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SDF Never Expected Impartiality From Supreme Court – Osih 

Interviewed By Joe Dinga Pefok 

CameroonPostline.com — The 1st Vice National Chairman of the SDF, Joshua Nambangi Osih, has said the party never expected the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, sitting in  for the Constitutional Council, to be impartial in the judgements that it delivered on the petitions that were filed by political parties, related to the September 30 twin elections.

In an interview granted The Post in Douala on August 23, Osih, also took questions on a number of issues related to the twin elections, including those which were raised by some SDF militants, to his candidature for Parliamentary elections in Wouri Centre. Read on:         

The Post: The Supreme Court, sitting in for the Constitutional Council, has ruled on all the petitions that were filed by political parties, related to the September 30 twin elections. What is your appreciation of the verdicts?

Osih: Since the 1996 Constitution started being put in place, the SDF has been insisting on the fact that democracy needs a Constitutional Council. A Constitutional Council is not a judicial body. It is a body that interprets the Constitution and, in the case of Cameroon, will settle electoral issues. The National Chairman of our party, Ni John Fru Ndi, was abundantly clear after the 2011 Presidential Election, that the Supreme Court, sitting in place of the Constitutional Council, does not have the required capacity to be able to play the role of the Council fairly.

Members of the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, which is playing this role, are appointed by Mr Biya, who is not only Head of State, but is as well the National President of the CPDM.  So, he is a stakeholder in elections. We thus, unfortunately, have a situation whereby members of the Administrative Bench owe their positions to an interested party in the elections. It is thus evident that the judgements passed cannot be impartial.  

Precisely, what you are saying is that the SDF is not satisfied with the judgements that were passed on the petitions that the party filed?

In fact, we did not expect much from this Administrative Bench. Even so, we got less than what we expected. It is important to note that this body is not respecting its own jurisprudence. Let me just take one case to substantiate this point.

At the 2007 Municipal Elections, the SDF was not allowed to compete in the Bali Constituency in the Northwest Region, because this same Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court, with the same judges, decided that the composition of the SDF list did not respect the sociological component of the constituency. It was said that one of the communities, Bawock, was not present on the list. We accepted that verdict and took note of it.

Today, for the 2013 Municipal Elections, there is a situation where about 20 CPDM lists have exactly the same problem like what we had with our list in Bali at the last election. But then, these same judges ignore their ruling of 2007, and try to make us believe that there should be some sort of administrative tolerance or political leniency. I think it is just proof enough to show that it is urgent today, now that the Senate is in place, for the President of the Republic to call the Constitutional Council.

What we can come out with from the verdicts delivered by the Administrative Bench in the last two weeks, is that, effectively, these judges are sitting in lieu and place of other people who are supposed to be there. I think these other people will be much more competent because they will hopefully have the necessary independence to take fair decisions.

The SDF will participate only in five of the 10 regions in the Legislative Elections, and will also be absent in many areas in the Municipal Elections. Why? 

Well, I think we were abundantly clear in our criticisms of the present Electoral Code that was adopted last year, and I think that the twin elections have clearly shown the limitations of this Electoral Code. I think this Electoral Code has not been drawn up for Cameroon politics, but for politics somewhere in the outer space or in a modern economy, but not in an economy like that of Cameroon.

The Electoral Code has at these elections not only affected the SDF, but all political parties that do not make use of the State coffer. All these parties had tremendous difficulties to put in place lists of candidates for the elections. It is unacceptable that in an economy like that of Cameroon, the amount of money that is required by the Electoral Code for somebody to disburse to be a Municipal councillor is the equivalent of more than four times the minimum wage in Cameroon.

More so, over 80 percent of active adults in this country are either unemployed or do not have decent jobs. Considering all these, I think the SDF should be proud to have over 60 Parliamentary candidates, and over 100 council lists, which were in fact not evident at all. You have to understand that SDF militants and candidates have gone an extra mile to make this possible, and we are very grateful for that. But I must say that it is unfortunate that our lists are not in some places in the country, for various reasons.   

It is difficult for observers to understand that a party like the SDF did not submit a list for the Legislative Elections in Yaounde (Mfoundi), the nation’s capital, and more so a place where the party has many big names.

Well, it is unfortunate that we do not have a list in Mfoundi for the Parliamentary elections. We really regret it.  For the Parliamentary elections, Mfoundi has a situation where there is a single list of seven substantive candidates. It is obvious that with the present dispensation, it is absolutely difficult to put together seven substantive candidates that can each pay the caution of FCFA 1 million required by the Electoral Code, and as well put together their files, with each candidate again spending FCFA 100.000 to 200.000.

What happened in Mfoundi was that not all the candidates who were selected to be on the SDF list at the Legislative Elections, and even on some lists for Municipal Elections, were able to come out with what were expected of them. Some candidates were expecting much more help from the party, than the party could provide.

Meanwhile, as for the Centre Region as a whole, I should also point out that we had other files that were complete, but that were unfortunately dismissed by Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, which, at that time, did not have the right to do it. I keep on saying that the local structures of ELECAM do not have the right to refuse files that are deposited with them. The local structures are simple mail runners. It is the Electoral Council alone that is allowed to investigate into files and to either accept or reject a file.

Another strategic area where the SDF will be absent at the Legislative Elections is the Fako East Constituency (Limbe, Muyuka, Tiko) in the Southwest Region. What really happened?

Well, the truth is that for Fako East, the SDF candidates and the hierarchy of the party in that area did not respect the instructions of the party. It was made abundantly clear by the party that women must be present on the substantive and alternate sides of all our lists for the Legislative Elections and that on all council lists, more than 1/3 of the members should be of another gender. This was repeated on and on. Fako East has two substantive candidates, and our internal dispositions are such that we have one substantive candidate on the list from Limbe and the other substantive candidate is from Tiko/ Muyuka.

But, unfortunately, though not excusable, what happened was that the coordination between Limbe and Tiko/Muyuka was such that each side of the equation thought that it was the responsibility of the other side to put the other gender (female) as substantive candidate. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, the list that was submitted to ELECAM did not respect gender balance.

The two substantive candidates on the list were both male, while the two women were alternate candidates. We would never have challenged the decision of the Electoral Council to reject the list. The failure to respect gender balance is something that is not acceptable to the SDF that stands for gender equality, the rights of women.

You left your constituency in the Southwest, and jumped over to Douala to be a Parliamentary candidate in the Wouri Centre at the twin elections. Due to this, some persons thought that you came and displaced them. Why did you?

Let me make it clear that nobody takes the position of someone else in politics. Politics is not a game of charity. Politics is a dispensation of interest. Nobody comes and seizes the place of somebody else. There is no place that is reserved for whosoever. That said, I did not leave the Southwest to come to Douala. I have always been in Douala and it has always been my constituency.

I have been in Douala since 1988, which is about 25 years today. I have my businesses in Douala. I pay my taxes in Douala. I have been registered in the Douala I Electoral District of the SDF for many years. During the last Presidential elections, I voted in Douala. So, where is the problem with me having to run for elections in Douala?

But you ran for the 2007 Legislative Elections in Ndian. Last April, you headed the SDF list for the Senatorial elections in the Southwest Region …

There is no disposition in the Cameroon Law, as well as in our (SDF) internal rules and regulations, or any other disposition, that say that one is bound to one single constituency. I have a choice to be a candidate in my Division where I have a place of abode.  The Law allows me to be a candidate there. I also have a right to be a candidate in my place of residence which is Douala. These are all what the Electoral Code states.

I was not part of Parliament that adopted the Law. I think that every Cameroonian has to respect the Electoral Code, even if it has its shortcomings. Let me also remind you that I am of Sawa origin from the Southwest. So, it should not even be a big discourse that somebody of Sawa origin wants to be a Parliamentarian in Douala. 

Some members of the Anglophone community in Douala think that the hostility of some persons against your candidature in Douala is because you are an Anglophone?

I am a Cameroonian and have the right to run for elections in any part of the country where I am resident. This country belongs to all Cameroonians, whether Anglophones or Francophones. Today, if you look at colours at the National Assembly or the colours of candidates for the September 30 twin elections, you will see that there are very many MPs or candidates, especially in metropolitan areas, who do not hail from those areas.

In Douala, for example, we often have Parliamentarians who hail from regions like the West, Centre, North, among others. If, so far, nobody from West of the Mungo has become an MP in Douala, it does not mean that those from that part of the country do not have the right to be MPs in Douala. Over the years, we have seen cases of persons who hail from Francophone regions, become MPs in the Northwest and Southwest Regions, and it has never been considered a problem in those Regions.

But it is not only Francophones who should become MPs in the English part of the country. People from the English part of the country should also become MPs in the French part. This is national integration. So it is really unfortunate that in 2013, it should be making headlines that a Parliamentary candidate in Douala is from the Anglophone part of the country – more so, at time when we are talking about preparations to celebrate the 50th anniversary of our Reunification .

How is the SDF preparing for the twin elections? 

We have repeatedly said that we have, since May 27, 1990, that is one day after the SDF was launched, been prepared for any elections. As for the upcoming twin elections, I think we are working hard to put in place a comfortable number of parliamentarians into the National Assembly, as well as to take over a comfortable number of councils.

This is in order to give Cameroonians an opportunity for a better future. Cameroon is not where it is supposed to be. Cameroonians are suffering. That is the reason why the SDF exists. We are going to do everything to get as many Parliamentary seats as possible, to start paving the way for Mr Biya’s departure.      

First published in The Post print edition no 01459

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