Municipal councillors and traditional rulers in Cameroon, are voting regional councillors, in the country’s first ever regional election.
Voting is underway across the Central African nation, including in the two restive Anglophone regions, where an armed conflict has been raging for four years now.
However, the election in the Anglophone regions is being conducted under tight security, because of threats from separatist fighters.
Anglophone non-state actors had disapproved of Sunday’s election, and imposed a three-day ghost town. This has been observed partially in some parts of the North West and South West regions.
This election could end Cameroon’s centralized system of governance
The regional election is meant to give the ten regions greater autonomy. It will also facilitate local administration in a country where power is highly centralized.
For decades, citizens have had to grapple with the fact that most administrative functions rest in the nation’s political capital, Yaoundé.
The country’s 1996 amended constitution clearly stipulates decentralization as the form of governance. Decentralization prescribes that government devolves powers to local authorities in the different regions. For 24 years, this has not been the case.
Many see Sunday’s vote as a leeway to the decentralization process. Municipal councillors and chiefs will elect regional concillors and traditional rulers into the regional councils and House of Chiefs respectively. Those elected are expected to facilitate local governance, and supervise the decentralization process.
The birth of a “Special Status” for the Anglophone regions
The government says this election will pave the way for the Anglophone regions to have a special status. This, according to government, will recognize the specificities of the Anglophone system in Cameroon, thereby leading to an end to the Anglophone crisis.
It remains unclear whether the special status can end the four-year-long conflict, especially as hardcore Anglophone separatists continue to oppose it.
Critics say the special status is vague, without any precision as to its content or how it will work. However, government supporters see the special status as a good offer, which could end the crisis.
Over three thousand people have died owing to the Anglophone armed conflict, with close to a million others displaced internally and externally. The hope of most of these displaced people is for the crisis to end, so they can finally return home.