YAOUNDE - Cameroon's constitutional council has ordered a rerun of the February 9 national assembly election in a majority of the crisis prone English-speaking regions due to allegations of widespread irregularities and fraud by President Paul Biya's ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement party, which was declared the winner. The opposition Social Democratic Front that filed the complaint says it is ready for the rerun as the constitutional councils verdict that can not be appealed.
It was a very happy opposition Social Democratic Front when Clement Atangana, chief justice of Cameroon's constitutional council, pronounced the verdict calling for the rerun of the February 9 national assembly (lower house of parliament) election in a majority of the crisis prone English-speaking regions.
Among the hundreds of candidates, observers and supporters of the various political parties was Denis Kemlemo, spokesperson of the opposition Social Democratic Front and electoral candidate in the English-speaking Lebialem administrative unit.
Kemlemo says he is happy that the constitutional council, which has often been accused of being manipulated by President Paul Biya, is neutral in its judgment.
Kemlemo says he is very thankful to God, who has inspired the constitutional council to render true justice for once, because he can strongly confirm as an eye witness and a major player that no elections were held in a majority of the polling stations as voters fled for their lives.
The Social Democratic Front was one of more than 40 political parties that filed petitions with the constitutional council stating that the national assembly elections were marred by violence and massive fraud committed by the ruling party. Opposition leaders accused the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement of ballot stuffing. The opposition also accused the military, sent by the government to protect voters from insurgents seeking to disrupt the polling, of casting multiple votes for the ruling party.
The government has denied the accusations.
The constitutional council determined there was massive fraud by the ruling party, assisted by the government. It found that the elections management body ELECAM created new polling centers on the eve of the polling and informed only the ruling party of where the centers were created. The constitutional council also ruled that people identified as opposition supporters were chased from polling stations and that separatist fighters who had vowed to disrupt the elections prohibited a majority of voters from casting their ballots.
Joseph Mbah Ndam, lead counsel for the SDF, says the verdict reflects what transpired in the English-speaking regions where clashes between the military and separatists left scores dead on election day.
Ndam says the verdict of the constitutional council confirms that the separatist crisis in the English speaking northwest and southwest regions remains so violent that no just and credible elections can take place.
Gregoire Owona, assistant secretary-general of the ruling CPDM party, says the party is disappointed but will respect the verdict.
Owona says President Paul Biya's Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement political party is very frustrated by the verdict because it worked so hard to secure victories in a majority of the English-speaking regions, in spite of the crisis. He says as a republican party, it accepts the verdict of the constitutional council and is already preparing for the rerun.
According to Cameroon's electoral code, the verdict of the constitutional council can not be appealed and fresh election have to be organized in a minimum of 20 days and a maximum of 40 days after the court verdict. But there are still fears the election may not be successful as the separatist crisis has continued with the military and rebels involved in running battles.
More than 30 other petitions to partially or totally cancel the election due to fraud were rejected for lack of evidence.