Cameroon in the 1990s

By | June 6, 2022

In the 1990s, a controversial process of liberalization of the political system was initiated in Cameroon, which however did not undermine the absolute dominance of the President of the Republic P. Biya, in office since 1982, nor of the Rassemblement démocratique du peuple camerounais (RDPC). The continuous recourse to the state of siege and the systematic violation of civil and political rights by the government, in fact, prevented the opposition parties from taking turns leading the country, confirming, in reality, the profoundly undemocratic nature of the current regime.

According to Homosociety, the 1990 marked the resumption of a popular protest movement, motivated in part by the austerity policy introduced by the government to tackle the economic recession, in part by the demand to legalize the opposition ending the one-party regime. Against this, Biya, re-elected president of the DPRK in June 1990, presented a constitutional amendment passed by the National Assembly in December of the same year, which established multi-partyism in Cameroon. Further measures were the reintroduction of the office of prime minister (abolished in 1984), entrusted in April 1991 to S. Hayatou, and the granting of an amnesty to political prisoners. However, the firm refusal to convene a national conference to elaborate a new constitution and establish an electoral calendar, which would allow new political parties to organize themselves, provoked, in the course of 1991, new waves of protests severely repressed by the police. In response to a campaign of civil disobedience and the proclamation of a general strike for the month of June, the government then imposed a state of siege in 10 provinces, suspended all political activity by the opposition and had the leaders of the National Coordination arrested. Committee of Opposition Parties (NCCOP), which also included the Social Democratic Front (SDF), the main Cameroonian opposition movement.

In the legislative elections of March 1992, boycotted by the SDF, the DPRK obtained 88 seats and, thanks to the alliance with the Mouvement pour la défence de la République, was able to have an absolute majority in the National Assembly, confirming its predominant role also in the interior of the new executive, launched in April and chaired by S. Achidi Achu. The next presidential elections, scheduled for March 1993, was deferred to October 1992 and assigned the victory to Biya, who in the only voting (an obvious anomaly within the French-speaking countries) won the 39, 9 % of the votes against 35, 9% by J. Fru Ndi, leader of the SDF, who, however, contested the results by denouncing irregularities and claiming to be the real winner.

The political debate in the following months, in which the government severely repressed any contestation of the electoral results (again resorting to the state of siege in the north-western provinces of Cameroon), was strongly conditioned by the problem of constitutional reform. While the SDF and the opposition parties continued to call for a national conference to be convened to draft a new charter to be submitted to a popular referendum, Biya announced, in May 1993, the establishment of a technical commission whose proposals would be submitted to the Assembly. national.

As for the content of the reforms, in addition to the fundamental issues of a clear affirmation of citizens’ rights, the division of powers, the autonomy of the judiciary from the executive power and the limitation of presidential prerogatives, the problem of the establishment of a federal state, which granted ample autonomy to the Anglophone community of the southern provinces, historically, culturally and economically very different from the Francophone one. The demands of the Cameroon Anglophone Movement were addressed in this sense, substantially accepted also by the SDF, which in the party congress of July 1993 proposed the establishment of a federal and decentralized state.

In the period between the end of 1993 and the end of 1994, the debate on the Constitution took a back seat to the economic crisis engendered by the devaluation of the CFA franc (January 1994) and the reduction of wages in the civil service imposed by the government. which provoked a wave of strikes to which the government responded with massive layoffs. Only in November 1994 Biya formed a new committee with advisory power (always boycotted by the opposition) which submitted the amendments to the Constitution to the president, which were finally voted on by the National Assembly in December 1995.

According to them, legislative power is entrusted to a bicameral parliament, while the executive is exercised by the President of the Republic, who appoints the prime minister and the members of the government, and who is elected by universal suffrage for a renewable seven-year term. once; from an administrative point of view, the Cameroon is divided into ten regions, with their own council and an indigenous president, but essentially administered by a governor appointed by the central authority.

The new Constitution was destined to displease all the oppositions (gathered since September 1994 in the Front des alliés pour le changement) which saw a further strengthening of presidential power, while the renunciation of creating a truly federal state affected above all the Anglophone minority. The most extremist fringes, represented by the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC), were now calling for the creation of an autonomous state, nor were they satisfied with the country’s entry into the Commonwealth (which officially took place in November 1995), to the point of attempting, in April 1997, an armed insurrection crushed by the police.

Won, amid allegations of fraud, the administrative elections of January 1996, where the representatives of the DPRK obtained about 55 % of the constituencies, against 27 % of the SDF, the ruling party also emerged victorious from the legislative elections of May 1997, obtaining 109 seats against the 43 of the SDF. Fr Mafany Musonge, already appointed in September 1996 to replace Achidi Achu, was confirmed as the head of a coalition government of the DPRK-UNDP (Union Nationale pour la Démocratie et le Progrès). A real plebiscite then proved to be the presidential elections of 12 October 1997, in which Biya obtained the92, 6 % of the vote (compared to 2, 8 % of H. Hogbe Nlend UPC, Union des Populations Camerounaises, and 2, 4 % of S. Eboua of MDP, Mouvement pour la Démocratie et le Progrès) and could thereby starting his fifth consecutive term.

Cameroon in the 1990s