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Cameroon Opposition Intensifies  Effort Ahead of Election - 2004-08-25

The opposition in Cameroon is preparing more consultations and protests ahead of a scheduled presidential election it fears could be rigged.

The latest protest by thousands of opposition supporters took place Tuesday in the northwestern city of Bamenda following the the murder of a prominent local politician.

A main opposition leader, Adamu Ndam Njoya, from the Cameroon Democratic Union, says, unlike the past, the opposition will no longer allow itself be intimidated.

"One of the top leaders has been beaten and killed," said Mr. Njoya. "All the leaders went to Bamenda where we had a very large protest meeting. I hope that we are going to succeed, but it's not easy. We also have been infiltrated by the power, which doesn't want to have us with a welcome election, which is smooth."

One victory opposition parties want is the use of transparent ballot boxes in the upcoming elections. Britain and Japan agreed to send 25,000 of them.

A dozen opposition parties have also formed a coalition, which is expected to present a joint candidate next week. Mr. Njoya is seen as the favorite, because he has support from northerners and Muslim populations. The opposition also traditionally does well in the two western English-speaking provinces.

But other opposition parties, including the New Independence and Democracy party, have refused to take part in the coalition.

Its spokesman, Denis Nkwebo, says a popular uprising, not elections, will change the current regime.

"No dictatorship in the world has ever organized its defeat," said Mr. Nkwebo. "The mobilization of the people is the only key to success. If we mobilize ourselves enough, the power will surrender to the uprising of the people."

The government has responded to the mounting political dissent by banning the opposition coalition and sending armed security forces to suppress political demonstrations.

President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, has not said whether he will run for re-election, but he is widely expected to do so. The presidential election is legally supposed to take place before October 14.