YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - Hundreds of people, most of them youths, Saturday marched and sang in the streets of Cameroon’s economic capital city, Douala, calling for Cameroon President Paul Biya to step down immediately.
Bosco Etoundi, a 23-year-old university graduate, says protesters believe Maurice Kamto, of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement political party, who ran against Paul Biya in Cameroon’s Oct. 7 presidential election actually won. Kamto was declared runner-up, with 14 percent of the votes.
Etoundi says he wants Kamto to immediately take power because he is tired of having a president who does not provide for residents’ needs.
Etoundi says young people make up more than 70 percent of Cameroon’s population, but Biya has never involved the younger generation in decision-making. He says that after students complete their studies, they remain jobless because Biya is not creating jobs. He says a change is needed.
Cameroon police reported the arrests of more than two dozen protesters Saturday. Witnesses say some protesters were beaten and dragged through the mud.
However, Kamto’s Cameroon Renaissance Movement said 42 people, including some of its party officials, have been arrested and are being detained.
Among those arrested is Michele Ndoki, a lawyer who defended Kamto at the constitutional council, where they alleged massive fraud and ballot-stuffing in favor of Biya’s ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) party.
The constitutional council rejected Kamto’s petition and Kamto, who had earlier claimed victory, announced what he called a national resistance program in regard to Biya’s inauguration ceremony in December, although no date has yet been chosen.
Ivaha Diboua, governor of the littoral region of Cameroon where Douala is located, says he will never tolerate any disorder in his administrative area and anyone who creates disorder will face police action.
Diboua says Cameroon respects people’s freedoms, but that no one should abuse the freedom by denigrating, insulting and stigmatizing others claiming that they felt cheated.
Besides Douala, minor protests were reported in the cities of Yaounde and Bafoussam but were quickly contained by police.
36 years of Biya
Biya, who has been in power for 36 years, was declared the winner of the Oct. 7 presidential poll, winning 71 percent of the vote. His runner-up, Kamto, who won 14 percent of the vote, has rejected the results.
In 2008, Biya removed term limits from the constitution, allowing him to serve indefinitely.
He is now the second-oldest president in sub-Saharan Africa. When his new term is finished, he will be 93 years old.
Kamto’s MRC party has vowed to continue with the protests until Biya steps down. In a statement Saturday, Kamto called for police to release those who have been arrested, stating that they were simply expressing their discontent at the election.