In a bid to give credibility to the fake presidential election organized in Cameroon by the Biya regime, Issa Tchiroma, Cameroon’s communication minister, recently said that there was a Transparency International observation mission in the country.
On Tuesday, October 9, 2018, Transparency International issued a statement that it had not sent any observation mission to Cameroon for the just-ended presidential poll that is already mired in controversy.
“Transparency International confirms that it has no international election observation mission in Cameroon. A recent television report featuring individuals described as working for Transparency International is false and untrue,” the statement said.
The statement also said that those who were posing as Transparency International staff had no affiliation with the renowned watchdog. “The individuals shown in the report have no affiliation with Transparency International,” said Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International.
She added that “We have not sent an international election observation mission to Cameroon. Our local chapter in Cameroon has established a reporting mechanism for use by the general public, and worked with a network of citizens to report possible irregularities to the chapter. However, none of these activities are part of an official election observation mission.”
“A deliberate attempt to impersonate Transparency International or knowingly portray non-affiliated individuals as employees of the anti-corruption watchdog is completely unacceptable. At this critical time for democracy in Cameroon, Transparency International and Transparency International Cameroon urge all parties in politics and media to act responsibly and with integrity in their communications around the election and its results,” the statement concluded.
The Yaounde government is seeking recognition and it is bent on doing all it can to convince the world that the elections where free and fair. But its efforts are not yielding the right results. It has never won any election and this one will not be any different.
However, this time around, the government might be in for real trouble. President-elect, Prof. Maurice Kamto, is preparing for his swearing-in come October 22, 2018 in Yaounde, the nation’s capital and his decision to declare himself the winner of the poll seems to be attracting some strange clouds to the nation’s capital. Many people are already wondering about what will happen if things do not work out smoothly on October 22.
The news about Prof. Kamto’s victory has hit regime members like a ton of bricks. Since Prof. Kamto’s announcement, regime members have been scrambling to discredit him, with many of them forgetting that he is a jurist and a legal mind who understands the intricacies of the law. He has once been in government and knows how crooked the system is.
Regime members have been counting on other things, but nature seems to be telling a different story. The clouds are gathering and the messages are not good, both for the country and the regime. The clouds started gathering when Prof. Kamto clearly declared that he had the people’s mandate and that he would defend that mandate come what may.
The Yaounde regime is losing sleep. Prof. Kamto’s victory and announcement have caught the regime off guard. The regime is used to rigging elections without bothering about the people’s reaction.
But this time around, the regime seems to be bothered by the people’s reaction and Prof. Kamto’s calm demeanor and determination to defend a mandate that has been handed to him by voters. No army can be stronger than the people and Prof. Kamto has the potential to put millions of Cameroonians on the streets if the Constitutional Council does not make the right decision.
The signs are not good. A Kamto victory therefore implies that most government officials and senior members of the ruling party are looking at long jail terms. They have been running the country as if it is a personal estate.
The country’s president, Paul Biya, has been using the country’s treasury as if it is his personal ATM. Mr. Biya has never won an election and he has been counting on his rigging machinery to extend his stay in power.
Sunday’s poll were marred by many irregularities designed to favor the incumbent. However, it must be pointed out that it is hard to organize perfect elections in a developing and infrastructure-poor country like Cameroon.
This situation has been made all the more challenging by the Southern Cameroons crisis that is tearing the country apart.
In the two English-speaking regions of the country, due to insecurity, the number of polling stations was reduced, but voters were not given the means to reach their new polling stations.
For example, Prime Minister Yang Philemon was allowed to vote at Up station in Bamenda while he had registered to vote in Oku which is his hometown since the government could not guarantee security in Oku.
While the Prime Minister voted, his fellow Oku residents were never given a similar opportunity. The same applies to the Senate President, Niat Njifenji, who was allowed to vote in Paris when he never registered to vote there.
It should be recalled that the country’s Senate president was evacuated to a French hospital one month ago and there was no way he could have known that he would be ill before the election.
But the most sickening irregularities took place at the polling stations. In some polling stations in the country, opposition returning officers were not allowed into the polling stations.
There were reports of polling stations being lodged in unofficial locations. Some ballot boxes also arrived already opened and this caused a lot of argument.
In the south and littoral regions, some opposition returning officers were beaten and thrown out of the polling station. This actually happened to Cabral Libii’s returning officers and his party is already talking of taking the matter up with the election organizing body and the constitutional council.
These and other factors have converged to give the government a very bad name. Mr. Biya should have left honorably, but he felt his rigging machine would deliver the fake results he was used to.
But times have changed. The people need change. The hardship, poor economic situation, the conflict with the country’s rich Diaspora and the government’s arrogance have been some of the mistakes that will linger in the minds of members of the crime syndicate that has ruled the country for decades.
Mr. Biya and his men will surely not be going down without a fight. Their mismanagement and the anger of the people are making it hard for them to relinquish power peacefully. While results in the field are against them, members of the ruling party have already pushed their plan B into action.
The hastily set up Constitutional Council is their last option. Since this is the body that is authorized to publish results, Mr. Biya and his men hold that the members of this body will be able to reverse things in their favor.
This was exactly the same thing that happened in 1992 when the SDF candidate, John Fru Ndi, won 62% of the votes, but the Supreme Court, which was acting as the Constitutional Council, handed the victory to a barefaced Biya who has continued to lord it over his fellow citizens.
In 1992, there was no social media and the government could easily use the military to intimidate the civilian population, especially the Francophone majority that knew very little about collective action.
Today, the dynamics are different. Southern Cameroonians have demystified the military and this is inspiring the Francophone majority which now knows that through collective action, it can change its own destiny.
Prior to the election, many opposition leaders had called on their supporters to be vigilant, they have advised that in the event of any doctoring of the results by the Constitutional Council, the whole country will be in the grip of a revolution.
Cameroon is therefore sitting on a keg of gun powder that might go off if the Constitutional Council tries to play pranks that might rob the people of their victory. The Kamto victory might be good, but it could dump the country into a long spell of insecurity and violence.
The chaos that may play out in Yaounde if the Constitutional Council over-plays its hands and luck might make it easy for Southern Cameroons to finally walk away in peace while Francophones seek to kill each other.
However, if Prof. Kamto takes his place at the Unity Palace, he might find common ground with the separatists. He has already expressed the wish to sit and talk with Southern Cameroonians, but he might have to head to Washington DC or Ottawa for that to happen.
The regime will surely want to use the military to intimidate the population, but the people must stand their ground. The military cannot kill everybody and until the Francophone majority understands that, it will continue to live in the invisible chains of slavery.
Francophones have to learn from Southern Cameroonians who have demonstrated that a minority can bring about change in a country. They have to conquer their fear. They have to stand their ground. They cannot let a minority to continue lording it over a majority.
Until they threaten the Yaounde government, they will never come out of their poverty. The Yaounde government has weaponized poverty to subjugate the people. This must be stopped and this election is an opportunity to put an end to the mess that has given Cameroon a bloodshot eye.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, Irene Nanyongo and Kingsley Betek.