Government officials in many African countries simply refuse to retire. In office for three, four and sometimes five decades, aged civil servants continue to hang on to their positions.
By Mohamadou Houmfa, Yaoundé
In many African countries, government officials and political leaders do not want to hear about retirement, although legally they are usually expected to retire at 55 or 60.
As a result, these government officials use various schemes to remain in office. Some obtain special extensions by presidential decree, while others often fraudulently lower their age to become 'officially' younger.
Clinging to positions
Why do they cling so desperately to their positions at the expenses of the unemployed youth?
“When I retire, I will receive one third of my current salary,” explains Théophile, a civil servant in Cameroon. “What can I do with it?” he wonders. “We have very low salaries and we have to look after our families and help our relatives. We can’t really afford to save. One can start his career in government with a salary of 150,000 CFA francs and end with 250,000 CFA francs. Without the benefits, one cannot afford to build a house and secure a decent life after retirement.”
Kouotou, a young entrepreneur, highlights how civil servants manage their income. “Most of them live from hand to mouth," he says. "They do not make any plans to save for a peaceful retirement. Therefore, a number of them are surprised when it’s time to retire. So they choose to hang on to their positions.”
Kouotou’s observations are shared by the majority of young Cameroonians. “When I was still in primary school, the current president, the prime minister and most ministers were already in office," says Florent, frustrated and unemployed. "Meanwhile, I have completed my Master’s degree and they are still there. There is no turnover. Everyone wants to remain in office until they die. How are we then going to find jobs?”
But for Simondi Barlev Bidjocka, leader of the Cameroonian Youth Rally (RJC), another reason government officials cling to their positions is because being a civil servant essentially means pay without work. "One comes to work at 10 am and leaves at 3 pm,” he says.
What adds to the frustration of some young people is the fact that senior government officials were still very young when they accessed executive positions. “The youth need to be given a chance. Young people are the future of the country and the continent. If the elders continue to hang on to office, the youth will ultimately rebel. Everywhere around the world, young people are the ones leading popular uprisings. So they must listen to us,” warns an angry Florent.
The RJC is launching a campaign to call for more young people in executive positions.