Biya Ignores 2005 Census In Redistributing Parliamentary Seats


Paul Biya

Paul Biya

On July 3, President Paul Biya, signed Decree No 2013/222, giving a slim twist to the redistribution of seats at the National Assembly. The President largely maintained the status quo, given that the decree did not provide for any increase of seats at the National Assembly to reflect current demographic statistics. According to the Secretary General of the SDF, Dr Elizabeth Tamajong, the President virtually ignored the results of the population census of 2005.

To her, any such arrangement that does not correspond with demographic statistics smacks of gerrymandering. She believes that the President tailored everything to give undue advantage to the ruling CPDM party in the September 30 twin elections. The 2005 population census results that were published on April 14, 2010, put Cameroon’s population at 20 million people. Last Wednesday’s Presidential decree was in tandem with article 150 of the electoral code.

This provision gives the President the right to determine the number of seats at the National Assembly taking into consideration the size of the population of the various constituencies. The decree provides for the redistribution of the National Assembly seats in seven of the ten regions of the country. As far as the Centre region is concerned, only the five seats in the Lekie Constituency will be redistributed. Lekie East has three seats while Lekie West has two.

The readjustment also affects 21 seats in four divisions of the Far North Region. Two divisions of the Littoral Region will be affected by the new sharing arrangement of fifteen seats. One division of the North Region will witness the redistribution of four seats. In the Northwest Region, six divisions will bow to the new dispensation that borders on the redistribution of eighteen seats.

Only one division in the West Region with five seats is affected by the Presidential decree. The redistribution of seats will affect the Southwest Region in two divisions with six seats. According to political scientist, Dr. Mathias Owona Nguini, it is unfortunate that the President scorned the results of the 2005 population census that are a reflection as to which constituencies need more MPs than others.

To him, it is likely that the current adjustments are tailored only to suit the whims of the ruling CPDM party. It is mooted that the adjustments in some constituencies are designed to keep the opposition parties away from threatening the ruling party in the upcoming elections. Political observers posit that the current dispensation was tailored to ensure the under-representation of constituencies that are perceived as opposition strongholds.

Apart from the constitutional provisions, the distribution of 180 seats of the National Assembly was defined by Presidential Decree No 92/013 of January 15, 1992. At the time, the population of Cameroon was estimated at 15 million people. In one of his open letters published last June 2, the former Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, said some thinly populated areas ironically had more MPs while densely populated ones had only a few.

To the erstwhile Minister, who is now serving a jail term at the Kondengui prison for embezzling public funds, such discrimination is unacceptable. Going by official statistics, the South Region that has eleven parliamentary seats is endowed with a population of 692,142 inhabitants. This is a ratio of 1 MP to 92,287 people. The Far North Region has 29 seats against a population of 3,480,414 people. This is a ratio of 1 MP to 120,014 inhabitants.

The West Region’s parliamentary representation is 1 MP to 90,235 people. With a population of 1,785,285 inhabitants, the West Region has 25 parliamentary seats. The ratio is 1 MP to 71, 411 inhabitants. Endowed with 3,525,664 inhabitants, the Centre Region has 28 MPs. This is a ratio of 1 MP to 129,488 inhabitants. The Littoral Region with 19 seats against a population of 2,865,795 people has a ratio of 1 MP to 150, 831 people.

In the same vein, the Southwest Region that has 15 MPs against a population of 1,384,286 inhabitant grapples with a ratio of 1 MP to 62, 913 inhabitants. With a population of 1,015,622 people, the Adamawa Region has ten parliamentary seats. This is a ratio of 1 MP to 101, 562 inhabitants. The inequalities in the distribution of parliamentary seats as indicated by the statistics, has been animating political debates in the media in the past one week.


  By Yerima Kini Nsom

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