Cameroon: a busy election year in a tense context

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Cameroon will experience in 2018 a busy election year in a tense political and security context, with a deep socio-political crisis in its English-speaking regions and the persistence of suicide attacks in the Far North by the jihadist group Boko Haram.

2018 is an “important election year,” warned in his congratulatory speech Paul Biya, 84 years including 35 in power, which is yet to determine the date of four upcoming elections: presidential, senatorial, legislative and municipal.

They should renew the political spectrum, hopes the opposition, even if there is little suspense about a candidacy of the president for his seventh reelection: if Mr. Biya has not yet revealed his intentions, his party, the Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (CPDM), considers his candidacy as granted.

Its activists present it as their “natural candidate” and many also promise it a “100% vote”, as it has happened in the past in this Central African country of twenty million inhabitants .

“President Biya is the best candidate for 2018. He will continue to lead our country on the sites of peace and growth,” said AFP a senator of his party, Claude Kemajou.

Pro-Biya “committees” and more or less spontaneous support initiatives are already flourishing. As in 2011 – where 25,000 civil servants were recruited ahead of the presidential election – the “champion” of the CPDM multiplies the acts of “seduction of the electorate”, according to local political observers.

  • Armed struggle –
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On January 8, Mr. Biya created a faculty of medicine in Garoua, in the north of the country, as well as an Ecole Normale Supérieure in Bertoua (East).

In 2016, his government announced loudly that it would offer 500,000 computers to students. The distribution of these devices did not begin until the end of 2017 and will continue until June 2018, five months before the presidential scheduled between October and November.

In the face of the octogenarian president, a tense political and security situation has emerged in recent months in Cameroon, with the persistence of the attacks of the Boko Haram jihadists in the northern border of Nigeria, and on the other the serious degradation. of the crisis in the two English-speaking areas of North West and South West.

There, faced with a quasi-nonexistent political dialogue, and the repression of the authorities, the separatist protests turned to a quasi-guerrilla of low intensity. Yaoundé declared the “war” to secessionists, who on their side went from “self-defense” to a clear call to armed struggle.

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According to an AFP count, based on official statements, 19 military and police have been killed since November, while pro-English social networks broadcast photos of civilians killed and villages sacked by the army. .

“Cameroon is heading towards elections in a volatile political and security context,” said Hans De Marie Heungoup, researcher at the International Crisis Group (ICG), stressing that “the palpable political tension, instability in Anglophone regions, the persistence of Boko Haram attacks in the Extreme North and the non-consensus around the electoral game are all crisogenic factors likely to disrupt these elections.

  • Fragmented opposition –

To counter the re-election of a president often criticized by his detractors for his long stays outside the country – especially in Switzerland – the Cameroonian political scene usually morose comes alive.

The main opposition party, the Anglophone party of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), has already announced that it will participate in the elections, but it is not clear whether its leader, Ni John Fru Ndi, will challenge Mr. Biya like three times in the past.

The eternal opponent of the Cameroonian president has just decided to run again as head of his party, despite his 76 years, his repeated electoral failures and the pleiad of candidates to take up the torch of the opposition. An internal party election must be held, with no fixed date for the time being.

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In December, a Catholic bishop, Samuel Kleda, president of the Episcopal Conference, spoke in favor of a “peaceful transition”. “If President Paul Biya loves this country, he should rather withdraw,” he said in an interview in the local press that did not go unnoticed.

Other candidates are already declared, such as the famous English lawyer Akere Muna – known for his commitment to the fight against corruption and supported by a platform of nine small opposition parties and civil society associations – the opponent Garga Haman Adji, third in the presidential election of 2011, or Bernard Njonga, known for his actions in favor of peasants.

Another group of opponents, including the young and popular Cabral Libi, also intends to organize primaries to choose his candidate. And the opposition Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC) must choose in March its champion.

In anticipation of the polls, the Cameroonian electoral commission launched in January operations of revision of the electoral rolls, which officially counted at the end of 2017 more than 6 million registered.

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