Cameroon is a democracy but with a very strong role for the head of state. The Republic of Cameroon hands executive powers and control entirely to the President. Thus, authority has been concentrated around the president, His Excellency Paul Biya since 1982. Legislative power is exercised by two chambers: a National Assembly and a Senate. The Senate has been in place since May 14th, 2013.
The constitution adopted by the National Assembly in 1996 was on a pretext of minority protection. A distinction was made between "indigenous" and "non-native" Cameroonians.
On the 10th of April 2008, the National Assembly passed a bill on constitutional revision, with 157 votes in favour, 5 against and 15 not voting. This adopted project was widely criticized by the political opposition parties as it allowed President Paul Biya to claim a fourth term at the end of his tenure of office in 2011. During the elections held on the 9th of October 2011, Paul Biya was re-elected through the ballot in the first round of voting with 77.99% of the vote. On December 9th 2011, there is was a new government in place, headed by Prime Minister Philemon Yang who maintained his position.
Traditional leaders are also still holding powers and are consulted by the central authorities on pertinent issues in their area of jurisdiction. In addition to the modern legal codes from international legislation, legal regulation is based on customary law that allows Cameroonians to maintain their original cultures. It is not uncommon for the sons of royal dynasties of sultans or Lamibe to exercise ministerial responsibilities in Yaoundé. Cameroon is also a member of the Francophone Parliamentary Assembly.
Form of State
Cameroon is a decentralized unitary state.
Type of Government
The Republic of Cameroon practices a dual parliamentary form. The constitution of the “Democratic Republic of Cameroon” dates back from 18th January, 1996. The government is accountable to the National Assembly as stated in Article 11 of the Cameroonian Constitution.
The executive branch of Cameroon has the President and prime minister appointed by the President.
The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon are English and French at equal value, a heritage of Cameroon's colonial past as part of the country was a colony of the United Kingdom while the other part belonged to France from 1916 to 1960. The official languages are anticipated to guarantee the “promotion of bilingualism throughout the country and protects and promote these national languages” (Article I Section 3 of the Constitution).
French is the main language in Cameroon. The Francophone population was estimated at over 60 % in 2010. In the economic capital Douala 99% of the population speaks French.
Anglophone Cameroonians are predominantly in the western part of Cameroon. Post-colonial English has been in use within this territory for a long period, and over the years has developed characteristic features, particularly in lexis but also in phonology and grammar. These characteristics were once regarded as errors, but are now increasingly accepted as distinctive Cameroonian contributions to the English language. Cameroon is home to 230 languages. These include 55 Afro-Asiatic languages, 2 Nilo-Saharan languages, 4 Ubangian languages, and 169 Niger - Congo languages. This latter group is divided into 1 Senegambia language (Fulfulde), 28 Adamawa languages, and 142 Benue - Congo languages (130 of which are Bantu languages).
In an attempt by the government to engender bilingualism, it has established several bilingual schools in an effort to teach both languages more effectively but in practice, few Cameroonians speak both French and English, and many speak neither. Cameroon is a member of both the Commonwealth and “La Francophonie’’ (French speaking counties). Most people living in Northwest and Southwest provinces speak Cameroonian Pidgin English as a lingua franca. Fulfulde language serves the same function in the north and Ewondo is mostly spoken in the Central, Southern, and Eastern provinces.
Camfranglais (or Francanglais) is a relatively new pidgin communication form emerging in urban areas and other locations where Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians meet and interact. Popular singers have used the hybrid language and added to its popularity.
Education for the deaf and dumb in Cameroon uses American Sign Language, introduced by the deaf American missionary Andrew Foster. There is little literature, radio, or television programming in native Cameroonian languages. Nevertheless, a large number of Cameroonian languages have alphabets or other writing systems, many of which were developed by the Christian missionary group International Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) which translated the Bible, Christian hymns, and other materials. The General Alphabet of Cameroon Languages was developed in the late 1970s as an orthographic system for all Cameroonian languages. Sultan Ibrahim Njoya developed the script for the Bamum language.
Head of State:The current president is Paul Biya, who has held that position since November 6th, 1982. The president is elected by direct universal suffrage, equal and secret but based on a majority of the votes cast. He was elected for a seven years mandate and renewable by applying for re-election after his tenure of office. (Article 6 paragraph 2 of new constitution April 14)
Head of Government:The current Prime Minister is Philemon Yang. It is the sole responsibility of the President to appoint the Prime Minister and on request from him, the other members of the Government (Article 10) are also appointed.
Executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic and the by his Government. The Government implements the policies of the Nation as defined by the President of the Republic. The 1972 constitution of the Republic of Cameroon as modified by the 1996 reform provides for a strong central government dominated by the executive. The President is empowered to name and dismiss cabinet members (regardless of parliamentary representation), judges, generals, provincial governors, prefects, sub-prefects, and heads of Cameroon's parastatal (about 100 state-controlled) firms, disburse expenditures, approve or veto regulations, declare states of emergency, and appropriate and spend profits of parastatal firms.
The president is not required to consult the National Assembly on decisions he deems fit in carrying out his duties. In 2008, a constitutional amendment was passed to abolish term limits for the office of president.
The judiciary is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. The Supreme Court may however only review the constitutionality of a law at the president's request.
All local government officials are employees of the central government's Ministry of Territorial Administration, from which local governments also get most of their budgets.
While the president, the minister of justice, and the president's judicial advisers (the Supreme Court) are ranked hierarchically from the top respectively, the judicial hierarchy, traditional rulers, courts, and councils also exercise functions of government. Traditional courts still play a major role in domestic, property, and probate law. Tribal laws and customs are honoured in the formal court system when not in conflict with national law. Traditional rulers receive stipends from the national government to support their operations.
Legislative power is vested in two chambers; The National Assembly and the Senate.
The National Assembly (French: Assemblée Nationale) is the parliament of Cameroon. It has 180 members elected by a direct universal suffrage and secret ballot for 5-year term in 49 single and multi-seat constituencies (Article 15).
Although multiparty elections have been held since 1992, the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM or RDPC) has always retained control over the National Assembly. Because the Cameroonian political system invests overwhelming power in the hands of the President of the Republic, and the RDPC exists essentially to support President Biya and his policies. As a result, the National Assembly does little more than approve President Biya's policies.
From 1992 to 1997, the RDPC relied on alliances with two smaller parties to secure a parliamentary majority. In the beginning in 1997, the RDPC has won an outright majority in each of the elections; its majority has successively improved as the opposition has weakened.
The President of the National Assembly is Cavayé Yeguié Djibril. (Pictured below)
The creation of a Se
nate for Cameroonian resulted from the 1996 constitution amendments. But no elections were held until 2013, despite several announcements made about it in previous years. The Senate represents the regional and
local authorities. The first se
natorial elections were held on April 14, 2013.
The appointment of senators takes place in two stages. An electoral college of 9,887 councillors elects 70 senators. Then the President appoints the remaining 30 senators.
The senate in Cameroon represents regional and local authorities. Each of the 10 regions is represented in the Senate by 10 Senators.
(7) elected by indirect universal suffrage on a regional basis
(3) appointed by the President of the Republic
The term of office for appointees is 5 years. The first president of the Cameroonian senate, Marcel Niat Njifenji (pictured below) was officially elected on June 12, 2013.
There are separate judicial and administrative courts (Articles 39 and 40). The rule of appeal is provided for in the Constitution and secured by court of first instance (General court, High Court and Courts of Appeal). The cassation appeal is reviewed by the Supreme Court in both civil and administrative matters (Article 38).
The President of the Republic and the High Court Judge try cases of high treason. Treasonous arts could be scenarios like members of the Government conspiring against the security of the State. The Military Court also rules on military offenses and Security Court State with an exception made for the Military Tribunal.
Appointment of judges
Judges are appointed by the president on the advice of the Judicial Council.
Independence of the judiciary
Under Article 37, the judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
The President is the guarantor of the independence of the judiciary.
Death penalty has not yet been officially abolished in Cameroon but death sentences are becoming increasingly rare.
Crimes punishable by death
Offences that merit the death penalty are enlisted in the following cases:
Breach of National Security Committee: Offences in this area include
1. Participation, promotion and playing the accomplice in Cameroonian aggression against the Republic of Cameroon.
2. Encourage a power to engage in aggression against Cameroon.
3. Delivering information or engaging foreign powers- secrets, troops, territories, facilities or equipment against the national defence.
4. Deterioration of buildings, facilities or equipment, or creating defects to harm the national defence.
5. Attacks with nuclear facilities.
Commit premeditated murder
Commit murder by poisoning
Facilitating or acting as an accomplice to the achievement of a crime
Damage to property
Robbery that resulted in the death of another person or serious injury (Severe damage or amputation of a limb, organ or senses)
Robbery with use of any means of transport within port areas
Review of the constitutionality
Name and composition of the Court
Under the constitutional revision of January 18, 1996, the Constitutional Council is composed of 11 members appointed for a single term of nine (9) years. The Cameroonian Constitutional Council is a member of the Association of Constitutional Courts using French, the ACCPUF. It is expected that the Supreme Court exercises the functions of the Constitutional Council until its implementation.
Type of Control
The Constitutional Council rides on the constitutionality of laws, international treaties and agreements, as well as the internal rules of the National Assembly and the Senate, before their implementation. The Council is also responsible for deciding on conflicts of jurisdiction between state institutions, between the state and the regions, and between regions.
Terms of exercise
The Constitutional Council may be ceased by the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate, one third of the members or one third of senators. The Presidents of regional executives may also cease the Constitutional Council where the interests of their region are involved (Article 47)
Presently, the Supreme Court exercises the functions of the Constitutional Council, which has not yet been established.
Practice of power
Lack of political change
Dating back from the implementation of the new constitution after independence, there has not been much political change. The ruling party being the majority in the assembly presented the current president of Cameroon, President Paul Biya, as the head of state since 1982 and was sworn in for a new term on November 3, 2011 after the election held on October 9.
There have been many rumours about the alleged sale of ministerial positions and directions of public enterprises by the Presidency. Thus, according to the newspaper, The African Independent, former director of taxes, Polycarpe Abah Abah, bought his position as Minister of Finance for 2 billion CFA francs. His was prosecuted of embezzlement and was sentenced to imprisonment in the Central Prison Kondengui.
Credibility of elections
Members of the National Elections Observatory (NEO), the public body responsible for overseeing the elections are appointed by the President, raising doubts about its neutrality.
In the 1992 presidential elections opposition leader John Fru Ndi said that he won the presidential elections. Nevertheless, Paul Biya was declared the winner by the Supreme Court. The U.S. State Department qualified the election one of “highly defective” and “marred by serious irregularities.” Also observers from the US-based Carter Center were critical of the process.
After the contested presidential elections in 2004 the Commonwealth Observers mentioned that “Based on our observations on different regions, it is necessary to note that the electoral process lacked credibility.”
The Government of Cameroon has over 30 ministries, each of which is headed by a political and presidential appointee called “minister” or “minister of state.” All ministries are broken down further into directorates and departments. In line with the constitution the position of minister or minister of state should be exclusive in other words they cannot be taken with any other form of employment - this also means MPs and senators cannot be ministers. Ministers, however, have access to parliament and can participate in deliberations. Within each ministry one may find a “delegated minister” (French “ministre délégué”) which is a third-ranking political appointee after minister of state and minister. The secretary-general in each ministry is the highest ranking civil servant.
The Cameroon government consists of the following ministries:
Ministry of Culture
Ministry of Commerce
Ministry of Communication
Ministry of Defence
Ministry Under the Presidency of the Republic
Ministry of Urban Development and Housing
Ministry of Economy and Finance
Ministry of Basic Education
Ministry of Livestock Fisheries and Animal Industries
Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training
Ministry of Energy and Water Resources
Ministry Of Secondary Education
Ministry of Higher Education
Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection in Cameroon
Ministry of Public Service and Administrative Reforms
Ministry of Forestry and Wildlife
Ministry of Industry, Mines and Technological Development
Ministry of Youth Affairs
Ministry of Planning, Programming and Regional Development
Ministry of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, Social Economy and Handicrafts
Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications
Ministry of Women's Empowerment and the Family
Ministry of Scientific Research and Innovation
Ministry of External Relations
Ministry of Public Health
Ministry of Sports and Physical Education
Ministry of Tourism
Ministry of Transport
Ministry of Labour and Social Security
Ministry of Public Works
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization
International organization participation
Cameroon is member of: ACP, AfDB, AU, BDEAC, C, CEMAC, EITI (candidate country), FAO, FZ, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), MIGA, MONUSCO, NAM, OIC, OIF, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNAMID, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO