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“The board ensure the smoothness of registration : Dr Samuel Fonkam Azu’u

After the appointment and swearing in of the six new members of Elections Cameroon, the president of Elecam talks about their missions, progress made by Elecam agents on the field, purchase of and available election material, the recent proposal of bishop on elections issues and a lot more.

From 12 initial members, Elecam now has 18 members. What do the six new members bring to the table?Indeed
we were initially 12 of us and now our structure has been stepped up to
18 individuals with 18 different backgrounds. Each person brings
onboard their experience and character. I wouldn’t say the increase was
triggered by the amount of work we had. It is the legislator who decided
that the membership should be increased to 18. If we take the case of
what obtains in other counries of the sub region you realise that our
two neighbours that is Chad and Central Africa Republic have electoral
commissions that comprise 31 members each. But in Burundi, the electoral
commission has only 6 people. In fact each country puts in place the
type of electoral commission that best fits its aspirations.

 Do the 18 members work as a group or each person has a particular area of competence?In fact we do work as a group because there are certain decisions which must be taken as an electoral board. The law provides that our decisions are arrived at through a consensus and that if it is difficult to arrive at a consensus then we  vote. When we vote, the day is won by simple majority and where there is a tie, the president of the electoral board’s vote is the tie breaker.
With specific duties assigned what is each member supposed to do within the group?First of all, we work as a board but all of us have been assigned on a temporal basis. I do insist on this, because every member has the vocation to be a national member. We are 18 of us from the ten different regions of the country but there are some regions with more members than others. For instance the Centre region has three members. Other regions have two members or in certain cases just one member. Any member can at any time be assigned to a mission in any part of the country.
What are these members expected to do concretely on the field?On the field, they essentially control and supervise the work that is done by the operational arm of Elections Cameroon. Board members only come to ensure what the Directorate General of elections through our branches at the level of divisions and sub divisions and at the regional level are in keeping with the law. For instance, if they are registering, the role is that you must come in person. In fact we do not accept ID cards that are collected and brought by individuals other than those concerned. And so members of the board are sent to the field to inter alia check whether or not the directives given by the Director General through our branches are respected as indicated by the law and the various decrees of application.
On the field we find Elecam officials, political parties and the administration. Can we use this opportunity to solidify our understanding on who does what on the field?The registration process is carried out by Elections Cameroon. This is done through a mixed commission at the level of each council unit. There is a representative of Elecam, one from the administration, the mayor or his/her deputy, as well as a representative of each political party that is active within the locality. If you take a town such as Yaoundé or Douala where almost all political parties are represented, you have a very huge commission. In fact, this is the structure that registers. However, the law makes it possible for one person to do the registration which would subsequently be validated by the commission. We encourage all Cameroonians who had participated in previous elections to register. This will enable us to confirm whether or not the names and dates of births and other details are well written. The identity card is a sine qua non for one to be registered. All the data is entered by someone who has a good calligraphy. The members of the commission then come to ensure that the transcription from the booklets into the registers is without any equivocation. From the registers, the information is encoded and after that, provisionary lists are put up containing the names of newly registered members and those who were registered in 2007. From these lists, we expunge those who have moved out of certain constituencies, who have died or those who have seized to enjoy their civic rights. The temporal lists would thus be pasted for verification. It is then after this that the final lists will be published. As you can see, it is such a methodical process.
What about those who had registered in 2007, are they encouraged to go and register anew?No. They are rather advised to simply present themselves to Elecam branches and find out whether or not their names and other details are well written. In fact, the 2007 registers are still available. I personally did the exercise and realised that my date of birth was wrongly entered from my ID card. It is a revision rather than a recompilation. Citizens are called upon to do this checking process.  Voter registration would end come August 31. A law was recently adopted in Parliament to allow Cameroonians living abroad to participate in Presidential elections and referenda. With the upcoming elections expected to take place around October this year, would it be possible for this group of Cameroonians to partake?It is incumbent on us to ensure that all is put in place for our compatriots living abroad to vote in the next presidential election. Registration ends on August 31 and Elecam is yet to kick start in our various diplomatic and consular representations…The law says the number of polling stations in every country will be determined by a decree and there is also a ministerial order to be signed by the minister of External Relations establishing the number of polling stations. But that does not mean that we are doing nothing. From the very day the President of the Republic took the commitment that sooner or later he would see the possibility of the government introducing a bill in Parliament permitting Cameroonians living abroad to vote, we started a reflection to ensure that if and when that law is effectively enacted we would go straight ahead. We had done that. With the visible time limit, can one affirm that Cameroonians living abroad would indeed vote in the next presidential election?In fact, you should not entertain any fear in that direction. Do not be doubting Thomases. All is being put in place for them to vote. In principle we are three months to polls. How far has Elecam gone with the acquisition of election material?We have made a physical identification of all polling stations. Most of our offices now have a map indicating polling stations with the distances between them. We have slightly fewer than 22 thousand of them. They would be merged or suppressed where need arises. Where new ones need to be created they would created and where polling stations where in areas that are not in consonance with the law such as private rooms, they would be transferred. Typical places to be used are government schools. Material that needs to be locally manufactured like polling booths are also being processed.It would not be transparent in that case?Not quite and it is also not all made of wood. It would be in three parts and it is collapsible and covered by Elecam clothe. We have equally ordered the drawing paint. The secrecy of the ballot would truly be respected this time around because those booths are all well made. Apart from that, the printing paper to be used has also been ordered as well as the indelible ink to be used. The Director General presented the sample to the board. Broaden our perspective on what you call indelible ink.By that I simply mean an ink which when put on your palm would last for a few days. We have tested and seen that this ink is very different from that used on stamp pads. Like I said before, the ballot boxes have been assembled. You know we also inherited some of them from the ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation. We have instructed all the councils to collect ballot boxes from DO offices, count them and keep. This has permitted us to see the missing links. For instance the Upper Nyong division of the East region, electoral material was destroyed during a strike action that led to the looting of the Divisional Officer’s office.The bishops of Cameroon are calling on the use of a single ballot. What is your take on this?Cameroonians must be aware of the fact that we are organisation that works within the framework of the law rather than outside the law. The law says political parties shall choose the colours of their ballot papers.  This simply means that there would be several ballots and not a single one. If we agree on this premise, it would be needless for us to say whether or not we are for or against the proposal of the bishops. You also know what our position would be if the electoral board had to decide on this issue. From the reading and interpretation of the law, it would not be a single ballot. Can we therefore affirm that Elecam is on the right course?Oh yes. One of the things I have been doing of late is a tour of the regions. I visit divisions and branch offices. I am satisfied with the work of my staff. When I visited the East I did a public demonstration to show the efficiency of the software in use. So, there would be no cases of multiple registration, registration of under age, etc. We work as if we were in a glass house, in other words there is nothing to hide. I instructed a long time ago that in the matter of organising elections we need as much as possible to be methodical and scientific. The team is doing just that. Each office has a check list of things to do and this will soon be translated into a countdown.
 « Interviewed on Cameroon Calling, CRTV 31/07/2011 »

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