Talking Drums

The West African News Magazine

The rise and fall of CNU (1)

Kwaw Ashiakwei, Yaounde

The fourth ordinary congress of Cameroon's sole political party, christened 'Congress of the 'New Deal' ended with the emergence of a new name for the party. The CNU which democratic had been in existence since 1966 and was synonymous with the name of ex-President Ahidjo was re-named Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM)
The Cameroon National Union Party (CNU) came into existence on 1st September 1966. Its birth was a consequence of consultations among the four principal political parties of the then Federal Republic of Cameron viz the CPNC (Cameroons Peoples National Congress), the KNDP (Kamerun National Democratic Party) the CUC (Cameroon United Congress) and the UC (Union Camerounais) to merge into a unified political organization christened the CNU party.

Prior to the official proclamation of the CNU, the assets and liabilities of these four political organizations had been absorbed by the CNU party. It is significant to mention that, at the time of the great merger, the CUC was led by Hon. Solomon Tandeng Muna who became a Vice-President of the CNU party and chairman of the CNU party congress held in Bamenda.

The UC, which incidentally was the only prominent party in East Cameroon, was led by Mr Ahmadou Ahidjo, former President of the United Republic of Cameroon and ex- chairman of the CNU party. The KNDP was led by Dr John Ngu Foncha, former Prime Minister of West Cameroon during the Ahidjo regime who became the 1st Vice- President of the CNU party, while the CPNC was led by Dr Emmanuel Mbella Lifafa Endeley who was the first Prime Minister of Southern Cameroon and also a Vice-President of the CNU party.

Cameroon citizens from all spheres of endeavour who were 18 years and above were eligible for membership of the CNU party. Membership was voluntary.

The congress was the supreme organ of the CNU party. It was followed in order of importance by the National Council, the Central Committee, the political Bureau and other wings of the party. An ordinary congress was held once in every five years but the chairman of the party was empowered to convene an extraordinary session (vide article 25) of the party's statutes to examine and deliberate on urgent political issues.

Since the inception of the CNU, three ordinary and two extraordinary congresses were held at various times and venues. The maiden extraordinary congress held in Yaounde on 1st June, 1972, ratified the institution of the Unitary state in place of the federal system which previously operated. This institutional change brought about by the Peaceful Revolution of 20th May 1972, saw the adoption of the name 'United Republic of Cameroon' which was later amended without the usual official fanfare to read 'Republic of Cameroon'.

The second extraordinary congress convened on 14th September, 1983 was not unconnected with rumours of a plot to undermine the security of the state and to destabilize the government. It was therefore considered in political circles as a swift reaction to a popular call by the militants (party stalwarts) to elect Paul Biya as National chairman of the CNU party, a position which was still occupied by the ex-Head of State, Mr Ahmadou Ahidjo.

The first ordinary congress of the CNU party was held between March 10-15, 1969 in Garoua, capital of the Northern Province during which the principal guidelines of the party's future action programme were concretized

Prior to the September, 1983 extraordinary congress, considerable friction had reportedly existed between Ahidjo and Paul Biya since the latter launched his New Deal policy. Prominent members of the erstwhile (Ahidjo) administration saw their positions seriously threatened (perhaps they cried wolf when there was none) by the policy and succeeded in persuading Mr Ahidjo, then chairman of the CNU party to manipulate the country's constitution and use it to circumvent Paul Biya's innovative New Deal policy.

This precipitated a political crisis resulting in a split between Ahidjo and Paul Biya. Power was being wielded by both men simultaneously. It is interesting to recall that at one point in the political history of Cameroon, Paul Biya was Head of State while Ahidjo, who had exhibited considerable statesmanship and maturity to resign as Head of state the previous year, still occupied the enviable office of Chairman of the Cameroon National Union party.

H. E. Paul Biya, nursing a feeling of betrayal, reshuffled his cabinet, dropping ministers whom Ahidjo had intended to rely upon for a successful execution of his "dubious" plans. Mr Ahidjo, in a desperate bid to regain power, tried unsuccessfully though, to incite the Senior Army officers of northern extraction within the Cameroon Armed Forces to rebel. He therefore, resigned his chairmanship of the CNU party on 27/8/83 and travelled to Europe. The events which unfolded themselves soon after Ahidjo's departure now belong to history.

The first ordinary congress of the CNU party was held between March 10-15th 1969 in Garoua, capital of the Northern Province during which the principal guidelines of the party's future action programme were concretized. The second congress held in Douala, Commercial capital of the Republic of Cameroon from 9-15th February, 1975 was based on the theme 'Congress of maturity'.

At that congress, Cameroonians were assured of governmental support in their personal and individual developmental efforts. The third ordinary congress of the CNU party was held between 13-17th February, 1980 in Bafoussan under the more ambitious theme "Congress of the mastery of our national development'. As the 4th ordinary congress captioned "Congress of the New Deal" got underway in Bamenda, capital of the North-West Province between 21-24 March, 1985, the average Cameroonian nursed a positive ray of hope that the party and government would take a critical look at the wishes. and expectations of many a Cameroonian.

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