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Cameroon's Social Democratic Front: Its History and Prospects as an Opposition Political Party (1990-2011)

Its History and Prospects as an Opposition Political Party (1990-2011)

Milton Krieger

Publication Year: 2008

Cameroon's Social Democratic Front (SDF) was among the watershed challenges c.1990 by sub-Saharan Africa's democratization forces against autocratic regimes, but it crested in 1992 and has subsided since. Yet the party survives, participates in the National Assembly, maintains a grass roots structure, and prepares for a presidential ballot in 2011 that will likely determine its fate. The author conducted research four times in Cameroon, 1989-1999, focusing on the SDF since 1991, and maintains party contacts to the present. The book assesses its history and its prospects, covering the SDF in Africa-wide as well as Cameroonian terms. "Krieger has given us the first, superbly researched, finely tuned analysis of the fortunes of a major contemporary African opposition party, Cameroon's Social Democratic Front (SDF)." - Victor Le Vine, Washington University, St. Louis, USA. "The book goes far beyond its title and puts in context a daylight re-emergence of political opposition in Cameroon. To say that this long overdue history of the SDF party is a prolegomena to understanding contemporary Cameroon social forces is not an overstatement." - Ambroise Kom, University of Yaounde I, Cameroon. "...a level-headed but provocative examination of the structure and workings of a major African country...the sobriety with which he evaluates institutions and leadership is commendable, yielding exceptional analysis that will stand the test of time." - Toyin Falola, Fellow of the Nigerian Academy of Letters and Fellow of the Historical Society of Nigeria. Milton Krieger started teaching and research about sub-Saharan Africa in 1970. Nine trips there include four research visits providing two years time in Cameroon, 1989-99. The second, 1991, coincided with 'villes mortes' and turned his primary scholarship to the Social Democratic Front. Access to party documents, officials, and rank and file members included visitor status at the 1995 and 1999 national conventions. Party contacts continue to the present.

Published by: African Books Collective

Title Page

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Copyright Page

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pp. v

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pp. vi-vii

Our cover photo records a high water mark for Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front, in April 1999, a time exactly half way between this opposition party’s birth in 1990 and this book’s publication date. On the left is Yaya Saidou...

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pp. 1-4

Cameroon’s Social Democratic Front (SDF) nears its 20th year as the country’s only viable opposition party. It combats both the Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Movement (CPDM) regime and its own centrifugal forces...

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1. SDF: “Suffer Don Finish!” or “Suffer Dey (fo’) Front!”?

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pp. 5-21

The party’s acronym has been appropriated both by advocates as a rallying cry and by foes as mockery in the two readings this Pidgin heading spells out. Joining simultaneous calls for democratic renewal throughout sub-Saharan...

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2. The party’s roots: the North West Province origin & setting

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pp. 22-32

The SDF is a North West Province creation. This was the party’s birthplace in a violent clash at Bamenda May 26, 1990. The province has sustained the party ever since. It will remain its core area under any conditions...

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3. The post-1992 SDF: primal challenge becomes survival struggle

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pp. 33-43

Returning now to Cameroon at large, after the containment by 1970 of (whatever its limits) the substantially populist-nationalist UPC, the bars were kept in place against challenges from any “movement” politics...

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4. Anglophones & Federalism

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pp. 44-50

Its genesis more than a quarter century ago, long before its formal launch in 1990, reveals the party’s anglophone bearings.56 Previous writings about Fru Ndi and the SDF in circulation outside Cameroon tell nothing about his earlier...

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5. Social Democracy in Africa & the SDF

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pp. 51-64

“Social Democratic” in the party’s name aligns it with a cluster of principles and practices two centuries old in their European setting–perhaps the term “conventions” is now a better fit for the eclecticism of the social democratic...

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6. The party’s branches: North West Province experience since 1992

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pp. 65-79

Its first two emotionally charged years created an SDF organization and mentality in North West Province, forged in emergency conditions, that remain by and large intact. The party adapted long-established local...

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7. The SDF’s current condition and future prospects

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pp. 80-96

Looking now to the present and future in Cameroon-wide terms, the SDF’s and John Fru Ndi’s conditions are difficult and prospects are uncertain, and subject to agendas set in environments of politics and policy making they do...

End Notes

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pp. 97-109


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pp. 110-111

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9789956715855
Print-ISBN-13: 9789956558162

Page Count: 120
Publication Year: 2008