Cameroonians seek an election that brings about a safer country and economic progress.
I was selected and invited by the Agence Cameroun Presse (ACP), an organization that fights corruption and media bias and Transparency International to be an observer and capture election irregularities during the presidential election that took place on Sunday, October 7, 2018. ACP is assisted by GlobaLeaks, an open-source, free software intended to enable secure and anonymous whistleblowing initiatives. The software is developed by the Hermes Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights.
A captain in the Cameroon military, with whom I spent a full day during the recent presidential elections in Cameroon, told me that Cameroon is at war. The citizens of Cameroon are seeking stability in their country. Because only stability will protect the country from total chaos and collapse and will stop the troubling elements attacking the country from across its borders.
I asked the captain, “What kind of a war?”
He explained: Boko Haram operatives, an Islamo-jihadist militant organization, are based in northeastern Nigeria, also active in Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. Piracy at sea is rampant and is fought by the Cameroonian military with the help of USA and Israeli troops.
They are fighting an influx of refugees and instability in its English-speaking Anglophone South-West region where security in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, the north-west and south-west, has deteriorated considerably.
The military’s hands are full. It has established a special Rapid Intervention Battalion (B.I.R) to quell hostage-taking and looting by criminal gangs operating on Cameroon’s eastern and northern borders.
I am told that if Cameroon falls, all of central Africa falls.
President Paul Biya has been in office since 1982. He vows to end the fighting and threats from separatists that prevented residents in English-speaking regions from voting. In more than a year, this crisis has claimed the life of more than 400 people in the Central African nation’s Southwest and Northwest territories.
Because of violence by both separatists and the military in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions, more than 200,000 people have been displaced with many towns simply abandoned. By law, voters can only cast a ballot in the community where they are registered, thus the low attendance.
Additionally, due to Cameroon’s need to battle with Boko Haram extremists in its Far North, more than 230,000 people have been displaced and voters lined up at voting stations for displaced persons in the north.
I was at the heart of the problematic Anglophone region. Escorted by a B.I.R unit, I traveled to the region to perform my election observer duty. I have passed through towns that appeared to be ghost areas, as if no one lived there. Security was high, especially around the voting polls and voters came in small numbers to perform their citizen’s duty, but no clashing incidents.
In the French-speaking regions, thousands lined up, eager to vote.
There are more than 200 tribes in Cameroon, all make up the conglomerate citizenry of the country. Each tribe has its own king, all answer to the current president Paul Biya.
Cameroon needs a drastic change; the problem of Cameroon is transparency in elections, as corruption runs deep in the country and people are living in constant fear.
There was trepidation that the increasingly violent armed conflict in the English-speaking zone of the country, as well as that against the jihadist group Boko Haram in the north of the country, could disrupt the presidential elections scheduled for 7 October, 2018.
I was assigned to observe the election in Douala city, the largest city in Cameroon and its economic capital. It is also the capital of Cameroon’s Littoral Region; in Buea town, the capital of the Southwest Region of Cameroon and in Limbé, the seaside city in the South-West Region of Cameroon, located on the southern slopes of Mount Cameroon, founded by the British missionary Alfred Saker.
There were nine candidates who had run for the presidency post: current president Paul Biya, Maurice Kamto, Cabral Libii, Garga Haman Adji, Serge Espoir Matomba, Akere Muna, Adamou Ndam Njoya, Ndifor Afanwi Frankline, and Joshua Osih.
The polling stations operated along a simple system: one voter at a time entered the room, identified himself/herself, was finger printed, then picked up the 9 different color candidate’s ballots with an accompanying envelope, went into the voting booth to seal the envelope with his/her chosen candidate and on the way out dropped the envelope into a sealed box. At 6:00pm they sealed the ballot box and in front of voters turned witnesses, they opened the box and did the counting and then reported to the election headquarters for final national results.
Unfortunately, due to the election system in place, the final results are due on October 15, 2018 and tension is high.
Need for Observers
One can ask why all that fuss about the election and the need for observers. It is because if the country is operated with corruption and irregularities its future is in doubt. Fixing the problems offers a better future.
A government that does not want to step down will use election irregularities to maintain power. And President Biya has been ruling Cameroon for 36 years.
The Cameroonians, who have been used to election irregularities are now sensitized to the fact that accountability counts and elections matter for their future. The Cameroonians now appreciate that a transparent election is the citizens’ investment in the future of their homeland.
Cameroon has no money and it relies on questionable investments from China. And China is investing heavily in the unstable African continent. In fact, the Chinese are building the highway between Douala and Yaoundé, the Capital of Cameroon, soon to be opened to the flow of traffic.
A country is its citizens’ enterprise; as my observation goes, Cameroon, the richest country in Central Africa, deserves the change it seeks that will put it on a trajectory to prosperity.