As President-elect, Prof. Maurice Kamto, prepares for his swearing-in, Yaounde, the nation’s capital, seems to be witnessing some strange clouds. Many people are wondering about what will happen if things do not work out smoothly.
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.
In 1992, thanks to the Supreme Court that was made up of his appointees, he successfully robbed the Social Democratic Front (SDF) candidate, John Fru Ndi, of his victory.
Mr. Fru Ndi had beaten Mr. Biya by a wide margin and the Supreme Court that was acting in lieu of the Constitutional Council had handed Mr. Biya the victory and he immediately imposed a state of emergency in the Northwest region which is Mr. Fru Ndi’s region of origin.
But 1992 is not 2018. A lot has happened between 1992 and 2018. Social media has shown up as a new tool for holding politicians and government officials accountable for their actions.
Today, results can be easily known a few hours after voting, thanks to android phones that can capture everything in real time. Today, the Internet is awash with videos of electoral fraud perpetrated by ruling party members. The country’s electoral law that is supposed to punish defaulters seem to be looking the other way as these crimes get committed.
Besides, Cameroonians are determined to unseat a government that has been reckless with their money for over three decades. This is a government that cannot make a difference between a party and a state. State funds have been used for decades to fund a crime syndicate that has brought the country’s economy to its knees.
But the cloud over Yaounde has an ominous message for Mr. Biya and his collaborators. They have a choice. Concede defeat and exit honorably or insist on rigging the election and bring a disaster on the country.
Prof. Kamto has already stretched an olive branch to Mr. Biya and his family. He has already indicated that he will grant him immunity. He is also very willing to protect him and his family. That is good enough to allay Mr. Biya’s fears.
But if Mr. Biya opts to take the other route, that which might lead to a disaster, then he would have opted for the extermination of Betis and his party members who have brought untold hardship to the people.
Counting on the Constitutional Council could be like walking a tight rope. Cameroonians do not have faith in the Constitutional Council Mr. Biya created. This Council is replete with his party members and it is clear that their appointment was designed to enable them grant him the extension he needs to stay in power.
Let Mr. Biya not accept the madness the Constitutional Council might want to impose on him. It is often said that when the gods want to punish you, they first of all give madness. With such madness you can destroy yourself and your entire family.
If Mr. Biya accepts a crown he does not deserve, he will only be opening a new war front in Yaounde. Boko Haram is still a menace in the North and Southern Cameroonians are still an active threat in the northwest and southwest regions. More than two years after the Southern Cameroons crisis started, the fighters are still determined and the state is already running out of steam and resources.
A new war front in Yaounde will put the Betis who have profited from Mr. Biya’s regime at a huge risk. The Betis account for less than 10% of the country’s population, but they account for more than 70% of the senior positions in the country and ambassadorial appointments. This has been a source of anger among other Cameroonians.
The international community should not allow this to happen. Cameroonians are frustrated and if that were to happen, the Betis would be exterminated. The world should stop watching from the sidelines. An orgy of killing is being prepared and if Mr. Biya does not take the right decision, he might turn Yaounde and its environs into a massive killing field.
Mr. Biya and his men should see the writing on the wall. Their time is up and it is in their interest if they choose the honorable way out. Mr. Kamto has decided to leave the door open for Mr. Biya and his men to walk out in dignity. He has advised them to come for negotiations on how the transition could be smooth.
If they fail to listen to Prof. Kamto’s wise counsel, they will have to deal with an angry crowd that might want to take its pound of flesh for the pain it has been put through for 36 years. Instead of being confused and trying to play hardball with the public, they should seize the opportunity offered to them by Prof. Kamto.
If they push ahead with their plan through their questionable Constitutional Council, then they have clearly opted for a path that will expose them to violence and disgrace. There is still time for Mr. Biya and his men to put on their thinking caps.
Everything has its time. The time for tricks is over. It is in the interest of the regime and the country if Mr. Biya concedes defeat and congratulates Prof. Kamto on his success. The world is watching and the international community is already nodding in approval and this is giving Prof. Kamto the courage he needs to move forward with his plan of action.
The storm that is gathering over Yaounde can be defused if Mr. Biya and his men think differently. They must understand that when your time is up, nature shows you the signs, and the tell-tale signs have been there for a long time.
The government’s inability to call the Southern Cameroons bluff in the northwest and southwest regions should let regime members know that God is behind the disaster that is gradually heading to Yaounde. Southern Cameroonians have withstood their ground and they have given the military a good run for its money just by using rudimentary weapons.
God is talking to Mr. Biya and his Beti backers should let him know that a huge risk is staring them in the face and that it is time to pack and leave so as to spare the country a bloodbath that has been in the making for more than three decades.
By Kingsley Betek in Yaounde and Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai at the global headquarters in the UK.