Presidential elections will be held in Cameroon on 7 October 2018, in spite of the recrudescence of violence in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. It is true in many parts of the world Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, South Sudan – elections have been carried out in societies marked by armed conflict. However, elections held in political chaos and economic distress, particularly in the current crisis, is a huge gamble and likely to be particularly dangerous.
More important than the individual candidates who will be elected, the voter participation rate will be key to this election. This is because there are a lot of eligible voters living outside the territory as refugees in neighboring Nigeria, and others living in places besieged by the so called terrorists, and others who have died but are yet to be accounted for. Taking into account these factors, the participation rate will definitely be much lower in these regions.
Since to reenact a one and indivisible Cameroon shall not be to accomplish the impossible task of convincing all of our people to abandon violence, but to accomplish the essential task of convincing enough people to abandon the belief that violence is ever legitimate, election days will come and go but our common struggle to create a government which represents all of us and not just a privileged few - a government based on the principles of economic, social, political and environmental justice and equality - that struggle will always continue.
In the meantime, it is hard not to contemplate the timing and the opportunity of this election. The secessionist movement in Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon have for more than 50 years had this obsession that their Utopia of a State (Ambazonia) was supposed to be independent on the 1stOctober 1961, the date Southern Cameroons actually obtained her independence by joining the Republic of Cameroon. Hence the tradition of manifesting that desire for freedom, is perpetrated from generation to generation and we recall the unfortunate incidents of 1stOctober 2017. The police and military forces fired life ammunitions on unarmed civilians during a non-violent peaceful protest across the Northwest and Southwest regions to commemorate that symbolic ‘independence’ day. As many as 17 people were reported dead by Amnesty International and this was the turning point that marked the beginning of the cycle of violence that has led to this dreadful armed conflict which has registered several casualties both among the civilian population and the regular armed forces; caused thousands more to be displaced from their homes; and several villages and property have been consumed in flames.
Bearing this in mind it is evidently clear that the commemoration of 1stOctober 2018 by the secessionists in the Northwest and Southwest regions shall not be an exception, that is a few days to the elections of 7thOctober 2018. But this time around as compared to the previous years, the balance of power has changed. The government forces will have to deal not with unarmed innocent civilian in various the townships of the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, but they are already facing an armed rebellious militia insurgency determined to march on into Buea and declare the official independence of the Republic of Ambazonia on the 1stOctober 2018 even at the cost of their tears, blood and sweat
Therefore, the big question is by convening the electoral body on the 7thOctober 2018 how will the government exercise its authority in those key municipalities such as Mamfe, Kumba, Muyuka,Ekona, Bamemda where these groups have created porches of resistance which has strongly hampered the smooth running of the administration by the local government authorities appointed by President Biya for the past one year? How does the government guarantee the organization of credible election in a climate of heightened insecurity and serious tensions all over the national territory? How will the government protect the safety of polling agents, observers from national and international bodies who may want to scrutinize the free and fair process of this election in those high risk zones?
There never is a good time for tough decisions. There was always supposed to be an election or something else. Governance is also about taking tough, even unpopular decisions but to finalize, the purpose of an election is to hear the will of the people and not to fabricate votes. Several millions of Cameroonians will be disenfranchised during this election as a result of this conflict either because they are refugees in Nigeria; internally displaced; or are living in those zones were the secessionist warlords are imposing their reign of terror. In the end this election is a test of our resolve as a people to either continue to contribute in a politics of cynicism or a politics of hope. As Franklin D. Roosevelt said: in politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way. Organizing elections within this context is a perfect opportunity to demonstrate either the continuing confidence in the leadership of the President at a turning point in this conflict, or a total rejection of a system which many consider as the root cause of the frustrations of the majority of Cameroonians from North to South, from East to West and not just the Anglophones. It suffices therefore to say that this presidential election is defiantly called by the Biya regime as an exercise in national sovereignty, the point being to show the to the world, especially the fickle International Community and those who have waged the nearly one-year long insurrection against Cameroon, that Cameroonians are united in the belief that Cameroonians, and only Cameroonians, will decide the fate and future of Cameroon.