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Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Cameroon is a republic with a strong presidency largely directing Cameroonian civil and political life. The country's current Constitution was approved by referendum on May 20, 1972, and adopted June 2 of that year. The Cameroonian legal system is a civil law system based on the French system of justice, with some influence from the common law system of the British. All Cameroonians, women and men alike, are eligible to vote at age 21; young men are eligible for military service at age 18. Cameroon's chief executive is a president, elected to seven-year terms of office, with a limit of two terms (since 1995, when a constitutional amendment modified the rules for electing presidents). It was unknown, however, whether President Paul Biya would relinquish his position after completing his term in 2004. (Biya had become president in 1982 when President Ahmadou Ahidjo, Cameroon's first president, resigned after twenty-two years in office.) The executive branch of Cameroon's national government also includes a prime minister and a cabinet of ministers, all appointed by the president. Since 1996 the Prime Minister of Cameroon has been Peter Mafany Musonge. The ruling party for all the years Cameroon has been independent has been the Union Cameronaise, a party that has jealously guarded its privileged position and put obstacles up to prevent an ascent to political supremacy by any other opposition party in the country.

At the national level the Cameroonian legislative branch in theory consists of a bicameral legislature composed of a House and a Senate. However, in practice, as of early 2001 the country had yet to see a Senate directly elected by the people and functioning in its constitutionally rightful place as part of the national government.

Despite its constitutional foundations, Cameroon operates essentially as an authoritarian state dominated by one political party, under the leadership of President Biya. Although the country has a national legislature, the National Assembly, the President of the Republic consistently rules by decree or by promoting his own agenda and bills in the legislature, which at the start of the new millennium had yet to enact a bill proposed by a member of an opposition party. The judicial system in Cameroon also is effectively shaped by the president and does not operate independently of the executive branch. Cameroon does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (the "World Court") in The Hague.

International human rights organizations and agencies such as Amnesty International and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the U.S. Department of State reported considerable problems with the abuse of human rights in Cameroon in 2000. Some of the most serious of these abuses were numerous extrajudicial killings and disappearances, and the unlawful detention and imprisonment of political opponents, members of the media, student protestors, and members of an opposition party labeled as secessionist for seeking greater independence for the formerly British parts of the country. Despite the widespread and egregious nature of the human rights abuses of which Cameroonian government officials, gendarmes, and "anti-gang" brigades were accused in the years since independence, Cameroon has been an active participant in many regional and international organizations and conferences. The country has received substantial social and economic development support from international agencies and intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations aimed at supporting sustainable, democratic development in Africa and in reforming Cameroon's overly one-party system of government.

The legal basis for Cameroon's educational system rests in the Constitution of 1972 and particularly in various national laws, regulations, and executive decrees made in the 1990s and afterwards. For example, a series of decrees in 1993 paved the way for the substantial revision of the higher education system in the country. An additional presidential decree in April 2001 refined and restructured the plan for creating new institutions and improving higher education in the country. Decree No. 95/041 of March 7, 1995, set up the Ministry of National Education. A National Forum on Education held two months later, in May 1995, led to the passage of the Law of April 1998 on vocational and technical education in the country. Each year, the prime minister makes a speech in June to announce the Government's anticipated program of actions to be taken in various sectors in the upcoming fiscal year. Through these speeches, policy goals are laid out before the members of the legislature, Government leaders, and the public, and the accomplishments of the previous year are reviewed. Much of the direction for national priorities in education can be ascertained through these speeches.

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Education Encyclopedia - StateUniversity.comGlobal Education ReferenceCameroon - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education