Civil Society and Politics in Africa – The Case of Cameroon (Analyzing the Role of Civil Society in the Democratization Process in Cameroon)

Authors : Egoh Modi Aziz

Volume/Issue : Volume 4 - 2019, Issue 8 - August

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Contemporary notions of civil society are diverse, and debates around its fundamental role in enhancing the process of democratization in Eastern Europe, Africa and other parts of the developing world are the basis for its existence. Increasing political instability, unaccountable economic and management systems, corruption, asymmetric development, social injustice, authoritarian regime forms amongst others, have been the key areas of anxiety in many countries. This paper begins by tracing the emergence of civil society in Eastern Europe from the 1980s extending to Africa. It subscribes to the fact that civil society existed in Africa before colonialism, and that civil society formations were mostly captured under the voluntary sector which to some extent demonstrated some form of autonomy from the state. Civil society agenda during this period was apolitical. It was only when colonialism sets in and politicized the very existence of civil society formations that a growing political sensation started gaining grounds. However, the repressive measures of colonial administration silenced any form of civil society awakening. From the colonial era to that of independence under president Ahidjo, civil society was configured under same trade associations, agricultural work parties and the voluntary sector in general, with virtually no political activism. As a point of departure and anchored within the broad paradigm of civil society and Africa’s political activism, this paper intends to critically analyze some captivating elements surrounding the civil society of Cameroon. It starts by positioning the concept within the framework of Cameroon’s political transformation process and the actual role civil society played in attaining this objective. Acknowledging both the conformist and activist roles played by Cameroon civil society, this paper focuses more on the activist dimension of the concept. This paper contends that Cameroon civil society during the early 1990s was more vibrant and willing to exert pressure on the Biya regime for a pluralistic political system. During this period, political activism was crafted in what I have captioned ‘civilian group militancy.’ Unlike then, current trends of civil society shows a relatively weak capacity and unwillingness to commit and unite as one force to challenge the incumbent regime. The paper asserts that the state, on its part has used all forms of machinery to render the civil society disjointed and divided in realizing its objective for change. The researcher has employed a qualitative method in analyzing data collected from primary and secondary sources, semi-structured interview session and views from direct and personal observation pertaining to the subject in question.

Keywords : Civil Society, Politics, Democratization, Transformation.


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