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Cameroon's Stalled Transition to Democratic Governance: Lessons for Africa's New Democrats

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image of African and Asian Studies
For more content, see Journal of Asian and African Studies.

ABSTRACT Cameroon's stalled transition to democracy is examined. It is argued that most of Cameroon's present political and economic problems can be traced to non-democratic constitutionalism at independence. Elite-driven, top-down, non-participatory constitutionalism left the country with institutional arrangements that discouraged entrepreneurship but enhanced political opportunism (e.g., rent seeking and corruption). In addition, it is shown that the inability of the country's main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), to successfully lead the country's transformation has been due to many factors. Some of them include poor and fractured leadership, political miscalculations, rivalry within the party and between the party and other opposition parties, Biya's political acumen, and strong French support for the incumbent government. The most important first step toward successful institutionalization of democracy is state reconstruction through people-driven, participatory and inclusive constitution making. Unless such a process is undertaken, Cameroon will not be able to provide itself with the enabling environment to deepen, consolidate and institutionalize democracy, as well as deal effectively with pressing issues such as the desire by the Anglophone minority for greater levels of political and economic autonomy.


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