By Clovis Atatah, Yerima Kini Nsom, Martin A. Nkemngu & Leocadia Bongben| Friday April 16, 2010|Th Post|
It is a truism that the pattern of population distribution is of much politico-economic importance. Hence, the long-awaited release Wednesday of Cameroon’s Third General Population and Housing Census has offered an opportunity for politicians to review their strategies especially with regard to the up-coming presidential election in 2011.
The fact that it took up to five years for the census results to be released is attributed mainly to the fear of the political consequences that the figures were likely to generate. After much feet-dragging, the government had no choice but to respond to pressure from international partners and sponsors like the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA, and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF.
A careful reading of the census figures explains why President Paul Biya, as a shrewd politician, has concentrated much attention on the three northern regions of Far North, North and Adamawa – appointing many of theirs to strategic and important positions in government. With a population of more than seven million inhabitants, it is obvious that the way a majority of them vote will be crucial in determining the outcome of any democratic election. Biya is not unaware of this.
All along, Mr. Biya has sought to forge alliances with political leaders from the northern regions, his objective being to capture votes from the teeming population of that zone. After the North comes the Centre Region with more than 3.5 million inhabitants where the ruling CPDM has always won the majority at elections although its cosmopolitan composition has always made things less certain.
The strong presence of the Centre in the government and in other important state institutions militates in favour of President Biya. When that advantage is added to dependable ethnic support from the East and Southern Regions, the ruling party nurses little or no fear.
The rest of the population in the Littoral, West, Northwest and Southwest Regions, is important for the fight in democratic elections.
Its highly educated and cosmopolitan composition gives comfort to the opposition. But unlike the Northern and Centre Regions, the multiplicity of opposition political parties with divergent and sometimes selfish interests, makes unity of purpose a far-fetched dream. It is expected that the present population distribution will be some food for thought within the opposition ranks to chart out a new strategy for 2011, failing which their defeat is a foregone conclusion.
Biya has already made significant moves in penetrating opposition strongholds in the Northwest, West and Littoral Regions. The appointment of a Prime Minister from the opposition Social Democratic Front, SDF, fief of the Northwest is part of the strategy to win support from the politically sensitive Region with a large population of voters.
Another aspect of the new census figures is the representation in Parliament. It has been a long time since the number of seats in the National Assembly was pegged at 180. With the release of the population census showing an important demographic increase, it goes without saying that the number of seats in Parliament must be revised to reflect the existing situation.
If anything, the results have revealed the great imbalance and inequality in representation in the National Assembly.
There is no doubt that the new population figures would create a strong awareness amongst political actors, which would necessitate not only an increase, but a complete redistribution of the seats to reflect the new situation. After all, there are many areas which feel that they are under-represented in Parliament. Thus, a review of the situation is urgent and imperative. Cameroon’s Population as of January 1, 2010.
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