The wave of change in Cameroon
According to the reports sent to our global headquarters, Professor Kamto has a clear lead in the far north, littoral, Center and west regions which are heavily populated regions. Professor Kamto’s vast victory margin in these four regions makes it hard for the incumbent to narrow the gap, as his victory is only in sparsely populated regions like the south and east regions.
A computation of the entire results give Professor Kamto slightly over 37%, while the incumbent ends up in fourth position with 18.4%. Mr. Joshua Osih comes second with 22.3%. Cabral Libii, the political novice takes home 19.2%. The other small and unpopular parties share rest.
In Mfoundi, which is supposed to be Mr. Biya’s stronghold, Professor Kamto took a huge bite out of the votes. He came out with slightly over 39% while Mr. Biya had 36%. Mr. Biya is being trailed in this precinct by Mr. Cabral Libii who is the youngest among the candidates with 22%.
Mr. Biya had slight leads in his native south region, the northwest and southwest regions where only the military and a few members of the ruling party were allowed to head to the polling station
Even in the south region, Mr. Biya’s numbers were not that impressive. Mr. Kamto still gave Mr. Biya a good run for his money. It is clear that the ruling party’s bread and sardine approach did not really produce the desired results.
In the East region, Mr. Biya had a slight lead, but not good enough to bring about a major upset. Prof. Kamto and Mr. Libii had actually won hearts and minds in the region by pointing out that Mr. Biya’s 36 years in power had not brought much to the people of this resource-rich region.
WHAT WERE THE IRREGULARITIES?
There were many irregularities designed to favor the incumbent. However, it must be pointed out that it is hard to organize perfect elections in a developing and infrastructure-poor country like Cameroon.
This situation has been made all the more challenging by the Southern Cameroons crisis that is tearing the country apart.
In the two English-speaking regions of the country, due to insecurity, the number of polling stations was reduced, but voters were not given the means to reach their new polling stations.
For example, Prime Minister Yang Philemon was allowed to vote at Up station in Bamenda while he had registered to vote in Oku which is his hometown since the government could not guarantee security in Oku.
While the Prime Minister voted, his fellow Oku residents were never given a similar opportunity. The same applies to the Senate President, Niat Njifenji, who was allowed to vote in Paris when he never registered to vote there.
It should be recalled that the country’s Senate president was evacuated to a French hospital one month ago and there was no way he could have known that he would be ill before the election.
But the most sickening irregularities took place at the polling stations. In some polling stations in the country, opposition returning officers were not allowed into the polling stations.
There were reports of polling stations being lodged in unofficial locations. Some ballot boxes also arrived already opened and this caused a lot of argument.
In the south region, some opposition returning officers were beaten and thrown out of the polling station. This actually happened to Cabral Libii’s returning officers and his party is already talking of taking the matter up with the election organizing body and the constitutional council.
WHY DID THE INCUMBENT FALL SO EASILY?
After 36 years in power with no results to show for, it is just normal that the people look for other leaders that can help clean up the mess created by Mr. Biya and his party.
From the voting pattern, it easy to notice that even in his home region, many people did not vote for Mr. Biya. The South region is still the poorest in the country and it is totally bereft of infrastructure.
This is also true of the East region which is endowed with mineral resources, but has the largest number of poor and illiterate Cameroonians.
For more than two decades, the country’s economy has been in a free fall, with millions of Cameroonians being unemployed. It is common for millions of young graduates to look outwards for opportunities than in their country.
This situation has also been prompted by corruption and nepotism that have become the government’s hallmarks. Today, it is common to see an entire institution full of people from the President’s ethnic group.
The Beti ethnic group constitutes less than 10% of the population, but it accounts for 70% of the country’s ministers.
The country has about 30 army generals, but the center and south regions, which account for less than 10% of the population, have 18 generals. This has been one issue that has been frustrating other Cameroonians.
Of the 34 state-owned corporations, 21 are run by the Betis and Anglophones have just one managing director although the two English-speaking regions of the country account for 20% of the country’s population.
But it is the management of the Southern Cameroons crisis that has delivered a deadly blow to the incumbent in this election. For over two years since the crisis started, the government has conducted itself as if the two English-speaking regions are not part of the country.
The president just like his ministers has displayed the most annoying form of arrogance that has left the people wondering about the future of the country. Mr. Biya has never addressed the issues and has not laid the groundwork for the inclusive dialogue that the world has been calling for.
On the contrary, he and his government have opted for military violence that has consumed some 4,000 Cameroonians, including some 2,000 soldiers. The region’s economy has also collapsed and more than half a million Southern Cameroonians are refugees in their own country.
It should be highlighted that some 300,000 Southern Cameroonians are currently in Nigeria after escaping from the military violence that the Yaounde government unleashed on innocent civilians who were simply complaining of the pain the system was inflicting on them.
Mr. Biya has been conducting himself as if the country was his personal estate. He has been using the country’s treasury as his personal ATM.
For 36 years, Mr. Biya, who is mockingly known as the monarch, has not built any world class hospital, and he and his political cronies always seek better healthcare abroad and this has been costing the taxpayer a pretty penny.
These and other factors have converged to give the government a very bad name. Mr. Biya should have left honorably, but he felt his rigging machine would deliver the fake results he was used to.
But times have changed. The people need change. The hardship, poor economic situation, the conflict with the country’s rich Diaspora and the government’s arrogance have been some of the mistakes that will linger in the minds of members of the crime syndicate that has ruled the country for decades.
Mr. Biya and his men will surely not be going down without a fight. Their mismanagement and the anger of the people are making it hard for them to relinquish power peacefully. While results in the field are against them, members of the ruling party have already pushed their plan B into action.
The hastily set up Consitutional Council is their last option. Since this is the body that is authorized to results, Mr. Biya and his men hold that the members of this body will be able to reverse things in their favor.
This was exactly the same thing that happened in 1992 when the SDF candidate, John Fru Ndi, won 62% of the votes, but the Supreme Court, which was acting as the Constitutional Council, handed the victory to a barefaced Biya who has continued to lord it over his fellow citizens.
In 1992, there was no social media and the government could easily use the military to intimidate the civilian population, especially the Francophone majority that knew very little about collective action.
Today, the dynamics are different. Southern Cameroonians have demystified the military and this is inspiring the Francophone majority which now knows that through collective action, it can change its own destiny.
Prior to the election, many opposition leaders had called on their supporters to be vigilant, they have advised that in the event of any doctoring of the results by the Constitutional Council, the whole country will be in the grip of a revolution.
Cameroon is therefore sitting on a keg of gun powder that might go off if the Constitutional Council tries to play pranks that might rob the people of their victory. The Kamto victory might be good, but it could dump the country into a long spell of insecurity and violence.
The chaos that may play out in Yaounde if the Constitutional Council over-plays its hands and luck might make it easy for Southern Cameroons to finally walk away in peace while Francophones seek to kill each other.
However, if Prof. Kamto takes his place at the Unity Palace, he might find common ground with the separatists. He has already expressed the wish to sit and talk with Southern Cameroonians, but he might have to head to Washington DC or Ottawa for that to happen.
WHO ARE THE BIGGEST LOSERS
Of course, with the changing political landscape, there will be many losers. The ruling CPDM will surely be the hardest hit.
With its hand out of the treasury, it is clear that the free money that has underwritten the expensive lifestyle of members of this crime syndicate will also disappear.
This might herald the demise of this party that has mismanaged the economy and made life extremely hard for Cameroonians for decades.
Of course, a change of government will imply an audit of the country’s accounts and knowing what the CPDM stands for, many government officials will either end up in jail or in exile.
But the SDF will also pay a huge price. Its failure to comply with popular demands for a coalition might also reduce the party’s influence and support base.
Cameroonians might want to punish the SDF for its betrayal of the people. The country’s political landscape is very likely to change and there will be very many victims.
Change has come to Cameroon and it is up to Cameroonians to protect their victory. Cameroonians must learn from Ivorians and they must take to the streets if they want the change they have been hankering after.
The regime will surely want to use the military to intimidate the population, but the people must stand their ground. The military cannot kill everybody and until the Francophone majority understands that, it will continue to live in the invisible chains of slavery.
Francophones have to learn from Southern Cameroonians who have demonstrated that a minority can bring about change in a country. They have to conquer their fear. They have to stand their ground. They cannot let a minority to continue lording it over a majority.
Until they threaten the Yaounde government, they will never come out of their poverty. The Yaounde government has weaponized poverty to subjugate the people. This must be stop and this election is an opportunity to put an end to the mess that has given Cameroon a bloodshot eye.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai, Irene Nanyongo and Kingsley Betek with correspondent reports from Maroua, Garoua, and other cities across the country.
NAYD, Yaounde Cameroon