Cameroon’s elections aren’t expected until at least September but the political scene is already heating up. Supporters of longtime President Paul Biya are urging him to seek another term, while parts of the country’s notoriously fractured opposition are trying to unite behind a single candidate.
Recently, hundreds of youth sang in the streets of Cameroon’s capital, urging President Biya to be their candidate later this year, saying the 85-year-old is still healthy enough to rule for seven more years.
Elvis Ngole, Biya’s close aide, insists demonstrations of support like that are emerging organically.
"Our national chairman and president of the republic has opened up lots of educational facilities. We began with one state university," he said. "We have today more than eight state universities, more than forty private universities. The youths have all kinds of professional educational facilities now.”
Biya has not said if he will be a candidate or not, but it is widely suspected he will run.
Meanwhile, the country is grappling with an unprecedented set of challenges – the war against Boko Haram in the north, unrest in the two Anglophone regions, and large numbers of refugees and IDP’s due to both Boko Haram and instability in the Central African Republic.
About a dozen opposition parties are negotiating to back Akere Muna, a prominent lawyer who specializes in fighting corruption.
Muna has pledged a non-partisan platform to catalyze transformation.
"For too long, we have lived in a country without any clear future, where the people have no voice," he said. "For too long, we have lived in a country where the poor and underprivileged have no chance. The days of waiting are over. We must begin here, now and today, in our march towards a new republic."
Cameroon’s main opposition party, the SDF, has not weighed in on any alliances.
2017 saw Angola’s longtime president step down, as well as more tumultuous leadership changes in Gambia and Zimbabwe.
Some civil society groups in Cameroon are urging Biya to pass the torch.
Pierre Obama, the president of a coalition of groups promoting decentralization and good governance, said they are inviting the government of Cameroon to take appeasement seriously and agree to sit on a historic negotiating table with all political parties and the civil society to discuss the future of Cameroon.
Biya has ruled Cameroon since 1982 and is Africa's second longest serving president, after his neighbor Theodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea.