Prof Willibroad Dze-Ngwa
Erudite varsity don, Prof Willibroad Dze-Ngwa has said, Cameroon is yoked under the influence of greedy and selfish politicians. The situation, he said, requires a change in mentality of citizens and education to overhaul without which the status quo would continue to linger with youths living in squalor.
The university don, cum Senior Peace and Conflict Analyst, made the observation in an exclusive interview granted NewsWatch’s Ndi Eugene Ndi.
In the exchange, he also delved into the re-election of octogenarians Cavaye Yeguie Djibril and Marcel Niat Njifenji at the helm of the National Assembly and Senate respectively, Cameroon’s electoral system and the place of youth in leadership among others.
It is an incisive, educative and thought-provoking piece. Read on….
Thank you Prof Dze-Ngwa for accepting to talk to NewsWatch. Two octogenarians have just been re-elected as heads of the two houses of parliament. What is your appraisal of the election of bureau members in the National Assembly and the Senate?
Thank you for coming to chat with me. Well, you are talking about bureau members of Cameroon’s National Assembly and Senate; I think that it is about democracy and politics in Cameroon. I want to think that elections in Cameroon have almost always been manipulated. I do not even consider what you call elections in the National Assembly and the Senate as elections. I think these two octogenarians were just appointed by the leader of the CPDM ruling party, and with an overwhelming majority in both houses of parliament, they were simply confirmed by the party’s representatives. It is a club of friends who have been together for more than 50 years and just share power amongst themselves. No one wants to leave the scene before the other, except nature imposes.
That should be the logic of these sit-tight politicians in the country. You can see that such is reflected not only in the National Assembly and the Senate but at every level of public administration. Let me say that I have no particular bias against these so-called old people because they have been placed there by the young people. The young people have not been doing enough politics, counting on their strength, numbers and youthfulness to take over leadership of the country. Of course, when there is such vacuum, the octogenarians as you call them take advantage and play politics. Remember politics is coining policies to gain power and govern. So if the octogenarians have been able to dominate in politics, then they are succeeding in their game and staying on.
My greatest fear is that it is counterproductive as far as the advancement of democracy in Cameroon is concerned. We are doing politics by cooptation not real democracy. That is why someone like the President of the National Assembly, who has been there since 1992 is still around, building mines around him and nobody dares him. So, see, the President of the Senate, who is a longtime collaborator of the Head of State, Niat Njifenji Marcel who was not even elected as senator, was appointed by his friend, and became Senate President. Like I said earlier, it is a club of friends, that is what Cameroon is, that is how the country has been governed.
What impact does this have on our democracy?
The impact is that we are going to be too slow in taking decisions, that is why we are taking too much time to advance in democracy, that is why the old laws in the National Assembly and the Senate cannot be changed, that is why the electoral laws in Cameroon have remained virtually the same because we have the same people who have gained so much power and want to sustain that power. Let me say that politics in Cameroon can be classified into three segments of politicking.
We have those politicians who are very selfish, very greedy and who want to be there all the time. That is why these old people do not want to hand over power. This situation is reflected in all the political parties in the country. It is not only seen within the ruling CPDM. It is evident that all the old political parties in the country are managed by people who have been there for a long time. So, it is just a system; the SDF, the NUDP, CDU,…all have been there.
Then we have the second category made up of people whose political parties are ethnically based, they don’t have a national polity. That is why you see some political parties are very tribalistic, what I call negative ethnicity.
Then you have just a few who are trying to play citizenship politics, that is the people-centered politics where you do politics with the people at the centre of the mind.
So politics in Cameroon is limited or has been reduced to the two segments of persons, the very greedy ones and the ones who are ethnically too inclined. That is why there is always political tension in the country based on ethnic divide. This is too dangerous because the young people are following suit. The young people are not doing anything better. I want to be very fair because I will be in total disagreement with Cameroonians who think that if you brought in some young people today, they are going to bring in the magic wand.
No, they have been raised and trained to believe in this tendencies of greed and ethnicity. That is why people go over the media to talk about regions, ethnic groups and not national interest. We have to be fair to Cameroon. We need a total overhaul of mentality. We need education where people should play citizenship politics, where people should not be too inclined to negative ethnicity. Cameroon has over 300 political parties and if you look at it only the ruling CPDM has a national character.
Are you saying the multiparty politics we preach in the country is a charade?
Of course, there is nothing like multi-party politics in Cameroon. We have just brought in a few people to play for the gallery and maintain the status quo in place. Even if we have one or two tough alternative political parties, the ruling class will always create satellite parties over night to sustain their stay in power. So using your words, I think it is a total charade. There is no democracy, I mean no competitive politics in Cameroon because the ground is not level, the electoral laws are not politically friendly to alternative political parties and so on…where the president of the republic is leader of a political party and appoints all regional governors, all senior divisional officers and divisional officers who have very strong influence and almost always directly manage the outcome of elections results on the ground. So we just need an overhaul of the electoral laws in order to improve on the democratic tenets of Cameroon.
Thank you once again for your availability Prof.
You are welcome.