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CPDM MPs Botch Gov 

By Yerima Kini Nsom — Members of Parliament of the ruling CPDM party have botched a ploy by government to expel Hon. Paul Ayah Abine from the National Assembly. In a meeting with the party hierarchy in Yaounde on April 9, the CPDM MPs rejected certain provisions of the draft electoral code that government tabled last week, saying they are unconstitutional.

Hon. Ayah Paul Abine

They picked holes particularly with article 161 (4) of the draft law that provides for “imperative mandate”. It stipulates that once an MP loses his or her membership in a political party by resignation or dismissal, he or she automatically loses his or her seat in Parliament.

A source from the CPDM Parliamentary Group told The Post that what motivated government to include such a provision in the electoral code is the fact that Hon. Ayah, the Akwaya MP who resigned from the party last year, is still keeping his seat at the National Assembly.

“The Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, tacitly admitted to us that such a provision was tailored to enable hierarchy to dismiss Hon. Ayah who did not only resign form the CPDM, but also went ahead to challenge President Biya on the platform of another party. The provision also serves as a warning to other MPs who disagree with their parties”, the MP revealed.

During the meeting that ran from 9:00am to 4:00pm, he narrated, the Minister admitted that, such a provision was unconstitutional and that it was a political bid to enable the regime vent its anger on Hon. Ayah for humiliating the regime. According to the 1996 Constitution, once elected, MPs represent the entire country and not political parties. Article 15 (3) of the law further states that, any imposed mandate is null and void.

This explains why Hon. Jean Tchoua, the former MP for the Moungo Constituency in the Littoral Region and late Prof. Clement Ngwasiri did not lose their seats at the National Assembly after they were fired from the SDF. It was on this basis that the MP for Ntem Valley Constituency, Hon. Emmanuel Mbiam, said the draft electoral code is an affront to the constitution and should be amended.

As MPs, Hon. Mbiam said, they were ready to help government build strong institutions that can stand the test of the current dispensation and time. He said trying to lure CPDM MPs to vote such a bill was a vicious attempt to humiliate them in the eyes of the Cameroonian people.

Before Hon. Mbiam took his seat, the MP for Benoue Constituency, Hon. Alioum Fadil sprang to his feet. He warned that they would not take any nonsense from government. He said it was necessary to provide for an increase in parliamentary seats, remarking that many constituencies were under represented at the National Assembly. He said it is not normal that Garoua that has over 500,000 people is represented only by two MPs.

Apparently seething with anger, the MP for Diamare Constituency in the Far North, Hon. Sali Dairou, wondered why government was afraid of even its own shadow. He said, if the bill is adopted in the present form, it will take Cameroon back to the dark ages. The MP said those who wrote the draft law were luring President Paul Biya into error because he took an oath before the Cameroonian people to defend the constitution.

The CPDM MPs critised some articles in the bill that proposes an increase in the caution fees for candidates in the Municipal, Legislative and Presidential elections. To them, such fees were too high that they run counter to the realities of the Cameroonian society. They were angry that the draft law was silent about any increase of their salaries despite the fact that they shoulder enormous pecuniary responsibilities in their various constituencies.

Hon. Gaston Koumba of Nkam Constituency in the Littoral Region said the Cameroonian MP is the least paid in the Central African Sub-Region. Making a comparative analysis, he said an MP in Gabon earns FCFA 3.5 million a month while his Equato-Guinean counterpart has a salary of FCFA 4.5 million monthly. MPs in Congo Brazzaville earn a monthly salary of FCFA 2.5 million each.

Hon. Koumba regretted that even the poorest countries in the CEMAC Sub Region like the Central African Republic give their MPs a monthly salary of FCFA 1.4 million and FCFA 2.2.million each respectively while an average MP in Cameroon earns FCFA 800,019.

While reacting to the concerns the MPs raised during the meeting, Rene Sadi reportedly tried to intimidate them, but eventually toned down when they retaliated with angry shouts. He, however, promised to review the portion of the bill that provides for an increase in caution fees for elections, but vowed that he would not budge on the article that provides for imperative mandate. But the CPDM Parliamentary Group says it would vote against the bill if such unconstitutional and controversy provisions are maintained.

During the meeting, a majority of MPs from the Northern Regions maintained sealed lips, provoking talk that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Hon. Cavaye Yeguie Djibril had cowed them into submission. Members of government who attended the meeting included Amadou Ali, Fame Ndongo, Gregroie Owona, Rene Sadi, Dion Ngute, Pierre Moukoko Mbonjo among others. Hostilities against the draft law were manifested in the over 500 amendments tabled by both opposition and CPDM MPs. Hon. Gaston Koumba alone tabled 36 amendments.

Caution For Elections Reduced

On April 10, during deliberations at the Constitutional Laws Committee, government partially bowed to the demands of the MPs by simply withdrawing article 161 (4) of the bill that provides for imperative mandate. Government equally amended the provision of the draft law that borders on caution fees for candidates.

In this light, the caution fees for legislative elections has been reduced from FCFA 5 million to FCFA 3 million, while that of the municipal election was cut from FCFA 100.000 to FCFA 50.000. Observers said deliberations at the committee were unprecedented because both the CPDM and opposition MPs spoke the same language in their criticism of the bill.

According to Hon. Joseph Mbah Ndam, a member of the Constitutional Laws Committee, there will be fire works at the next plenary session even though the bill was adopted at the level of the committee. He regretted that government rejected most of the proposed amendments tabled by MPs. He said he was more worried that government equally rejected proposals that could help lay the conflict between the Board and the Directorate General of ELECAM.

First published in The Post print edition no 01335

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