The Wind of Change for Cameroon: Could the Solution Come from the Diaspora?
November 14, 2009

By Peter Mans (African Voice of the Diaspora, USA)

Dr. Chris Fomunyoh:
TFF Founder/President
The Global Mall in Atlanta, Georgia, USA saw a truly global participation of the Cameroonian Diaspora in an open and frank discussion on “The Democratization Process in Cameroon” on October 31, 2009.

Organized by the African Political Network, an organization of Diaspora Africans seeking visionary leadership for the African continent, Cameroonians from 11 states across the US, 4 European countries, and Canada gathered in Atlanta to listen to one of the most qualified and well respected individuals to handle the topic of discussion, Dr. Chris Fomunyoh.

Dubbed as Mr. Africa by many international media, Dr. Fomunyoh is a Senior Associate for Africa with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI) and a world renowned icon on democratization efforts across the African continent. His line of work for the past 20 years has revolved around helping governments build strong democratic institutions, assisting in the building of effective political parties, and enabling the construction of viable civil societies capable of functioning as a force for democratic change.

Little wonder that during his talk in Atlanta, Dr. Fomunyoh emphasized that the road to a democratic Cameroon must start with recognition of the extensive failures of the present leadership and the malleable governance institutions that contrast sharply with the vast but largely untapped potentials of his beloved country, Cameroon. According to Dr. Fomunyoh, such potential can only be adequately utilized if the governance in Cameroon were to be grounded in democratic principles in which Cameroonians regain control of their future and the playing field leveled, giving equal access and opportunities to all, and enabling every hard working Cameroonian to be able to achieve their aspirations.

To the acclamation of the crowd, Dr. Fomunyoh outlined the causes of the current crisis of confidence in Cameroon’s democracy and the weaknesses in the constitutional architecture that inhibit the effective functioning of all three branches of government – the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judiciary. He then listed four major elements which he considered would form the cornerstone of any democratic transformation that could move Cameroon forward in the next decade. These include: a comprehensive engagement and reinvestment in the Cameroonian youth; a complete restructuring of the management systems for the country’s human capital and natural resources; a repositioning of Cameroon on the African and global arenas; and a redefinition of the relationship that should exist between the country and its Diaspora.

In the question and answer period that followed the keynote, attendees wanted to know Dr. Fomunyoh’s views on many burning issues of the day such as: perceptions of partisanship surrounding ELECAM and its ability to organize inclusive, free and fair election in 2011; how the Diaspora can best contribute to meaningful change in Cameroon; how to create viable democratic institutions that highlight the most positive aspects of Cameroon’s diversity; the importance of changing political leadership through peaceful and credible elections; the negative impact of the constitutional changes of 2008 on the country’s development; how to use technology to enhance citizen participation in electoral and political processes; and how to foster greater interactions and consensus building among the Cameroonian Diaspora. Participants appreciated very highly the substance and depth of Dr. Fomunyoh’s responses and his willingness to address in detail in English and French, as needed, every issue that was raised. In the view of one of the organizers, Mr. Batiston Lyonga, Dr. Fomunyoh “drove his points home to the people very clearly.” Many other Cameroonians in attendance described the evening forum as very inspirational, uplifting, and forward looking. Host committee co-chair Ms. Rose Ndamukong stated that she had not felt the same level of excitement and interest in Cameroon’s future within the community in a long time.

The Atlanta discussions build on previous appearances by Dr. Fomunyoh in recent months. At the invitation of Cameroonian opposition political parties in Washington DC and the Civil Society Platform for Democracy in Cameroon, Dr. Fomunyoh on August 30 detailed a bright future for Cameroon, if and only if, Cameroonians can base their political decisions on what is right for the country and its people. In October, Dr. Fomunyoh – at the invitation of the Cameroonian Diaspora in Ottawa and Montreal, Canada – highlighted the potentials of the Cameroonian Diaspora in terms of financial and human resources and technical know how; and then exalted the Diaspora to recognize this potential and leverage it for transformational change in Cameroon.

These events come amidst growing speculations about the prospective candidacy of Dr. Chris Fomunyoh for the upcoming 2011 Presidential Election in Cameroon. Not surprisingly, this has always been a question by participants at these events. To the dismay of many who are anxious to see him declare his intention to run, Dr. Fomunyoh has remained humbled and stuck to the fact that one can best prescribe a treatment only after an appropriate diagnosis of the ills of a society and significant consensus on the way forward. Therefore Dr. Fomunyoh sees his appearances as a unique opportunity to meet with, listen to, and learn from other Cameroonians, the challenges facing Cameroon and their assessment of viable options for a better future for the country.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a member of Dr. Fomunyoh’s delegation from Washington DC who attended the Atlanta event stated that another event was planned for North Carolina the next day, and that Cameroonian groups in other US states such as Colorado, Massachusetts, Texas, and California, have already extended invitations to Dr. Fomunyoh and he is seriously considering a positive response to those invitations. He also stated that planned appearances are in the pipeline for Dr. Fomunyoh to visit with Cameroonians in Europe and several African countries. An informal sampling of public opinion among Cameroonians at home and abroad shows a certain level of appreciation for Dr. Fomunyoh’s positive engagement towards democratic governance in Cameroon with many individuals eager to share his findings on these extensive consultations in the not-too-distant future.

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