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Wikileaks Cable 17: Biya Hires CPDM Disciples to Run ELECAM 

This unclassified cable was written in the aftermath of the highly controversial appointment of officials with known political activism in the CPDM to manage the newly created election managing organ ELECAM. It was written during the tenure of Ambassador Janet Garvey.

CameroonPostline.com – While Cameroonians and international observers were still complaining about the limited chances for full independence of the newly created election organizing body, ELECAM, President Paul Biya moved to complicate the already deplorable situation that had totally eroded the confidence of many. On 30 December 2009, a day after he legally had to do so, President Paul Biya appointed 12 members to the board of ELECAM.

But the act was clearly not intended to be a worthy New Year gift to Cameroonians as most of the nominees were, at the time of appointment, membership card wielding militants of the ruling CPDM. With the unsavoury presidential decree timed to coincide with the fanfare and distraction that marks end of year festivities, the arrival of the news received very limited public reprisal.

Most news tabloids were on annual leave. The voice of the opposition could not be raised loud enough either. The bitter pill had to be swallowed. Observers wailed and criticized to no avail. Analysts admitted that Mr Biya’s decision was meant to make ridicule of the terms of the consultative talks hurriedly held with civil society and political parties in the weeks preceding the appointments.

The cable was written to announce the unfortunate news to Washington and make proposals for subsequent U.S. action on the matter. “We are struck that Biya apparently felt unconstrained to provide even a fig leaf of inclusiveness or independence to ELECAM’s leadership,” the cable commented. To support claims of the CPDM leaning of new ELECAM members, the cable includes a short profile of each of the big-shots hired to supervise the activities of the organ.

We also learn from the cable that Mr Biya had rejected an earlier list proposed to him on account that its proponents were older than Biya himself. “He did not want a gerontocracy in ELECAM”. Through this cable, we also get confirmation that ELECAM only came to existence thanks to an external political reform constraint imposed within the context of the Heavily Indebted Poor Country Initiative whose completion point Cameroon attained in June 2006.

Beyond the scope of the cable, it would be vital to note that subsequent criticism from opposition parties, the civil society and international observers got Mr Biya to table a bill in parliament moving ELECAM membership from 12 to 18. However the President went on to appoint very malleable civil society representatives who went on to endorse the shortcomings of the 2011 presidential election.

Please continue reading below for the unedited version of the cable as published by Wikileaks.

Subject: Biya Taps Party Faithful to Run New Election Agency
Unclassified

Summary

President Paul Biya appointed the membership of the newly created elections agency ELECAM in a Presidential Decree issued on December 30, one day after the legislative deadline.  The process of devolving management of the elections from the central government to an independent body began more than five years ago, as part of the political reforms linked to the Highly Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) debt-relief process.  The membership of the commission is heavily dominated by ruling party hacks and is viewed on the street as disappointing, if not entirely unexpected.  End summary.
 
Samuel Azong Fonkam, an apparatchik of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) party, will be the President of the twelve-member body, which also includes former ministers and prominent officials from the CPDM and one representative from the Protestant Church (see para 5 for names and initial bio notes).  There are no prominent members of civil society, no representatives of opposition political parties and no CPDM members known for their independent or reformist thought.
 
Preliminary discussions with civil society contacts suggest ELECAM’s leadership is not viewed as either inclusive or independent of CPDM control.  One independent newspaper headlined the story saying "Lock-Out: CPDM Entrusted with Running Elections."  One prominent political activist noted cynically to Poloffs that "we are not disappointed (by the nominations) because we never expected Biya would do anything differently."  Two prominent political activists contacted by Poloffs were more interested in discussing the coup in Guinea and its relevance to Cameroon than ELECAM, which they viewed as more of the same regime preservation.
 
Comment

We are struck that Biya apparently felt unconstrained to provide even a fig leaf of inclusiveness or independence to ELECAM’s leadership.  Biya told the Ambassador in August 2008 that he had rejected the initial membership slate for ELECAM proposed to him "because most of them are older than me" and he did not want a gerontocracy in ELECAM. 

The subsequent five months of work do not appear to have produced any more than a reduction in median age. It certainly was not for lack of time or options; ELECAM has been in the works for years, the deadline for nominations was extended from 18 months to two years, and Cameroon boasts dozens of prominent, apolitical individuals who possess the experience and credibility that would lend legitimacy to ELECAM. 

We withhold judgment, pending further conversations with a broad spectrum of contacts, but we note with concern that the Cameroonian street apparently sees its future more in Guinea than in Ghana.  End comment.
 
Members and their bio notes:
 
–Samuel Azong FONKAM, President of ELECAM: a former Deputy Secretary General of the National Assembly (a position controlled by the Presidency); a civil administrator trained at the National School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM); native of the Northwest Region.
 
–Justin Ewodo EBANGA, Vice-President of ELECAM; native of the Center Region; a graduate of the University of Yaounde; a lawyer and former president of the Cameroon Bar Association; served as Center Region Secretary in ELECAM’s predecessor, the National Observatory of Elections (ONEL).
 
–Dr. Cecile Bomba NKOLO; a member of the Political Bureau of the CPDM; a native of the Center Region; a physician and former Minister of Social Affairs (2002-2004).
 
–Dr. Dorothy Limunga NJEUMA; a member of the CPDM Central Committee; a native of the Southwest Region; previously served as rector of Yaounde I University and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Buea; was Vice-Minister of National Education (1975-1985); rumored to have been considered as a possible new Prime Minister in an expected Cabinet reshuffle, but her position on ELECAM will make that impossible.
 
–Mrs. Sadou DAOUDOU (aka Lady Bawa): native of the Adamaoua Region and member of the CPDM; the widow of the late Sadou Daoudou, who was a former Minister of Defense and member of the CPDM Central Committee; a career diplomat trained at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC).
 
–Abdoulaye BABALE; a founding member of the CPDM and member of the CPDM central committee; native of the Far North Region; holds a postgraduate degree in Public Law and a postgraduate degree in Political Science; served as Minister of Housing and Town Planning and Minister of Higher Education.
 
–Thomas Ejake MBONDA: member of the CPDM; longtime administrator and former Governor of the Center and Southwest Regions; served on the a committee that set up the National Commission for Final Counting of Votes for the 2007 Municipal Elections; native of the Littoral Region.
 
–Rev. Dieudonne Massi GAMS: Member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (CONAC); a pastor and Secretary General of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon; served as East Regional Secretary for ONEL; native of the East Region.
 
–Ali ADAMOU: native of the North Region.
 
–Pierre Roger Efandene BEKONO: former official in Ministry of Agriculture; native of the South Region.
 
–Jules Mana NSCHWANGELE: Member of the Board of Directors of the National Oil Company (SNH).
 
–Elie MBONDA: a member of the CPDM elected to the National Assembly in 1997; a member of the Pan-African Parliament and professor at University of Yaounde with a background in health; a native of the West Region.
GARVEY

 

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