By Roland Abeng - Barrister at Law
The stage had long been prepared for the outcome of the October 9th presidential elections in Cameroon. The Law creating Elections Cameroon and its subsequent modifications which diluted the powers of the institution; the 2008 constitutional amendment removing presidential mandate limits; and, of course, the “PEOPLE’S CALL” for president Biya to stand as candidate for the elections are just some of the acts that helped seal the outcome of the October 9th event.
From a look at the events that led to the elections and its outcome, not even a unique opposition candidate would have changed the outcome. The “official” result proclaimed on October 21 is evidence of this assertion! With a score of almost 78% of the votes cast in favour of Biya, a run-off would not have been necessary even if Cameroonian Law provided such an opportunity. The ruling party had arranged to have the proclaimed score by all crooked means possible, even before the elections.
Elections Cameroon - ELECAM
Cameroon has, for far too many years, been associated with corruption, bad governance, election rigging and all the other ills that are contrary to the Millennium Development Goals. Various indices that are published yearly attest to this. What has been absolutely shocking to most Cameroonians with regards to these elections is the dishonest role that newly created ELECAM has played and continues to play at the highest level, in complicity with the government and the ruling CPDM party. Not that one expected a complete shift from the old ways of the Ministry of Territorial administration, which hitherto organized elections… But Cameroonians are now filled with a heightened sense of crystallized betrayed by ELECAM; a body which they thought would improve on the way elections are organized and conducted in Cameroon.
Cameroonians wanted to give ELECAM a chance even when almost all its members were from the ruling party. More than that, Cameroonians recall the four young men arrested at the Yaoundé Nsimalen airport in January 2009 (Frankline Gana Ndaga, Cyril Kpuye, JC Akina and Dominic Nkongho Ewang). All four pointed at Dr. FONKAM Azu’u as the one who facilitated their obtaining U.S visas by providing them with fake mission orders.
The young men were not only consistent in their claim that they paid FCFA 3 million each to Dr. Fonkam to have the fake documents, they made more incriminating statements against the ELECAM boss. This is the person that heads the institution that manages elections in Cameroon. How could anyone question the assertions of Cameroon’s minister of territorial administration in wiki leaks, quoted as saying “ELECAM officials are corrupt and are only in for money.” You are probably asking the same question I have on my mind: How much has Dr. Fonkam and his gang made from these elections?
One South West regional ELECAM official exclaimed when he heard the final score of Hon. Ayah Paul Abine’s PAP (read by the Supreme Court president) in the South West Province. He said “My bosses in Yaoundé have “doctored” the results exaggeratedly!!” He confessed that they had “touched” the results in favour of the CPDM party, but the results sheets that were sent to Yaoundé still had the PAP party leading in Manyu Division. He was shocked by what he heard as AYAH’s score from the president of the Supreme Court. Also, participation in his region was less than 40%. ELECAM “doctored” the participation figures to almost 80%!
Cameroonians, as well as foreign observers, could forgive ELECAM for some of the lapses that surrounded the electoral process, but not for changing the figures of the results in favour of a Candidate. The question that comes to mind is: why should ELECAM manifest fraud in such a manner when it is clear that even with 40% of the votes Biya would still have won?
In 1992 Biya was declared “winner” with less than 40%! Why should ELECAM change the percentage participation from less than 38% to more than 65% when even results from Biya’s polling station indicate that 89 voted out of 414 registered voters! The answer to these preceding questions was advanced by a journalist of the government newspaper Cameroon Tribune. “As the PEOPLES CHOICE,” the journalist opined, “the “organizers” of the elections had to show proof not only that there was massive participation at the polls but also that BIYA was plebiscited.” So be it! The official results are what we now know: Biya 77.9 % and the rest shared by the other opposition candidates.
Opinion polls (which can sometimes be very deceptive) show less than 2 out of every 10 Cameroonians do not consider the proclaimed results a true reflection of the election results. It is a known fact that riots of February 2008 were connected to the disapproval of the street to Biya’s 2008 constitutional amendment project, passed into law thanks to a parliament dominated by his political party.
Some of his close collaborators, in justifying Biya’s 2008 constitutional amendment, say that it was high time the Head of state bring to an end the in-fighting that had commenced within his ranks as his close collaborators had started positioning themselves as possible presidential candidates. This, according to the handlers, was having a serious impact on the party and governmental cohesion. It is said that a pseudo presidential Campaign had already begun amongst CPDM big wigs that thought and expected Biya not to stand because the then constitution did not permit him to. It is at the backdrop of all of the above AND MORE that Biya has been proclaimed President for the next 7 years after 29 years in power.
The Frustration of Cameroonians is total and the apparent calm throughout the country betrays this frustration. The authorities know that the frustration, anger and tension are at fever pitch. It explains the strong military presence in all of Cameroon’s big towns, especially Yaoundé and Douala. The declared victors of this election are not celebrating, probably because they know there is indeed nothing to celebrate and also because celebrating might provoke the declared losers of the elections who might just be looking for a final reason to go to the streets in protest. Someone put it in these terms: “the situation is disturbing because the winners are not celebrating and the losers are not crying”. Public manifestations and meetings are cancelled in Douala – Cameroon’s economic capital - and in many other towns of the country till further notice. Most households have done shopping and stocked foodstuff to last them a few weeks just in case violence erupts.
How can an entire country be militarized and public meetings banned when the citizens “overwhelmingly” voted for their “champion”, who is no one else but the incumbent president? As I write this article no Cameroonian has gone to the street to protest against the proclaimed results despite calls by some opposition candidates to that effect. The authorities know more than anyone else that the absence of street protests does not mean the absence of frustration. But they expect time to quell the tension and anger that has gripped the population as was the case after the 1992 presidential and subsequent elections.
Truth is, time has not played in favour of African dictators in the recent past and revolutions now erupt from areas or events least expected. Biya can however relax for the time being…current opinion polls show that 7 out of every 10 Cameroonians prefer the “BIYA EVIL” for the time being than go to the streets in protest. The question is “FOR HOW LONG”?