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Cameroon Faces Risk of Unrest Before 2011 Elections

  • Kate Thomas

Public frustration with the Cameroon government could spark pre-election unrest in the West African country, according to a report released by International Crisis Group.

International Crisis Group said poor governance poses a threat to security in Cameroon, long regarded as one of the region's most stable countries.

Richard Moncrieff is the West Africa Project Director for International Crisis Group. He said Cameroon's future is blighted by the threat of conflict.

"The threat really comes from the frustration of the population, both for economic reasons – high unemployment, widespread poverty – and also for political reasons," said Moncrieff.

President Paul Biya came to power in the oil-producing nation in 1982. Cameroon's prospects for development were initially promising, with oil and pipeline projects generating revenue.

But Mr. Biya's desire to remain in power saw him change the constitution in 2008, allowing him to run for president for a third time in 2011. People protested against the move, which the opposition termed "a constitutional coup".

Moncrieff said public frustrations could boil over in the build-up to next year's vote.

"In the past we have seen trouble on the main streets of the cities of Cameroon, but there has also been trouble at the top. Now the real risk for any country like this is that both those problems combine," Moncrieff adds.

Moncrieff said the combination of public frustration and state corruption could be a recipe for conflict.

"The very poor governance, the widespread corruption, the politicization of the justice system, the politicization of the electoral system is in fact a danger for the country and could eventually lead to conflict," he said.

He said the international community should apply pressure on Cameroon's government in order to prevent a crisis that could destabilize the country.