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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs