Cameroon’s Constitution of 1996 sought to put in place a decentralised system of government that would accommodate a diversity of communities, but the country faces a range of serious governance challenges today which the Constitution so far has not succeeded in addressing. These include difficulties in dealing with the country’s dual-state colonial heritage, particularly the perception of marginalisation by the Anglophone community. Other challenges include embracing constitutionalism, tackling minority concerns such as the rights of women and indigenous people, curbing ethnic tensions, and managing the transition from authoritarian to democratic governance.
An examination of the constitutional and legal framework of decentralisation under the 1996 Constitution shows that these issues have not been adequately addressed under the current arrangement. There is thus need for a fundamental constitutional overhaul that would provide a more effective decentralised framework for administrative, political and fiscal decentralisation. The new framework should entrench basic elements of constitutionalism such as upholding human rights, the separation of powers and judicial independence, and limiting the ease with which the Constitution can be amended.
This thesis concludes that there is a need for legal safeguards, such as a constitutional court, to ward against the usurpation and centralisation of powers by the central government. Only elements such as these can advance decentralisation in Cameroon and thus facilitate the accommodation of diversity, enhance development and democracy, and manage conflict.