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Weaknesses Pinpointed In Cameroon 

By Francis Tim Mbom
— The CEO of Limbe-based Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Foundation, LUKMEF, Christian Tanyi, has pinpointed some key weaknesses in Cameroon’s biometric option.

Tanyi pinpointed what he termed weaknesses in the biometric option that ELECAM will, in the next few days, be using across the country to commence the exercise of voter registration or recompiling the electoral registers in Cameroon.

Tanyi stated, first, that there were two distinct types of biometric systems: the active, where all the computer kits used for data collection in the field are directly connected to a main server that instantly processes every date picked up in the field. Then, the inactive, the choice that Cameroon opted for, where the computers or kits used for collecting date are not networked to the central server.

“Data, here, is transferred or inputted to the main server, as the case in Cameroon with a main server at ELECAM’s office in Yaounde, through the use of memory sticks or USB keys,” he said.
Tanyi was speaking in Limbe on September 21, during a one-day workshop organised to train over 100 representatives of civil society organisations, CSOs, the media and political parties.

The essence of pinpointing the weaknesses, Tanyi said, was due to the fact that many people have the erroneous notion that the biometric system being used was such a magic wand that will eliminate every problem that has been inherent in voter registration in the country.

He said the passive biometric system in use can only be good if those handling it do a clean job during the final phase in Yaounde, when the filed data will be processed to have all the double name entries sorted out. As to why the Government must have chosen the passive option as opposed to the active, Tanyi said that the active option is a little more expensive and data transmission, at times, can be bogged down when the GSM network is poor.

The Limbe workshop was aimed at getting civil society organisations to become more concerned and try to work with ELECAM and other stakeholders to see what assistance they can give to make the next electoral process more democratic and acceptable to Cameroonians.
He said there was need for civil society organisations, as well as the media, political parties and diplomatic services, to join hands in helping ELECAM in the process of organising free, fair and transparent elections.

“The high voter apathy and the high cost and work load needed to drive the current processes cannot be carried out by ELECAM alone or the Government. Political parties should start mobilising and educating their militants towards the eventual recompilation. Civil society, known to have a mastery of the field and skilled in community mobilization, will need to be involved,” Tanyi said.

The Southwest Regional Delegate of ELECAM, Emmanuel Njang, said they were ready to work with the civil society in furthering the process. He said ELECAM has already launched a network which will enable them to work with the civil society when it finally goes into effect. “Definitely, there are avenues that we are going to explore to work with the civil society. But before this happens, there must be a minimum of confidence that must exist between ELECAM and the civil society,” ELECAM officials said.

Njang attended the workshop with other ELECAM workers from the Southwest office and some from Yaounde. They carried out a practical voter registration exercise using the biometric kits that they will be using in the days ahead. During the demonstration, they stated that they shall be deploying some 1.200 kits across the country and the registration exercise might run on for five months, indicating that registration will probably stretch on till early 2013.

The training was co-handled by ace Journalist and CEO of CIDI NGO, Victor Epie Ngome. On the role of educating the voters, Epie Ngome noted that it was incumbent on them to educate the voters “not to vote on party lines but to vote those who have the qualities to serve the people.”

Epie Ngome also reminded the participants that the expected council elections was very crucial because the councilors that shall be elected are those who shall, legally, be called up in the future to elect the pioneer members of the senate.

First published in The Post print edition no 01377

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