The Tussle with Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law: The Case of Cameroon

Author:Patience N Agwenjang
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The Tussle with Constitutionalism and the
Rule of Law: The Case of Cameroon
Patience N. Agwenjang*
Most African countries have undergone
structural and political changes that limited
their post-colonial government’s capacity to
drive economic growth and make policy
choices. This article bases itself on three
current governance crises (decentralisation,
linguistic marginalisation and controversial
elections) plaguing Cameroon to examine the
structural, institutional, administrative, and
other socio-political tussles affecting
Cameroonians. The current twenty-three
years old Constitution is pending the
implementation of 35% of its articles. This
raises not only the question of
constitutionalism but also the question of the
practicality of Cameroon’s development
objective of an emerging democracy by 2035,
which values freedom, equality, and citizens’
sovereignty.
Increasing protest and pressure coupled with
government repression has heightened
political instability and violent conflicts.
However, Cameroon is at the verge of
reviewing her hybrid legal system, which is
appropriate timing for the government to
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ensure constitutionalism and advance the rule
of (administrative) law by deepening
democratic engagement. Therefore, adopting a
bill of rights on the Constitution is essential
for Cameroon to ensure inclusive power
sharing as well as political accountability.
Nevertheless, the design, implementation and
evaluation of this bill of rights require a
broad-based people-centred developmental
approach, which includes the proper
application of the theories of self-reliance,
legislative institutionalism, new
institutionalism, and globalisation.
I. Introduction
Cameroon is a ‘bijural’ system of a co-existing divergent
European legal systems of the English Common Law and
French Civil law.1 The concept of democratic governance and
constitutionalism were introduced in Cameroon in the 1990s
through political reforms and constitutional amendments
* Patience N Agwenjang is a 2018/2019 Chevening Scholar
studying the LLM in Law, Development and Globalisation at the
School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of
London.
1 Charles Manga Fombad, ‘Managing Legal Diversity:
Cameroonian Bijuralism at a Critical Crossroads’ in Vernon
Valentine Palmer, Mohamed Y. Mattar (eds), Mixed Legal
Systems, East and West (Routledge 2016) 101.
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that have shaped its political economy.2 Cameroon’s 2035
developmental objective, “Cameroon: An Emerging,
Democratic and United Country in Diversity” clearly
identifies democracy (inequalities) and governance amongst
critical socio-political developmental challenges that need to
be addressed for Cameroon to effectively integrate the global
economy.3 However, the implementation of the governance-
related and democracy-related constitutional provisions in
Cameroon have remained questionable.
This essay attempts to conceptualise democratic governance
by examining Cameroon’s legal infrastructure to identify
possible structural, institutional, administrative, and other
socio-political reforms that can transform Cameroon into a
real developmental state. It employs a historical analysis of
law and development movement with reference to how the
theories of modernisation, dependency, and liberal
democracy have influenced interventionism, structuralism,
and neoliberalism in Cameroon. Further, it explores the
governance context based on three issues (decentralisation,
linguistic marginalisation, and controversial elections).
Finally, it seeks to understand how constitutionalism and the
rule of (administrative) law can facilitate sustainable people-
2 Charles Manga Fombad, ‘Constitutional Reforms and
Constitutionalism in Africa: Reflections on Some Current
Challenges and Future Prospects’ (2011) 59 Buffalo Law Review
1007.
3 Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development,
Cameroon Vision 2035 (Working Paper, Republic of Cameroon,
2009) vi.

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