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The Evolution and Changes in the Cameroon Constitution

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The Constitution of Cameroon is legally the supreme law in the country. The Constitution of Cameroon usually has a preamble and about 13 parts that divide the document.

The preamble outlines the rights inherent of every Cameroonian citizen and the rest of the body of the document defines the national symbols, the structure of the government and its functions, the legal procedure by which the Constitution may be amended, the body in charge of this as well as how the Constitution may be applied.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

A brief history of the Cameroon Constitution

The first of Cameroon’s Constitutions came to life upon the independence of the country in 1960 from France. This first constitution came in the wave of independence of African states and thus it was drawn up in a hurry to meet the mood of the season. It was mostly dictated by the French and scarcely by the indigenous of Cameroon.

The next Constitution that Cameroon knew was that which was wrought with the coming of British Southern Cameroons. This was a part of Cameroon that was administered by the United Nations through the British. The British Southern Cameroons joined the Republic of Cameroon in 1961 after demonstrating their will through a referendum. Cameroonian delegates came together and drew a new Constitution that made Cameroon a federation of two states ruled by a single president.

Later in 1972, the first and still running president of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo, pushed through new changes to the existing constitution. These changes abolished the Federal system, transformed and named the State naming it the Unitary Republic of Cameroon. This Constitution also granted the president greater powers.

After being transferred presidential powers by Ahmadou Ahidjo, the new Cameroon president, Paul Biya revised the Cameroon Constitution in 1984. This revision changed the gave the country a new name, Republic of Cameroon, retraced the existing lines of the provinces, and changed the line of succession to the presidency.

The next revision to the Cameroon constitution came in 1996 in response to pressure from the sidelined Anglophone population who were requesting the rebirth of the federal system. This 1996 Constitution renamed provinces to regions, established a second and upper legislative house, the Senate, besides the National Assembly, created the Constitutional Council, and added other aesthetics.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

A look at the Structure of the Cameroon Constitution

The Preamble

The Cameroon Constitution starts with a preamble that notes the Cameroon people’s linguistic and cultural diversity in unity. The preamble promises that the natural resources of Cameroon shall be used to better the lives of the Cameroon people. The preamble tells that the Cameroon people will adhere to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The rest of the preamble goes to echo the human rights found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations, and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Of the whole of the Cameroon Constitution, only the preamble has remained untouched by the rife modifications to the document since 1960.

Part I (Articles 1 – 4)

The first part of Cameroon’s Constitution names the country as the “Republic of Cameroon” and defines other national figures like the coat of arms, motto, flag, anthem, and seal. It terms the country as a “decentralised unitary state”. It cements English and French as the official languages of the country and the capital of the country is Yaoundé. Sovereignty is vested in the hands of the people who shall exercise it in choosing the government directly or indirectly through universal suffrage via the system of secret ballot. Political parties are given responsibilities while the state power is vested in the President and the Parliament.

Part II (Articles 5 – 13)

The second part defines the executive. It defines the offices of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister, head of government. This part discusses the president, his term of office, and his constitutional successor. The president is honoured head of state and head of the armed forces. The president’s powers are outlined here, for example, power to enact laws, appoint ambassadors, military and civil personnel, declare a state of emergency as well as dissolve the National Assembly.

The prime minister is head of government and his duties are framed by the president. The powers of other members of government are not cumulative with other functions, thus limiting them.

Part III (Articles 14 – 24)

This part discusses the Parliament. It establishes the two houses, the National Assembly and the Senate, and lays down the mode of selection of the members.

Part IV (Articles 25 – 36)

Part four talks of the relations between the Executive and the Legislative when it comes to legislation. It gives the power to legislate to both arms of government. It also discloses the procedure in which a bill becomes a law.

Part V (Articles 37 – 42)

Part five lays down the powers and responsibilities of the judicial arm of government. This part defines the levels of the courts and their roles. The President, in this part, is given the power to appoint and dismiss members of this arm of government.

Part VI (Articles 43 – 45)

Part six puts duly ratified international treaties above conflicting national laws. The Constitutional Council however sees into the constitutionality of international agreements before they are ratified. The parliament delegates the President to negotiate and ratify treaties and international agreements.

Part VII (Articles 46 – 52)

The Constitutional Council is defined in this part alongside its role and duties of controlling the constitutionality of laws. It is also given the power to oversee national elections and referendums.

Part VIII (Article 53)

Part seven of the Constitution of Cameroon births the Court of Impeachment and its duties. The court is to try the President, the Prime Minister, and other members of government when they are charged with the grand crime of treason.

Part IX (Article 54)

Part nine creates the Economic and Social Council.

Part X (Articles 55 – 62)

Part ten talks about the semi-autonomous regions. Cameroon is divided here into 10 regions ruled by regional councils. The regions shall have control over their economic, social, health, educational, cultural, and sports development. The president may create, rename, and redraw the limits of each region as well as dissolve the regional councils.

Part XI (Articles 63 and 64)

Part eleven lays down the procedure to rule before the Constitution is amended. The members of parliament are to vote changes in the constitution by an absolute majority. The president also is given the power to submit an amendment to a public referendum. It will suffice for a simple majority to validate the amendment at this stage.

Part XII (Articles 65 and 66)

Part twelve edicts the preamble of the constitution as part and parcel of the Constitution. Government officials are, under this part, expected to declare their assets at the beginning and end of their period in office.

Part XIII (Articles 67–69)

This part gives transitional terms to the new constitution. In effect, this part says that the old constitution, as well as other laws that the new constitution will render obsolete, will remain in force until the new constitution is gradually put in place. Meanwhile, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court will keep running the functions of the Senate and the Constitutional Council respectively until they are set up by subsequent laws.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

The Changes changes in the Cameroon Constitution

The 1960 Constitution

One year before independence, in 1959, France agreed to grant independence to Cameroun. The date for the event was to be on the 1st of January 1960. To make this a reality, a constitution was to be drawn to be put in place on that date. The first constitution was therefore drawn in a hurry which had the effect that it reflected the current French style of administration. The Constitution went into force on the 1st of January 1960 with the country defined as a unitary state, it had one house of parliament and the members of this were elected under universal suffrage.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon 1961

When the British Southern Cameroons later joined Cameroun in 1961, delegates Anglophone and Francophone parts of Cameroon met at the Foumban Conference to draft a new constitution.

In this constitution, Cameroon was made a federation of East and West Cameroon. East was Francophone Cameroon while West was Anglophone Cameroon. The name changed to become the Federal Republic of Cameroon.

Each State had its own prime minister and its own house of parliament. In East Cameroon, the legislative arm of government was made up of one house thus it was unicameral. In West Cameroon, there were two houses in the parliament – the House of Representatives and the House of Chiefs. It was a bicameral system of the legislature in West Cameroon.

The Constitution made for a powerful federal government with the President at its head and supported by his vice, a cabinet, and a federal legislature made up of 50 members.

This new Constitution went into force on the 1st of October 1961.

A minor amendment

In 1969, the Constitution was amended to “prolong the life of the federal assembly” and to adjust the selection procedure of the prime ministers of the two states.

Another minor amendment

Things remained like this with the prime minister and the vice president of West Cameroon being the same person. Later in 1970, the constitution was amended to say that the vice president could not hold any other government office.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

Constitution of the United Republic of Cameroon of 1972

In 1972, a new constitution came to life abolishing the federal system. In its place, the United Republic of Cameroon was pronounced.

The legislative arm of the new government was now unified and was given only one house – the National Assembly. This unicameral National Assembly had 120 seats. The president of the united republic was to be succeeded by the speaker of the National Assembly. The National Assembly experienced a good reduction in power.

The new Constitution was referred to be validated by a popular referendum on the 20th of May 1972. It was approved and on the 2nd of June 1972, the president, Ahmadou Ahidjo issued decree no. 72-270 venerating the new document as law in Cameroon.

A Minor Amendment

On May 9th, 1975, an amendment was made setting up the position of Prime Minister.

Another Minor Amendment

On the 29th of June 1979, another amendment made the prime minister to be the successor of the president. It is under this law that Paul Biya replaced Ahmadou Ahidjo as president of the United Republic of Cameroon later in November 1982.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon of 1984

The new President, Paul Biya pushed into existence a new Constitution in 1984. In this constitution, he principally changed 3 provisions of the old Constitution.

In article 1, he changed the name of the country from the United Republic to the Republic of Cameroon.

In article 5, he dissolved the post of Prime Minister.

In article 7, he made the Speaker of the National Assembly to be the successor of the president. However, in event of an emergency, any member of government could handle presidential powers. In this case, this interim president was not to make any changes in law, make no changes in the structure of government, he was not to touch the Constitution or to take part in an eventual presidential election that he organises.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon of 1996

With the coming of multipartism and the general liberalisation of politics in Cameroon in the 1990s, the dissatisfied Anglophones through pressure groups called for changes in the government system in favour of the return to the federal system of government. Paul Biya placated this pressure by pushing for the 18th January 1996 Constitution.

This Constitution saw a general ideological move towards the old federal system of government. It introduced the notion that Cameroon is now a decentralised unitary state. So, semi-autonomous regions were created in article 61 to replace the existing provinces.

Article 14 introduced the Senate as the upper house of the legislature while the National Assembly remained the lower house.

Other new state organs like the Constitutional Court and the Economic and Social Council were created.

Article 6 of the new Constitution extended the president’s term in office to 7 years and moved the presidential successor from the Speaker of the National Assembly to the president of the Senate or vice-president.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961

Modifications to the Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon in 2008

On the 10th of April 2008, the existing and only house of parliament (the Senate still to be constituted), the National Assembly overwhelmingly voted a bill to make changes to the 1996 Constitution. This amendment provided the President with immunity from acts as president and allowed him to run indefinitely for re-elections. Other changes also came with the amendment.

See the 2008 Constitution of Cameroon

The voting of the bill took place in the absence of the SDF opposition. The Social Democratic Front, the main opposition political party, walked out of the parliamentary session before the bill was passed.

A month after this amendment, there was an anti-government protest in many parts of Cameroon where protestors called for the reduction in the price of bread and constitutional changes. The widespread violence during the protest resulted in the death of dozens and the arrest of hundreds.

  • The changes in the Cameroon constitution
  • The Cameroon constitutions
  • Cameroon constitution 2018 pdf
  • preamble of the Cameroon constitution
  • Cameroon constitution 2016
  • Cameroon constitution 1996 pdf
  • constitution of Cameroon 2008 pdf
  • when was the last constitutional amendment in cameroon
  • constitution of Cameroon pdf
  • Cameroon constitution 1961
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