oa Fundamina : A Journal of Legal History - The origin and development of emergency regimes in Cameroon



The purpose of this study is to trace the origin and development of emergency regimes in Cameroon, to address their negative impact on the current structure of the political system and to highlight the need for change in the country. Emergency regimes are generally brought into being in exceptional circumstances and allow states to (legally) suspend law and infringe human rights when confronted by threats to their existence. They generally include a state of emergency, a state of exception, a state of siege and martial rule. In the case of Cameroon, these regimes are a legacy of French colonialism, and were introduced into the country's legal system to sustain harsh imperialist policies. Traditionally it is believed that a state of emergency and a state of exception are declared in response to circumstances threatening the state's existence (such as natural cataclysms, invasions, and general insurrections), but the peculiarity of these regimes in Cameroon is that they have been and still are used as a political device. Indeed, in the context of colonialism and war of independence between French colonial authorities, their local acolytes and indigenous Cameroonians, emergency regimes played a key role in eliminating political challengers, increasing the powers of the executive, and absolving it of any accountability and responsibility. However, in the process, these measures ended up losing their exceptional character as they entered the sphere of normalcy. The current hypertrophy of the powers of the executive entity in Cameroon dates back to that period, and it is consequently difficult to distinguish between a Cameroon society in crisis and one in peacetime.


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