News / Africa

    Cameroon’s Leading Opposition Party Backtracks On Election Boycott Threat

    Social Democratic Front officials say government has partially met opposition demands

    The policy U-turn comes three weeks before the end of the national voter registration drive.  It was embraced by the party’s national executive committee at a recent weekend session.  Officials say the decision was taken because the government has met some of the demands contained in an 11-point party memorandum issued about a year ago.

    In the document, the SDF suggested a two-round ballot, the granting of voting rights to Cameroonians living abroad, the computerization of voter registers and an overhaul of the electoral board, dubbed Elections Cameroon or ELECAM, among others.

    The party threatened to boycott, and possibly disrupt the election, if its demands for reforms were not met.

    The government responded by appointing members of civil society to ELECAM, which the opposition in general denounces as being filled with militants from the ruling party, the Cameroon Peoples’ Democratic Party, CPDM. It also adopted a law permitting Cameroonians living abroad to vote.

    SDF leaders agree that many of the reforms have not been met, but argue that it is important to participate in the presidential poll constitutionally set for October this year.

    Abel Elimbi Lobe, the vice president of the party’s electoral committee, said the decision by the government to include civil society in the electoral board as well as grant voting rights to Cameroonians abroad are major factors shaping the change in strategy.  According to Lobe, participating in the poll will give the party the chance to denounce flaws intended to continue incumbent President Paul Biya’s grip on power.

    Global democracy watchdogs say elections in Cameroon are frequently marred by fraud and a lack of transparency. Seventy-eight-year-old President Biya has ruled the country since 1982. He is expected to seek another mandate, though his candidacy is still to be confirmed. In 2008, the government scrapped term limits, enabling him to run for life.  The United States has urged the government to conduct a free and fair election.

    President Paul Biya, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, is expected to run for re-election in October.
    President Paul Biya, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, is expected to run for re-election in October.

    But Biya’s opponents say he should not be allowed to stand.  The opposition Union of Peoples of Cameroon has announced it is boycotting the election.  Its leader, Samuel Mackit, says ELECAM is a tool of the president and cannot guarantee a transparent poll.

    Mackit said there needs to be a neutral body to manage the election and ensure credibility.  He said participating in the election would mean validating Biya’s "unlawful" rule.  He sees several signs of vote manipulation including the scrapping of term limits from the constitution, the involvement of government officials in the electoral process and the annoucment that the government and not ELECAM would proclaim the results.

    Others in the opposition are also critical. Abanda Kpama, a leader of the Movement for Africa’s New Independence and Democracy, said the SDF has a problem "sticking to its strategies and has once again completely contradicted itself."

    He called the move "another indication of political immaturity within the opposition which has frequently failed to join forces against President Biya over the past 30 years."  He said the failure to form a united front has led to a significant drop in the number of opposition members in the National Assembly and local councils.

    But SDF officials argue that after careful contemplation, they agreed it would have been wrong to deprive millions of activists of their right to vote and have a say in determining the fate of the country. SDF Member of Parliament Jean Michel Nitcheu said militants will be mobilized to register to vote over the next three weeks and support the party’s candidate.

    ELECAM says so far, the total number of voters enrolled stands at 7,5, less than half of the country’s 20 million inhabitants.  Its target is nine million and officials are hoping that the SDF’s decision to shift gears will bring in more voters.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora