Government and Politics of Cameroon


The constitution which brought in multi-partyism was adopted in 1992, and substantially amended in 1996. It provides for a limit on Presidential tenure to two terms of seven years, while the 180-member National Assembly is elected every five years. It also provides for an Upper Chamber, the Senate. This has not yet been installed, though legislation is under way to establish it. It also provides for elected local councils, which now exist, and for the Provinces to become Regions with their own elected regional councils. The latter provision has not yet been implemented.
In the early days of multiparty democracy the regime was seriously shaken by widespread protest and an emboldened opposition lead by the SDF. The first presidential election under a multi-party system in October 1992 were fiercely contested and controversial.

President Biya was elected by a narrow margin (39-36%) over the leading opposition candidate, John Fru Ndi of the Social Democratic Front (SDF). However since then, the CPDM and President Biya have managed to reassert their dominance over the Cameroonian political scene. The legislative elections of May 1997 were won by the CPDM and presidential elections of October 1997 were won by Biya with 81% of the vote according to the official results. Again the electoral process was denounced by the opposition.

Legislative elections of 2002 and Presidential elections of 2004 followed a similar pattern - the CPDM consolidated its grip on the national assembly and Biya won the Presidential elections of 2004 with 75% of the vote according to the official result. Legislative and local elections were held on 22 July 2007.

The CPDM further consolidated its grip on power, eventually gaining 153 out of 180 parliamentary seats once elections were re-run in five districts in September. The SDF won 16 seats. The electoral roll was computerised which has aided transparency but there remain widespread concerns about the low turnout. Voter apathy has been exacerbated the difficulty of registering and widespread irregularities in the electoral system.

Under pressure from the international community to separate electoral organisation from the highly partisan administration, the government, on 29 December 2006 established a body to supervise elections (ELECAM). This body has not yet become operational, amid disputes concerning its the nomination of its members, and the elections of July 2007 were run by the Ministry of Territorial Administration.

In the last 2 years President Biya has acted to discourage corruption in his government. In early 2006 a former minister, Alphonse Siewe, parliamentarians and several senior officials were arrested on corruption charges. In addition a law has been adopted on declaration of assets by officials and a new anti-corruption commission has been set up.

In December 2007, former minister and former General Manager of the Port of Douala, Alphonse Siyam Siwe, was sentenced to 30 years in prison for corruption. Others in the same case, including the former port Chairman and Government Delegate in Douala Colonel Eduard Etonde Ekoto, were also given substantial prison sentences. A new anti-corruption commission, CONAC, has been established and its members sworn in.

Government & Democracy

Constitution: 20 May 1972 approved by referendum, adopted 2 June 1972; revised January 1996

Legal system: Based on French civil law system, with common law influence; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president from proposals submitted by the prime minister

Executive branch:

Chief of State: President Paul BIYA (since 6 November 1982)

Head of Government: Prime Minister Ephraim INONI (since 8 December 2004)

Elections: President elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held 11 October 2004 (next to be held by October 2011); Prime Minister appointed by the president.

Legislative branch: Unicameral National Assembly or Assemblee Nationale (180 seats; members are elected by direct popular vote to serve five-year terms); note - the president can either lengthen or shorten the term of the legislature.

President of the National Assembly--Djibril Cavaye Yeguie

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (judges are appointed by the president);

High Court of Justice (consists of nine judges and six substitute judges, elected by the National Assembly)
Cameroon’s constitution provides for a strong presidency. The president does not need National Assembly approval to name and dismiss cabinet members, judges, generals, state governors, prefects and heads of state-controlled firms.

A country assessment by Country Information and Policy Unit of the British Home Office noted that the president also has exclusive power to approve or veto regulations, declare states of emergency and can appropriate and spend profits of state-owned firms.

President Paul Biya has been in power since 1982. The constitution was amended in 1990 to allow for the formation of opposition parties and the first multi-party elections were held in 1992. These elections and subsequent ones in 1997 were marred by irregularities. In 2000, the government established the National Elections Observatory, which improved electoral procedure slightly, but international observers still noted irregularities in the 2000 and 2004 elections, and the country still does not have an independent electoral commission. The next presidential elections are scheduled for 2011.

Cameroon is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world by the NGO Transparency International, which monitors corruption worldwide. A survey conducted by the group in 2003 found that 50 percent of Cameroonians admitted to paying a bribe, the highest number in the world.

The NGO Freedom House reported in March 2005 that Prime Minister Ephraim Inoni uncovered widespread corruption in the Ministry of Finance, accusing 500 officials of awarding themselves extra money or claiming salaries of “ghost” employees.

Analysts say that worsening corruption is due to poor pay of government workers.

Major Political Parties & Leaders

Cameroonian Democratic Union or UDC [Adamou Ndam NJOYA]; Cameroon People's Democratic Movement or RDPC [Paul BIYA]; Movement for the Defense of the Republic or MDR [Dakole DAISSALA]; Movement for the Liberation and Development of Cameroon or MLDC [Marcel YONDO]; National Union for Democracy and Progress or NUDP [Maigari BELLO BOUBA]; Progressive Movement or MP; Social Democratic Front or SDF [John FRU NDI]; Union of Peoples of Cameroon or UPC [Augustin Frederic KODOCK].

Political pressure groups and Leaders:

Southern Cameroon National Council [Ayamba Ette OTUN]; Human Rights Defense Group [Albert MUKONG, President].

Last Updated on Friday 13th November 2009