By Innocent CHIA
Avid observers of the political drama called La Republique du Cameroun are now poised to make another certain prediction: President Paul Biya will be made “President a Vie” by CPDM parliamentarians and a system that overwhelmed the populace with a combination of known and unknown titanic fraud schemes at the twin polls of July 22. While the pundits have been right on mark about the irregularities that are the hallmark of the democratic process in Cameroon, there always seems to be renewed surprise at the scale of impunity with which the ruling regime perpetrates its unabashed rape of popular will.
Yet, even more bewildering is the ineptitude of the leading opposition parties that are sheepishly taking their followers to the slaughter house, the abattoir. The bilingual question that begs to be asked is: A Qui la Faute? Whose responsibility is it?
The power of incumbency, bar none, is a firmly established fact. And when one has to deal with any incumbent regime in Africa it is advisable to read the antithesis Cinderella storybook of elections in Cameroun. The Central-West African country has consistently defied human imagination when it comes to doctoring the electoral process in favor of President Paul Biya that has been in power since 1982.
Any number of ways are systemically employed to maintain power in the hands of anarchists that have plundered the nation to its knees and caused it to rank among the top exporters of asylum claimants in the U.S between 1992 and today: Ghost voters; denial of voter cards to known and suspected opposition sympathizers; stuffing of ballot boxes; voter intimidation; hidden voting stations; late arrival and distribution of voter registration cards; non-use of identification papers by voters in areas sympathetic to the CPDM; multiple voting by individuals in CPDM strongholds; use of erasable ink instead of indelible ink; civil-servants paid to campaign for the CPDM; illegal campaigning by President Paul Biya on election day; disproportionate distribution of air time among the parties to favor the CPDM; a non-independent electoral commission; wholesale buying of the Supreme Court; extra-judicial arrests and killings; seizures of private papers that are sympathetic to the opposition; and so on and so on.
In spite this laundry list of ever-growing systemic ploys to rob the opposition of victory at the polls, the opposition has predictably played into the trappings of the ruling junta. Time and again the opposition has been strongly advised to boycott parliament completely. The argument has been that any form of participation is only an endorsement and legitimization of the regime. Without the presence of the often neglected and inconsequential minority of opposition parliamentarians, these political sages have maintained that the Yaounde regime, faced with pressures from the IMF, the World Bank, Paris Bas and other lenders, will be forced to backpedal because the world would be seeing it for what it truly is: a one party dictatorship. But these sages have not often been heard.
For instance, the greatest chance to gain legislative power and possibly usher meaningful change came on the heels of a joint opposition victory at the 1992 National Assembly elections with the National Union for Democracy and progress (UNPD) garnering 68 seats, the Union of Cameroonian Populations (UPC), 18 seats; and the Movement for the Defense of the Republic (MDR), 6 seats. But the opposition failed to form a 3-way cohesive force with 92 seats because Daikole Daissala of the MDR sold off and formed a coalition with the RDPC/CPDM. It was a very close call from which the CPDM lots of lessons and was bent on never having to be bedfellows with the opposition.
Their wheels began spinning in preparation of the 1997 elections. In the May 1997 National Assembly elections, the RDPC/CPDM took 109 seats, the SDF 43, the UNDP 13, the UDC 5, others 3, and cancelled constituencies 7. The opposition barked at the passing caravan, and was joined by international observers who declared the legislative elections highly flawed…to no avail.
Statistically, the CPDM could maliciously make the case of incremental growth from 88 seats in parliament in 1992, to a 21-seat gain to attain the majority of 109 in 1997 and finally, the latest victory of 152 of the 180 seats in parliament. And they probably need no convincing than to point at the way the SDF has “poorly” run or managed the many Municipal Councils that were under its Lordship. The CPDM will point to Douala and say that no roads exist in the nations’ economic capital because the opposition, mainly the SDF, deceived the masses and failed to deliver the goods of development. What the CPDM and its blind voodoo supporters will not do is point out how their handpicked, superimposed Government Delegates have made it a living hell for any opposition-managed council. What they would not tell us and the rest of the world is that at the end of every fiscal year the appointed Government delegates collect humongous sums of money that they send back to Yaounde, giving as reason the fact that the council men and women have submitted no project worth the salt!
This default reign by decomposition has not only resulted in cross-carpeting and wholesome voter apathy, it has led to the degeneration of opposition parties and party unity. It is from such party fractionalization that the CPDM was able to make significant inroads in the North West province, the fief of the SDF. For CPDM circle houseboys like the former Minister Delegate of Foreign Affairs from Boyo Division, the North West province has become democratic because of the couple or so CPDM seats. Meaning: The rest of the country is not democratic under the CPDM dictatorship. But far from the scurrilous remarks of these wannabe-political-dinosaurs, it is but right to point out that the opposition is led in Cameroun by opportunists that will settle for far less than the pennies for which Christ was betrayed. Let this author join the choir that has been singing since the aftermath of the hijacked 1997 presidential elections that Ni Fru Ndi should have stepped down as chairman of the SDF.
Stepping down after his “stolen victory” would have made Chairman Ni John Fru Ndi an invincible politician within his party and the country as a whole. It would have given him more than sufficient leverage to settle the bickering that has overshadowed the party over the better part of the last half-or-more-decade. Its national appeal has been compromised and now confined to the single North West province. Even the Chairman had to stage a wake-keeping fight in his native Santa in order to secure the council!
It is a sign, not of the strength of the CPDM as some quarters are suggesting. It is a sign that the current political dispensation in Cameroun has failed. It is a sign that Francophone politics is designed to hold the Anglophone captive under the one-party system of government. It is a sign that the Social Democratic Front is not, and has never been, a political party as much as its founding fathers created it to be a Southern Cameroon pressure group. It is a sign that the only fight that should be left in any Southern Cameroonian is the fight against the further annexation of Southern Cameroon by La Republique du Cameroun.