Walter Wilson Nana
It is not only the government of Cameroon that is preparing for the upcoming municipal and parliamentary elections, slated for Monday, September 30 2013. Tiko-based Civil Society Organisation, Centre for Democracy and Electoral Studies, CDES, is warm about promoting excellence in election management.
At a training workshop, Wednesday, August 21 2013 at the CDES head office in Tiko, members of some fourteen youth groups from Tiko, Limbe, Likomba and Mutengene discussed on; “Youths, Electoral Engagement and Peace.”
Workshop facilitator, Henry Oben Atem said there is need for leaders of youth groups to be trained so that they can take the message to their peers, family members and others in the respective communities about the procedures involved in voting. “It is relevant for youths to be mobilised and actively take part in the voting process. It is known that in the past youths have not been actively involved in the voting process because they were not adequately informed. Now, it is the time to bring them together and make known to them the kind of information they need,” he mentioned.
The expert on electoral issues told the participants that voting is an obligation but the voter has a choice. “It is also the responsibility of the voter to know, question and judge a candidate. They must have an informed choice, how to go about it and how to perceive their candidates, the political parties they are voting for,” he explained.
He will add that the aforementioned localities, which are found in the Fako Division, Southwest Region, have a history of electoral fraud and violence, especially in Mutengene, Muyuka, Tiko and Limbe. “Hence, elections in these municipalities are competitive and with their majority, the youths have a great role to play,” he said.
According to Atem, the youths must know how to take part in an electoral process and what it entails to be a polling agent since some will be invited to play those roles. “They will be watched dogs to electoral fraud; which are direct and indirect. There are errors that occur in a polling station, which even those managing them do not realise. This is the time for those errors to be highlighted via this training opportunity,” he noted.
On the motivation for the workshop, Atem said it is the role of the civil society to help the government and the election managing body in Cameroon, ELECAM, to push forward the country’s strive for a democratic culture. “The population must be educated on the fact that ELECAM is only a tool to make the voices of the population heard. Through ELECAM, Cameroon can achieve its democratic features. As civil society organisation, we are they to educate and build the capacities of the population, facilitate the work of ELECAM, make known the electoral code, the national communication council and ensure that the international treaties signed by the government of Cameroon in the areas of elections, human rights and related documents are respected.”
Talking on the “challenges youths face in the electoral process,” Atem noted the absence of information. To him, information on electoral issues must be targeted and properly conceived. “They must know why they are taking part in an election and why they are voting. They must know whether their concerns, interests are part of the electoral agenda and those of the candidates and parties involved. They must know the impact of an election in their lives and be able to filter what the candidates and parties are offering,” he explained.
Atem said the youths must know how to vote and bear in mind that voting is part of their future. “As citizens, we must be able to assist and transfer knowledge to those who do not have. They should go out there and get their voter’s cards. That is the hook to catch the fish we are all looking out for, go to the polling station, cast your vote and not two ballot papers and after that protect it.”
Lesley Etashu Atali of the Amicable Sisters Youth group in Tiko expressed delight learning what it takes to be a voter, how a polling station is managed, who a polling agent is and what the political agenda of a candidate is.
She took a commitment to blow the whistle in her community and get more youths involved in the electoral process.
Cyprian Ndange of the Christian Youth Fellowship of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, PCC, said he will tell his fellow youths to be objective in their selection of political candidates during an election. “We should choose candidates based on the development programmes they have for our respective communities and not for selfish reasons. The youths must be schooled on this. We must go in for candidates who will listen to us and our voices in the post election period. We must remain patriotic and shun violence,” he advised.