By Abiosseh Davis, Program Officer, Counterpart International
Cameroon’s first-ever e-elections platform was launched by civil society organization Nouveau Droits de l’Homme (NDH) on Sept 25. The platform will capture and provide up-to-date information on the country’s electoral process including changes in electoral laws, voting processes, political parties and candidates, as well as civil society and media initiatives geared towards the elections.
At the e-platform launch event, Dr. Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, President of Cameroon’s electoral commission ELECAM, reaffirmed the importance of increasing access to information for all voters. He stressed the commitment of ELECAM to working with civil society and the media to raise voter awareness.
The e-elections platform and other public outreach efforts by civil society are particularly important since ELECAM has limited manpower and resources to provide information, education and updates to the entire population of eligible voters. While ELECAM has a website, information is not always clear, accessible, consistent, or up to date. To bridge the gap, civil society organizations and the media have been partnering with ELECAM to provide clear and consistent civic and voter education- a goal that requires updated and credible information from all electoral stakeholders to be achievable.
NDH created the e-elections platform to collect information from multiple sources, house them in a central location and make that information available for all who are interested. The platform, whose webpage is www.electiononline.info, also links to Facebook and Twitter to capture the social networking audience. The platform is designed to reach youth and other constituents who have high voter apathy but access the internet and engage heavily in social media. Meeting these constituents where they already spend significant amounts of time will encourage their interest and participation in electoral processes, and provide them with relevant and accurate information.
The elections e-platform was created as part of a grant project entitled “Access to Electoral Information” – one of four grants Counterpart International awarded to NDH as part of the USAID-funded Strengthening Civic Engagement in Cameroon program.
Access to information has historically been a major challenge in Cameroon. Civil society faces significant difficulties in accessing up-to-date information on decisions that are being made, and struggles to disseminate that information to communities. Media outlets with national presence and outreach are heavily controlled by the state, and independent media outlets face challenges in accessing information. During electoral cycles, particularly those during which the electoral code or voter registration process changes as they did this time, it is more important than ever that this information be made available to average citizens.
The launch of the e-elections platform ended with a more traditional form of voter outreach. A Cameroonian musician, Eric Dass, sang an original song that reminded attendees of why the platform was created. Attendees clapped and sang along with the lyrics of the song “Je vote. Il vote. Elle vote. Nous Votons.” I vote. He votes. She votes. We vote.