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Cameroon's Opposition Fails to Present Candidate to Challenge Biya

FILE - Cameroon President Paul Biya arrives at the May 20 Boulevard for National Day celebrations, in Yaounde, May 20, 2018.

Cameroon's opposition has again failed to present a single coalition candidate to challenge President Paul Biya. Instead, 28 candidates will compete in the country's October 7 presidential election.

The 85-year-old Biya, who has led the central African country since 1982, is favored to win another seven-year term. That would end in 2025.

The youngest candidate is journalist Cabral Libi, 38. He said he has demonstrated that he is the only candidate strong enough to challenge the incumbent president, because he was able to raise over $60,000 in three days to cover the fee required by Cameroon's electoral laws for each presidential aspirant. Just days before the filing deadline, he was uncertain whether he could run because he didn't have the money.

Two women are among the candidates: Ze Genevieve, an independent, and Habiba Issa, who will run for the opposition UPC party.

Last January, Cameroon's notoriously fractured opposition attempted to unite behind a single candidate. About a dozen opposition parties were negotiating to back Akere Muna, a prominent lawyer who specializes in fighting corruption. Muna pledged a nonpartisan platform, but today is running on the ticket of his People's Development Front political party.

Maurice Kamto, who was meeting with Muna and the main opposition political party the SDF to discuss the possibility of a single candidate, is today running for his Cameroon Renaissance Movement Party. Kamto said they all wanted to unite behind a single candidate but believed they had stronger candidates whom other weaker parties should back.

Kamto said the candidates should tell Cameroonians about the programs and projects they would implement if elected, basing their campaigns on their platforms instead of their religious, tribal and ethnic affiliations.

The SDF has chosen Joshua Osih, 50, as their candidate and called for transparent and fair polling.

The ruling CPDM party has rallied at least 30 of the divided opposition political parties behind Biya.

Issa Tchiroma, president of the Cameroon National Salvation Front, said the opposition's inability to come up with a single candidate indicates deep divisions. So Tchiroma will support Biya.

"Mr. President, move forward, we are ready to support you," said Tchiroma.

Cameroon is dealing with attacks by Boko Haram militants in the north, separatist movements in two English-speaking regions and a spillover of violence from the Central African Republic.

Only Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea has served longer than Biya, since 1979.