Cameroon’s parliament will vote today (Tuesday) to amend the constitution, effectively removing the two consecutive seven-year term limits for president. The main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party describes the move as preposterous, saying it would be detrimental to the country’s young democracy. The SDF accused President Paul Biya of wanting to be a president for life and protect his corrupt cabinet ministers.
The opposition admits that although it strongly objects to the removal of the presidential term limits it was powerless to stop it because the ruling party has numerical strength in parliament. But the ruling party dismissed the accusations as baseless, contending that continuity is good for the country’s total development.
John Fru-Ndi is the chairman of the opposition SDF. From Bamenda, he tells reporter Peter Clottey that Cameroonians are depressed over the move to remove presidential term limits.
“At the committee level, all the proposals of the amendments that were tabled by the opposition parties in parliament, that is the SDA, the NUDP (National Union for Democracy and Progress) the CDU (Cameroon Democratic Union) were all pushed aside. And they made sure that the bill sailed through the committee … so it is now visible that they will make sure that they use their so-called portion majority in parliament to pass the bill today,” Fru-Ndi noted.
He said the ruling party made sure it controlled parliament to thwart any opposition to its plan to perpetuate President Paul Biya’s stay in power.
“To prepare himself to make sure that he has this sail through parliament, Mr. Biya did everything to rig the 2004 parliamentary election. And with this so-called crushing majority, which he send his people out to make sure he has enough people in parliament now to let the bill go through,” he said.
Fru-Ndi accused President Biya of using the military to intimidate ordinary Cameroonians.
“Presently in Yaoundé, the army, the police, the gendarmes are checking people, removing some of them from their cars and beating them and so on. Doula is militarilised and parts of the suburbs. We are told that the police from the north are on their way. So Mr. Biya is now ruling by military force,” Fru-Ndi pointed out.
He accused President Biya of wanting to be president for life contrary to the wishes of Cameroonians.
“Cameroonians are in general very depressed. Over 80% of the people are against this, but what Mr. Biya is doing is that either he comes by with money to buy the people or he sends out troops to get the people brutalized, and he fights his way through. So Cameroonians are going through a dictatorship that has never been witnessed at all anywhere in black Africa,” he said.
Meanwhile, with the government reportedly controlling 153 of the 180 seats in parliament, the bill is expected to be comfortably approved today (Tuesday), but some members of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) said the move would stifle political life.