Cameroon and “Motions of Support”
May 12, 2011 § 6 Comments
By Julius Fondong
Someone recently quipped that if we were to go by the numerous motions of support addressed to President Paul Biya and read every day over CRTV, there will be no need to hold elections in Cameroon. As I write this there is a debate raging in Cameroon over whether university lecturers and intellectuals can send motions of support to the president. According to Professor Jacque Fame Ndongo, Minister of Higher Education, there is no reason why they shouldn’t.
Cameroon-Info.Net reports that at a recent conference on the subject of motions of support held in the Amphi 700 of the University of Yaounde 1, the Minister emphasized what he considers to be the “scientific “attributes of motions of support. Professor Fame Ndongo surmised that these motions are an expression of a profound political commitment to a respected governing class or governing authority. The Minister surmised that a motion of support is a literary genre and a form of political communication that must be taken seriously, not derided.
It is important to note that this conference was coming on the heels of a motion of support purportedly addressed to Mr. Biya by about 1000 University lecturers of some state universities, appealing to him to stand as candidate during the next presidential elections. Some of the university professors have since claimed that their signatures were forged.
Such claims (of forged signatures on motions of support) are not without merit. I remember sometimes in 1993 I was invited to take part in a meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office. According to the convener of the meeting, the objective was to discuss “development issues facing the North-West”. I showed up at the meeting at the appointed time but curiously there was no one. I signed the attendance sheet and left. That same evening, CRTV Radio read out a motion of support addressed to President Biya by the “elites of the North West Province resident in Yaounde”. According to the motion, these “elites” were pledging their unflinchingly support to the President for his appointment of Mr. Simon Achidi Achu as Prime Minister and Head of Government. To my total bewilderment my name was read out as one of the signatories of the motion!
Such is the dirty politics that surrounds motions of support in Cameroon. I have never understood why supposedly decent people will go to great lengths to forge motions of support to the president to give the impression that some sections of the population are still loyal to him, when most of the time quite the contrary is true. Some of those who tried to violently overthrow Mr. Biya in April 1983 are most likely to have appended their names and signatures to motions of support pledging their unconditional and unflinching loyalty to the President, just months before staging their failed coup. And I’m quasi certain that if we dig deep into the files, we’ll see motions of support bearing the names and signatures of all of Cameroon’s past and current so-called ‘opposition’ leaders.
So who is fooling who? Does the President really take these motions seriously? In fact, can any political leader worth his salt give serious consideration to such cheap political demagogy? Contrary to what Professor Fame Ndongo will have Cameroonians believe, Motions of Support are the by-product of a one-party authoritarian state, which have no relevance in a modern constitutional democracy like the one Cameroonians are yearning for. In both form and content these motions are a regressive, meaningless, antiquated form of political expression practiced nowhere else but in Cameroon, and may be also in a handful of some backward France-Afrique countries.
Serious politicians use opinion polls to gauge the public’s attitude towards the great policy and political issues of the day. Thanks to well developed computer software programs opinion polling is now becoming almost an exact science. Public Opinion Polls (POP) are indispensable to any political leader or any governing establishment which cares about what the public thinks. As a man of science, I would have expected Professor Fame Ndongo to be promoting the use of more scientific methods of measuring the level of public support for the President’s policies; not trying to encourage his colleagues – fellow men and women of science – to indulge in the archaic practice of sending motions of support.
The rest of the world is modernizing and moving on, politically, socially and economically. And so must Cameroon. But first we have to wean ourselves from some these backward and negative practices like the gratuitous flattering of our leaders with meaningless motions of support. These are the kind of things that hold us back and make us the laughing stock of the world. If we can’t modernize things like our banking system or our road infrastructure, we can at least refine the way we do politics. It doesn’t take much to do it.
Source: The Chia Report
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