News / Africa

    Cameroon's Long-Time Leader Likely to Win Re-Election Sunday

    Cameroon President Paul Byia (file photo)
    Cameroon President Paul Byia (file photo)
    Anne Look

    Cameroon votes Sunday in a presidential election that longtime president, Paul Biya, looks poised to win, though analysts say isolated unrest remains a possibility.

    The incumbent's victory seems a foregone conclusion in the face of a fractured opposition and high voter apathy.

    President Biya has been in power since 1982 and won every election since the country moved to multi-party democracy in 1992. The presidential election is a single-round poll, so the record 22 challengers in this election is likely to split the vote in Biya's favor.

    The president has been largely absent from the campaign trail, but his banners dominate the main highways and urban centers.  

    Speaking in Maroua in the far North Thursday, Biya says "we all have a vision of an emerging Cameroon". He says "we laid out great ambitions in the last election in 2004, which are now becoming a reality". He says he will make the realization of large infrastructure projects aimed at improving the lives of Cameroonans the focus of his next seven-year mandate.  

    During his 29 years in power, analysts say Biya has proven adept at out-maneuvering his political opponents. His highly centralized style of governing has weakened state institutions, analysts say, while affording a certain stability to the central African country despite its ethnic, religious and linguistic rifts.

    Opposition parties failed to unite behind a single coalition in the last election in 2004.  Biya won a landslide victory in that poll with more than 70 percent of ballots.  His closest challenger, Ni John Fru Ndi, won only 17 percent.

    Fru Ndi is again expected to be Mr. Biya's key oponent. He heads the country's lead opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, which backtracked on previous threats to boycott, and possibly disrupt, this election. Some say the change in strategy came too late to mobilize voters.

    Opposition members continue to accuse the electoral commission of being pro-ruling party and have expressed concern about irregularities on voter lists. Fru Ndi has called on Cameroonans to protest if the elections are not free and fair.

    However, Douala residents, like Maureen Ndi, says that they have little appetite for revolution.

    "I'm not ready to join any demonstrations or protests," said Ndi. "If the opposition has to protest the elections of the presidential election, I believe that the happenings in other countries like Ivory Coast, Egypt, Libya is still too fresh in our memories. If it has to happen here. It is going to be terrible, drawing to the fact that we have never experienced war. Cameroonans are suffering. We want peace."

    Biya eliminated term limits from the constitution in 2008 to pave the way for his re-election bid, fueling protests over high food prices that killed at least 40 people. Popular frustration over high unemployment and spiraling living costs continues to fester. Tensions have already flared during campaigning.

    Ten days before the poll, unidentified gunmen in military fatigues blockaded a main bridge in the commercial capital, Douala. They exchanged gunfire with security forces and carried signs calling Biya a dictator and demanding he step down.

    Just two days later, police arrested more than 100 protesters seeking independence for Cameroon's English-speaking western regions.

    West Africa analyst for consultancy group Control Risks, Roddy Barclay, said the elections are sure to be a "turbulent period" but that economic, rather than political, factors drive social unrest in Cameroon.

    "There are certainly a lot of grievances in the community but I don't think that is going to lead to an outbreak of national unrest," said Barclay. "It will however lead to localized protests which have the potential to turn violent. The government is acutely aware of the potential for popular unrest. It has seen what has happened in North Africa and also in Burkina Faso, and I think it will deploy security forces en masse to mitigate against the threat of popular unrest."

    Barclay said Biya has also taken other measures to head off tensions, including putting subsidies on common foodstuffs and fuel, as well launching a recruitment drive to hire 25,000 youth into the public sector.

    Though the election is likely to maintain the political status quo in the short term, Barclay and other analysts say uncertainty lies ahead for Cameroon when Biya does one day leave office.  

    Polls close Sunday at 6 p.m. local time, after which the Constitutional Council has two weeks to declare results.

    Ntaryike Divine Jr. contributed reporting from Douala, Cameroon.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora