“When Institutions Start Functioning They Can Bring Some Solutions To Crisis”
Professor Yenshu Emmanuel Vubo, Political Sociologist in the University of Buea.
In the ongoing extraordinary session in Parliament the bill being scrutinised makes provisions for a Special Status to the North West and South West Regions. What are specificities of the special status?
The first thing is that the specificity of the special status is meant to cater for specificities related to the English or British colonial heritage. The educational system more specifically and the legal system. But then, we also have institutions that will be specific to the two regions. We have representative bodies which will not be found in the other regions. If you look at the institutions, some of them point to a time when the chiefs in the former Southern Cameroons had a pride of place and they had a House of Chiefs which was like an Upper House. While at that period there was the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly, there was also the House of Chiefs which brought the most influential chiefs who had what they called a consultative status. There are Upper Houses in many countries. Examples are , The House of Lords in England and the Senate in the US. This House will have a consultative status, atype of special representation which if when you look at will not be in the other regions.
What will be the role of the House of Chiefs?
The role of the House of Chiefs is defined by the instrument under debate. But as I say, a consultative status means that if you finish debating in your Regional Assembly, they can have a voice to say and they can also be consulted on major issues that relate to the two regions because they are the custodians and the persons who have nobility and who can be counted upon to give weighted opinion. They cannot replace the elected representatives. We are not saying the democracy of one man one vote will put them away. They now have a very specific role. Their powers have been valorised through this institution. Traditional authorities have been enhanced rather than shifted aside as was the case before. They themselves, the chiefs in their own jurisdictions or areas also have their own councils that advise them. In the new House they will not be giving personal opinions but the opinions they carry from their own areas on the advice of their councils. There are councils in several chiefdoms. Some have council of elders, council of notables, kingmakers, and all sorts of people. It will not be as if they have been elected to act alone; the chiefs will be a relay from the traditional side which is not in itself an isolated institution. They will be the relay between the communities and the modern government.
With the special status, what will make the North West and South West different from the other regions?
We are in the regime of decentralisation which is about local autonomy. Seeing that the two regions that have commonalities will have their own institutions which are different from the other regions does not absolve them, subtract them from the right to function as their own regions. There are things that the North West and South West Regions will handle specifically more or less like the other regions. Beyond that, they now have other specificities that the other regions do not have. This is consistent with ideas of special status. If you see how Belgium is, the major components, such as the Walloon, Flemish and Germans have their specific areas which are managed globally but within it you have further divisions. The special status for the North West and South West does not mean that you will now cancel the region. The regions will have their own functions but will further have something different from the others.
The idea of the special status has come at the time there are socio-political and security crises in the North West and South West Regions. How will the special status contribute to appeasement and return to peace in the two regions?
The special status did not come from nowhere. It came out from the Major National Dialogue which was attended by a select group, not democratically elected but representative by virtue of their elite status, their position as opinion leaders carrying Anglophone interests and key community leaders. There were also people like Cardinal Tumi and his working group on the Anglophone General Conference. At least it covered part of what he might have been hoping to get. It is not in the instrument on the special status that you will have the magic wand to bring appeasement and peace. It is in its implementation. Implementation will take time. You start with the putting of institutions and you try to make them functional. The starting point should be elections into all the new institutions. Once they start functioning, you can expect that this will now provide some of the solutions to the crises and there can be peace. That does not exclude that you can also look at parallel ways of bringing peace. Peace is not something that you can get at a blow. You get one package of measures while they are working, you can now get to context specific solutions. For instance, people who are at the base of insecurity may not understand what is happening. It is not the instrument per say that will solve the insecurity. It brings part of the solution. For any solution, you cannot anticipate its effect until it is implemented.
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