A Review of the Cameroon Parliament: (National Assembly)-A Political and Administrative History1940-1990 Vol One By Akwo Elonge Published by Anucam in 2008. The Cameroon Parliament is a 223 page book divided into eight chapters. In Chapter one the author lays out the motif of the book, the research methodology and the content of the book. In chapter two, he exposes the history of representative institutions in Cameron. Chapter three, he lays out the advent of European secular institutions of government in Cameroon: representative assemblies from 1946-1961. In Chapter four, he states the emergence of a national assembly. The next chapter talks of the composition of the Cameroon National Assembly from 1972-1986. His next chapter unravels the structure and activities of the governing organs and the secretariat of the National Assembly. The second to the last chapter he spells out the role of the Cameroon National Assembly (CNA) in Cameroon and in conclusion, he recommends some sources for further research. Definitely you will soon see why this book is the first of its kind and one worth reading.
No doubt, other books about the CAN do exist in the French language, but this is the first ever written in English language. Reading anything about the Cameroon National Assembly (CNA- not Caring Nurse Assistant) the cynics may ask two questions: Does Cameroon have a National Assembly and what are its contribution to the political landscape, socio-cultural and welfare of the people of Cameroon. By exploring the political and administrative evolution of Cameroon, Elonge examines the historical evolution of modern representative institutions in Cameroon and describes the composition and organization of the CNA, and he also discusses the various activities and roles of the CNA in the Cameroon society (Page1).
He reveals that in principle legislative institutions differ from the executive and judiciary institutions but in practice, they are a tool in the hands of the executive especially the president that plows with it as he wants. The author limits himself to discussing only the evolution of the legislature in Cameroon in the one party system, probably because even hitherto with the quasi multipartism, the executive still stirs the dough of the judiciary and legislative dough.
In his attempt to make a dichotomy of two types of legislative studies: “The Idealistic School” and “The Realistic School” he indirectly indicts most African assemblies perhaps the reason why “there is a paucity of scholarly works on legislatures in Africa.”
When one considers the research methodology of this book, they are left with little or no doubt that Elonge had the Cameroonian people at heart and wanted them to know everything about their CNA before they can make an informed decision. He conducted face to face elite interviews, participant observations, exhaustive review of primary and secondary sources on the and analysis of collected data.
The author reaffirms the fact that before the advent of the colonizers, Africa and Cameroon practiced a form of democracy in their divine –inspired centralized governments which accounted for the stability of their kingdoms (page 24). Although particular ethnic groups predominantly inhabited certain areas which automatically gave them the governing rights, a pocket of other tribal communities coexisted with them . For example, in some towns of the southwest province like Victoria, Tiko and Kumba there were large communities of Bassas and Bamileke- Francophone speaking ethnic origins. This assertion contradicts Dr Konde’s claims that the Bassas were the first settlers of Victoria. Whatever may be the case, it is clear that before the arrival of the colonizers, there were “independent decentralized segmented structures in the South to more centralized monarchial structures in the North” (page 250).
Furthermore, in chapter three, Elonge starts to unravel the history of Cameroon representative assembly. He divides it into two sections: one dealing with East Cameroun under the French protectorate and West Cameroon though under the British protectorate but represented in the Nigerian House of Assembly. From 1946-1972, East Cameroun had different assemblies: Assemblée Representative Du Cameroon (ARCAM)-Page 64. From 1952-1957 was Assemblée Territorial Du Cameroon (ATCAM).
The formation of Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) will slowly but steadily kill both ARCAM and ATCAM because these assemblies were stooges of the French government and the UPC advocated for a total evacuation of the French government from Cameroon. So in 196 ATCAM was dissolved to form Assemble legislative Du Cameroon (ALCAM). It will function until the formation of the federal government between West Cameroon and East Cameroun.
On the other hand, West Cameroon which was a British trusteeship territory had Northern and Southern Cameroons. This book does not discuss the historical evolution of the Northern Cameroons because it was governed directly into Northern Nigeria which even became a state called Gongola that was later renamed Taraba and is currently called Adamawa State let by Rear Admiral Murtala Nyako.
From 918-1945, Britiain governed her part of Cameroon as the British Trusteeship Southern Cameroons (BTSC). The Southern Cameroons politicians protested their second class citizenship (Page 81). Perhaps it is necessary to understand that, Southern Cameroons had experienced independent and parliamentary rule earlier than East Cameroon. However, the commissioner of Southern Cameroons was still the leader of the House of Assembly. A new house of Assembly was elected in 1959 leading to the UN plebiscite. After the plebiscite saw the emergence of the National Assembly from 1960-1972 when the referendum will kill and destroy the identity of the Southern Cameroonians.
On October 1, 1961 Cameroon became a Federal State with both houses of assembles East Cameroon and The West Cameroon House of Assembly to form the Federal National Assembly. Ab initio it was to comprise of delegates from both former houses of assemblies of both federations. Rather than being voted, they were appointed by president Ahidjo who was unsure of the representatives that will be voted into parliament (page 99). This again helped to erode the powers of the Southern Cameroons in the federation. By the time the first assembly sat in April 27, 1962, Southern Cameroons had Ahidjo’s stooges representing her interests. This will lead to the formation of a unitary state which took place after the referendum of 1972.
After the referendum, the National Assembly was formed. In this assembly, deputies were elected from the seven provinces on basis of the population of each province (page 135). In this assembly English and French were adopted as the two official languages of Cameroon. It is surprising to see that from 1972 until now, Cameroon has not been able to promote an indigenous language or a common hybrid language like either pidgin or adopt one of the local languages as the national language to shed itself from the residue of colonization.
Indeed when one looks at the role of the National Assembly: to make laws, party membership, leadership training, serve as a bridge between the new general and older generation of political elites, and lobbying for regional development, one is left to wonder if it has fulfilled these roles at all.
Two things must me noted. The assembly-legislative is not independent of the president (executive). Most of the bills that the president feels threatened have gone in the way of presidential degrees.
The notion of lobbying for national constituency, have catapulted into nepotism and tribal politics where each deputy represented his region or district of origin (Page 186). No doubt even in American and British democracies-experienced and well developed democracies there is still representative democracy. However, it is now more a family or tribal representation where certain tribes though from the same region are more considered than the others because that is the exact tribe of the parliamentarian.
Notwithstanding, Cameroon Parliament: (National Assembly)-A Political and Administrative History1940-1990 Vol One is a wonderful book written in lucid and fluid English. It is an eye opener to those who want to be involved in Cameroon politics and even those who want to even talk about it. No one should be talking about Cameroon politics without having read a book like this one. The author exposes the secrets of the National Assembly by bringing real scenarios and real people so you can be the judge of your own democracy.
Until then, Cameroonians should take possession of their own destiny by reading this book.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk.
“Bonyfish beware because the same net that caught the jawless fish, caught the cartilaginous fish” (Hamilton Ayuk).Beware earthly paradise seekers because there is a serpent in every paradise"(Hamilton Ayuk).Idle people write, idler people read, and idlest people read and whine that idle people are taking their time (Hamilton Ayuk).