Communiqué of the National Episcopal Conference on the July 22 elections in Cameroon
The National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon has remarked that the twin July 22 municipal and legislative elections in Cameroon were organised in peace and tranquility. Despite the fact that the orgnisation was better as opposed to the elections in 2002 and 2004, the Bishops emphasized that Cameroon's democratic process still has a long way to go.They also pinpointed some cases of electoral fraud and suggested possibilites of moving the democratic process forward.
Cameroonians went to the polls on July 22, 2007 to elect their representatives to the National Assembly and the local councils. These twin elections were closely monitored throughout the national territory by 1600 Catholic Election Observers, trained by the Justice and Peace Commission and accredited by the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation (MINATD).
Except for a few unfortunate cases, we are delighted to state that the elections took place in a calm atmosphere. We equally noticed a better material organisation during the July 22 elections than during the 2002 and 2004 polls. However, we noted that Cameroon’s restored democratic experience still has a long way to go. Three reasons account for some of the observed electoral pitfalls that marred the conduct of the last elections:
1) Our electoral law remains ambiguous. All Cameroonians of voting age do not still master the electoral procedure, much less the stakes of an election. Since the law does not implicitly require that voters should present their National Identity Cards at polling stations, there is the possibility that some voters can use the cards of third parties: this opens the way for fraud through the use of voters’ cards that were not handed out to their rightful owners. The computerisation of the electoral register, an acceptable initiative by the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, has unfortunately not eliminated the phenomenon of multiple registrations in one or several electoral registers.
2) Electoral norms are not enforced rigorously. We deplored this during the pre-electoral period. The law prescribes that each voter should be issued a receipt upon registration which maybe presented if thevoter fails to obtain a voter’s card. This provision was unfortunately generally disregarded by the administration as well as voters. Besides, our observers sampled irregularities:
- Polling stations opened their doors at a time that was convenient to the president of each polling station,
- Electoral lists were not pasted at the entrance to polling stations,
- not all the representatives of all competing parties were represented in different polling stations,
- It was noticed that voting started and continued in the absence of the ballot papers and representatives of some competing parties in certain polling stations.
3) We want to set up a democratic system without, however, submitting to its requirements. The little importance given to the strict respect of the laws enforce is an eloquent proof. Besides, many eligible voters minimise the importance of voting. Just for a few gifts, in cash or kind, many voters from all political backgrounds, vote for politicians without bothering about their firm commitment to work for the common good.
The fines and imprisonment terms stipulated in articles 122 and 123 of the Penal Code should be used to punish voters who embark on fraudulent registration, or who take advantage of the multiple registration practice to vote several times. High voter apathy was exhibited during the July 22 elections, especially in urban centres where many failed to turn up in their different polling stations. Let’s stand together and give democracy its full significance. The Church encourages and supports the effort of each and everyone towards the attainment of this goal. The Church once again calls for the examination of its proposal for the amendment of the electoral law which it elaborated with the assistance of the civil society, the administration and political parties, copies which were forwarded to competent authorities.
Signed: Mgr Joseph AKONGA ESSOMBA
Secretary General, National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon.
Source: L'Effort Camerounais