After his swearing-in on Tuesday, November 6, 2018, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, ordered the arrest of prominent members of the MRC, the party led by Professor Kamto who actually won last month’s presidential election.
Among those arrested are Prof. Maurice Kamto, Barrister Simh, Christian Penda Ekoka, Alain Fogue Tedom, Okala Ebode and 20 others who were attending an impromptu meeting with some of their party members.
Addressing his party members at the meeting, Prof. Maurice Kamto, a legal expert, stated clearly that he had been elected by Cameroonians based on merit and not based on his ethnic background, adding that he had been elected to represent all Cameroonians.
He stressed that he had been elected based on his political program that focused on the poor, the humble and the suffering masses who have been working hard to enable the country stay afloat.
He added that today was a very bad day for democracy in Cameroon. He deplored that fact that many Southern Cameroonians were living in the bushes in the North West and South West regions of the country, with thousands seeking a safe sanctuary in Nigeria.
He said the people could count on him as he and the winning coalition that enabled him to win the election would continue to fight on the people’s behalf. He stressed that Cameroon belonged to all Cameroonians and that no Cameroonian should be judged based on their tribe.
He pointed out that Biya had been sworn-in as the country’s president because of the system is corrupt; adding that for the past 36 years, Mr. Biya and his collaborators had fostered tribalism. Shortly after addressing the crowd, Prof. Kamto and his collaborators were whisked away to the Elig- Essono Judicial Police where they are being questioned.
Mr. Biya’s iron feast has started striking his opponents even as he promised during the swearing-in ceremony that he would work hard to reunite the country; something he has failed to do in 36 years.
He promised to restore peace in the North West and South West regions, but did not provide details on how he was going to achieve that given that for more than 24 months, the English speaking regions of the country have been under the control of separatists who have made them ungovernable despite the government’s violent military adventure.
He urged the youths in the two regions who have given government troops a run for their money to return to the path of peace by dropping down their weapons. “I want to call on the youths engaged in hostilities to drop their arms and follow the right path…especially the younger ones who have indulged in a fruitless cause,” he said. He added that “I am convinced the majority of Cameroonians in the North West and South West regions want peace and I am determined to address the root causes of their frustrations.”
He pointed out that negative forces had taken advantage of the genuine demands of the people to foster a secessionist agenda which he stressed was against the country’s constitution and the notion of living together.
Shortly after the swearing-in ceremony, the Cameroon Concord News Group reporter in Yaounde spoke with a senior member of the ruling CPDM from the North West region who has been pushing for dialogue and reconciliation. From the discussion, it was clear that there were lots of frustrations within the ruling party as the conflict in the English-speaking regions continues to escalate.
The CPDM member who elected anonymity said that Mr. Biya might have been sworn in as the country’s president, but he knows that he did not win the election and should use this opportunity to undertake actions that will enable the country heal.
“He knows he did not win the election. He knows that a lot of fraudulent things have been done to keep him in power. I think he should now starts thinking of bringing the country together by calling for inclusive dialogue that will enable the country heal,” he said.
“He should be thinking of the type of Cameroon he would be leaving behind. He has been robbing other people of their victory for more than two decades. In 1992, he robbed Mr. Fru Ndi of his victory and today, he has been sworn in as the president of the country, robbing Professor Maurice Kamto who is very much admired by the people and the international community. He cannot continue to usurp power. He has pushed the country to the brink. He has transformed himself into a monarch and this makes it hard for those around him to tell him the truth,” the CPDM senior member regretted.
“I know Cameroonians are always expecting Mr. Biya to die as they believe his death could herald the beginning of a new era and the end of hostilities in the two English-speaking regions, but I strongly believe that he has been sentenced to life by God. He will not be dying anytime soon and he might live long to see the country change. People like him spend more time regretting in the later part of their lives. I hope he will use this term in office to reverse some of the damage his inefficient management has brought to the country,” he stressed.
“Mr. Biya has had a long time to bring peace and security to the country, but he seems to be happy seeing others bleed to death. I am a member of the ruling party and I can tell you that many in the party want the issues that have weakened our country to be addressed very fast. But the hawks in the regime like Prof. Fame Ndongo are insisting that only an all-out war can resolve the Anglophone crisis. We have already lost more than 1,500 soldiers and some 3,000 civilians in the English-speaking regions of the country. How many more Cameroonians have to die before Mr. Biya realizes that he has failed the people?” he quipped.
Though Mr. Biya has been sown in today, it is clear that not much will change. The next seven years will not witness any fundamental political changes and this will make many people to continue to think that the country is a ticking time bomb.
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 4,500 Cameroonians, including over 1,500 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 thousands to flee to Nigeria while millions are hiding in the bushes to avoid the government’s brutality.
Many children are today seeking refuge in those bushes and many babies have been delivered in the process. The number of teenage mothers has increased and this spells another serious problem in the future. The government has not made any convincing efforts to bring the people for their bushes.
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 the fake institutions he has created, 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 Mr. Biya. 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 South-west 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 today, 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 English-speaking regions will not deliver the military solutions it has been hankering after for two years.
Cameroonians may have avoided the streets for the sake of peace, but that does not imply Mr. Biya and his men will have to continue to sleep at the switch. They must have their noses to the grindstone if they want Cameroonians to see them differently. After 36 years in power, without anything to show for, Mr. Biya has to change his ways. He must stop using the country’s treasury like his personal ATM. He has to be transparent in the way he runs the affairs of the country and he must embrace genuine democracy. He must see dialogue as an effective tool for conflict resolution and prevention. Arresting his opponents only makes things worse.
By Kingsley Betek and Soter Agbaw-Ebai
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