultural exports (Abebe, 2019). By the conclusion of the 1980s, it became apparent that instead of the promised New Deal, Cameroonians had received an unfavourable and unfair arrangement, sometimes referred to as a "raw deal". It is hardly surprising that many young people today, particularly those who were born when Biya came into power, see themselves as "orphans" of the New Deal. They feel that their youth has been prolonged indefinitely and their aspirations have been shattered due to the unsuccessful transition to democracy. Cameroon is now experiencing a lack of democratic changes, while corruption has thrived significantly. Several of Biya's longstanding associates are presently imprisoned on charges of corruption.  The recruitment of young individuals into the government service has been marred by allegations of corruption. Despite efforts to address the issue of youth unemployment, which stands at an estimated rate of over 36%, the results have been negligible (Alcinda, 2015).

Cameroon, situated in Central Africa, has a complex socio-political terrain distinguished by a varied population, linguistic diversity, and a historical background influenced by colonial heritage. Within this framework, the examination of youth involvement and political mobilisation becomes crucial subjects of investigation, highlighting the ambitions, difficulties, and possibilities of Cameroon's youthful people in influencing the future of the country. This backdrop examines the many aspects of youth involvement and political action in Cameroon, including historical, socio-cultural, and modern viewpoints to provide a thorough comprehension of the topic. The origins of youth involvement and political mobilisation in Cameroon may be attributed to the colonial era, during which the region was governed by German, and subsequently, French and British authorities(Chitanana & Mutsvairo, 2019). During the mid-20th century, young Cameroonians played a significant role in nationalist movements, actively pushing for self-determination and emancipation from colonial tyranny in their fight for independence. This period established the foundation for the rise of political action led by young people as a powerful influence in Cameroon's socio-political environment. The varied ethnic, linguistic, and cultural makeup of Cameroon has a considerable impact on how young people become involved and participate in political activities. The nation has more than 250 distinct ethnic groups, each characterised by its own distinct customs, dialects, and socio-political systems (Chitanana & Mutsvairo, 2019). The presence of many cultural elements in Cameroon contributes to the country's cultural fabric, but it also presents difficulties in fostering unity and collaboration among young people from various areas and groups. Gaining insight into the dynamic relationship between cultural identities and political mobilisation is crucial for placing young activism in Cameroon within its appropriate framework. Cameroon has had a significant increase in youth-led movements and activism in the last several decades, which has been motivated by a variety of socio-economic and political issues. The youth's unhappiness has been exacerbated by high unemployment rates, insufficient access to education and healthcare, corruption, and socio-political marginalisation(Agbiboa, 2015). This has led to the emergence of rallies, advocacy campaigns, and grassroots initiatives. The emergence of digital technology and social media platforms has magnified the influence of young Cameroonians, enabling them to efficiently mobilise, coordinate, and distribute information. Cameroon's political environment is defined by a prevailing executive, centralised power systems, and a past of restricted political diversity(Abdullah, 2020). The Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), the governing party, has had a firm grip on power since the early 1980s, suppressing dissenting voices and limiting opportunities for young people to engage in official political activities. The absence of inclusive government systems and youth representation intensifies disappointment and disengagement among the younger generation. Although there is an increasing amount of research on youth involvement and political action in sub-Saharan Africa, including Cameroon, there are still numerous areas where our grasp of the unique factors influencing these phenomena in the Cameroonian context is lacking. The lack of sufficient empirical study, particularly at the local level, impedes attempts to fully understand the intricate experiences, motives, and obstacles encountered by young activists in many areas and communities(Ayeni, 2016). Furthermore, it is necessary to do further research to examine how the combination of characteristics such as gender, socio-economic position, and differences between urban and rural areas influence the involvement of young people in politics. Therefore, the researcher sought to investigate youth engagement and political activism in Cameroon.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Cameroon has seen a notable increase in the engagement of its youth in political action, as they actively participate in demonstrations, social movements, and political campaigns. This phenomenon prompts crucial inquiries into the determinants behind the involvement of young people in political processes and the consequences of their activism for the socio-political environment of the nation. Nevertheless, despite the increasing interest in this subject, there is still a substantial lack of comprehension of the fundamental dynamics and repercussions of young engagement in political action in Cameroon (Bangura, 2016).

The issue at hand pertains to the need of conducting a thorough examination of the motives, obstacles, and results linked to the involvement of young people in political action within the setting of Cameroon. There is a lack of understanding on the elements that drive adolescent engagement in political activities, such as socio-economic circumstances, educational background, and access to information and resources. Comprehending these factors is essential for policymakers, campaigners, and civil society organisations to efficiently rally and include young individuals in productive political procedures(Tanja, 2017).

Furthermore, the obstacles encountered by young activists in Cameroon provide substantial impediments to long-term involvement and impactful lobbying. The problems may include oppression by governing bodies, restricted availability of outlets for voicing opinions, socio-cultural conventions, and internal schisms among young organisations. It is crucial to identify and overcome these barriers in order to create a favourable atmosphere for youth engagement and safeguard their rights and liberties(Bangura, 2018). Moreover, it is crucial to thoroughly analyse the consequences of young political involvement on Cameroon's democratic government and social cohesion. Although the involvement of young people may energise political discussions and encourage responsibility, it can also intensify conflicts, divide society, and unsettle the political environment(Tanja, 2017). Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the subtle effects of youth activism is essential for formulating tactics to effectively use its advantageous outcomes while minimising any drawbacks. Hence, the study will  investigate youth engagement and political activism in Cameroon.

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of the study is to investigate youth engagement and political activism in Cameroon. The specific objectives is as follows;

Assess the extent of youth engagement in political activism in Cameroon.

Explore motivations and barriers to political activism among Cameroonian youths.

Propose strategies to enhance youth engagement and political participation.

1.4 Research questions

The following questions have been prepared to further guide the study

What is the extent of youth engagement in political activism in Cameroon?

What are the motivations and barriers to political activism among Cameroonian youths?

What are the propose strategies to enhance youth engagement and political participation?

1.5 Significance of the study

The findings of the study will be significant to the following:

Political parties:Examining youth engagement sheds light on the extent to which young people are involved in the political process. This includes activities such as voting, participating in political campaigns, joining political parties, or engaging in advocacy and activism. 

Cameroon government: In many contexts, including Cameroon, youth engagement is essential for fostering democratic development. By understanding the factors that influence young people's political participation, researchers and policymakers can identify strategies to enhance youth inclusion in democratic processes and institutions.

Policy makers: Research on youth engagement can inform policymakers about the needs, concerns, and aspirations of young citizens. This understanding can guide the development of policies and programs.

Academia: the research findings will be significant to the academic community as it will contribute to the existing literature.

1.6 Scope of the study

The focus of the study is to investigate youth engagement and political activism in Cameroon. Empirically, the study will assess the current level of youth engagement in political activism in Cameroon, explore motivations and barriers to political activism among Cameroonian youths and propose strategies to enhance Youth Engagement and Political Participation.

1.7 Limitation 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

youth engagement: the active and meaningful involvement of young people in all aspects of their own development and that of their communities, including their empowerment to contribute to decisions about their personal, family, social, economic, and political development

Political activism: the range of nonprofessional and voluntary activities performed by citizens that are primarily aimed at influencing decisions and outcomes at any level of the political system.


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