Sunday, March 19, 2006

Open letter to Hon. Joseph Mbah Ndam

Open letter to Hon. Joseph Mbah Ndam

Honourable,

I

have read what you said or caused to be said in a recent issue of the Newspaper, not The Star Headlines about the current legal imbroglio in the SDF. I have also just stumbled on an article you have written, titled “Constitutionalism and the Rule of Law in the SDF”. The issues you have raised both in your opinion in the newspaper and in the article, tie in perfectly with the partisan spirit you have demonstrated recently in issues of the SDF. I will address some of them in this letter.

I think that the original-intention jurisprudence that you seem to toy with so much, can never permit any human organization to meet the challenges that face it on a daily basis. In principle, a constitution ought to state not rules for the passing hour but principles for the expanding future. Therefore, I think that the meaning of the constitution of the SDF ought to be found in today’s needs, not in a subjective search for what was intended by its 1990 framers. However, since you have set out to enlighten us on the original-intention of sections 6, 7, 8 of the SDF constitution and Rule 13(1) of the Standing Orders of the National Convention, it is important that we all understand what the “actual” original-intention of the framers of the constitution was. It is a pity that you are so sure of your partial vision of these issues that you have taken on yourself to say publicly who can and cannot be a candidate in the upcoming Convention of the SDF!

In any case, let us look at the original-intention of the framers of the constitution.

Section 7.4(a) of the founding Constitution of the SDF states that: “Every member shall have the right to vote and be voted to any office or post of the party during any election provided that such member is and has been active and is a current financial member of the party continuously for 12 calendar months”.

This is still the requirement for qualification for elections into Ward Executives, and into institutions of state like Councils, Parliament and the Presidency! At the Yaounde Convention of 1999, special provisions for elections into organs of the party like the Electoral District Executives, Divisional Coordinations, Provincial Executives and NEC were adopted. The fact that section 7.4(a) as stated above has completely disappeared from the “new” constitution that is in circulation now, does not mean that this section was removed from the constiution. It is just a result of the general sloppy nature of the “new” constitution, as reflected not only by the ommission of this section (7.4a), but also by the differences in the content of the English and French versions of section 15(a), section 18.1, section 20.3, etc. Rule 13.1 of the Standing Orders of the Convention was adopted at the Bafoussam Convention in 1993 to ensure that candidates aspiring to be the presidential candidate of the party meet the requirements of especially section 7.4(a). This was the original-intention of the framers of the constitution. It has never been changed!

It is because of the existence of Section 7.4(a) in the constitution of the SDF that Rules Governing the selection of candidates for National Elections, contained in the resolutions of NEC of 8 July and 5 August 2001 insist that candidates should be militants of the SDF who have militated in the party for at least one year! Please, check your records on this.

Honourable, you state that “the fathers of the SDF took note of this phenomenon and made privision for admission as member of such “big fishes” if they arrive the party even one day to the close of filing of candidatures with the administrtion”!! Please, be informed that no political party in the world does this. And the fathers of the SDF constitution never did it!! Rather, in the provision of Section 11.3(b)(vi) relaing to the powers of NEC, they provided that NEC shall “make party electoral regulations, subject to ratification by the Convention, which shall govern elections to all party offices at every level and the procedure for selecting party candidates for elective offices...” It is on this basis that NEC adopted the resolutions of 8 July and 5 August 2001. Surely the framers of the constitution knew that there could be what you call “big fishes” who may not be party members, and trusted that NEC would deal with that at any time!! Please, note that Barrister Ben Muna was NOT admitted as candidate for the selection of the presidential candidate of the SDF during the extraordinary convention of 22 September 2004 on the basis of Section 6.5 of the Constitution of the SDF as you claim. He was admitted because of his rehabilitation by the National Reconciliation Forum of the SDF!! You can easily verify this from the minutes of the extraordinary Convention, and from the sub-Commission that was chaired by Dr. Bebbe Njoh. Members like you argued strongly on the floor of that convention against the acceptance of the candidature of Barrister Ben Muna, but the spirit of reconciliation in the party prevailed! As for Mr. Noucti Tchokwango, please, note that he only resigned from the SDF after the extraordianry convention.

This takes us to Section 6 which you treat very unprofessionally! Let me take all of it over too. Section 6 of the SDF constitution states as follows:

Section 6.1: Membership shall be opened to all Cameroonians irrespective of race, colour, ethnic group, creed, religious belief, place of birth, sex, social or economic status and linguistic distinctions provided that:

1. The person is not below the age of 18 years and is not a member of another political party or if s/he was, has resigned such membership;

2. The person accepts the aims and objectives, principles, fundamental values, policies and programme of the Party.

3. The application for membership shall be made on an individual basis .

4. A person shall be registered as a member in the Ward in which she/he normally resides and this shall be evidenced by the delivery of a Party card.

5. Every member shall pay the annual prescribed fee and/or monthly contribution.

6. Notwithstanding the provisions of Section 6.1 above, any person who is duly authorised to vote by the laws of the Republic of Cameroon can be admitted as a member of the Party.

Please, Honourable, Section 6.5 is not put there to serve the interest of “the application of the laws of the Republic” as you say; it is put there to serve the interests of the SDF!! It does not qualify any “big fish” to come in at any time. The meaning of Section 6.5 of the constitution is simply that if the electoral laws of the Republic of Cameroon were to reduce voting age to say 16, persons who are 16 years of age (instead of 18 as providd for in section 6.1) would be admitted as members of the SDF!

As for your opinion on Section 8.2, resignations and the Truth and Reconciliation Forum, I see that you are trying to bend over backward to make your arguments hold some water! How tedious it is!! The SDF has invented nothing about “Truth and Reconciliation”. Please, note that it is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of South Africa that inspired the delegates at the Buea 1996 Convention to institute a Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the SDF! After a protracted process, it finally held a Forum in September 2004. A Truth and Reconciliation encounter like the one we held in the SDF, provides an environment where victims and perpetrators can speak openly, be heard, make requests and recommendations and seek forgiveness. It is a place where those gathered seek to understand their past and the root of their conflicts; a place where those who were wronged have the right to be heard and the responsibility to share their experience; a place where those who wronged others have the obligation to respond to accusations and the responsibility to account for their actions. We tried to do all of this and succeeded in 2004, until evil minds set in again!!

Honourable, please note that reconciliation is a tedious process. It is not governed by pieces of paper or certificates of participation, but by the heart! It is a process, not an event. In the SDF, we believed that those who sought reconciliation wanted a strong party more than they wanted revenge. Your mind-set is still of those days when we barely required those who had wronged the party (the SDF) or had been wronged by the party to come forward and “confess” or “apologise” to the Chairman, to be “pardoned” in return, so that they could regain their membership of the SDF. The erroneous believe on which this was based, and which is still prevalent in the SDF, is that people gain more from the SDF than the SDF gains from them!! This thought process can never lead to reconciliation. At the end of the day, it only leads to the continuous bleeding of the party, rather than to total forgiveness and reconciliation!

I see you delving into issues of the Rule of Law! And when you talk about this you tell us that “NEC has ruled many a time on the matters explained (by you) above...” And your own ruling is that “even an appeal to the Convention is not possible and is not allowed”!! What autocracy!! You are one of those who are always talking about “the constitution” or the “majorities” we sometimes fabricate in NEC! History tells us that this is the language autocrats use to justify their existence and actions.

It is autocracy that we sought to overthrow by forming the SDF! Our constitution was drawn up to ensure that NEC, the structures and militants it commands are equally subjected to it. It ensures that in the SDF, no authority is superior to that of the constitution. The structures and organs function only by it, and they can demand obedience only in the name of the constitution. In this way, a decision in the SDF is not a fact that is imposed by force; it must be understood to enjoy legality and legitimacy. To be legitimate, the decision must be subject to the constitution. So the constitution must never succumb when structures take decisions! Unfortunately, of recent and sometimes under your impulsion, the constitution of the SDF has succumbed under NEC decisions!

Further, when constitutions are drawn up, they are assumed to be beyond the reach of simple majorities in any organ of the party. This includes the convention which only examines amendments tabled as prescribed by the constitution itself; and the convention takes its decisions subject to the provisions of the constitution!! We shall never trust our lives and liberties in political parties to the tender mercies of simple majorities... They can always easily become, as they have, the weapon of dictatorship!!

To end up, I urge you to stop treating those who disagree with you as your enemies. The best thing for you to do in my opinion, is to convince them of the rightness of your point of view. In this case, you have failed to convince me on your grasp of the SDF consitution and the fundamental concept of the Rule of Law!

With best wishes.

Your comrade in the struggle,

Prof. T. Asonganyi

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