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Cameroon: Autopsy of a sham election and the way forward…

Calls are already growing in some quarters for the Opposition, which for the most part has rejected Biya’s coronation, to pick up the pieces and move on. They are being told to look forward; and be better prepared for the upcoming legislative elections. They are being led to believe that they could make up for this loss by pulling off the legislative elections, if they just focus on future opportunities and be better prepared, rather than sulking over present losses. This is where I agree with Edith Kah Wallah who, from personal experience, long ago realised how naïve and futile this thinking is.


Truth be told, this regime will never allow the Opposition to control Parliament. Biya is not as naïve to not realise that the sustainability of the fraud machinery that keeps him in power depends on the CPDM’s control of this body. They need that absolute parliamentary majority to maintain the status quo or reinforce it. What to do then?

If they are unwilling or unprepared to take extra legal measures to effect change, the Opposition needs to stop legitimising institutionalise fraud through participation in shambolic elections--at least before they have exacted true institutional and structural reforms that level the playing field for all parties. Given the current reality, this can only be done through a solid coalition between the Opposition and Cameroon’s international partners—the foreign countries that are a lifeline for the regime through the aid and technical assistance they provide. They need to be pressured to condition further assistance on genuine reforms, not the cosmetic half-way changes Biya has been serving Cameroonians during the last 26 years. We said this before this presidential poll and cautioned against participation. Our position remains unchanged. Taking part in any polls before such reforms only projects—to the regime’s advantage—a false image of a plural political landscape. Cameroon— we all know—is everything but that.

If you boycott the political process, then be ready—some will say— to have mediocres govern you. A system can also be changed from within, I have read and heard too often.

Some 20 years ago, the leading Opposition parties—comprising at the time the UNDP, UPC, SDF and CDU—decided to join the government or go into parliament, following losses at largely rigged presidential polls. They were largely driven by two elements: #fear—the fear of being left out in the cold from the policy making process—and #hope, the genuine belief that they could effect change from within. Fast forward to 2018, the first two parties are defunct, the latter two are largely a shadow of their former selves.

What is the lesson? First, the notion that the Opposition can effect change from within, while true in some contexts, has proven to be largely illusory, if not outright naïve in the Cameroonian context. How is that even possible when most of the time, they will be fighting from a position of weakness against a regime that claims to have an overwhelming mandate to govern as it sees fit? Second, it is important not to underestimate the capacity of this regime to co-opt, compromise, discredit and eventually destroy even political parties or politicians with the best intentions, through manipulation. If you doubt this, all you need is take a look at what happened to the UNDP and the UPC, and what the SDF and the CDU have become.

A bon entendeur...

Concord Newsdesk

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