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ELECAM, Government And Cameroonians: Who Is Fooling Who? 

By Elvis Tah

Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, is supposedly an independent body created to take over from the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, MINADT, and the defunct National Elections Observatory, NEO, in the organisation, management and supervision of all election operations and referendums in Cameroon. 

ELECAM was created under Law No 2006/011 of December 29, 2006, setting up and laying down the organisation and functioning of elections in Cameroon. This law has recently been amended by Law No 2010/005 of April 13, 2010, in which, articles 7 and 40 were modified to reintegrate Electoral Commissions and to reinstate the aspect of collaboration with the Administration. 

The fact that this body’s composition (Polit-bureau members of the ruling CPDM Party), was taken with a pinch of salt by other political actors and Cameroonians in general, cannot be over emphasised.  But one thing is clear; a football player cannot resign from his national team and automatically becomes a referee and be expected to arbitrate a match in which his national team is playing against another team with impartiality.

There is this hackneyed expression from ELECAM big shots, calling on Cameroonians of good will to give them a chance and let them prove to the world that they can be free and fair. What if they do not live up to expectations? Then, Cameroonians will be left with no other alternative but to groan under another mandate of bad governance.

How can we believe in an organisation which, from its very inception, has flouted the law? Voter registers were supposed to be opened in January but that wasn’t the case. It was not until last August that the registration was launched, that is, eight months later, which is on the eve of elections.

The Southwest Regional Delegate of ELECAM, Emmanuel Njang, during a press conference in Buea, to launch the voter registration process, argued that funds were not disbursed on time, thus, delaying voter registration. And, besides, Njang said they are simply revising the electoral registers and only new voters will be registered, which, to our understanding, implies that the registration process will not be cumbersome. 

But section 27 of the Financial Provision of ELECAM Law states that the resources of ELECAM shall be public funds managed in compliance with public accounting rules, while Section 28 of that same provision states that ELECAM shall have an annual budget and an elections budget in an election year.

Section 29 holds that the Director General of ELECAM shall be the authorising officer of the ELECAM budget. That same provision, in Section 30, states that the draft annual budget of ELECAM as well as the draft elections budget shall be prepared by the Director General of elections and approved by the Electoral Board. The Chairperson of the Electoral Board shall submit the said draft budgets to government for consideration and tabling before parliament for adopting as part of the Finance Law.

The question which is now begging for an answer is: who deferred the disbursement of the funds, which helped to hinder the voter registration process of ELECAM? When we refer to a body as being independent, yet it has to turn to an overlord for its funding, how is that body going to operate without conflict of interest, when it is a well known concept that he who pays the piper dictates the tune?

Section 3 (1) (2)of the General Provision of ELECAM states that members of ELECAM may not be prosecuted, investigated, arrested, detained or tried for their views and actions in the performance of their duties. Save in cases of flagrante delicto or violation of the Constitution and Law, members of ELECAM shall not be prosecuted during their tenure. Does this mean that, if the so-called CPDM cohorts who have suddenly transformed into independent Cameroonians in ELECAM, decided to twist the elections or play to the gallery of ‘grandes ambitions’, they will not be liable to any prosecution? 

Still, the General Provision of ELECAM, Section 2 (1) states that members of ELECAM shall refrain from acts that may undermine the independence and dignity of their duties. They shall specifically, during their tenure, exercise their powers strictly for the purpose of their mandate.
Yet, an ELECAM member who was formerly a polit-bureau member of the ruling CPDM Party was seen among a delegation of CPDM stalwarts at the University of Buea during the launching of an ego-massaging piece for President Biya known as The Biya Code.

Section 2 (2) states that members of ELECAM shall, under no circumstances, seek or receive instructions or orders from a public or private authority during the performance of their duties. Yet, Njang told the pressmen that he has received electoral materials at the Governor’s Office, which means that electoral materials still pass through administrative officials.

What will happen if, say, a Governor or other public authority instructs an ELECAM Delegate within his area of jurisdiction to carry out an act which contravenes the electoral law but which will suit the whims and caprices of the ruling government? Somewhere, somehow, someone seems to be out to fool some people. Who can that be? Your guess is better than mine. 

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