On August 16, 2007, the embassies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, of the United States of America and the High Commission of Great Britain and Northern Ireland issued a joint communiqué on the legislative and municipal elections of July 22, 2007. While congratulating the people and government of Cameroon for the generally peaceful and orderly elections, they insisted that:
"On the whole, however, these elections represent a missed opportunity for Cameroon – a missed opportunity to continue building public confidence in the democratic process as Cameroon looks ahead to its next election. Some recommended improvements growing out of previous elections – improvements that were not just achievable but that the government had committed itself to achieving – were in fact not achieved."
In a stern response issued yesterday by Cameroon's Minister of External Affairs Atangana Mebara, the Government of Cameroon, described the views of the diplomats as "excessive", arguing that "at the end of these elections, our young democracy comes out strengthened: five political parties are already represented in the National Assembly, while awaiting the up-coming partial elections, and a dozen more now sit in different councils in the country".
The government communiqué by reiterating the Government of Cameroon’s"willingness to pursue, with its partners and friendly countries, the improvement of its electoral process, according to existing norms and conventions" but only in an atmosphere characterized by "greater serenity" and "mutual respect".
Find below the full text of the incriminated statement by the diplomatic missions and the Cameroon Government’s rebuttal
Joint Statement of the Embassies of the Netherlands and of the United States and the British High Commission on the Legislative and Municipal Elections of 22 July 2007 in Cameroon.
Yaounde, August 16, 2007
The Embassies of the United States and the Netherlands and the High Commission of the United Kingdom sent teams to all ten provinces of Cameroon to observe the legislative and municipal elections of 22 July 2007. This joint observer group congratulates the government and people of Cameroon on the fact that the voting took place in a generally calm atmosphere, without major public disorder. In particular, the joint observer group commends the government for the instances of progress since the previous elections, such as the computerization of the voter rolls and the improved selection of neutral locations for polling stations. The joint observer group was pleased to see the electoral law fairly and properly applied in many cases, with officers clearly dedicated to a transparent voting process. The Supreme Court’s decision to re-run the elections in five constituencies is a welcome recognition of some of these problems and should serve to strengthen the public’s faith in the integrity of the electoral process.
On the whole, however, these elections represent a missed opportunity for Cameroon – a missed opportunity to continue building public confidence in the democratic process as Cameroon looks ahead to its next election. Some recommended improvements growing out of previous elections – improvements that were not just achievable but that the government had committed itself to achieving – were in fact not achieved. For example, despite repeated public assurances, the government was unable to provide indelible ink – an internationally recognized safeguard against multiple voting – to many polling stations; this left the voting more open to fraud and reduced the credibility of the electoral process in the public’s mind. The conduct of the elections, especially at the local level, was subject to irregularities. Observers witnessed examples of poor supervision at the polling stations and, in some cases, collusion of officials in what appeared to be lax application of the electoral law and acts of fraud. Moreover, an unnecessarily complex registration process effectively disenfranchised some voters.
The Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States commend the Government of Cameroon for its stated commitment to democratic progress in Cameroon. We look forward to working with the government, members of civil society, and all others concerned to support their efforts to improve the credibility of Cameroon’s democracy as the next election approaches. The early and effective realization of an independent election management body will be an important step in that direction, because only a truly independent election body will give the citizens full confidence in the democratic process. We therefore urge the government to begin immediately taking the next steps necessary to continue building public confidence in the electoral process.
For further information, please contact the Information Section of the U.S. Embassy, tel. 2220-1500, x4072, x4162 or x4273, the Press Office of the British High Commission, tel. 2222-0545, or the Embassy of the Netherlands, tel. 2220-2272.
The Government of Cameroon's Rebuttal to the UK, US and Netherlands Communiqué
The embassies of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, of the United States of America and the High Commission of Great Britain and Northern Ireland made public a joint press release on August 16 2007 on the legislative and municipal elections of July 22, 2007.
The Cameroon government is pleased with the interest these chancelleries have in so doing, demonstrated, in the organization of elections in Cameroon.
The government thanks them for the efforts they have made in this regard, and for their congratulations to the state authorities "on the organisation of the polls in a generally calm atmosphere" (…) and "for improvements noticed in comparison with past elections" (…) as well as the "right application of the electoral law in many localities" (…) and "for a transparent electoral process".
The government expresses gratitude for their commitment to stand by it in the task of consolidation of Cameroonian democracy, conducted for many years now under the high and constant impetus of His Excellency Paul Biya, president of the Republic and Head of State.
However, the Cameroonian government expresses its surprise at the procedure and the time (after the decision of the Supreme Court and the Message of Head of State to the Nation) chosen by these diplomatic missions to make known their observations on the July 22, 2007 polls. The government recalls that throughout the preparatory phase of these elections, consultations were regularly held between the Public administrations involved and diplomatic missions accredited to Yaounde within the frameworks of the electoral process support group (EPSG) and structured political dialogue.
The government considers excessive the view that "these elections are a missed opportunity for Cameroon — a missed opportunity to continue to build public trust in the electoral processes". This judgement appears to be founded only on a few limited facts of relative importance.
The government points out, on the contrary, that the Supreme Court, sitting as the Constitutional Council, sanctioned the few noticeable shortcomings.
In spite of these shortcomings, a good number of national and international observers assessed the July 22, 2007 twin polls are globally satisfactory, credible and fair. Some of these observers pointed out "a material organisation of voting operations by far better than the elections of 2002 and 2004 (July 31st communiqué of the National Episcopal Council of Cameroon).
For the government, these twin elections stood as an important step in the consolidation of our democratic process.
In his message to the Nation, the President of the Republic, His Excellency Paul Biya, confirmed the irreversible nature of this process.
It is in this perspective that Elections Cameroon (ELECAM) was created on December 29, 2006. Its effective putting into place is prescribed by a timeframe set by the National Assembly, made-up of representative of sovereign people of Cameroon.
For the government, the twin elections of July 22, 2007 gave the Cameroonian people a chance to show, once more, their total trust in the institutions they freely chose for themselves and in the democratic and electoral process of which they are the sovereign actors.
It may be recalled that at the end of these elections, our young democracy comes out strengthened: five political parties are already represented in the National Assembly, while awaiting the up-coming partial elections, and a dozen more now sit in different councils in the country.
The government reiterates its willingness to pursue, with its partners and friendly countries, the improvement of its electoral process, according to existing norms and conventions, with greater serenity and in mutual respect.
Yaounde, the 23 August 2007
The Minister of State, Minister Of External Relations
(é) Jean-Marie Atangana Mebara