Keeping Biya in power in a divided country through a counterfeit presidential election will undermine efforts to achieve peace
Paul Biya has accepted and announced a President Macron initiative to hold presidential elections in French Cameroun without any attempt at resolving the crisis with Southern Cameroonians. This could be the greatest political disaster in the making for both Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun including the European Union.
The deliberate silence maintain by the 85 year-old head of state and the ever growing influence of the Ambazonian Interim Government in Southern Cameroons cast doubts on the feasibility of securing the October elections, making it premature to envisage a path towards peace and stability in lawless Cameroon.
The French are currently presenting the presidential elections as the way forward for the so-called one and indivisible Cameroon. However, it is abundantly clear that the French government’s position is more international than local. The plan is very ambitious and very risky, for a country that has been gripped by chaos since the emergence of the Nigerian Islamic sect, Boko Haram and the numerous rebel movements in the Central African Republic.
A plethora of armed organizations and the Interim Government of the Federal Republic of Ambazonia are now in control of Southern Cameroons. Consequently, the idea of postponing municipal and parliamentary elections and focusing on holding presidential elections is unwise.
This President Macron-Buhari led initiative that did not consult powerful local forces and the leadership in Southern Cameroons will achieve nothing but a civil war. Europe and the US want to stabilize Cameroon but the Trump and Macron administrations are not reading from the same script. One very important issue in diplomacy is that whenever the equities are equal, the first one prevails. So, President Biya has opted to listen to French ambassador Gilles Thibault than the prophetic voice of US ambassador, Peter Barlerin.
We of the Cameroon Concord News Group are of the opinion that the presidential elections will not change anything. To be sure, it will make the political situation more intractable. President Buhari does not care about the difficulties of the people of Cross River and Benue States in curbing with the influx of Southern Cameroons refugees. President Macron and French multinationals, on the other hand are only interested in French business interest and the oil fields in the Bakassi Peninsular. Both Buhari and French President Macron claim to support Cameroon’s stability and President Emmanuel Macron’s push for a presidential election is an indication that France is ready to gamble with the giant of the CEMAC region.
The French can live with the risks from a destabilization of the Sub Saharan region and will still run the oil and gas fields in Cameroon but spikes in Southern Cameroons refugee numbers crossing into the Federal Republic of Nigeria could generate new security challenges for the Buhari administration. On one hand the Germans and the US government to a large extent believe a transition from Biya to the new generation should come before elections but the French are for presidential elections first.
It is really shocking for the French to still continue to present Biya to the west as a strong leader who can bring order to the country. Biya is expected to continue his often brutal military campaign under the banner of fighting separatists and terrorism in Southern Cameroons. That may well extend from the recent fighting in the South West and the North West into Littoral and West regions.
French support for Biya and granting him international legitimacy without ensuring there is any real form of genuine dialogue with Southern Cameroonians and rewarding potential Ambazonian spoilers such as Paul Atanga Nji in a corrupt, fractured environment may help to disintegrate what is left of French Cameroun.
Pro Biya comedians including French Cameroun political elites are now using the presidential elections as a political tool to avoid dialogue or reconciliation. Cameroon as a nation remains too chaotic for elections with Ambazonian Restoration Forces and the Cameroon government army soldiers indulging in extra-judicial killings, attacking civilians and civilian infrastructure, and abducting and disappearing people.
Southern Cameroonians residing in French Cameroun are now facing the risks of beatings, torture, extortion, sexual violence, and in detention centers nominally under the Francophone dominated army control. The UN revealed that some 161,000 Southern Cameroonians have been displaced internally and another 21,000 registered as refugees in Nigeria. This has created some new dramatic demographic changes and has led to more instability, poverty and violence thus pushing desperate Ambazonians across to Nigeria.
The upcoming presidential elections with the 85 year-old Biya as a candidate will further destabilize the already fragmented political situation. Keeping Biya in power in a divided country through a counterfeit presidential election will undermine efforts to achieve peace and stability making reconciliation between Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun much more difficult to achieve.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai