For years, the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) of President Biya has been described as a one man show with the 85 year old as the Right Royal Chairman. In the words of some senior Cameroon political commentators, the ruling CPDM party has always been fractious. Yes, the CPDM party has always had internal divisions but Yaoundé has never seen it like this. Ahead of the 2018 presidential elections, the ruling party is divided at all levels with local officials calling on Mr. Biya not run for the presidency. The split between those who want to keep Biya at the head and those who want Biya to step aside is tearing up not just the governing party as a whole, but each of its barons individually including the nation.
The rift has a geo-political angle, too, with many militants and elite organizations blaming the political elites of the Centre and South regions for poor handling of the crisis in Southern Cameroons. Infighting had long been a hobby for the ruling CPDM crime syndicate that led to the arrest of many including former Prime Minister Chief Inoni, Jean Atangana Mebara, Marafa Hamidou Yaya and Mendo Ze.
The general feeling in the nation’s capital Yaoundé is that it’s horrifying and many Francophone political elites are now wondering aloud how the CPDM get to this point. As we see it, it is fair to say that Biya’s management style played in. To see how things are falling apart deep within the CPDM, you have to rewind to its very beginning, when the government started toying with the idea of democracy and multiparty politics.
Early —very early— in that 1990 process, President Biya commenced with the organization of counterfeit parliamentary and presidential elections and money became the vital tool in Cameroon politics. Correspondingly, citizens bothered less about the electoral conditions that were on offer and as a consequence, the task of splitting Cameroonians became straightforward.
The main opposition parties were drawn into some form of political negotiations and the more radical leaders like John Fru Ndi issued guarantees to the regime and vowed to play the role of a collaborator. As expected, the SDF and Fru Ndi painted themselves into a corner and were forced to choose between splitting the already fragmented opposition in two by calling for a boycott of the 1992 parliamentary elections.
The end result was predictable and dispiriting as well. By all accounts, Biya’s candidacy for the 2018 presidential elections hasn’t exactly caught fire with the CPDM electorate and the Cameroonian people, meaning Biya now faces a very real prospect of ending up without the goat and without the rope. The 85 year old Biya has cancelled the 2018 electoral calendar. Municipal and parliamentary elections have all been postponed indefinitely and no one knows if the presidential elections will hold.
The Yaoundé regime has cited security concerns and lack of financial resources to stage these elections. Biya has now won a contested vote without having to falsify the final tally but that could put the final nail on his coffin. It could still be his wildest dream come true.
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By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai