On 6 December 2020, Cameroon will organize one of the most important elections in its post-independence history. The elections, to be held through indirect universal suffrage, are meant to put in place a key institution that is aimed at facilitating the effective execution of local governance in the central African nation.

Those who constitute the Electoral College for these elections are Councillors of the country’s 360 local Councils and 14 City Councils, as well as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd class traditional rulers duly recognized by the government.

The structure is called the Regional Council and it has been touted by the government as a strategic institution in the implementation of the decentralization process in the country. The structure is provided for in Cameroon’s 1996 Constitution but it has since not been put in place.

Cameroon's Local Development Minister Georges Elanga Obam attends a meeting of the National Decentralisation Board via videoconference on 7 October 2020 in Yaounde.

Cameroon is constitutionally a decentralized unitary state, meaning local governance and socio-economic development is left in the hands of local corporate public entities endowed with financial and administrative autonomy and the responsibility to promote the economic, social, health, educational, cultural, and sports wellbeing of the local population.

Ahead of the 6 December 2020 elections, the government of Cameroon has been doing several things to not only ensure that the vote is successfully organized, but that Cameroonians in their vast majority have a better understanding of what the Regional Council, as a local governance structure, will look like.

Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Decentralization and Local Development – which is directly in charge of issues related to decentralization and local governance in the country – has initiated a robust social media campaign intended to educate Cameroonians on certain aspects about the Regional Council.
The Ministry has already started off the campaign by posting, daily, portions of Law No 2019/024 of 24 December 2019 to institute the General Code of Local and Regional Authorities, to enable citizens to have a grasp of the legislation that governs the decentralization process in the country.

The law was voted in mid-December 2019 during an extraordinary session of Parliament and was assented to by 87-year-old President Paul Biya on 24 December the same year.

Learn something every day

“Dear followers, thank you for relying on our website, Facebook, and Twitter pages for authentic information. We are pleased to announce that we now use these platforms for daily education on the Regional Council. Learn something every day from the Ministry of Decentralization and Local Development”, the Ministry said in a tweet on 5 October.

Following up on the tweet, the Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Ministry, Ikome Manyanye, told iAfrikan in an interview that the communication campaign is intended to inform citizens specifically about the role, organization, and functioning of the Regional Council.

“In Cameroon, the Regional Council is a new institution in the process of decentralization. At the Ministry of Decentralization and Local Development, we hold the view that the Regional Councils will deliver what is expected of them only if citizens properly understand their role, mission, organization, functioning, and rationale,” the Communications and Public Relations boss of the Ministry said.

Partial view of the building hosting the Decentralization Ministry in Yaounde, Cameroon.

Social media as a great communication outlet

On why the Ministry decided to embark on this mission using social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, Ikome stated: “Aware of the fact that social media are the new drivers of political communication across the world, we found it necessary to align with these tools in our communication strategy.”

“We have started with the Ministry’s website, Twitter handles, and Facebook page, but as the days go by, we will include Instagram and YouTube. These platforms offer us a great opportunity to connect with youth, women, non-political stakeholders, and the world at large as we look forward to the December 6 Regional Council elections,” he explained.

With the Regional Council elections expected to bring to reality the special status that has been granted to the two English-speaking Regions of the country, Ikome said it is their conviction that “the social media can offer us a great opportunity to communicate on the special status of the North West and South West Regions.”

“Our Twitter and Facebook pages have been certified by the inventors of those social networks. Therefore, what we publish is considered authentic and appears in renowned search engines during searches on our domain,” he added.

So far, many Cameroonians have hailed the move, as seen in some of the comments they make in response to the daily social media posts by the Ministry.

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