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Cameroon: Why Participation In 2011 Presidential Elections May Be Poor

By Aloysius AGENDIA

Cameroon has over 200 political parties, with more than three-quarter being mushroom parties  with the sole objective of causing confusion and ensuring current dismal, divide and rule political continuity.
Since 1985, the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, CPDM, a transformation of the Cameroon Nation Union has been in power. Current party Chairman Paul Biya, has been the unchallenged ruling party presidential candidate since then. In  2008, he used his absolute majority in the National Assembly to abolish presidential term limits in the constitution. This move has been widely interpreted as his desire to eternalise himself in power.

According to the constitution of Cameroon, and following the electoral calendar, the next presidential election is expected in 2011. Some ruling party militants who claim to  speak for the masses are calling on President Biya to stand and inundating the press with "motions of support" for the president. A semilar thing is happening with some opposition parties though at a much more smaller and insignificant scale. 

For almost twenty eight years that Biya and the CPDM have ruled Cameroon, various institutions of the country have gone weaker.Corruption, embezzlement, impunity and total decadence have prevailed. The president spends more time out of the country, allegedly squandering taxpayers' money. He rarely  visits various towns in Cameroon  or listen to his compatriots . I have never heard him say a word in English apart from  the " I do so swear" a routine statement made each time he is being sworn in after elections. But the main opposition challenger is not different. I have never heard him string any words in French.

Few roads, hospitals, professional colleges etc have been constructed. The few jobs done so far, terribly contrast to the works of President Amadou Ahidjo, who was not himself a saint.

Several companies have closed and unemployment has skyrocketed and yet, the government has increased consumption (running), rather than investment budget.
Supporters or fans of Biya have always argued that he has maintained peace and stability forgetting that it has been the work of Cameroonians who are naturally peace-loving.
It goes beyond maintaining only "peace" for successful governments. They must also seek for economic development, social justice, fight against corruption etc.

What explains Paul Biya's long rule?
It is certain that president Biya's long rule is largely because of the overwhelmingly sophisticated fraudulent election machinery put in place by government.

Nevertheless, Cameroon has a plethora of opposition parties  which can be rightly put as myriad derivatives with no clear agenda. Many preach virtue and practise vice. They hardly talk of their plans for education, health, social and other sectors other than criticising the current government's incompetence.

The opposition has failed to reap the fruits of Biya's ineffectiveness and inefficiency. They have been thinking that Biya's evil deeds would make Cameroonians just vote for opposition. No, it does not work that way. Inasmuch as there is corruption, clinging to power by  militants of the ruling party, the same thing is happening in the opposition parties.

President Biya has led his party and ruled Cameroon for 24 and 27 years respectively, that is, since the transformation from CNU to the current CPDM. The SDF was created in 1990 and since then, John Fru Ndi has been the unchallenged party chairman, sidelining all rivals or outrightly sacking them from the party. This is the same with Ndam Njoya of CDU, Bello Bouba Maigari of NUDP, and Augustin Frederick Kodock of UPC.

In April 2008, the CPDM majority in parliament amended the constitution, giving Biya more powers and the possibility to run as many times as he can. The SDF, which cried foul, has equally changed its constitution giving extra powers to the chairman.

Why participation for 2011 may be very poor?
When one therefore looks at the opposition in Cameroon, it is just as bad as the ruling party. Just as the ruling party leader appoints people from his region to key government posts, so to are the opposing party leaders getting their people to lead various sections or organs in their camp.

In view of this stalemate, many Cameroonians have lost hope not necessarily only in the opposition or ruling party per ser, but in the current leaders. It is for this reason that inasmuch as Fru Ndi, Paul Biya, Ndam Njoya, Belo Bouba etc would continue to lead their parties and represent them in elections; most Cameroonians would stay home and refuse to vote.

A few powers were given to the much criticised ELECAM, a body charged with organising elections in Cameroon. However, earlier this year, the government turned around and again attached ELECAM to the notorious Ministry of Territorial Administration. Beside, an overwhelming number of ELECAM officials are  senior ruling party militiants or their public sympathisers.

Furthermore,  the ruling party and frontline oppositin party like the SDF, do have  people capable of taking the mantle of leadership and proposing something better to Cameroonian rather than inertia. Those leading these parties now would not let that happen.

During the 2007 council and legislative elections just a little over 3 million of the 12 million potential voters registered and less than 60 percent of the registered voters cast their votes.

With this growing resignation, poverty and frustration, the ruling party is always able to mobilise idle youths with a few bottles of beer or bank notes and register them several times or pay them to vote for their party.
Added on to this and  as earlier said, the complex rigging machinery put in place by government and supported by successive electoral bodies such as National Elections Observatory, NEO, and now ELECAM have made many to lose hope.


To convince cameroonians, let the ruling party and the main opposition party put credible candidates for the elections. Not candidates who will only win appeals in the areas of birth or orgin. Neither Fru Ndi nor Paul Biya is a credible candidate.

Cameroonians should massively register on voters' registers. They should protest if their votes are rigged. What happened in Ukraine, Madagascar, Thailand could give us some inspiration.

Leaders of the opposition, civil society, religious bodies etc MUST lead the protests. It must not be an issue of sitting at home and asking militants to go to the streets. It will take more than the current political leaders to change the quagmire in Cameroon. Religious as well as civil society leaders and the Diaspora must be fully involved.

That is how change may come to Cameroon. Biya has the neo-colonial backing of the so-called international community, to validate his fraud and turn around to give us lessons on democracy and corruption. Cameroon is a bread basket for several multinationals whose interests, against that of Cameroonians, are highly protected by the neo-colonial regime in power.  The likes of the oil companies, the banana companies, bauxite and iron ore companies, martitime industry, rail way transport, electricity and even national water company and Post Office have been delibrately ruined so as to justify their auctioning in the name of privatisation.

True change can only come from Cameroonians and led by patriotic leaders who should be ready to fully assume their responsibilities.
If this is not the case, most ministers, DOs, governors, generals, delegates, General Managers may have to collapse and die simultaneously for change to come. But since that is certainly not the best wish for them, the civil society, religious leaders, opposition leaders and the Diaspora have a great role to play.

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