The Politics of Democratization, Ethnicity and its Management in Africa, with Experience from Cameroon 

John W. Forje 
Yaounde - Cameroon

Political or Belly Kingdom 
Can a study of democratization and ethnicity in Algeria, Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Chad, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Sudan , etc. hold general lessons? Is the state of ethnicity and ethnic conflict the same in these countries? Did democratization begin with the granting of independence to Ghana following the fall out of Macmillan‘s famous speech of the "wind of change blowing across the continent of Africa?" Africa since the late 1950s and early 1960s jumped on the bandwagon of democratization and good governance for better or worse. Nkrumah’s adage of "seek ye first the political kingdom" was practically converted to "fill ye my stomach" by the new generation of African leaders and their subordinate citizens. 
Some analysts even doubt that African states are yet to democratize. Their argument is that African states since the attainment of political independence have been more concerned with "politics of the belly" rather than the proper transfer and appropriate use of power to address the changing and challenging predicaments of the society. It is the governing elites and not the masses that matters. As long as the elites enjoy the benefits of the nation’s wealth, there is the presumption that all is fine with the suffering population or the rest of society can go to hell and as long as the power base of the ruling elites is not contested and threatened by the suffering silent majority. 
In the mythologies of Western experience, democracy means a clash of opposing interests resulting in the voting of the "ins" out of power and instituting of government of responsibility and accountability that respects the inalienable rights of all citizens. So far, power in Africa is contained in a conservative consensus- a consensus of the ganging up between the ruling elites and the West, and in the interest of the latter. To succeed in this process the issues of ethnic conflict and confrontation is constantly fanned by the new stakeholders thereby penalizing civil society as the custodian for the process of change and sustainability of democratic governance system. 
The paper takes a look on two outstanding issues -democratization as a concept and as a need system of governance for Africa and Cameroon in particular: ethnicity as an input factor that moves forward or pervades the process of good governance within the society, and as compass for new scholarship and discourse. In this regard, what institutions and structures are necessary to ensure a harmonious ethnic, social, economic, political and cultural patterns of relationship in society? What alternative futures for the society in question? The argumentative premises of departure is that the ethnic question in Cameroon is a natural factor which has been given greater impetus by colonialism and strongly propagated by post-colonial and neo-colonial politics and leaders to ensure and maintain a political power base for governance. That wrong use of ethnic diversity jeopardizes the structural-functional base of the polity. The things fall apart as a result of this no surprise. 
The return to pluralistic party politics shows how fragile the political base of many leaders were. Political actors deploy the transition to democracy to fuel and exacerbated ethnic conflicts. On the other hand, globalization of the economy equally intensifies the need for more natural resources (most of which are scare and depleting). This has generated conflict over natural resources and ethnic confrontation between groups and peoples on control over land and resources. 
Hence, the need for society to fashion out a co-habitation strategy and code of conduct for the various ethnic constellations to perceive themselves as citizens of one nation sharing its wealth as well as its predicament. In short, national unity within the common framework of ethnic diversity or diversity in unity. A sense of belonging is required. Institutions must reflect and operate within the over all context of creating and sustaining the "common sense of belonging" within the territorial boundaries of the nation. 
Conversely, the absence of that sense of belonging compromise consensus, tolerance, acceptance, social justice and equality, rule of law and participatory approach to good management and distribution of resources constitute an indictment to confrontation and instability with the consequent result of the nation falling apart. Numerous examples abound the world over of the disastrous out come of the existence of a tyrannic minority or majority lording it over others - Biafra, Burundi, Kosovo, Somalia, depicts nation -states falling apart because of the lack of respect for the rights and opinion of others. The underlying issue is that democracy and nation-states flourish when they are tended by citizens willing to use their hard won freedom to participate in the life of their society - adding their voices to the public debate, electing and throwing out representatives who are held accountable for their actions; and accepting the need for tolerance and compromise to public life. The citizens of a democracy enjoy the right of individual freedom, but they also share the responsibility of joining to share a future that will continue to embrace the fundamental values of freedom and self-government. These are issues yet to be implanted within the political landscape of Cameroon. 

Minority Rights and Majority Rule 
The departing premises builds on the slogan of majority rule and minority rights. The rights of the minority must be respected and in no way must minority tyrannic rule prevail over the majority. Yet rule by the majority is not necessarily democratic. No one can, for example, tolerate or call a system fair and just that permits say 39% of the population to oppress 36% in the name of majority; or a 20% turnout / vote cast as demonstrated by the Cameroon presidential election of 1992 and 1997 respectively as being democratic. 
 In a democratic society, majority rule must be coupled with guarantees of individual human rights that, in turn, serve to protect the rights of the minorities - whether ethnic, religious or political, or simply the losers of the debate over a controversial issues; for example, the creation of an independent electoral commission (IEC) to oversee the conduct of a free and fair election as demanded by opposition parties in Cameroon, or the institutionalization of the Ministry of Territorial Administration as both the player, referee and spectator in handling elections in Cameroon. 
What is fundamental is that the rights of minorities do not depend on the goodwill of the majority and cannot be eliminated by majority vote. The Anglophones in Cameroon constitute a minority. But this does not imply that their rights should be trampled upon and eliminated or abrogated by an existing Francophone majority. Nor does it imply that the Beti’s as a minority in comparison to the total population of the country must lord their hegemony over the rest of the nation just because one of them happens to be Head of State. 
The truism is that the rights of minorities are protected because democratic laws and institutions protect the rights of all citizens. This implies also that the laws of the nation - Constitution - is construed to limit the powers of the government and guarantees fundamental rights to all citizens. In such a society, the majority rules, and the right of minorities are protected by the law and through the institutionalization of good laws. 
A pertinent issue to address is: why do some nations fail to institutionalize political freedom, good governance and others succeed? Why some nations to a large extent have contained ethnic fragmentation and others have not? Should ethnic diversity be seen as a liability or an asset to a nation? However, two explanations seem plausible and most compelling. To begin with, democracy has conditions. And these conditions focus on the realm of values and the socioeconomic realm. In these perspectives, without a solid democratization and cultural heritage or a large middle class, socioeconomic foundation, the democratic political edifice that people attempted to erect would end up very shaky, and eventually come tumbling down. Much  illuminating scholarship ensued concerning democratic values and middleclass cum market domination as preconditions for democratic consolidation. Many analysts continue to seek explanations for democratization in terms of a critical dimension distinguishing West from East (see Downing, (1992:39); Huntington (1991); and others). 
The focus is to illuminate democracy and ethnicity from a more universal and positive perspective, one grounded in the cultural and economic particularities of Africa within the global context. The idea therefore, is to explore general political explanations for the different outcomes of attempts to consolidate democracy and ethnicity as an inherent factor that should be properly exploited for developmental rather than destructive ends. Democracy should be understood as system and process by which citizens freely and fairly choose their officials to run government that is accountable. From this perspective, most African countries are not democratic and show no signs of moving towards the democratic ideal. Admittedly, a particular culture or economy may somehow facilitate or obstruct the building of the political institution of democracy. The opinion is that once the political institution of the liberal democracy is implanted within a society, it becomes possible to study more or less successful political experiments as well as learn how to build a stable democracy (see Horowitz, 1992). 
 With politics understood as the key to institutionalizing a democratic breakthrough, one is better placed to treat the vicissitudes of democratization and ethnicity in Africa as integral to a universal human project - democracy as indicated by Haggard (1990). By and large, Africa is faced with the realities of truer organic democracies or people’s democracies - Orwellian double speak or self delusion. We see the state as either the mere violent embodiment of a dominant class or the true embodiment of a pure community leads to a despotic polity. Hence, we ignore the need to desaggregate the state into diverse institutions so that an independent judiciary, due process of law, human and civil rights can be guaranteed as protectors of liberty. Or we ignore the need to see society as complex of ambiguous identities and projects such that the imposition of the state defined by a simple totalized community cannot help but have an anti -democratic thrust. 
Given this understanding of democracy, Africa in general and Cameroon in particular have failed in creating functional democratic institutions. On the other hand, it can be argued that the continent has made progress towards the attainment of a democratic society since the granting of independence to many of colonies in the late 1950s, and early 1960s. This argument is based on the following comparative analyses. Women in France started voting only after 1945; blacks in America were kept off the voting machinery until the mid 1960s. Both France and the United States are counted as democratic. 
Apparently, franchise came to the African woman at the time of independence; both minority and majority ethnic groups were given the right to vote and to participate in the body politic of the society. From the word go, a positive democratic trend was set in motion in Africa at the down of independence. What has defeated this exemplary political development in Cameroon? What factors have contributed to the sudden collapse or abrogation of the political culture that was in the making less than a decade after the attainment of independence? Why has the judiciary lost its independence, the rule of law been set aside, human rights violated, and civil society destroyed, with minority tyranny taking over majority rule or the tyranny of the majority wrongly institutionalized and legalized over all principles of democratic governance? Why have the Cameroonian people thrown away the child (democracy) with the bath water? For the ruling party, the abrogation of democratic principles is classified as "advanced democracy". A classification that is not only false but betrays the notion of democracy and the general definition of the concept as meaning different things to different people and nation. 

Conceptual Framework 
Both Gros (1998) and Sörenson (1993) see democratization as a transition phenomenon involving a gradual, mainly elite-driven transformation of the formal rules that govern a political system. By and large, democracy is not an end-game; rather, a means to an end in the view of Dahl (1971). Furthermore, countries democratize so as to become democratic in the long run. A democratizing country can be distinguished from a non-democratic one mainly by differences in political culture. Hence democratization might be described as a stage in the evolution of a country where the rules governing power alternation and state-society relations, though ostensibly based on democratic ideals, have not been fully internalized. Secondly, democratization presupposes a taming and neutralization of the elite’s anti-democratic, military and security forces. And democracy is a process that institutionalizes fair, general rules that risk a loss of power. 
 Conventional wisdom on ethnicity holds that the only way ethnicity could be managed is to eradicate it. It is argued that because the major consequences of ethnic conflict is nation-destroying rather than nation-building, states bedeviled by such conflict or desirous of becoming nations must devise ways of eradicating it. This wisdom is right to the extent that ethnic conflict is perceived as real, not false or epiphenomenal. But it is wrong in prescribing eradication because this presupposes that ethnic groups and divisions which provide the bases for conflicts can themselves be eradicated. 
The experiences of multi-ethnic societies the world over, show the impossibility of eradication. Rather, the entire point in managing or mismanaging ethnic conflicts is the acknowledgement that they cannot be washed away or eradicated  and at the same time, cannot be left alone because they are capable of destroying states. Cameroon runs the risk of destroying itself in several ways. The underlying thesis is that the democratization processes, by its very notion of mobilizing greater participation and placing the question of control (and sharing or distribution) of state power and resources on top of the political agenda, exacerbate ethnic conflicts and tensions and therefore make their management a critical matter, not only for the success of democratization but also for the survival of the state as a whole. There is need therefore for examining the etiology of ethnic conflicts and how the democratization process impacts on it by heightening or reducing these conflicts. This becomes evident in respect of exploring the situation in terms of such variables as competition for scarce resources, uneven development, class conflict amongst others. Equally important is to see how ethnicity impacts on democratization processes. The empirical evidence is drawn mainly from Cameroon, with comparative mores being provided from the experiences of other African countries. 

A Flawed Process - Basis of Argument 
Dahl and Lindblom (1953:42) note hat ‘’governments are organizations that have a sufficient monopoly of control to enforce an orderly settlement of disputes with other organizations in the area. Whoever controls government usually has the ‘’last word’’ on question, whoever controls government can enforce decisions on other organizations in the area.’’ The views of Dahl and Lindblom relate to the functionality of society. No society is perfectly integrated, and although any social system is built on conformity of its members to expectations, this conformity is not automatic. The process of democratization is never completely successful - whether as regards a particular nation or group of countries. Diverse functional problems and cultural residue prevent the structures from having perfect clarity, consistency, and effectiveness, delicate problems arise from the balancing and inter-meshing of various civil society groups in the total polity and strains are inevitably set-up. 
Students of ethnicity have demonstrated that multi-ethnicity, no matter how complex it may be, does no by itself produce conflicts (Barrows, 1976, 1992). Rephrased differently, and seen within the perspectives of groups coming but not mixing, as well as borrowing from Smith’s (1965) description of ethnic apartness in a plural society, people do not tear themselves apart basically because they belong to different ethnic setting. 
A further explanation is presented by Okamura (1981) and Osaghae (1994) that ethnicity is aptly summarized by the situationality thesis that ethnic conflicts ensue in situations which present conditions under which competing actors -as individuals, groups or classes - find the ethnic resource expedient. Thus in situations where the conditions do not permit of ethnic calculation or where ethnic considerations are eclipsed by class, religious, regional or such other contending divisive resources, ethnic conflicts are not likely to occur. Such a situation provide some form of hope in the transformation of cleavages from the ethnic to class or party identity a la Geertz’s (1963) integrative revolutions as a form of addressing ethnic conflicts. 
It is clear that ethnic diversity and conflicts are deep rooted. The attainment of independence, and the failure of governments to respond positively to the needs and aspirations of the people have only revealed the solid ethno-undercurrents in the society. The experiences of several multi-ethnic states in Africa: Nigeria. Cameroon, Kenya etc have shown, they do not disappear, rather have intensified, particularly in the past decades of economic hardship faced by many of these countries. 
In some cases, ‘’they may be latent, suppressed, displaced or simply well-managed, but they remain a sore which hurts now and soothes later’’ (Osaghae 1994). Even in countries that have introduced socialist forms of governance and frameworks for resolving the national question as well as managing ethnic conflicts, have crumbled into violent crises following the release of ethnic nationalism through democratization. 

The Camerooian Situation 
Cameroon is a nation-state engulfed with more than 230 ethnic groups and a complicated chequered colonial and post-colonial political process-an Achilles heel of the post-colonial state. There are at least two possible analytically distinct phases of the democratization process and as well as two varieties of ethnic conflicts in Cameroon. Beginning with ethnic conflicts, we may distinguish between public realm ethnicity that centers around determining who gets what when and how. The other concerns the private realm which may not necessarily involve state intervention. Given the state of limited development in the private sector in the country, our concern here is focused on public realm ethnicity. So far this form of public realm ethnicity has not been manifested in a civil war like the case of Nigeria (1966 - 70) and Belgium Congo (in the early 1960s). 
However the likelihood of such a development hangs in the balance in view of the Anglophone - Francophone divide where the former are marginalized from the political machinery of the state. In other words, any form of secession can develop into a serious conflict between the two groups. At the lower realm concerning tribal conflicts, this remains a constant feature in certain parts of the country, particularly in the North West and in the three Northern provinces and mostly centered around issues of competition for land and scarce resources. The northern parts of Cameroon constitute a critical source of ethnic tension and the South-West and North-West with respect to regionalism could be regarded as a variant of ethnicity. Because of the intricate interweaving of the related cleavages, a regional or religious conflict can very likely emerge as ethnic it serves to sharpen ethnic differences between the various provinces in the country. 
Another realm of the competition for scarce resources can be seen within the framework of colonialism and peripheral capitalist formation which generated new and competitive notions of development and conflicts amongst the various groups. It also intensified existing conflicts as well as generated new ones between the different groups. Equally seen within this context is the competition for public jobs, admissions into schools, especially institutions of higher learning or specialized schools, and distribution of state resources, appointment, other critical aspects of uneven development, through the location of development projects amongst others are sources of competition. 
So far, the pervasiveness or regularity and intensity of ethnic conflicts in Cameroon is not as acute as in some other countries, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Burundi and Rwanda where the Hutu and Tutsi are locked in a tense power struggle suffice. The most likely answer why ethnicity is intense and violent in some countries and not in others may be attributed to a number of inter-related issues. Possible explanations pivot on issues such as (i) the balance between economic and political control; (ii) the character of ethnic demands, interest articulation; (iii) the form of governance system which either promotes centralization or degree of decentralization of government structures; and (iv) the extent of legitimacy of the ethnicity and quality of management. Politically, the demise of colonial rule in the late 1950’s saw the intense rivalry among the emerging elites who found the ethnic weapon most expedient in the competition for political and state power. This rivalry continues with greater intensity following the wave of modernization and the globalization process which impacts on the country, economically, scientifically, technologically and industrially deficient, and weak in many aspects. 
Cameroon’s efforts towards what Huntington calls the ‘’third wave’’ began perhaps with the departure of Ahidjo in November 1982. Paul Biya’s accession to the supreme magistracy on 6 November 1982, signaled a new wave for democratic changes particularly with the slogan of rigor, moralization and democratization as forms of symbolic participation, regular elections and the political devices, reinforcing the ideologies of the government as true representatives of the people. The publication of Communal Liberalism in 1987 by Paul Biya was well ahead of the virus that caught the nations behind Soviet Union’s domination. 
The essence of democracy is that the governed decide who governs through a free and fair election. Thus the citizen is vested with the inalienable rights of choosing and dismissing the government (see Lewis 1985:61-63). Is this the situation in Cameroon? Categorically no. The rights of Cameroonian citizens to elect and dismiss their law-makers was abrogated in September 1966 following the establishment of a single party which at no time tolerated any form of divergent political opinions. 
The reinstitution of political pluralism in 1990 following the formation of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) brought Cameroon one-step towards the creation of a democratic polity. Paul Biya (1987) gave green lights in that direction with a plurality of candidates competing for parliamentary candidacy nomination within his ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM). However, the ideal of the New Deal regime crumbled along the way due to a number of inter-related factors - internal and external in character. 
Internally, the politics of exclusion and ethnic hegemony had overtaken the principles of national unity and thus destroying the underlying elements of national cohesion and sense of belonging. Secondly and flowing from the establishment of ethnic hegemony over the rest of the society by the Beti group, was the institutionalization of corruption and mismanagement with moral ethics and values destroyed. That the economy of the country took a nose dive was not surprising as civil society lost its sense of touch and as custodian of the rights of the people. A state of the survival of the fittest and fattening of these who wielded power from state coffers was established. 
Externally, Cameroon’s declining economy and state of mismanagement paved the way for the impositions of economic measures by the Bretton Woods Financial Institutions through the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAP) which only brought serious hardship to an already abject poverty ridden society. Many see SAP as socially added problems depicting the state of poverty in the society. It is evidently clear that the one-party system did minimize to a large extent ethnic conflict and confrontation. Bama (1990:11) asserts that "during the past five years, the democratization process, added by an ailing economy, has torn my country into pieces. Both ethnic and socio-cultural cleavages, which were buried in the fear of the one-party state have suddenly reappeared with much menacing force that the very foundation of my country’s nationhood is today in serious jeopardy.’ 
To a large extent, the single - party had a significant impact restraining ethnic rivalry in a situation where the country’s bewildering diversity in respect to geopolitics, social cultural, religious, economic and ethnic composition and diversity is concerned. The potential resources base of Cameroon’s 230 or more ethnic constellation was mobilized and geared towards the common goal of national development weaknesses of certain ethnic groups was subdued. What mattered was the total prosperity of the nation. But behind that expected prosperity lay the ingenuity, strength and risk-taking attitude of certain ethnic groups (Lema Forje 1993). Here the Bamileke excel as a vibrant hard-working and economy risk taking ethnic group. Their ingenuity has not been properly exploited by the government for the benefit of the country. A number of authors (Mentan 1997, Lewis 1958 and others) draw attention to the fact that Cameroonian indigenous ethnic groups have emerged as significant elements in the political division of the country. In other words, ethnic constellation have equally adopted some form of affinity with polical parties, interest groups and so on, as well as they are limited to occupational categories and job allocation. This is why individuals have been aligned and / or mobilized on ethnic strata for political ends. 
Within this parenthesis, Akinsola (1964) looks at the mobilization process as ‘’ a set of patterned responses, adaptive adjustments to the unanticipated consequences of the process of nation-building’’. This ethnic diversity should be seen as an asset not a liability to nation-building and the socioeconomic transformation of the society. Here Skinner (1967:173) observes that ‘’the central function of ethnic affiliations is to permit people to organize into social, cultural or political entities able to compete with others for whatever goods and services viewed as valuable in their environment.‘’ Behind ethnic reality lies also ethnic conflicts propelled by many and varied factors. 
In the case of Cameroon as noted by Mentan (1997: 38) competitive attitude and behaviour has been pitched between the depoliticization of the masses which constitutes the politics of the ruling class and the politicization, radicalization and militarization of ethnic groups by the threatened ruling class, and the opposition in the wings. This constitutes a serious dilemma in the state - civil society relationship in the democratization building process in Cameroon. 
For example, the indigenizing of the bureaucracy and the marginalization of certain ethnic groups or province has made ethnic confrontation inevitable in Cameroon. This also has a spillover effect on the democratization process. Kasfir (1976:51) asserts, "once ethnicity becomes a salient factor in politics, people increase its intensity by adopting ethnic explanation of succeeding events. Ethnicity, then becomes a self -fulfilling prophecy." 

Economic and Political Factors 
The reinstitution of political pluralism in 1990 exacerbated ethnic anomisty and political warfare between those advocating for change and those determined to retain the existing status quo of a monolithic political system, ethnic hegemony and elitism. A state of dual contest exists within the society. One between the Anglophone and Francophone. The other between Center and South Provinces (Beti) and the rest of the society. The Anglophone-Francophone issue is a long standing one that has taken the connotation of secession and assimilation. This is more compounding because democratization is taking place at the same time that the country is experiencing a serious and unprecedented economic crises and recession, mismanagement and corruption, total loss of confidence on the administration, and a functioning regime whose legitimacy and credibility is seriously questioned. At least three pertinent factors seem to dominate the political agenda of democratization and economic restructuring process, namely;(i) governance and competition for state power;(ii) minority nationalism; and (iii) competition for scarce resources. 

Governance and Competition for Power 
The issue of democratic governance has roots in colonial legacy in respect of the kind of governance left by the departing colonial master to their respective colonies. The two inherited colonial governance forms pivoted on the politics of ‘’indirect rule’’ and the politics of ‘’assimilation’’. The two systems transcend into a contest and representing ‘’federalism’’ and ‘’centralism’’ -a system cherished by the Anglophone and Francophone communities respectively. However, reunification gave the centralized system a stronger edge in the governance system as well as it contributed to serious maladministrative practices. The virtues of indirect rule are yet to be grasped by Francophones. 
Analytically, ethnic conflict was produced more by the state’s threatening actions regarding  the various communities which sustained peoples lives than by an intrinsic hostility among the Cameroon people (see Bates 1981; Chazan 1983). In addition, since the reunification of the two Cameroon, and particularly following the abolition of the pluralistic political party structure and federal system (1972), the centralization of production and distribution of resources, patronage and privileges has become an object of fierce competition among the various ethnic and interest groups. The situation has grown worse since the abortive coup of April 1984, when the new governing ethnic hegemony desperate to create a material base, the emergent bourgeoisie turned on the state in a process of primitive capital accumulation, see (Ake 1978, 1981). People of the ethnic group of the former president were hunted, molested and killed or what is known as "la chasse aux Haussas" (see Ministry of Culture 1984:10). The massacre of Northerners by Southerners creates a North-South cleavage which though is forgiven but not forgotten within the political dimensions of the process of democratization and the sustainability of democratic institutions in the country. Both Takougang (1997:169) and the (Cameroon Post (February 24 - March 3 1994) report that;" since the advent of multi-parties politics in Cameroon, many citizens who have dared to take sides with opposition political parties have always had it rough from the CPDM or RDPC government or the so call presidential majority who are doing everything to stay in power. It has not only been a mere arrests and torture with flimsy or no explanation at all, but also deaths, a situation which has forced many Cameroonians to flee the country to strange land for safety. 
Was Biya’s "New Deal Package" as exposed at the 1985 CNU-CPDM Bamenda Congress, and his 1987 vision of liberalization as well as the call for rigor, integrity and moralization in the conduct of all state affairs and private sector activities just one of those ploys of individual self -enrichment and a disguised obstacle to freedom and democracy in Cameroon or what? Events thereafter show that Biya’s political reforms were more symbolic than real. Apparently in the late 1980s, he continued to resist calls for the introduction of multiparty party democracy in Cameroon . Even though he encouraged competition within his CPDM Party , but opposed demands by Cameroonians for the creation of a functional multiparty system ,describing this as simply a ‘distasteful passing fetish’. (Simpson 1991.653). Like most African leaders, Biya perceived political party pluralism both as threat to his authority and as a politically divisive factor detrimental to social and economic development .The argument advanced by Biya was that: 
the one party system appears to be the only suitable institutional framework for bringing together Cameroonians of all origins. It should therefore, give birth to a new brand of Cameroonians devoid of any tribal or regional allegiances. It is necessary for the mobilization of human resources, especially intellectual resources, which though soinvaluable, are still in our country. For how could we ensure the efficient running of the state machinery if the political leanings of the few senior officials Cameroon now has were to torn between several opposition parties, thus creating for any ruling regime an insurmountable crises of power? (ESSTI 1987:44). 

Given Cameroon’s fragile political institutions, the silence of civil society, and the weak national political cultures, and backed with the newly emerged ethnic hegemony, the state was quickly transformed by the new political constellation into an instrument for pursuing personal, ethnic and other sectional interests at the expense of national and other groups interests. Thus the democratization process is often thwarted and captured by ethnic hegemony and an apparent ganging up process by individuals who continue to benefit from the existing spoiled governance system, or by an ethnic group that has succeeded to seize control over the centralized state. The danger of dominance of the Beti hegemony and the ruling CPDM (RDPC in French) party remains foretold. 
Cameroon has so far been spared the agony and dilemmas of civil war caused by the ethnicization of state power. But the ethnicization of state power under a monolithic party system enhanced an authoritarian regime to successfully clamped down on the opposition, oppressed and silenced civil society either through marginalization or co-optation. Civil Society is both weak and captive. 

Minority Nationalism 
Cameroon is characterized by a number of minority nationalistic tendencies. To begin with there is the Anglophone- Francophone divide. In respect of nationalism, the Anglophone minority has stood at the forefront of the struggle for the democratization of the country. Its strong believe in federalism and good governance has much to do with the kind of colonial system instituted by the British. Within the new political constellation of the country, it has been marginalized and oppressed. In contrast to the Anglophones, the Beti (who can be considered as a minority group vis-à-vis the rest of the population) wield sufficient power and now feel as constituted relevant claimants groups to power and privileges within the society. 
One point deducible from the discussion above, the two groups show that the Beti have emerged as a circumstantial powerful minority group opposed to any form of political liberalization, and the Anglophone community a marginalized and oppressed group dedicated to democratic change and good governance . Generally, where minorities find no channels for expressing their grievances, they often pursue violent, underground means of seeking justice. In some cases, they become separatist. The Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) is a typical example. 
This is not the case with the Anglophone community. Their quest for a return to federalism (and the secessionist aspiration) is carried out within the framework of non- violence and within the principles of the constitutional democratic ideals. Equally interesting is the fact that some Anglophones (South West in particular) have not construed the concept of democratic transition and federalism based on the principles of the rich oil wealth and other natural resources in this part of Cameroon to assert their right to better treatment within the existing discriminative centralized system, but because of their inherent belief in the nation - state of Cameroon under democratic rule and governance. The National Oil Company (SONARA) located in the South-West is manned by Bassas from the Littoral province. 
The violence attitude of the Beti minority group is due to the fear of loosing existing privileged positions in the society that genuine constitutional democratic changes is bound to usher. It is not surprising why at the start of Cameroon third wave to democratization, the Beti (center and South Provinces) expressed alignment with their kin and kith in central African Republic, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea in what they envisaged as a "Fang" State. The commonness of language and culture being a motivating factor. 
It should be noted that ethnicity is instigated and intensified by competition for control of state power which is necessary for attaining desirable goals of development. The anglophone differ with the francophone on this point. For the Francophone, any move by the Anglophone for democratic change is generally perceived as a movement towards the capturing and control of state power by the latter. But the intention of the Anglophone community and those Francophones who have come realize the values of democratic governance, is to ensure social and economic justice, rule of law and the sustainability of  the country. Their overall intention is not to capture the control of State power for the Anglophones to ensure the practice and sustainability of democratic governance for the country, through a democratically elected government which could either be a one party controlled or a multiplicity of parties in a union government. 

Competition for scarce Resources 
Competition for scarce resources constitutes a major avenue for ethnic conflict as well as it thwarts the transition to democratic governance. The situation in Cameroon is that the integration of different groups through colonialism into a peripheral capitalist formation brought new competitive notions of development as well as it heightened existing conflicts and produced new ones amongst the groups (see Melson and Wolp 1970). 
The position taken by Kirk-Greene, (1980) concerning the indigenization of organs of government and even within the private society, notably in the armed forces including the police and prison warders, holds true of Cameroon. The indigenization of the civil service in Cameroon particularly since 1984 is total. Even if one should see this a fatal legacy of colonialism (the use of available human power and capacity to ensure colonial administration), this attitude by subsequent Cameroonian administration has continued to affect inter - ethnic relations especially because of the rampant abuse of power government officials to fill positions with their kinsfolk. 
Specifically, structured inequalities that abound among groups can be identified as the main bases for retarding the democratization process and promoting ethnic conflicts in Cameroon.  Appointments to key administration posts within the government and influential managerial positions in parastatals and even in the private sector is indicative of what Adam (1971:21 - 22) sees as the "result of efforts by underprivileged groups to preserve the privileges they enjoy by exploiting subjected groups." Table 1 shows how the Beti being a minority population in comparison to the rest of the society exploit both the competition for state power and scarce resources by virtue of one of them wielding power to their advantage (Onomo 1997: 102). 

Responsables d’Entreprises Publiques et Parapubliques 
Director Generals %
Assistant Director Generals. %
Total %
Centre-sud 37.68 40.74 38.71
Grand-Nord 6.6  3.70  5.38
Anglophone 12.12 7.41 10.75
Ouest  16.67 22.22 18.28
Littoral 7.58 18.52 10.75
Est  1.52 7.41 1.08
Expatriés 18.18 7.41 15.5
Source: Onomo (1997:102) 
Note: Centre-Sud Provinces is inhabited by the Beti. 

The Cameroon state has been under serious pressure as a result of the government’s failed promises, and of not matching words with action or doing so but in the opposite direction. The unfair distribution of posts and resources as indicated in Table 1, is indicative that the process of building a democratic and economically viable society is of course in Cameroon. Apparently, Communal Liberalism raised the hopes of many Cameroonians, but never satisfied their aspirations of living in a state of freedom, dignity, justice, respect of human rights and with a sense of rigour in the appropriate and sustainable management of the resources of the nation. It became clear that communal solidarity, national unity and a sense of belonging had been converted into ethnic hatred and assassinations, the so called’’ come-no-go’’ phenomenon, the hatred of the Anglophones and Bamilekes by the Betis that gripped the country as wild fire, and with moral rectitude reduced into moral decadence portrayed Cameroon as a nation evolving under a state of painful nightmare. Instead of quality management, the virus of corruption and maladministration gripped the country. 
Unfortunately, nothing was done on the part of nation’s leadership to address the malaise that had gripped the nation nor implement into concrete terms vital strategic watchwords as ‘’internal dialogue, the free exchange of ideas, tolerance of opinion, promotion of our national culture, the local economy and social justice’’ as propounded in the slogan of the New Deal Government ( Cameroon Post August 12-19,1991). Sad enough, for many Cameroonians, by the late 1980s, Biya’s early welcome reforms strategic approach under what was known as ‘’the New Deal’’ governance style was by all standard noting short of ‘’consolidating’’ total power and fanning ethnic hegemony and divide within the Cameroon polity. Instead of participatory democracy, Guided democracy became the secret weapon for change. Political change was guided and dictated by the pace that made it more comfortable for the ruling elites to derail the democratization wagon started in 1990. 
Failed promises and the illusion of democratic reform worked in favour of two groups, namely the francophone against the anglophone, and, Beti against the society. Furthermore, derailing the democratic process added to economic recession and the total collapse of the state thereby prompting the restructuring policy strategy imposed by the Bretton Wood Financial Institutions on Cameroon. The outcome is well noted by Osaghae (1994:22-23) that ‘’although economic restructuring has in some cases preceded independently of democratization, the realization by the people that economic power is the basis of political power has made conflicts over scarce resources an integral part of democratization. In many countries, democratization afforded marginalized, disadvantaged and oppressed groups opportunities to finally seek economic redress. The process of doing so in the face of serious economic recession and deprivation intensified conflict over control of state power and other resources.’’ 
So far, the politics of democratization and ethnicity in Cameroon remains a complicated one. Each transition toward democracy has its own unique characteristics. It is left for each country to develop these characteristics towards the achievement of democratic governance and good management. What has been characteristic of Cameroon could be X-rayed under the following factors: guided and restricted democracies; frail and unconsolidated democratics; democracies plagued by acute social and economic problems. 

Process of Transition and Consolidation 
From the foregoing discussions, the condition unity and the process of transition from authoritarian or non-democratic rule to democracy in Cameroon has been crowded with a number of phases that overlap. So far, the country is still within phase one - the preparatory phase characterized by a political struggle leading to the breakdown of the non-democratic order and regime and ethnic conflict: The other phases of significant importance which the country has yet to roll through is that of the ‘’ decision phase’’ which should institute clear-cut elements of a democratic order and the final state, that of ‘’the consolidated phase’’ where the new democracy is further developed and, eventually, democratic practices finally established as an inherent part of the political culture of the country. There is no historical law that can best define the transition process as a natural order of things. Each country has to map out its own path through the uneasy seesaw between authoritarian and consolidated democracy. Anything short of consolidated democracy is unaccepted for a country like Cameroon within a very challenging and rapidly changing global system. 
As of present, democracy in Cameroon has been under the tutelage of ‘’guided or restricted democracy’’ with the Head of State and his ruling CPDM dictating the pace under very careful guided and controlled strategic system of manipulating a divided opposition and coerced civil society that limits competition, participation and the liberties of the people. The ruling CPDM has taken it as rule and right to interfere in the democratic process in order to protect its interests even in the wake of total lost of confidence in the administration which is seen as not having the legitimacy and consent of people. The true results of the 1992 Presidential, 1996 Local Council and the 1997 Parliamentary elections depict this. 
The manipulation of the 1991 Tripartite Accord to establish a concerted constitutional framework for the country show the kind of manipulative machinery the government had created to frustrate any positive movements towards the consolidation of democratic governance and good management in Cameroon. Frail, unconsolidated democracies in Africa is a common phenomenon because the anvil on which democracy should be construed in terms of the existing institutions of state and their positions in society remains extremely weak and fragile. In the case of Cameroon, the state has failed woefully both economically and politically. This is very sad as Cameroon was once looked upon as the emerging political laboratory for Africa following the peaceful reunification of the British and French administered United Nations Trust territories. 
In general, Cameroonians are poverty ridden today, if not far worse as they were thirty years ago. For the Anglophone community, they are worse of more than in the 1950s. Cameroon like a number of African countries has failed to effectively institutionalized any form of effective democratic rule and good management. Rather they excel in authoritarian regime form. What can be the possible problem? Most outstanding among many possible plausible answers is that the total lack of legitimacy characterizing most of these governments. The case of Cameroon remains crystal clear to the extent that the leader of the SDF, Ni John Fru Ndi has openly called upon the French (the political broker and space setter for political changes in Cameroon) to intervene in the country‘s political impasse (Ndifor 1999:1 - 2 and Ni John Fru Ndi 1999: 11 - 12). 
Secondly, the departure of the colonial masters created a vacuum in the political system which unfortunately was filled by a form of neo- patrimonialistic regime structure. This has been described by max Weber as a type of governance originating from a royal dynasty and which rather treats matters of state as a personal affair. The governance system in Cameroon since reunification in 1961 has been one of personal rule and could therefore be interpreted as neo-patrimonialism. This personal rule has intensified and received greater impetus and impact since 1984. The coming into being of advanced communication and information technology has contributed to this form of personal rule based on personal royalty especially toward the strong man -the head of state- who now controls both the competition for state power and competition for scarce resources. In all key positions and important appointments in the civil service and armed forces are filled with the loyal followers clansfolk, friends, relatives, and ethnic groups of the man at the helm of the state magistracy. In return, the loyalty of persons to the strongman (Head of state) is reinforced by their sharing in the spoils of office. 
Significant here also is the fact that the head of state commands a web of informal networks or patron -client relationships through which the spoils of office are distributed. The greatest beneficiaries here are first and foremost kinsmen, hence the Beti hegemony within the body polity of the country, like the Hausa hegemony during the days of Ahidjo though that was not as pronounced and discriminative as what exists today. Comparatively, the distribution of resources attained some degree of fairness than now. Whichever way, personal rule and patron client relationship remains an important factor within the body politic of Cameroon and many other African nations. 
What is significant to observe here are two factors, "belly politics" and the institutionalization and mystification of the strongman as the embodiment of national purpose and around whom every thing must evolve. Given the Cameroon situation, the President is above and apart from the civil society. He can do what ever pleases him without a reprimand from the constitutional legalized institutions of government and the state. The financial coffers of the state remains his personal property and at no time accountable to any one in society. It is within his prerogative to change at will the constitution, all depending on his night dreams and the influence of his spouse or phone call from the external custodian of the country amongst others. With a flick of his head, the citizen can be disposed or done away like that. This embodiment of absolute power in personality is traceable to the interview given by the head of state, President Paul Biya to Eric Chinje (CRTV 1987). 
This absolute control of the state's machinery impedes any form of democratic rule. But enhances the avenues for corruption and of mismanagement through illegal access to the state's resources in the form of jobs, contracts. Favorable loans, opportunity for illegal gain, and access to resources not directly controlled by the state but subject to state regulation, such as import permit and business licenses (Sörenson, 1993). The collapse of Credit Agricole Bank being a typical example amongst many such inappropriate business activities under the new deal regime. 
As a result of the state's lack of legitimacy, and in view of the fact that many Cameroonian are excluded from the rewards and benefits emanating from clientelism, the government resort to coercion or threat of it for survival. In determining the degree of democracy and ethnicity in Cameroon and in many African states, one should perhaps focus less on the differences between civilian and military regimes and more on the direct and indirect political influence on the arm forces (Collier, 1975:22). Since reunification one can rightly conclude that the democratization process in Cameroon is best x-rayed by "the study of the collapse of the tutelary democratic regimes introduced during the decolonialization and the emergence of various types of authoritarian regime form and leadership style - Ahidjo and Biya. 
Cameroon's transition to democratic governance is confronted with serious economic and social problems. Since mid 1980, Cameroon has been subjected to its own lost decade - with declining living standards and increased poverty for the vast majority of the marginalized poor. It will take some time for the country to recover from its current economic and social decline. Thus, the country's democratization process is plagued by acute social and economic problems with no sign for solutions and since rooms is not created for popular mobilization and participation of the masses in the process of change and development. 
Cameroon’s has been subjected to its own lost decade - with declining living standards and increased poverty for the vast majority of the marginalized poor. It will take some time for the country to recover from its current economic and social decline. Thus the country’s democratization process is plagued by acute social and economic problems with no sign for solutions and since room is not created for popular mobilization partnership and participation of the masses in the process of change and development. A new from of social movement and popular mobilization is necessary to inject new ideological coherence, vision and structuring of the system is imperative otherwise the country has no chance of positively surviving in the new millennium. New forms of ethnic conflict management should be put in place to better handle arising issues that thwart the democratization process. 

Cameroon’s approach towards the third wave of democratization is indicative of the fact that single factor is accountable for the contemporary surge and quest for democratic governance and good management. Above all, that the country has yet to articulate and aggregate strategic policy measures for ethnic conflict management as it impacts on the democratization and Socio-economic, technological and industrial process. 
In addressing these issues, there is an urgent need to unravel Cameroon’s specific problems some of which have been addressed here and better summarized as the ‘’preparatory stage’’ characterized by a political struggle which can either lead to a break down or step forward in the third wave of democratization. In this preparatory stage, the breakdown of the non-democratic regime has still not yet occurred. Until this breakdown or collapse takes place, the country cannot move forward to the second stage - ‘’the decision phase’’ where clearcut decisions are made to establish a solid platform for democratic order. 
The attempt by civil society and the constructive opposition parties - the SDF for example, has been to create a process of comprehensive and concerted bases for the breakdown of existing non - democratic regime form in Cameroon. For some time, civil society has been active in that process. However, civil society has equally been caught or gripped by the ‘’frustration shock phenomenon’’ that compromises its continued efforts towards change. The vision of an all -powerful Head of State and coercive mechanisms put in place has also been responsible for the frustration shock that has gripped civil society. 
The non -democratic regime form that the country has since the reunification of the two Cameroons did pregnant civil society with spoil attitudes hence the state of frustration. Civil society has yet to overcome that stage of shock. Cameroon civil society has yet to give birth to the pregnancy of non -democratic governance style. Secondly Cameroon should move from its present nation-state practice to city-state governance from where each city builds and operates on the basis of autonomy and independent strategy as a possible way of addressing ethnicity and transcending the ethnic boundary if the nation-state has to survive and make its impact as a governance structure for the country. 
So far, the typical pattern confronting Cameroon is that of an established uneasy fluctuation between authoritarianism and frail democracy. Under the Biya regime, there is an expanded form of restricted or guided democracy that is frail, unconsolidated and plagued by acute social, economic and management problems. What seems to paint a more optimistic democratization process and ethnic conflict management picture in the hope created out of frustrating state of affairs by mobilizing and organizing civil society (grass roots) in the struggle for democratization. The Cameroon civil society is better informed today than before 26 May 1990. 
But this hope born out of the frustration runs a further risk of sinking into serious apathy if the economic and social conditions of the people are not drastically improved. The present state of economic and social crisis impedes a smooth passage of the democratization process. There is a long – way to attaining consolidated democracy in Cameroon. 
The ultimate search for democratization and in managing ethnic conflicts in Cameroon is for the country to drastically reduce the sole formation and dependence of political parties on a particular ethnic group (particularly that of the leader) to build a national political base and bridges across ethnic boundaries and social strata in the society. Such a search can only be produced within the framework of social justice, the rule of law and respect for human dignity as well as economic and political deregulation,  for the state to relinquish much of its control of the political and economic machinery. 
  The current dilemmas of the process of democratization rest mostly on the shoulders of Cameroonian, who must take the first step towards breaking the basis  of a non- democratic regime form that characterized the country  for four decades; industrial and technological awakening of the country and to build a culture vital for the sustainable development of the country. 

1. Civil society has to reassert itself in the process of change and development and to remain an active participant in the democratization and economic recovery processes; 
2. Increased participation and empowerment of the poor constitute an important factor in a process of democratization where a sense of belonging not alienation must be cultivated; 
3. Civil society must learn to take its own share of responsibility and to contribute positively towards the emergence of a conductive environment for the consolidated stage to take place; 
4. There is a serious but imperative need toward greater political, cultural and economic empowerment of the poor, underprivileged and marginalized in society. 
5. Recognition of the existence of minorities not as a liability but as an assert  to the overall wellbeing of the nation; 
6. Limit the powers of majority rule with a focus on respect for minority rights, participation and responsibility. The minority should not establish itself as a tyranny in society either. Majority opinion must also be respected and never used as a tyrannic mechanism for development; 
7. The need to develop accommodative practices and  political parties should not bee made coercive instruments in the hands of bureaucrats. 
8. The separation of powers amongst the three institutions of government being essential for the growth and sustainability of democratic governance; 


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© The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO.

© Les idées et opinions exprimées dans cette article sont celles de l'auteur
et n’engagent pas la responsabilité de l´UNESCO. 

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