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Cameroon Rivals Seek Support Before 2011 Poll


Cameroonians have not expected much change from recent elections

Cameroonians have not expected much change from recent elections

Even though Cameroon's presidential election has yet to be scheduled, political rivals, including longtime President Paul Biya, are busy gathering support. Analysts say that as long as Biya is in the race, his opponents do not stand a chance.

A former high-ranking member of the opposition Social Democratic Front, Kah Walla, who is running for president as an independent, has been touring the United States, attending conferences, meetings and fundraising events.

Her promotional campaign includes a series of YouTube Internet videos, depicting her as a rising star and a leader for the 21st century. "Africa is a really big challenge. Sometimes as an African you look at the situation on the continent, you can just utterly despair. You can ask yourself how is this possible that we can have so much potential, have so many resources, and be in the situation that we are in," she said.

But Yaounde-based political analyst Moafo Djontu says Walla's campaign is little more than a political sideshow.

Djontu says that is not surprising, given that Cameroon is what he calls "a police and military state." Djontu says Walla would have benefited from gaining more political experience in the Social Democratic Front, rather than quickly leaving to become an independent.

The main opposition party is due to hold a congress in April to determine its candidate. But previous candidate and party leader John Fru Ndi has already told pan-Africa media outlets that he will be next year's presidential candidate.

Biya recently met Fru Ndi in his mostly-anglophone stronghold of Bamenda. During their brief meeting, Fru Ndi reportedly told Biya that he believes the country's electoral commission is heavily biased toward the president.

During his visit, Biya also made a bilingual French-English speech, marking the armed forces 50th anniversary. "These 50 years of stability and peace have taught us a wonderful lesson. Peace and stability are preconditions of political, economic and social development. I am confident that we will continue to respect national institutions because citizens and the state must work together in order to build a prosperous nation," he said.

Biya has been president since 1982. During his most recent term in office, term limits, which had been put in place by the 1996 constitution, were lifted.

Political scientist Olayiwola Abegunrin of Howard University here in Washington says he sees no hope for Biya's challengers and understands the general political apathy in Cameroon. "He is just like (President Robert) Mugabe in Zimbabwe who refuses to leave. The same thing is happening with Biya in Cameroon; he refuses to leave. So this is why many people are not so much interested," Abegunrin said.

Biya has not yet officially declared his candidacy for the election tentatively scheduled for next October. But regardless of who runs for Cameroon's top office, candidates will face a host of pressing issues, including high unemployment.

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