7 October, Cameroon’s presidential election day, is a matter of days, hours and minutes, for Cameroonians to hit the polls and elect a president to lead the nation for the next seven years.
It is a crucial election, though every presidential poll is crucial; but considering the current realities in Cameroon’s political sphere, the 2018 election becomes very contentious.
For months, there has been deadly altercations in the English-speaking part of Cameroon, up to the point of declaring the Republic of Ambazonia, a ‘country’ that is coincidentally ‘celebrating their independence’ this week.
We consider just three issues here, in form of open-ended questions which only the Cameroonians themselves will answer with their ballot power, come 7 October.
1. WILL IT BE FOR CHANGE OR STATUS QUO?
President Paul Biya is still contesting and this will be his seventh consecutive time that the long-standing president’s name will appear on the presidential ballot. Mark, Cameroon has had ten presidential elections since 1965. Biya became Cameroon’s president since 1982 and in even though there was a limit to terms of office for the president, in 2008, the parliament, made up 153/180 members of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), extended his term and opened the door for him to run again.
Many thought that would be his last attempt, but he is still contesting in 2018. Biya said: “I am willing to respond positively to your overwhelming calls. I will stand as your candidate in the upcoming presidential election”. Now you see, he is being ‘forced’ to run by ‘Cameroonians’; the poor selfless Biya does not even have a choice!
So, will the Cameroonians vote for the 85-year old Biya status quo to continue or will they go for a new face out of the other eight contenders? They are:
2. WILL IT BE FREE AND FAIR?
Free and fair, one must understand, lacks a universal meaning in African elections. The meaning depends on whose side the definer is on. The answer to this question will definitely determine the answer to the first question.
Critics have always accused Biya and his party of rigging and manipulations which are not as well left unrefuted. Recall that days ago, the EU election observer announced that they will not cover the election (and had never done). That was a pointer to the anti-Biya that the election would not be without government influence.
3. WILL THE ELECTION HOLD IN ANGLOPHONE CAMEROON
This is the biggest question, however, on everyone’s lips. Paul Biya last visited the Anglophone troubled area in 2014 and is scheduled to be in Beau this week. The rebel fighters have vowed to foil elections in what they now call their territory. This only means one thing: more bloodbath, if nothing is done to ameliorate it before the week runs out.
There is voter apathy in Cameroon already: only 7 million people are registered to vote in the election, out of 13 million. How much more will it be for the residents of western Cameroon amidst the crisis?
But in an ALLAFRICA report, supporters of Paul Biya, like Jacques Fame Ndongo, say elections will go ahead despite the rebels’ attempts. “We know that their mad dream is to stop the organisation of the presidential election in those two regions, but that mad dream will never come to fruition because the population of the Northwest and the Southwest regions is determined to express its total support to the head of state and his party, the CPDM (Cameroon’s People Democratic Movement).”
There are reports of more movements of people from the crisis-plagued areas as the election draws closer, for fear of the unknown. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 people are displaced before now. It is likely that elections will not hold there successfully. If it holds, turn out is sure to be anything but good enough. Also, the rebels may not hold back the temptation of engaging security personnel.
The election will also show how serious the ‘Ambazonians’ are with their Ambazonia Republic. Will it be a fight to finish for Ambazonia or they will surrender to a Cameroon that is yet to call for a dialogue? 7 October will tell.
For the rest of us, we wish, above all things, that there will be no loss of lives on the day.