Fwd: [BDPA-Africa] Africa IT news update 27/9/2004 part two

From: Edward Cherlin <cherlin_at_pacbell_dot_net>
Date: Tue Oct 12 2004 - 20:26:03 CDT

Unclear on the concept.

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

Subject: [BDPA-Africa] Africa IT news update 27/9/2004 part two
Date: Monday 27 September 2004 08:58 pm
From: "Chifu" <chifu2222_at_msn_dot_com>
To: bdpa-africa@yahoogroups.com

Politics-Cameroon: A Vote for Computerization
Sylvestre Tetchiada

With the countdown to presidential elections in Cameroon
 gathering pace, it might be assumed that officials there are
 simply putting the finishing touches to polling systems and
 procedures. However, a fierce debate is underway about
 computerization of the voting process.

"We absolutely have to computerize if we want a transparent and
credible election. If we can't do that, then the election should
 be postponed in the interests of the country," says John Fru
 Ndi, head of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) - Cameroon's
 main opposition party.

Failing this, Ndi threatens that the opposition will take
 matters into its own hands. "We're going to prevent the
 election from taking place," he told IPS. "We will invade the
 streets to insure that the election will not occur." Voting is
 scheduled for Oct. 11.

The calls for computerization - notably, the creation of an
electronic voters' roll - follow allegations of foul play in
 previous elections. Since multi-party politics were
 reintroduced in Cameroon in 1991, the country has held two
 presidential polls û both of which were won by incumbent head
 of state Paul Biya.

International observers refused to give a clean bill of health
 to the polls, (Biya, who has been in power since 1982, will
 also contest next month's vote). Opposition members have now
 put their faith in information technology (IT) as a way of
 minimizing electoral fraud in future polls.

"That's the reason I suggested it at least five years ago. Only
computerization can preserve the social peace and guarantee a
transparent election," Garga Haman Adji, leader of the Alliance
 for Democracy and Development, told IPS.

His words are echoed by officials from the opposition Democratic
Union of Cameroon (Union démocratique du Cameroun, UDC), who
 told IPS that voter lists "are for the most part selective, and
 that they could ruin an opposition candidate's chances for

Government is certainly making appropriate noises on the

"It's an issue of modernization. We are giving it great
 attention and we want everyone to participate...We're seeking
 out expertise and skills by inviting others to a frank
 citizens' exchange," Marafa Hamidou Yaya, the senior minister
 in charge of territorial administration and decentralization,
 said last month.

However, officials have also emphasised that computers will only
 be of use in the upcoming poll if government has been able to
 distribute identity cards which can be used in conjunction with
 the IT system. It appears that the administration has some way
 to go in this regard.

"Our real problem is getting birth certificates and national
 identity cards," Gregoire Owona, the assistant
 secretary-general of the ruling Democratic Union of the
 Cameroonian People (Rassemblement démocratique du peuple
 camerounais, RDPC), told IPS.

"Computerization needs to be seen as a catalyst for
 organisational change and not as some miracle cure...We are
 involved, but the process requires 16 million dollars that we
 don't have, and no lender has come forward to help us," he

But, this statement has been queried by an official at the
 office of political affairs in the ministry of territorial
 administration who requested anonymity. According to this
 source, government has yet to present donors with a formal
 request for electoral IT funding.

Djeukam Tchameni, a computer scientist and president of the
 Movement for Democracy and Interdependence, disagrees that a
 computerized voting system is beyond the reach of Cameroon.

"Regarding the October 11 election, computerization is possible.
We're talking about voter lists for a maximum of eight million
voters. To my mind, we could computerize the voter lists and
 make them available to all Cameroonians," he notes, adding ôThe
 present problem is not about technical feasibility but instead
 the political will to clean up an environment susceptible to

But, even Tchameni admits that ôcomputerization alone cannot fix
 this problem. We mustn't view computerization as some sort of
 magic wand."

Arlette Moukouri, a member of the Integrated Programme Against
Poverty, a non- governmental organisation, agrees.

"Computerization is no silver bullet," she told IPS. "Most of
 the time, people are registered to vote selectively by
 commissions headed by the sub-prefect. That being the case, do
 you think computerization will have any effect?"

For several months now, calls for computerized voting have
 dominated street demonstrations held by the opposition.

This has come in the midst of an increasingly strained campaign
 that has already claimed the life of SDF official John Nkonteh
 - killed Aug. 20 in the north-western Balikumbat district.

A member of the RDPC, Doh Gah Gwanyin, is one of the principal
suspects in the murder. Nkonteh was reportedly killed after
complaining of irregularities in voter registration.

Disagreements over computerization may prove something of a moot
point, however, in light of the persistant divisions within the

Earlier this month, Fru Ndi announced that he had parted ways
 with a coalition of opposition parties, in order to run for the
 presidency. This came after the coalition had chosen the UDC's
 Adamou Ndam Njoya as its candidate for the poll.

Fru Ndi, who claims that he was cheated of the presidency in
 1992, is reported as saying that Ndam Njoya's selection had not
 been democratic. Observers have noted that these developments
 could prove fatal for the opposition, as parties need to
 present a united front if they hope to unseat Biya.


Edward Cherlin
Generalist & activist--Linux, languages, literacy and more
"A knot! Oh, do let me help to undo it!"
--Alice in Wonderland
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Received on Mon Nov 1 15:28:44 2004

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