Home » Decentralization in Cameroon: village committees come into play ~ Targeting Plus

Decentralization in Cameroon: village committees come into play ~ Targeting Plus

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Decentralization in Cameroon: village committees come into play ~ Targeting Plus

The Minister of Decentralization and Local Development signed an order on July 19, 2023 setting out the terms and conditions for the creation, organization and operation of neighborhood or village committees. In addition to non-profit associations, these are now new legal entities within which young people can come together and participate in the development of their communities. At a time when certain committees are being created, let’s return to the added value of such organizations.

What is a neighborhood or village committee?

According to Ministerial Order No. 00000147/A/MINDDEVEL of July 19, 2023, neighborhood or village committees are consultation frameworks which aim to encourage the participation of populations in the development, execution and monitoring of municipal programs and projects, or in surveillance, management or maintenance of the basic collective works and equipment concerned. This decree also specifies that these committees are apolitical consultation frameworks and bring together the inhabitants of a neighborhood or village, without any form of discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, tribe, religion or political affiliation.

Photo credit: RAPEAJ, authorized access

What are the responsibilities of these committees?

In its article 4, the ministerial decree specifies that the action of a neighborhood or village committee falls within the framework of awareness-raising, supervision, support, relay, monitoring, alerting municipal authorities and local populations, concerning activities, municipal projects carried out in the field. These committees are thus responsible for:

Mobilize and organize the inhabitants of a neighborhood or village with a view to their participation in the development of the neighborhood or village; Contribute to the development, monitoring and evaluation of municipal planning documents; Encourage expression , by the population, their needs and their involvement in the basic monitoring and management of basic collective works and equipment; Support communication and dissemination actions of messages, acts and municipal documents to the populations of the neighborhood or village; Question the municipal authorities on various questions and/or concerns concerning the neighborhood or the village, falling within the powers transferred to the municipalities; Encourage the promotion of good practices in terms of use, management, maintenance and development of works and infrastructures , as well as basic social facilities; Relay to municipal authorities information on the visible technical state of basic social works and facilities and on the progress of neighborhood or village projects; Carry out actions enabling strengthen cohesion and the feeling of belonging to the community, through the development of local human potential; Inform and alert the municipal authorities and the State representative, if necessary, by any means, of serious shortcomings observed in the execution municipal programs and projects.

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How do these committees strengthen citizen participation in development?

The citizen participation in development is the active involvement of citizens in the decision-making, implementation and evaluation processes of development policies, programs and projects that concern them. It recognizes that citizens have a role to play in defining priorities, formulating policies and implementing solutions to improve their well-being and contribute to the progress of their community.

These committees will allow citizens to express themselves, contribute to decision-making and actively participate in the implementation of municipal policies relating to the development of their village or neighborhood. If these committees are well managed, they could also promote more democratic, inclusive governance and will better respond to the needs and aspirations of the populations.

Committees exposed to the risk of politicization

Despite the crucial role that neighborhood or village committees could play in managing local affairs and promoting community well-being, there is growing concern about the politicization of these committees, particularly with the influence exerted by the Mayors of the municipalities. The ministerial decree in article 30 mentions that the office of the committee can be suspended by a reasoned order from the Mayor. Although this is a temporary suspension in the event of unrest, Mayors could abuse this authority to weaken the committee.

When Mayors exercise excessive influence on committees, there is a major risk of politicization. Mayors may seek to use committees as political instruments to consolidate their power, promote their personal agenda or further partisan interests. This can thus lead to a deterioration in the neutrality and representativeness of the committees, and harm their ability to act in the general interest of residents.

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The impact of this politicization on social cohesion within communities

The politicization of these committees can have detrimental consequences on local governance and peace within communities. First, it can lead to community polarization, creating divisions between the Mayor’s supporters and those who oppose him. Second, it can restrict democratic participation, as residents may fear reprisals if they express views contrary to those of the Mayor or his political party. Furthermore, this politicization can lead to misallocation of public resources, with priority given to politically motivated projects rather than the real needs of the community.

In order to preserve the independence of the committees and minimize the risk of politicization, it is urgent to put in place control and transparency mechanisms to ensure that the decisions taken by the village committees are based on the general interest and not on political considerations. In addition, it is necessary to promote the civic participation of members and encourage the diversity of committee office members in order to guarantee equitable representation of the community.

And finally, what can young people do?

We have a crucial role to play in the development of our communities and our voices must be heard within committees. To engage effectively, we must start by learning about our committee’s activities and local issues, attending meetings, asking questions and expressing our concerns. It is also time to use social media to share our opinions, encourage the participation of other young people and mobilize our communities in favor of development projects.

Our engagement within committees can contribute significantly to the development of our communities. Our energy and creativity can bring new ideas and innovative solutions to local challenges. By making our voices heard, we can advocate for educational and professional training programs, access to sports and cultural infrastructures, improved access to health services or environmental protection. local. Our active participation can also inspire other young people to get involved and this strengthens the representativeness of the committees and promotes more inclusive and sustainable development.

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