By Ajong Mbapndah L
The president of The Fomunyoh Foundation (TFF), Dr. Christopher Fomunyoh has expressed concerns over the process and outcome of the recent presidential elections in Cameroon. In a strongly worded statement issued today, Dr Fomunyoh, a highly respected expert on democracy and electoral matters in Africa said, while the efforts of the citizens and candidates were commendable, it was regrettable that their hopes for genuine democracy and meaningful change through the ballot box did not materialize, putting the legitimacy of the presidential election in question.
In a previous statement released in July, Fomunyoh had shared concerns on the political and security environment in the country, and categorically stated that the country was ill-prepared for the poll. He had also said the handling of the whole electoral process had left many Cameroonian wondering about the impact of these polls and the future of democracy in the country. This included concerns about the inability to conduct elections in the Anglophone regions of the North West, and South West; the lack of transparency in the tabulation and transmission of election results nationally; the contentious litigation of electoral disputes, and lack of unanimous acceptance of results.
He lamented that the killings in the Anglophone regions continue unabated, and every additional loss of life deepens the pain and suffering and further undermines prospects for national reconciliation. He added that the legitimacy of the presidential election outcome is contested by the main opposition candidate and many Cameroonians.
“Cameroon is more divided, more polarized, more fragile and more insecure than ever before in its modern history. Despite the legal trappings of today’s government, its legitimacy is seriously questioned by millions of our fellow compatriots and friends of Cameroon across the world. The credibility of many of our key institutions, including the newly established Constitutional Council, is at stake. Force, physical violence, hate speech, and ethnic stigmatization have become instruments of choice in public discourse and impact negatively interactions between state authorities and civilian populations,” Fomunyoh said
He however, demanded a significant course of correction to avoid more violence, further disintegration, and eventual state collapse. He concluded his statement by the submission of a ten point recommendations saying,
On Peace and Security: We need a holistic, comprehensive approach to stop the killings.
1) Release all political prisoners and detainees not charged with violent crimes and held solely because of the Anglophone crisis, and create an enabling environment for high-level, genuine dialogue to seek long lasting solutions.
2) Order an immediate ceasefire and lift curfews in the North West and South West regions to restore normalcy, enable youth to resume gainful employment, and facilitate the return of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons and refugees.
3) Stop immediately the killings and destruction of property in Anglophone regions, and all forms of violence against civilians and security personnel.
On Elections: The contested legitimacy of the electoral outcome cannot be ignored.
4) To dissipate the lingering cloud of illegitimacy over the election results, commit an international reputable auditing firm such as Price Waterhouse Cooper or Deloitte & Touche to conduct a technical audit of ELECAM documents related to the October 2018 presidential poll.
5) Make public the findings of such international audit in order to restore confidence in elections and the institutions in charge of electoral administration and oversight.
6) Launch immediately a high level Ad Hoc Committee on reforms to review the Constitution, election laws and other legal instruments, and propose by a set deadline recommendations on major reforms that must be undertaken in all sectors.
7) Assign the chairmanship of the Ad Hoc Reform Committee to an independent, seasoned, and well respected jurist with an in-depth understanding of democratic governance processes.
8) Commit to implementing the reforms as soon as they are enacted, and prior to any further elections at the local, regional or national levels.
9) Under the new electoral framework to emerge from the Ad Hoc Reform Committee, organize early presidential elections that would allow for more transparent and credible polls whose legitimacy will not be questioned.
10) Avoid the manipulation of security and administrative services and pull back the country from the negative spiral of hate speech, ethnic stigmatization, violence and harassment of independent professionals, notably journalists, lawyers and teachers, who are pillars of every democratic society.
“I call on the government to take concrete measures to regain peace, rebuild the country’s reputation and restore the dignity of Cameroonians. This requires extraordinary steps, including those listed above, to address head-on the multiple crises we confront at this time,” Fomunyoh concluded his statement.
Fomunyoh who also doubles as Senior Associate and Regional Director for Africa and that Washington DC ,based National Democratic Institute is one of the first high profile opinion leaders to share proposals on the way forward for Cameroon as post-election tensions persist. Though he has resisted calls to run for President himself, many in Cameroon today think that he may be one of those with right pedigree to play a mediating role in federating opinions as the country faces unprecedented crisis.