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Focus | 19 Jan 2012
A citizen’s approach

There is no doubt that the initiative of Action Paysanne, ACDIC and COSAC will surprise many observers of the national political scene. This has never happened and perhaps no one has in the past, had the idea of taking such an initiative.
Perhaps no one has dared for fear of the reaction he is going to confront.
The pact is a simple initiative taken in good faith, responsible and patriotic, provided it is given some attention. What do its proponents want?
Cameroon is on the eve of an election campaign and it is the time every citizen of voting age is courted to give a voice to a particular candidate. This is a period of intense seduction, sincere or demagogic promises, honest commitments or illusory social contracts. Rural producers and civil society observe their environment and find that discussions on their future are absent.

Bridging the Gap
The pact gives candidates some material to carry out respectable and consistent electoral campaign. In the past, some electoral campaigns have been limited to eating, drinking and dancing, then after that, nothing.
The villages have often been ignored in election campaigns in favour of the cities. Yes, everything of almost everything is for the city and when there is any slightest thought of the village it is to see what can come out of it to meet the needs of the city and its dwellers.
Potable water projects, hospitals, university and development are for the city or to solve a problem in the city and that of its citizens whose moods are feared. And when the villagers raise their problems they are told: "We have taken note of your complaint. We will faithfully forward them to the high authority concerned.” This is virtually the only campaign promise reserved for villages.

But for years rallies have been held on the same market places with no sheds, classrooms without benches with collapsing roofs, parades have crossed the same ruined bridges or have bypassed a river because of lack of a bridge.
What the authors of the pact, especially farmers, are afraid of is that as in the past, rallies will take place in cities and election promises will relate primarily to cities or what will satisfy the needs of cities and their dwellers. Worse still, the villagers fear to give their votes without any firm commitment of the candidates that the rural dwellers (farmers, ranchers, fishermen, craftsmen ...) are not mere "Dear readers," we will only see again 7 years later.

There’s room for errors
The Farmer’s Voice knows that the authors of this pact do not believe they have found the formula to transform Cameroon with a magic wand. There are certainly other avenues and other suggestions to make the country progress. If this is the case, it would be interesting to share these ideas with other Cameroonians whether or not they are politicians.
This is good review of what has been proposed. This approach would enrich discussions and will produce very positive effects both for those who aspire to govern and those who vote for one candidate or another. The pact is not closed but open especially to another complementary, critical but suggestive and innovative pact. Martin Nzegang

"He who refuses to sign is not fit to govern this country"

Jean Georges Etele, National Coordinator Action Paysan

Why did you choose the eve of the presidential elections to start talking ?
Presidential elections in a country are a critical time for societal change in the lives of several generations in a country that respects itself. As the country aspires to a physical moulting, citizens become more responsible and respectful of their homeland. We chose this time because we expect to revolutionize attitudes after more than 50 years of independence. The future president must be a decision maker for adults of all social classes.
Why do you require a written agreement ?
Verbal commitments easily fly away while written words remain. Historically, farmers have had to deal with middlemen who promised to pass their messages to the person concerned. This time we think we are in front of the highest person who will not have to refer to a third party. This is a historical and innovative moment for our beloved country. Between Farmers and the president, there is a bit of understanding. He is at the top; we are at the base, the two strong poles of a pyramid. So we believe that a meeting like this deserves a written contract.

What will happen if they do not sign ?
The obvious will be visible; all our proposals are feasible and the cost may even be underestimated. We believe that he who refuses to sign is not fit to govern this country and we will take that into consideration. I said that our approach was historical. It will leave its mark on the people because they do not have a short memory. Our ballot will not be given in exchange for a piece of meat or fish and a glass of wine. The year 2035 is for all of us.
Signing is easy, especially for a candidate who wants to have the votes. And if he does not respect what he has signed, what will you do?
It is true that it would be easy to sign and do nothing but I think the elected official is exposing himself at the end of his mandate. However, we will sustain the mandate by holding every year a grandiose rural development PACT assessment meeting. And on each occasion, the balance-sheet will allow everyone to change redirect his course. Since it is tradition that decisions are distracted or truncated along the line up to their implementation, monitoring by citizens who we are will progressively be put in place to act like red lights and will repeatedly shoot in that direction until there is improvement. Time and numbers are in our favour.

Do you think what you are proposing in the pact can truly change the rural areas ?
The rural world is going to change. Rural exodus will be completely reversed, Agriculture will become a truly profitable profession, selected sites will become small semi-industrial towns, social infrastructure will be carried out with contribution from the local populations, hundreds of thousands of jobs will be created, tourism will have it raison d’être in the four corners of the country, Civil servants in basic social services will no more be affected by punitive transfers to rural areas, the tax base of each municipality will go up ...And there are more.
I want to emphasize here that several ideas have been proposed in our country but unfortunately were shunned. These ideas have been picked up by other countries and they have returned in the form of projects, these programs have been praised as if our people can only consume what comes from elsewhere.
It is time Cameroonian riches are also taken into account from indigenous ideas. Finally, I believe that candidates for president have much to gain in the RURAL DEVELOPMENT PACT we offer. M.N

"We will vote for a woman or a man of his word"

Monique NOARE MANG, Treasurer, Actions Paysannes
Do you think what you are proposing in the pact can truly change the rural world ?
Of course it will change something in rural areas. If what we propose is implemented, we are confident that this will contribute significantly to the fight against poverty in the villages and reassure consumers.
We have designed this pact which for us is a management tool that can be very useful for those who will lead the Cameroon of tomorrow

Why do you want to have it signed by the candidates ?
We want candidates to sign it so that when the voter is entering the voting booth he should not be asking himself any more questions. He knows who he will vote and why he will vote such and not another candidate. I confess that personally I have asked myself questions: What will I do on the Election Day? Who are my going to vote for? But with the pact it is the candidate who will help me to choose by simply signing and making commitments during his campaign
Is it a requirement to vote the next President of the Republic of Cameroon ?
It is the only condition or the first condition for us in rural areas. He or she who signs will show proof that he has understood the farmers and these farmers will not be ungrateful towards him
Finally, I emphasise that we will ensure implementation. It is not enough to sign. You must implement. We do not want promises. We will vote for a woman or a man of his word.

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