Transcript of Interview with Magic FM, Yaounde, Cameroon
Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Magic FM: And now, it's time for us to receive our guest, Doctor Christopher Fomunyoh, a Cameroonian working with the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs He is also Senior Associate for Africa. He talked to Magic FM about his Institution. He began by telling us what NDI is all about.

Dr. Fomunyoh: The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, commonly known as NDI, is a non governmental organization based in Washington DC, that was created by the US Congress in 1983 for the sole purpose of promoting and supporting democracy worldwide. So we are a non-governmental organization and our work consists of working with small 'd' democrats in transition environments worldwide. We do have programs in 18 African countries currently, and we've worked in Cameroon in the past as you may remember, but we also have programs in Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East , Asia and the former Soviet Union.

Magic FM: Now when you talk about promoting democracy in the world, now looking at the municipal and legislative elections of Cameroon that just passed, what are the impressions of the NDI?

Dr.Fomunyoh: Let me first say to clarify, that we did not send out a team to Cameroon during the last legislative and municipal elections and so did not observe those elections. So I'm a little at a disadvantage in being able to respond to your specific question about my assessment of those elections.

However, I remember the late President John Kennedy always said that democracy was a never ending endeavor, which means that at every instance, on every given day, each one of us has to make a positive contribution to the democratization process. And so while Cameroon may have come a long way, in terms of accepting multi-parties and allowing civil society organizations to grow and allowing the media, for example, the private media to emerge, I think we still have a lot to do in our country, to make sure that Cameroon can become a genuine democratic state.

Magic FM:Can you just give us a gist of NDI's successes since its creation.

Dr. Fomunyoh: We want to believe that we can be very helpful and we can have an impact. We also want to be humble enough to realize that in each one of these countries that I will cite to you, that we have people on the ground, people such as yourself, journalists, people who are in the trenches working everyday , putting their lives on the line for democracy's sake and so the work that we do sometimes consists of being side by side with these individuals or coming in to give them a helping hand. But the bulk of the work is always being done by the small 'd' democrats that we find in these countries.

I can cite South Africa for example and the end of Apartheid in South Africa and the fact that NDI worked with the ANC and other black African parties that had been excluded from the political process to provide them training that then allowed them to prepare for the first transitional elections in a democratic South Africa. I can cite Senegal where we were very instrumental in helping the government of Senegal rewrite its electoral code and its electoral laws to create more room and open up processes for a credible electoral process, which then brought Senegal along through successive elections to the point where they had a genuine and credible presidential election and legislative elections that brought about a peaceful turnover of power and succession in Senegalese politics.

I can talk about Benin, and Mali and even Ghana and Nigeria where NDI has played a very important role. We were very involved in the first transitional elections in Nigeria in 1998 and we're preparing ourselves again to be involved in the upcoming elections in 2003 in Nigeria. There's Kenya and Malawi and even Mozambique and a number of other countries on the continent in which NDI has been involved.

Magic FM: Now talking about Cameroon, if you're asked to size up the level of democracy in Cameroon, what will you say?

Dr. Fomunyoh: We probably would have to go through a specific checklist, because democracy can be very broadly defined and we now have to look at the various specific sectors. I'll be frank to say that in some sectors there's been considerable progress but in other sectors Cameroon is still lagging behind and my hope is that, especially the younger generation of Cameroonians, would take this to heart and that together - collectively - as small 'd' democrats, we can continue to work in those sectors that have shortcomings to make sure that our democracy can really stand tall.

One of the sectors that I will cite to you is probably the way in which we organize our elections. We have to find a way to make sure that more Cameroonians can participate in the electoral process, because it's important for every democratic society that citizens feel that they can make a contribution to the way in which they are governed by participating in the political process. If we have an electoral process that doesn't allow people to register and that shuts some people out, then we may inadvertently send the message to people that there are other means of achieving power rather than going through the ballot box and that is something that would not be healthy for a young country such as ours of today.

Magic FM: Thank you very much

Dr. Fomunyoh: It's my pleasure.