ELECAM Board Member Speaks Out
-Insists ELECAM Is Incorruptible
-Warns Politicians Against Corruption
-Blames Low Voter Registration On Ghost Towns
-Cautions Political Parties To Assist Militants
Preparations for elections in 2018 have entered high gear. At the level of political parties, the ruling party; CPDM, and leading opposition party; SDF, have organised political training seminars to equip militants with necessary tools and skills well ahead of time. The mandate of the current Head of State, Paul Biya, ends in 2018. The Senators, National Assembly members and Municipal councilors will also terminate their five years mandate in 2018. The first Regional Council election in Cameroon is equally expected next year.
2018 will therefore be a politically crowded year for politicians, militants and voters at National, Regional, Divisional and sub-divisional levels.
The body responsible to oversee the proper and smooth organisation of these elections is Elections Cameroons, ELECAM. Recently, ELECAM board members made regional tours to all the ten regions across the country. Their mission was aimed at educating voters and assessing the level of voter’s registration.
One of the Board members assigned to the South West Region, Dr. Christopher Tambe Tiku, spoke to Eden on the motive of their tour and other major issues at stake. He spoke to Eden’s Cham Victor Bama. Read on…
Eden: You recent rounded up the tour of the South West Region to assess the voter registration exercise; how can you measure the situation on the ground?
Tambe Tiku: The trips were jointly carried out by the two ELECAM Board members, Governor Ejake Mbounda and I, assigned to oversee work in the South West Region. We went to Fako, Meme, Ndian, Lebialem, Manyu, and Kupe-Muanenguba divisions to assess the ongoing registration process. Overwhelmingly we still have complains of people dragging their feet when it comes to the registration exercise.
We seized the opportunity to inform all the stakeholders on the important role they are supposed to play as far as this process is concerned. We reminded them of the intention of the legislator who had opted for a holistic approach to the electoral process in Cameroon. By this I mean getting all the stakeholders involved for the whole process to be credible and transparent.
But some of the joint commission members seemingly have not been participating in the process. And as a result, it has affected the entire registration process because this work was supposed to be carried out by joint commission members alongside ELECAM staff. Political parties were also to assist ELECAM towards this strive of registering Cameroonians who have attained the age of 20.
We seized the opportunity also to inform them that 2018 is not far; it is at the corner. There is the tendency of people waiting till when elections have been called up before they start galvanizing their militants. So we thought it was necessary for us to bring to their attention the limited period we have as far as elections are concerned. Most of these elections will take place in 2018.
If we were to go by the dates available then we have just three months to have electorates registered. I am here referring to June, July and August 31st. If for example elections have to be held next year starting with senatorial elections, then we have just one month, the beginning of the electoral process, for that process to wrap up before electorates are called to the polls. Virtually there is no time and it was necessary for the board members to impress on this.
We are happy that most of them assured us that they were going to strategise and see how they can register more of their militants even though most of their complains centered on the unavailability of identification documents.
They also complain that some of the areas are enclave. But we think that it is also the responsibility of the political parties to assist their militants in some of these areas.
Your visit came at the time the South West is recovering from severe injuries inflicted by the socio-political unrest in Anglophone Cameroon. How has it affected the registration process?
We cannot deny the fact that ghost town phenomenon has hugely impacted on the work of our field staff. In some of the areas we received complains of hostile reception that our field staff have received and we also have advised them to be more prudent in the way they do their work. In some areas it is no more secret that the offices are closed because of threats that ELECAM staff have received and as a result of that there is no way we cannot link to the timid registration process which is ongoing and the figures have dropped significantly. Apart from other factors that have contributed, the ghost town or generally the social upheaval have also contributed to low registration.
What significant progress has been recorded per division in the voters registration exercise?
So far, we noticed that Ndian has registered the highest. Fako has also registered a significant number of voters. Manyu, Kupe-Muanenguba and Meme that used to have a good record in terms of registration have dropped. Apart from that we should also take our responsibility that most of people are ageing and kits operators are having difficulties with some of these machines. So, from time to time machines that are bad are forced to be sent back to the regional delegation for repairs. And before these machines are repaired it takes quite a while and as a result people have to wait for the machines to be put in order.
It’s a whole multiplicity of problems. It cannot only be linked to the ghost town phenomenon which has been identified as one of the major problem. The outing that we just made has given hope in the process. I am sure before August comes to an end the numbers which were documented would have doubled if not tripled.
The impact of the ghost towns phenomenon is visible though, but don’t you think
Cameroonians may have other better reasons as to why they still are not interested in the voter registration exercise? Maybe hovering doubts on its free, fair and transparent organisation of elections in the country?
That was the message we carried all through the divisions. We accepted some of the lapses of 2013 even though those elections were properly conducted and accepted by both the national and International community. But because we are striving towards improving on the process we must also recognise the fact that there were some shortcomings, not only human but we also had some material concerns which we think can be addressed. And once they are addressed the people will be ready to accept what we are doing.
It was also an opportunity for us to caution some of our field staff who have been in one way or the other involved in some dirty dealings. We made them to understand that there will be zero tolerance for some of these vices. The whole idea is to ensure that whatever people are doing is in accordance with what the legislator has put in place. It will be ironic that after putting so much to embark on the biometric system then we allow ourselves to be overtaken by corruption and then we start messing up the process.
We have sent a signal and also cautioned some our staff, reminding them of some of the dealings of politicians who will want to come closer to them and only for their own interest. The process may mar our process too because if people see that you are not doing the right thing, there is no way they can accept the results whatever you come out with. I think that if there is any work to be done as far as transparency is concerned this is done at the level of registration and distribution of cards and not only on Election Day. ELECAM will not be present on the Election Day. It will just be the stakeholders themselves. We have the responsibility to educate the masses and inform them that credible elections are not organised on the day itself; it is a whole process, from the pre-electoral period right up to the post-electoral period. This is the process that we are committed to and that is why you see members of the electoral board going to the field from time to time. They don’t wait until elections are called and they start going to talk to election stakeholders.
The role of the electoral board is to ensure that the electoral code is respected.
Many people have accused the party in power of the approach adopted in handling the recent socio-political unrests in the Anglophone regions and that it may influence future political consultations. It is purported that plans are underway to negotiate with ELECAM in order to secure victory especially in the South West Region. How true or false?
As a person I have not heard any rumor. This is the first time I am hearing that. I don’t think it is possible. The way elections are conducted in this country, it is very difficult to penetrate ELECAM staff. If you are penetrating the staff then it is in connivance with the party. This is an approach that involves all stakeholders. If you are participating at all the levels, it becomes very difficult to accuse ELECAM. I want to say that those are mere speculations because there is a problem on the ground and people think that the ruling party may be affected by the crisis. But then elections are something whose results you cannot determine. It depends on how the parties have placed themselves, what manifesto they have to attract more voters on their side.
The way forward as ELECAM braces up to 2018?
I think voter apathy can be dealt with from your own organisational approach to elections. When people are confident that you are neutral, transparent they don’t perceive you to be corrupt, people get involved in the process and accept what you are doing and participate. But once you are perceived to be corrupt it becomes a very serious problem because it means that you have to change the mindset of the people before you proceed. You cannot change the mindset of the people by using the same mindset that created the problem to solve the problem.
From time to time consultation forums should be organised with all the stakeholders to inform them. ELECAM cannot take hostage the entire process. There must be room for stakeholders to come out and also express their views on how things are conducted at the level of ELECAM. That is why it’s very important that from time to time all the stakeholders meet with ELECAM officials to evaluate and brainstorm on approaches to take as far as elections are concerned.