President Paul Biya and wife Chantal Biya greet a cheering crowd. PHOTO/ARISON TAMFU
With the presidential election coming up next year in Cameroon, members of the ruling party CPDM are “begging” 84-year-old Paul Biya to stand again. However, political observers are asking whether President Paul Biya accomplished promises he made to Cameroonians six year ago? REPORTER ARISON TAMFU, writes:
Members of Cameroon’s ruling party, Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement (CPDM) watched with pride and a sense of fulfillment when President Paul Biya received, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) to the State House on Monday July 17, 2017.
Dr. Akinwumi was in Cameroon to seal agreements worth billions of dollars with the Cameroonian government that might significantly revamp the country’s economy.
Some CPDM bigwigs said, the gesture was a clear signal that “Paul Biya has fulfilled all the campaign promises he made six years ago”. In 2011, Paul Biya now 84 won a highly disputed presidential poll by an “absolute majority”.
In his inaugural speech before Parliament, a visibly elated Paul Biya promised Cameroonians that he was going to transform Cameroon into “a vast construction site” and heal the already declining economy. According to Cameroon’s electoral calendar, Presidential election will take place next year 2018 and Paul Biya who has ruled Cameroon for over 35years is expected to run for another seven-year-mandate.
It’s been over six years now since he promised Cameroonians change but has he “fulfilled all the campaign promises” as the CPDM claims? We fact-check some of the major pledges he made in energy, health, political reforms, national unity and housing domains during the inaugural speech.
Promise: “The National Assembly will soon be backed by a Senate.”
The Cameroonian Senate was born in 1996 after the constitution was amended to create the upper chamber. However, power to convene the Electoral College and call elections for the Senate remained solely the prerogative of the President. For 17 years President Paul Biya chose not to do so.
In 2013, two years after he was re-elected President he decided to fulfill his campaign promise and signed decree 2013/056 on 27 February 2013, which set 14 April as the date for the Senatorial elections.
Elections to the Senate were held for the first time on 14 April 2013 in Cameroon and Marcel Niat Njifenji was elected as President of the Senate on 12 June 2013. The National Assembly is now backed by Senate as Paul Biya promised.
Promise: “The decentralization process will be seen through with the full transfer of powers and the establishment of the regional councils provided for by our Constitution”
Verdict: Slow progress
In January 1996, the Cameroon House of Parliament voted to decentralize the state of Cameroon and created Regions and councils. Law No. 96/06 of 18 January 1996 accorded decentralized local entities of the Republic administrative and financial autonomy in the management of local interests.
But the law was not applied until 2011 when Paul Biya made a solemn promise to Cameroonians that the “decentralization process will be seen through”. And indeed progress has been made in implementing the law but it’s very slow.
Since 2011, the main bodies in charge of monitoring the process have been set up and are operational, such as the National Decentralization Council, the Inter-ministerial Committee on Local Services, the National Finance Committee and the Inter-ministerial Commission for Decentralized Cooperation.
According to Communications minister, in five years of decentralization, the State has repaid nearly CFAF 600 billion to Regional and Local Authorities within the framework of transfer of powers.
“Much effort has been made so far. I would even say that most of the path has already been covered. And this process will continue and will be accelerated” said Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon’s minister of communications.
President Paul Biya’s campaign posters still visible in some parts of Cameroon six years after elections. PHOTO/ARISON TAMFU
But that represents a trivial fragment in the decentralization process. Central government still remains very much in charge, appointing representatives to run the big cities and only report to the President of the Republic, rendering town councils inoperative. If a new attempt at decentralization is going to be acceptable and effective, it must reduce the powers of administrators appointed by Yaoundé by creating regional councils.
“Most urgent are instruments of the law governing conditions for the election of regional councilors and President of the regional council. The signing, publication and application of these will mark the effective birth of regions and decentralisation” said Cosmas Cheka, political scientist, University of Yaoundé II.
Promise: “We will also have to set up the Constitutional Council.”
Verdict: Not achieved
The Constitutional Council is one of the latest institutions created by Law N° 96 /06 of 18th January 1996 on constitutional revision of 2nd June 1972. The council rules on the constitutionality of laws and regulates the functioning of the Executive, Legislative, Judicial and Local authorities.
The Constitutional Council watches over the regularity of presidential and parliamentary elections as well as referendum operations and proclaims the results of the various elections. The power to set up the council rests squarely on President Paul Biya.
Twenty years after the law was passed, he has not fulfilled his promise of setting up the constitutional council. The Supreme Court now plays the role of the Constitutional Council.
“The Constitutional Council exists only on paper. It is now clear that his campaign promise to set up the council was a scam on Cameroonians” said Dr. Malo Ebenezer, a political scientist.
“Paul Biya is not sure if the members of the Constitutional council will be as loyal to him as those of the Supreme Court who worship him. He needs ultimate political power to continue to rule and the establishment of the council might be an impediment” he added.
Promise: “The Lom Pangar, Memve’ele and Mekin dams and their corresponding power plants will become reality in the coming years”
Verdict: Mixed Progress
In 2012, a year after he pledged to construct dams, the Cameroonian government signed agreements worth bilions of dollars with the World Bank, African Development Bank,Exim Bank, French Development Agency and European Investment Bank to construct the Kribi thermal gas plant and the Lom Pangar, Memve’ele and Mekin dams .
But execution of the projects has been on and off. The Lom Pangar reservoir dam in the East region of Cameroon is now ready to produce hydroelectric power and regulate water flows along the Sanaga River.
The embankment dam has the potential to increase electricity production up to 10.000 megawatts by 2018. The 30 megawatts mini hydro-electricity power plant at the foot of the Lom Pangar Dam is yet to be completed.
“Memve’ele is on its way to delivery, Mekin is getting there in spite of lapses, the government is definitely going safe with its energy policy implementation which is one sure route to emergence” reported Cameroonians With Paul Biya, a propaganda publication of the Head of state.
But it will be impossible for Memve’ele and Mekin dams to be completed even after 2018. Construction works have been stagnant for a while. Paul Biya himself has admitted that the works have experienced multiple setbacks.
“We need to determine the cause of the setbacks experienced. Blame must be apportioned between poorly managed projects and failed commitments” said Paul Biya in a televised address to the nation referring to the delay in the construction of the dams.
Promise: “The nightmare of energy shortages will become a thing of the past”
Verdict: Not achieved
Frequent blackouts have been the order of the day since Paul Biya promised to put an end to the “nightmare of energy shortages”. In February 2016, while Paul Biya himself was addressing youths on national television on the eve of National Youth Day, there was nationwide blackout.
Some CPDM militants on the streets of Douala. PHOTO/ARISON TAMFU
“We could not watch or listen to the speech because there was no electricity. It was a shame to the country. Nobody listened to that speech except those who could afford generators. The nationwide blackout lasted the whole night” said Innocent Mbah, a youth who waited in vain to listen to the speech.
Recurrent power failure has been a way of life particularly in the economic capital Douala where neighbourhoods like Bonaberi, Ngangue and Deido, went for four consecutive weeks without electricity, while others have enjoyed steady power at most for two hours each day.
Last year, the Cameroonian Customs reported that about 2,500 containers of goods- some destined for landlocked countries like Central African Republic, Chad and Sudan-were stockpiled at the Douala seaport for more than six weeks as a result of power failure. Only 30 percent of the population is connected to the electricity grid. Cameroon has an estimated 12,000 megawatts of hydroelectric potential, but only a fraction of it has been developed.
Promise: “We will provide our hospitals the technologically advanced equipment they often lack”
Verdict: Not achieved
According to Cameroon Health Analytical profile of 2016 published by the Ministry of Public Health, infrastructure and equipment “are of insufficient quantity and unevenly distributed across the country”. That assessment was made five years after Paul Biya promised hospitals “technologically advanced equipment”.
Cameroonian hospitals lack up-to-date equipment. Paul Biya himself spends at least four months annually out of the country for medical check-up. Ageing cabinet ministers and senior state officials shuttle between Cameroon and Europe to receive medical treatment.
In 2016 alone , prominent government officials including the director of the Civil Cabinet at the Presidency, the minister of labour and social security and the minister of communication flew out of the country to receive medical treatment in Europe because Cameroonians hospital “lack medical specialists and equipment”.
As recently as July 2017, there was acute shortage of dialysis kits to treat people suffering from renal failure in the country resulting in the untimely death of at least two patients. Paul Biya has not kept his words to provide Cameroonian hospitals with “technologically advanced equipment”.
Promise: “The establishment of a health insurance scheme within the framework of our social security system”
Verdict: Not achieved
To address the problem of financial access to healthcare, Cameroon has tried several strategies, including the promotion of mutuals, free care policies and insurance. But the insurance policy is still very deficient. According to the Ministry of Public health, in 2014, only 1% of the population were covered by mutual health insurance and 2% by private health insurance.
As Paul Biya promised, the government has initiated a process to establish a Universal Health Coverage System (UHC). A proposal for architecture in three scenarios was elaborated in October 2016. This process was inclusive with the involvement of the representatives of the Prime Ministry, the Technical Ministries and the social partners.
It consists of the establishment of a local health insurance fund in each municipality in the country. But it ended just at the level of proposal to this moment. Public Health minister has promised its full implementation will begin very soon. Therefore the health insurance scheme Paul Biya promised is yet to see the light of the day.
Promise: “As much as possible, we will expand free treatment or, at least, reduce its cost, for pandemics or childhood diseases”
Paul Biya has kept has word to “expand free treatment or, at least, reduce its cost”. Cameroon has maintained a steady rise in free care policy for certain diseases, services and care for pregnant women, children under 5 years and economically and socially disadvantaged people.
Lawyers protesting Anglophone marginalisation in Bamenda. PHOTO/ARISON TAMFU
At the start of 2017, patients enjoyed subsidized and/or free treatment in Cameroon for the following ailments:
Diabetes care subsidies
– Epilepsy management subsidies / free management of Epilepsy
– Free Onchocerciasis Preventive Treatment
– Free adult and paediatric ARVs and cotrimoxazole
– Free Tuberculosis Management
– Free Leprosy Management
– Free management of Intestinal Helminthiasis
– Free management of shistozomiasis
– Free management of Buruli Ulcer and its complications
– Free management of Pian
– Free management of Treatment and Trachoma Surgery
– Free treatment of Lymphatic Filariasis and Hydrocele Surgery
– Subsidy for Cancer Management
– Subsidy for Hemodialysis
Control of a Targeted Disease to a Portion of the Population
– Free management of simple malaria for children 0 to 5 years of age
– Subsidy for the management of simple malaria in Children of more than 5 and adults
– Free intermittent preventive treatment for pregnant women
– Subsidy of vitamin A in children under 5 and women in post-partum
– Free long-lasting treated mosquito insecticide nets
– Free chemoprophylaxis of seasonal malaria (children under 5 years / 2 regions)
– Subsidy for the management of severe and moderate acute malnutrition
– Free HIV testing for pregnant women, spouses and children 0 to 5 years of age
– Free PMTCT (Mother and child diagnosis)
– Free diabetes management for 0-18 year old
– Health check subsidy (purchase order or voucher) for pregnant women in 03 regions
– Subsidy for obstetric kits
Source: WHO and Cameroon Ministry of Public Health
Promise: “Build a future of peace and unity”
Verdict: Not achieved
Maintaining national unity and peace is one of the promises Paul Biya has failed woefully to keep. Cameroon is now more than ever before a deeply divided nation.
In November 2016, Anglophone Cameroonians tired of playing second-class-citizens in a country densely populated by Francophones decided to go on strike to demand for a federal system of government in which their rights and culture will be respected.
Government remained adamant to their complaints and instead shot dead and incarcerated several of the protesters. Enraged by Government’s ruthlessness in solving a simple strike action, many Anglophones started demanding outright independence and restoration of their own country that existed when Britain was their colonial master.
Having lived through three months with no internet, nine months of general strikes and one school year lost, many Anglophones are now demanding federalism or secession. The strike action is still going on and the threat of a second year of school closures hangs over the beginning of the next academic year.
Government has lost much authority in the Anglophone regions. Anglophones now have a Governing Council and a TV Station broadcasting from South Africa that is viewed fervently by millions of Anglophone Cameroonians home and abroad. Paul BIya has not maintained unity and peace of the country as he promised. International Crisis Group has warned that general elections next year will likely not hold if the situation persists.
“Without firm, persistent and coordinated pressure from its international partners, it is unlikely that the government will seek lasting solutions to the crisis” assessed The International Crisis Group.
Anglophones make up approximately 20% of Cameroon’s 23 million population.
Promise: “The programme to construct 10 000 social housing units will be reactivated”
Verdict: In progress
In 2014, three years after Biya pledged “to construct social housing units”, the Cameroonian government signed a contract with China Construction Company to construct 10,000 low-cost houses on a 100 kilometres square of land.
In February 2017, the Minister of Housing and Urban Development, Jean Claude Mbwencthou disclosed that the construction of the first 1675 social housing units of the Government Programme has already reached 90% in the capital Yaounde and 67% in the economic capital, Douala.
The works of livability on the two sites are rendered at a realization rate of 70% in Yaounde and 50% in Douala, the minister said. On 25th April 2017 the minister made a pre-inaugural inspection of some 33 buildings with each having 20 apartments in Yaoundé equipped with solar street lamps and ready-for-use.
Minister Mbwentchou said the buildings constituted the first fleet of 1500 low cost houses soon to be inaugurated in six towns of the country. Construction is proceeding but will unlikely reach the 10000 target before the presidential poll in 2018.
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