The travails of democratisation in Cameroon

Nurturing Cameroon’s fledgling democracy is proving a herculean task against the backdrop of disintegrative forces: a flawed electoral process, ethnicity, identity consciousness, clientelism, endemic corruption, regionalism and neopatrimonialism inherent in the State apparatus. The undercurrents on the interface of statehood in Cameroon’s democratization process from the 1990s are explored. There is an enormous gulf between the State and the masses with the elite playing a prominent role in political sloganeering and regionalism, leading to a heightened sense of exclusion. The bureaucratic ethos still remains largely centralized despite the discourses on decentralization. The simmering Anglophone problem is still brushed aside. The paper illuminates the disruption and fragmentation of national politics which has led to the emergence of identity and ethnic constructions in the search for belonging to the polity. The question of legitimacy and civic participation is largely distorted due to the disinterestedness of the populace in the State machinery. This is rendered more fluid by the manipulative tendencies of the regime, ruling elite and a fractured opposition. The fundamental question is whether Cameroon was adequately prepared for multiparty politics. Rekindling Cameroon’s botched democratic process hinges on the institutionalization of consensus building, democratic accountability and participative governance.

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