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ELECAM Appointments: Wrong Questions And Wrong Answers! 

Much of the debate that followed the appointment of members of Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, has identified many such scientists.

Section 8 (2) of law No.2006/011 of  December 29, 2006 creating ELECAM states that: "Members of the Electoral Board shall be designated from the midst of independent personalities of Cameroonian nationality, reputed for their stature, moral uprightness, intellectual honesty, patriotism, neutrality and impartiality".

Therefore, the right question under debate is whether Paul Biya violated the spirit and letter of this article, around which the whole law hinges.

A reputed Magistrate like Hon. Paul Ayah has already clarified the question thus: "the term reputed [in section 8(2) of the law] is of the family of reputation;… reputation is the opinion the public holds of some person… such opinion springs from past and not future perceptions… resignation from one’s party after appointment cannot retrospectively confer the prerequisite of reputed neutrality that was lacking at the time of appointment…"

Following the appointments, an activist like Hilaire Kamga and many others hurried into the fray, providing answers to the wrong question! Using section 11 of the law, which only reiterates section 8(2) by stating incompatibilities, they argued that Biya was within the law in his appointments, since the appointed persons have resigned from their partisan positions.

Others like Gregoire Owona of the CPDM Secretariat and a university don, Mouelle Kombi went into recalling the fact that most opposition leaders of today are former members of the CPDM. Whereas the assertion is correct, it had no relevance to the central question under debate.

Further, following the ridiculous ruling of the Administrative Bench of the Supreme Court on the grievances related to the appointments into ELECAM, another university don, Pius Ondoa (in an essay in a local newspaper) used the Colegrove vs. Green (1946) and the Baker vs. Carr (1962) rulings of the Supreme Court of the US to sustain the Administrative Bench’s very disturbing argument that the appointment of ELECAM members is a "political question" and, therefore, outside the jurisdiction of the judiciary. Bad science indeed! The question is not the authority of Biya to appoint members of ELECAM; it is whether he respected the law in making the appointments.

The "political question" the university don refers to in the US was about the unfairness and the unconstitutionality of the legislation on the demarcation of electoral boundaries because they unfairly favoured some people or groups at the expense of others; therefore they violated the 14th Amendment principle of the citizen’s "equal voice in his government".

In the US, the court was asked to say whether the law violated the spirit of the constitution; in our case, the court was asked to say whether Biya violated the ELECAM law by appointing certain persons into the board. In Colegrove vs. Green, the US Supreme Court invoked the "political question" doctrine in a 4-3 decision to dismiss a suit challenging the demarcation of Illinois congressional districts.

The ruling ignited a debate on the "political question" in the court system in there. In using Justice William J. Brennan to buttress his claims, Ondoa does not seem to know that the Justice held the view that a court cannot promote justice and freedom if the victims of injustice and oppression cannot get into it; that rights explicitly guaranteed in the Constitution have to be judicially enforced; and that there is no guarantee that power at the polls would be made real without Constitutional guarantees of equal participation fully enforced by the courts.

For these reasons, he devoted much of his career to making the US Federal Courts more accessible to ordinary people seeking justice for their grievances.Ondoa also presents the facts of Baker vs. Carr (1962) incorrectly. The 6-2 decision on the case was a reversal of the 1946 Colegrove vs. Green decision; it put an end to the judicial passivity that the political question represented.

Indeed, Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote that the decision (Carr vs. Baker) authorising the Federal Court to decide challenges to the unfair apportionment legislation "was the most important case of my tenure on the Court".

Ondoa does not seem to know that the decision referred to here was written by Justice Brennan! He and fellow sophists have to look for justification for the so-called political question somewhere else.If our courts cannot say what the law is, then we have a naked court system. The question whether Biya violated section 8 (2) of law No. 2006/011 of  December 29, 2006 creating ELECAM is still begging for a scientific answer.

As famously put by Vaclav Havel, democracy is not a matter of faith, but of guarantees. Our judiciary has to show that it can guarantee democracy in Cameroon by upholding the rule of law.

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