The 2018 presidential election campaigns have just a week to go and the signs are not good for Cameroonians who have been struggling to stop their government that appears to be made up of ‘foreign’ mercenaries.
Over the last 26 years, there have been many elections in Cameroon and the ruling party, considered by an overwhelming majority of Cameroonians as a crime syndicate, has won most, if not all of the elections. The 2018 campaigns were launched a week ago, but the candidate of the ruling party, Paul Biya, only came out on September 29, 2018 to start campaigning.
The opposition candidates have been all over the country to seek votes that may take them to the Unity Palace, but what they are oblivious of is the fact that presidential elections have never been won in Cameroon via the ballot boxes.
In 1992, the SDF candidate, John Fru Ndi, proved that an incumbent could be defeated. He pulled crowds and told the right stories. His stories were music to many ears, but he and his party failed to figure out that the Supreme Court which was acting for the constitutional council, had other plans.
The results were released in favor of Mr. Biya who was popularly unpopular across the country. The country’s Supreme Court judges were Mr. Biya’s protégés and given their loyalty to such a brutal dictator, they could not publish the real results which were in favor of the SDF candidate.
In 1992, there was a small coalition, but other major parties had refused to join the Union for Change that was supposed to represent the opposition. Bouba Bello and Adamou Ndam Njoya felt they had more governance experience than Mr. Fru Ndi. They therefore decided to betray the people of Cameroon.
Mr. Bouba Bello has since then been an ally of the ruling party to the detriment of the people who are still under the yoke of an incompetent dictator whose penchant for waste is legendary. It should be recalled that Mr. Bouba Bello was directly involved in the 1984 coup d’état that almost resulted in the overthrow of Mr. Biya.
Mr. Bouba Bello had fled to Nigeria after the coup. He only came back when a general amnesty was granted to those who had been implicated in the coup. And all of this came about when Cameroonians fought tooth and nail to bring about multiparty politics in Cameroon.
The failure of the opposition in 1992 to engineer a strong coalition in the presidential elections of that year was the opposition’s greatest undoing. But has today’s opposition learned any lessons? From every indication, thunder might be striking twice in the same place. The opposition is yet to learn the lessons of the past.
The faces might have changed, but the mentality us still the same. While new faces have jumped into the political arena, the mentality of the past seems to be at work. The new faces in Cameroon’s political landscape may be different, but the thinking of those on the opposition has not changed that much.
Every Cameroonian erroneously thinks that he is presidential material. He selfishly holds that he is more intelligent than his compatriots. And this thinking is standing in the way of efforts aimed at unseating a dictator who is only counting on his rigging ability.
Part of the election rigging process is for the ruling party to argue that if the opposition was not divided, it could win the election. But deep in the minds of ruling party supporters, they know that the opposition does not need to unite in order to win Mr. Biya who has been in power for 36 years and has nothing to show for his long stay in power.
The country’s economy is on its knees. The unemployment rate is unprecedented in this country that is endowed with enormous human and natural resources. Corruption has become the government’s hallmark and it has indeed been institutionalized. Mr. Biya is the main engineer of this corruption and he has been using the country’s treasury as his personal ATM.
For 36 years, Mr. Biya and his government have failed to live up to the glorious expectations of the population. The country is bereft of basic infrastructure. Its roads are among the worst in the world. The railway network has collapsed and the country’s clinics are nothing more than consultation clinics.
Politically, Mr. Biya is considered as the worst catastrophe that ever visited the country. Cameroon is more divided today than it has ever been. Nepotism is the order of the day and people from the president’s ethic group are those who are running the show.
Though his ethic group accounts for less than 10% of the country’s population, they account for more than 70% of the country’s government. This has created a feeling of frustration among other ethnic groups which some allege are already talking about revenge once Mr. Biya leaves office.
With such a dismal economic and political performance, there is no way Mr. Biya could win the 2018 presidential election if it was free, fair and transparent. Today, Cameroon is on the brink of a civil war. The government has unleashed its militia and untrained soldiers on Southern Cameroonians who have been complaining of marginalization for more than five decades.
More than 4,000 people have been killed in less than two years as a result of the conflict pitting Southern Cameroonians against the government. Over the last month, government militia and soldiers, most of which are constituted of young Betis who are mad that power is slipping through their fingers, have been killing young male adults in the English-speaking region indiscriminately.
More than 200 villages have been burnt and children and old people have been burnt in their homes by government troops who enjoy using collective punishment as a tool to intimidate the population. Over the last two weeks, more than half a million Southern Cameroonians have fled to East Cameroon in search of a safe haven.
More than a million have fled to Nigeria where they are living rough. Those who escaped to East Cameroon are still in trouble as the government has systematically and continuously arrested many of them who are seeking refuge in Yaounde or Douala.
As a justification for their arrest, the country’s defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo, last week released a press statement indicating that there were separatists among English-speaking Cameroonians who had escaped the government’s military brutality to Yaounde. Ever since that release was published, more than 2,000 Southern Cameroonians have already disappeared in Yaounde and thousands are concerned about their safety.
Meanwhile, those who do not have the means to travel to East Cameroon are being mowed down by government troops who have been given a license to shoot and kill. Last week alone, more than 500 innocent civilians were gunned down by army soldiers. Yesterday night in Buea, a lady was pulled out of her home and shot in the leg by a Beti soldier.
In Bachou Ntai, many residents were slaughtered on Saturday, September 29 by army soldiers who were angry that pictures of Mr. Biya had been torn down by angry youths who held that the ruling party must not hold its campaign in their town.
Among those killed is the nephew of the Senate vice-president, Chief George Tabetando, who has been in favor of the killing of Southern Cameroonians. With such a picture, there is no way the ruling party, that is being accused of having mismanaged a strike by teachers and lawyers, can win an election in Cameroon.
But if opposition parties have to make hay of the government’s incompetence, they must realize that making common cause will help them achieve their goal – unseating Mr. Biya and his ruling crime syndicate.
The major opposition parties must come together to give the people a chance at making their dream come true. Cameroonians are sick and tired of the government they have; a government that has been conducting itself as a bunch of mercenaries.
There is a huge need for a coalition. This will not be necessary in a transparent system, but since Cameroon is a country soaked in corruption and abnormalities, the ruling party must be denied that argument that will justify its rigging of the election.
Opposition leaders must shrink their egos. They must understand that they are operating in a system that has been designed to favor Mr. Biya. They have to enhance their chances and this can only be achieved through a solid coalition that will render the ruling party’s rigging machinery ineffective and inefficient.
By Kingsley Betek