Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya, also known as the monarch, returned to the nation’s capital on Sunday, October 28, 2018, after a short visit to his native Mvomeka’a where he was relaxing after a long bruising presidential election campaign that made his age and departure the central themes of the campaign.
Upon arrival in Yaounde, Mr. Biya immediately called the Speaker of the National Assembly, Cavaye Yegue Djril, to whom he gave firm instructions on the holding of a parliamentary session on Friday, November 2, in preparation for his swearing-in slated for November 7.
Over the last 20 years, the monarch has become very dictatorial and he has successfully deleted any lines that existed between the executive, judiciary and legislative branches of the government. It should be recalled that Mr. Biya appoints all magistrates and judges in the country and has a huge influence on members of parliament and senators, 30% of whom are directly appointed by him, while 70% are elected in a counterfeit election whose results are usually known many months ahead of time. And this same influence could be seen during the just-ended presidential elections.
Right from the beginning, it was clear that beating the incumbent through the ballot box will be a Herculean task. The electoral code is beautifully written to ensure that the incumbent is maintained in power. Even the election organizing body, ELECAM, is replete with members of the ruling party and this makes it hard for real impartial elections to be held in a country like Cameroon that lacks basic, transparent and fair election rules.
From every indication, ELECAM is just another wing of the ruling CPDM (Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement), a party considered by many Cameroonians are a crime syndicate due to the type of people who are its members. This party’s membership comprises ex-convicts, hardened criminals, murderers, business-people evading taxes and embezzlers. It has been banned in Southern Cameroons by the Ambazonian Interim Government and designated as a terrorist organization.
ELECAM, by its very nature, cannot organize free and fair elections in Cameroon and this explains why there were many irregularities in this year’s presidential polls, a fact recognized by the American government which clearly indicated in its congratulatory message to the contested winner of the rigged poll.
It should be recalled that Cameroon has just held a presidential election whose results were known by almost everybody, as members of the election-organizing body are appointed by Mr. Biya and most of them are members of his ruling party. Similarly, members of the Constitutional Council were also appointed by Mr. Biya in January and all of them had been compromised. All of them are members of the ruling party, and many of their spouses hold positions in government.
The president of the Constitutional Council, Clement Atangana, a retired Supreme Court judge, who was struggling with life while on retirement, had clearly indicated that he was there to serve the president’s interest. His appointment was indeed a resuscitation for him as this could be seen in a video in which he was rejoicing after hearing the “good news”. Of course he knew from the beginning that one good turn deserved another and this was obvious during the Constitutional Council’s deliberations. A villa is currently being constructed for him.
Other members of the Constitutional Council who did not inspire hope were Florence Arrey, a long-time girlfriend of the country’s justice minister, Laurent Esso; Foumane Akame, a one-time minster under Mr. Biya whose wife is also a ruling party parliamentarian; Joseph-Marie Bipoum Woum who was also a minster under the current president; Paul Nchoji Nkwi also a former minister and Jean-Baptiste Baskouda who has also served under the same president.
The Constitutional Council, whose decision is final and irreducible, had been set up to ensure the incumbent stayed in power. Despite attempts by the opposition during post-electoral fraud hearings in Yaounde to have the Constitutional Council members to recuse themselves because of several conflicts of interest, their appeals clearly fell on deaf ears. Members of this body are eternally indebted to the country’s president who is mockingly known by the public as the “monarch” for his haughty attitude and incompetence.
Not only was that application thrown out by the Constitutional Council for lack of any law to support the opposition’s claim of conflict of interest, all other applications by the opposition were also thrown out after a five-day deliberation. The presidential poll results that had been making the rounds on social media two weeks prior to the proclamation of the results by the Constitutional Council were simply confirmed and Mr. Biya who has been in power for 36 years, will be in power again for seven more years; a time many Cameroonians believe will bring more death and destruction to a country that is not only at war, but gradually heading to the bottom of the abyss.
Cameroon is replete with many problems and many of them are off-shoots of the mismanagement, tribalism and corruption that have become the country’s hallmark. Corruption has robbed the country of the financial resources it needs to undertake major development work. The country lacks good medical infrastructure. Most of its hospitals have become consultation clinics. The road infrastructure also leaves much to be desired. The roads are today death traps that are consuming the population at a rate never seen before.
The country’s economy too has taken a nosedive. Over the last 20 years, Cameroon’s economy has been caught in a tailspin. Unemployment has continued to rise, with university graduates not being able to find jobs. Many corporations have gone under, leaving many of their workers unemployed.
But the most difficult challenge is the Southern Cameroons crisis that is very likely to tear the country apart. For more than two years, Southern Cameroonians have engaged the government in a tough battle that has resulted in the killing of some 4,000 Cameroonians, including over 1,300 soldiers.
Following a demonstration by teachers and lawyers in 2016, the two English-speaking regions have become ungovernable. The government’s military actions have caused some 200,000 Southern Cameroonians to flee to Nigeria while millions are hiding in the bushes to avoid the government’s indiscriminate killings.
Many children are today seeking refuge in those bushes and many babies have been delivered in the process. The numbers of teenage mothers have increased and this spells another serious problem in the future. The government has not taken any efforts to convince the people for them to return to their homes.
On the contrary, soldiers have been torching many homes and killing any young Southern Cameroonians found in the territory in the hope that they could eliminate any threat Southern Cameroonians pose to the government.
Schools have been closed now for two years in the region and many of the students have simply been co-opted into the armed groups that have emerged. As the government turns down any appeals for inclusive dialogue, so too does the situation deteriorate. Even after solutions to the conflict would have been sought, security issues will linger for a long time. Many young men, who have lost hope in life, will continue to use their weapons as a means of eking out a living.
While Southern Cameroonians are struggling to break away from the Yaounde government, Boko Haram is bombing many northerners out of existence. The government’s repressive approach has only caused the people to run to Boko Haram whose methods are more appreciated by the population. The government is yet to understand that its repressive approach is not yielding the right results and this is exactly what caused the Southern Cameroons crisis to escalate.
Mr. Biya might have been handed victory by his Constitutional Council, but with that victory comes a crown of thorns that might keep him uncomfortable for seven years. The people of Cameroon have lost confidence in him. After 36 years in power, Cameroon has been put in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. It will take a miracle for most of the problems currently facing the country to be addressed by the same man who is responsible for these issues.
The world is watching Cameroon and many people will be keeping an eye on the monarch. Many want to see how comfortable he will be in his new crown of thorns. The country is out of cash. It has very few friends around the world and its finances are fast dwindling. With oil prices diminishing on a daily basis and separatists threatening to disrupt oil production in the Southwest region, it is clear that before long the government will be taking its begging bowl to other parts of the world for assistance.
Many of its corporations are bleeding money and those in the English-speaking regions of the country that used to haul in millions of dollars are unfortunately out of business due to the armed conflict that is unfolding in the region. The English-speaking regions are in a stand-still and this implies businesses are dying and the government is losing lots of revenue.
Mr. Biya might wear the crown, but it is clear that the hidden thorns in it will keep him permanently ill at ease. Most of country’s allies have called on the government to find sustainable solutions to the Southern Cameroons crisis and America has simply ended its military partnership with the country due to serious human abuses in the northern part of the country. Mr. Biya will have to burn the mid-night candle on both ends if he has to post any results. His dwindling financial resources imply that he has a crisis on his hands and with the country awash with weapons, it is clear that the government’s military actions in the region will not deliver the military solutions it has been hankering after for two years.
Cameroon is in for a long dangerous walk in the desert. With its partners jumping ship, it is clear that the country will hit so many bumps on its path. As Prof. Kamto and his supporters continue to contest Mr. Biya’s victory, it is clear that the country has a lot on its plate. The future is bleak for a nation that many had once touted as an oasis of peace in a desert of chaos. Many people have lost hope in Cameroon, but it is up to Mr. Biya to change tactics if he wants the world to see him as the man who left Cameroon a better place than he met it. Long live the monarch in his new crown of thorns.
By Kingsley Betek and Soter Agbaw-Ebai
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