Tuesday, November 13, 2018
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Regions: Reality Or Farce? 

By Joseph Kongo, Molua Njie & Victorine Ongbehok*

The question of decentralization and regionalism has been the centre of attention in the public sphere and amongst various stakeholders in Cameroon, following the presidential decree of November 12, 2008 that substituted Provinces for Regions.
 The 1996 Constitution had earlier laid down conditions that defined the manner in which power should be shared between the State and Regions, according to their respective areas of competence.

This Constitution also gave the Regions jurisdiction over their individual economy, health, education, culture and sport in a bid to effect local development. It, however, made some reservation that seemed to protect national interest while eating deep into the sovereignty of decentralized Governments across the nation. The power of the State to dissolve a Council and to appoint a Delegate to run Regional affairs appears to be morally troubling, as municipalities would be managed by appointed Government officials rather than elected Mayors and Councilors.

Despite the state’s effort to speed up the decentralization process in various Regions of the country and to make it effective by 2010, doubts keep lingering about the definition regionalism would have. So far, projecting the notion of "Region" in the Cameroonian framework means to look at the nation in the same perspective as Nigeria, the Russia Federation, the USA…
It is against this backdrop of national reverie and readiness to welcome a mind-boggling dream that the Southwest local authorities have been patiently waiting to see the effectiveness of this ‘genuine’ aspiration.

Talking to the Post recently, the Southwest Regional Delegate Of Communication, Chris Eno Oben expressed his optimism in seeing this long-awaited struggle become a reality, though it may be overdue. "This is a progressive thought, the name has changed and the autonomy has not followed. But in two to five years, a lot of power is going to be granted at the Regional level though the delegation will still be related to the central administration in Yaoundé for policies," said Eno.

The Delegate of Posts and Telecommunications, Simon Anye Nche, on his part, held that the change in the appellation from "Province" to "Region" did affect only sign boards and official documents bearing the word "Provincial", excluding the assignment of more power and authority over the Region. He drew a clear line between decentralization and power alleviation, saying that Delegations so far, are just derived structures of Ministries. But with effective regionalism, they will be given more power and autonomy.  

"It has nothing to do with subsequent power transfer; consequently it is really difficult to talk of decentralization in clear terms. May be its implementation by 2010 will hopefully come along with the awaited changes in every aspect. But as for now things have not changed in anyway," he noted. In the health sector, Southwest Regional Delegate of Public Health, Dr. John Chuwanga, said activities have continued without any modifications and the difference between a Province and Region is yet to be seen.

"As far as health is concerned, now that this (Province) is called Region, we still carry out our normal activities such as preventive measures, vaccination medical supervision … We are still waiting for the differences to be felt in relation to what was known as a Province as compared to what we have as Region now," Chuwanga said. Quizzed on whether the Delegation would enjoy any financial autonomy, the Delegate shifted this responsibility to the Council. He enjoined the Southwest community to work hand in glove with the institution so that this joint effort will yield satisfying results in due time.

Speaking on the behalf of the Regional Delegate of Environment and Nature Protection, the Chief of Service in charge of General Affairs, Daniel Ebouele, said; "looking at the pace at which the process is moving with respect to the 2010 deadline, I wonder how this decentralization will look like in Regional Delegations". He added that the State would certainly put in place mechanisms accompanying this change. Ebouele reiterated the importance of the media in facilitating the education of the people on what Government is supposed to work.

For the Regional Delegate of Urban Development and Housing, Francis Oben Essie, the advent of decentralization means Regional Delegations will act as Technical Advisors to the Municipal Councils. He is confident that this administrative policy is due to take place any time from 2010. A tacit assessment of the present state of affairs shows that  this administrative struggle from its inception right up to the present moment is likely to be retarded as regional institutions are still putting bits and pieces together.

Meanwhile, the countdown has already begun. The decision to allow the people elect their various Regional Governments and the future outlook of the latter are important democratic components the state needs to prioritize. For in as much as the Cameroonian administrative system lacks swiftness in the aspect of policy-making, concrete decentralization and regionalism might have to wait for a while.

(UB Student Journalists on Internship)

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