News / Africa

Some Diaspora Voters Cleared to Cast Ballots in Cameroon Election

Cameroon's President Paul Biya (file photo)
Cameroon's President Paul Biya (file photo)

Lawmakers in Cameroon have agreed to changes in the electoral law that would allow some people living outside the country to take part in October's presidential vote. Opponents of President Paul Biya have been pushing the move as part of changes they want before that vote.

Biya is running to extend the power he has held since 1982, having changed the constitution to remove term limits.

The 77-year-old is again facing a divided opposition and is backed by security forces experienced in putting down protests. Changes made in the run-up to this vote have largely favored the ruling party, including shifting the authority to announce results from the electoral commission to the constitutional council.

After years of opponents pushing to extend voting rights to an estimated 5 million Cameroonians living abroad, Biya's party has now agreed, with conditions.

National Assembly Vice President Emilia Lifaka said the new law extends only to those who are duly registered with their local embassy. It does not include Cameroonians with dual nationality or those seeking asylum.

“There are Cameroonians who have applied for asylum," said Lifaka. "You know those Cameroonians will not come up because they have already said they are looking for them in the country. The country is bad. The country is this. So those people who are asylum seekers will definitely not go and register [at the embassy]. That will not be our fault.”

Opposition lawmaker Joseph Banadzem said it is unfair to penalize many of Cameroon's best and brightest who have settled abroad.

“Our compatriots who settled out are those who went and did serious studies, who got good jobs, who even got married to foreigners," said Banadzem. "They have that double nationality. If we don't open up, those are the people who eventually will not vote. And they are the people whose vote would have a lot more meaning in Cameroon.”

Banadzem said Biya's party wants to restrict expatriate voting because most of those living abroad oppose his nearly 30 years in power.

“Those who are out there are those who are generally very critical, generally very objective, impartial and always do things which are right," said Banadzem. "And if they are opposition, it means that the opposition is doing and saying which are acceptable by most of the people around.”

Banadzem said the move to extend voting rights to some expatriates should be accompanied by other changes, including a more independent electoral commission.

“This vote of the diaspora should have meaning. Before you have Cameroonians abroad voting, you must know that the electoral process is proper," he said. "You can not have a fraudulent electoral process and then you let Cameroonians in the diaspora vote.”

Ruling party lawmaker Lifaka said that like anything new, voting abroad will be a work in progress. She said the government is willing to consider extending voting rights to those with dual nationality in the future.

“Most Cameroonians want to be part of the decision-making process in this country. And I think if we get our compatriots who are out of the country to register and vote where they are, I think it is very important. It shows how far our democracy is evolving.”

With just three months to go, Interior Minister Marafa Hamidou Yaya said he will do everything possible to ensure that the new expatriate voting rules are applied for this vote.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
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.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs