Cameroon Campaign Group

Conference Calls for Independent Electoral Commission
October 11, 2003

Conference Statement

LONDON, UK — High profile multinational gathering calls for an Independent Electoral Commission, respect for human rights, the alleviation of poverty and the elimination of HIV-AIDS in Cameroon.

A half day Conference was held at the Centre of African Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, October 11, 2003, under the theme: Cameroon's Failed Transition to Democracy: Which way forward? The Conference was organised by the Cameroon Campaign Group (CCG) in association with the Centre of African Studies, University of London to launch CCG activities and to explore the various themes it intends to take forward. It was chaired by Lord Eric Avebury, Chair of the Cameroon Campaign Group.

The conference was opened by Prof. Richard Fardon, Chair of the Centre of African Studies who welcomed participants. Lord Avebury's opening remarks followed, in which he described the conference as "the first ever high level multinational gathering to be held in London on the problems of Cameroon..." He denounced the curtailment of freedom of expression by the government of Cameroon, such as the closure of the private TV station, Freedom FM, and the recent hassling of the French language daily Mutations. Lord Avebury called for a transparent electoral process and for the setting up of an Independent Electoral Commission. He said: "donors are only going to put their hands into their pockets if they are satisfied with the National Elections Observatory's remit and the people appointed to run it." Referring to the awaited 2004 presidential elections, Lord Avebury warned that "if he (Mr Biya) drags his feet, not only will he forfeit the h elp needed to make the elections run smoothly, but also the share of the much bigger NEPAD prize which is conditional on good governance." Lord Avebury urged participants not to only criticise but also "to develop ideas which are to the advantage of Cameroon and its people."

In a keynote address that lasted one hour, the guest speaker at the conference, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, Senior Associate for Africa at the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and adjunct Professor of African Politics at Georgetown University, Washington D.C, outlined the political timeline in Cameroon in the past decade. He took the participants through the various major political, constitutional and electoral processes that have taken place in Cameroon since 1990 including the highly flawed presidential elections of 1992 and the subsequent ones of 1997 and 2002. He made seven recommendations for a way forward. Dr Fomunyoh recommended "a new and improved legal framework that takes into consideration the shortcomings of the past and a clear demarcation of roles between the Ministry of territorial Administration and the Observatory or other more independent entity that can generate increased voter or citizen confidence in the electoral process." He also recommended a clear electoral calendar, proper and thorough voter registration, neutrality of people involved in election administration, equitable access to state-owned and state-controlled media, voter and civic education programmes, genuine dialogue and civil society participation in the political process. Dr Fomunyoh identified four key actors whose commitment is vital to restore democracy in Cameroon: the government of Cameroon, opposition political parties, civil society organisations and donors/friends of Cameroon. He concluded: "I am hopeful that this initiative organised by the Cameroon Campaign Group is a major first step in drawing international and national attention to the task ahead."

Workshops were held under various themes: human rights, the rule of law, p overty, elections, good governance and HIV-AIDS. The workshops were followed by a plenary session where all the key recommendations were discussed. Some of the key recommendations made were as follows:

  • Free and fair elections in Cameroon will come through the setting up of an Independent Electoral Commission, a new legal framework and civil society involvement in electoral processes.

  • The Commonwealth's alleged satisfaction with the ongoing dialogue with Cameroon government notwithstanding should be urged to hold Cameroon to account with regards to their adherence to the Harare Declaration, the Paris Principles and other international agreements ratified by the former. Adherence to set standards of democracy and human rights cannot be measured only by words or meetings but by concrete actions.

  • CCG to input into various stakeholder events such as donors and Commonwealth meetings.
    questions be put to the UK government through Parliament with regards to their level of commitment and support for human rights and democracy in Cameroon. To this effect support should be sought from DfID, the Commonwealth and other key NGOs.

  • Meetings be held with key European-based NGOs and government officials in order to explore areas of collaboration and synergy.

  • CCG should seek to facilitate a process that will lead to a coalition of human rights and pro-democracy NGOs in Cameroon with the view of supporting their capacity to play their roles more effectively.

  • Collate, disseminate and highlight information on the situatio n of human rights and democracy in Cameroon.

  • Put questions to the government of Cameroon regarding the shortcomings of its Poverty Reduction Strategy that seems to be economic growth driven at the expense of social services through its diplomatic representatives in Europe.

  • Locate the role of CCG on HIV-AIDS issues especially urging for political leadership and commitment to eliminating the pandemic. In this regard CCG needs to look at ways of supporting civil society involvement in anti-HIV-AIDS campaigns in Cameroon.
  • Highlight the links between poverty and governance/rights.

  • Press for transparency in management of oil revenues and to combat corruption in Cameroon.

  • Support campaigns for the protection of the environment.

It was agreed that CCG will tease out key recommendations and to engage some participants who indicated their willingness to form sub-groups to work out details. Participants came from USA, France, Germany and the United Kingdom. A detailed Report of the Conference will be published in the near future.


For further information about this conference or the CCG, please contact:
Frank Russell (+44 (0)774 008 4244) or Sarli Sardou Nana (+44 (0)7966 376 050)