22 September 2011

Africa: Cameroon - A Divided Opposition Challenges President Biya

Photo: Anne-Mireille Nzouankeu/ RNW
Paul Biya, the current president of Cameroon, is now 78 years old, and local youths are now saying "29 years in power is far too long".


Are the 23 candidates in Cameroon's October 9 presidential elections only in it for the money? Without a unifying opposition figure what hope for change is there? These are among the questions raised in this week's round-up of the African blogosphere, compiled by Dibussi Tande, which also takes a look at elections in Zambia and Liberia.

Ntemfac Ofege claims that candidates in Cameroon's Presidential election are in it for the money:

'The announced October 9 presidential elections in the Cameroons will be just one more manner of spreading porcine corrupt practices around and about.

'The Biya regime is enticing equally corrupt politicians with a cash-handout, or bait, of 25.000.000FCFA from the state coffers to present a challenge to his candidacy.

'There are now 23 candidates now running. Each candidate pays in 5.000.000FCFA to the state treasury.

'All the candidates have to do is rush to the nearest bank, microfinance institution, credit union or whatever, and demand a short term loan of 5.000.000FCFA.

'They collect 25.000.000 FCFA from the state; payback their short-term loan and report a profit of at least 15.000.000 FCFA.

'For less than three weeks of work.

'Small wonder Cameroon has several times been voted most corrupt country on earth.

With Mr. Paul Biya presiding.'

Scribbles from the Den takes a look at how Cameroonian presidential candidates have been faring on the social media scene:

'One of the most striking novelties of the 2011 presidential election in Cameroon is the impressive number of candidates who have incorporated social media into their campaign strategies, even though the Internet penetration rate in the country is estimated at a mere 5%. Obviously, the target audience is Cameroonians abroad and the international community, and significantly, the international media, which can serve as an echo chamber for candidates and offer the kind widespread and free publicity which regular media outlets in Cameroon cannot - e.g., an interview on the BBC, RFI, and Aljazeera or on TV5...

'Even though candidates primarily target Cameroonians in the Diaspora and the international community with their online campaigning, presidential candidates with even a minimal social media presence still have the potential to increase their reach even within Cameroon. For example, the latest official figures put the total number of Facebook users in Cameroon at 429 840...

'From a purely social media and networking perspective, the social media strategy of the presidential aspirants has a major flaw. The candidates treat social media platforms like bulletin boards where they talk to their audience, rather than like online communities where they listen to and interact with their audience. In other words, they have adopted the one way communications method used by traditional media, rather than the two-way communication approach which is the strength of social media, thereby 'miss[ing] the opportunity to engage visitors as ambassadors, donors, volunteers and voters.'

Francis Wache calls on President Biya not to seek another term as President of Cameroon:

'We must start by recalling that Biya has been President for the last 29 years running. Before then, he was Prime Minister from 1975 to 1982. And, even before that, he held the key position as Secretary General at the Presidency for four years. That gives you a total of 43 years that he has been exercising at the top echelons of the Cameroon Administration. For one man, that's enormous; indeed, too much!

'It is difficult to see what another mandate will do to enable Biya accomplish what he has been unable to perform for all these years. Because he has been in power for this long, Biya has, inevitably, become routine. Ideas have atrophied. Worse, Biya depends on other senile associates to run the State...

'President Biya should behave like a patient suffering from cancer that has been told by his doctor that the disease is terminal. While waiting for the fatal day, the patient uses the interlude in catching up on those things that had to be done but were ignored.

'If, for the past 29 years, Biya, to paraphrase President Obama, could be said to have acted like Cameroon's 'strong man', now is the time for him to ensure that he bequeaths 'strong institutions' to his nation...

'I am conscious, of course, that what I'm doing is called wishful thinking. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Some nations have bloomed and blossomed because, even in the most dismal and intractable circumstances, some people continued to think - wishfully. Sadly, I doubt whether President Biya will heed this advice. But I'm convinced that history will record that I gave it.'

The Chia Report publishes a statement by Cameroon-born Dr. Mal Fobi, 'Hollywood's weight-loss surgeon', laments about the absence of a unifying opposition figure in Cameroon:

'The people of Cameroon had hoped that in light of the troubles around the world with long standing dictatorships, the President will forego the possibility of national unrest and make an honorable exit. It is now obvious that the President will continue marginalizing Cameroon by using and exploiting the resources of Cameroon personally to enjoy the most extravagant life of a President. It is apparent that he would rather Mubarak or Gaddafi his exit than do what is best for Cameroon.

'We had hoped the SDF, the only other long standing political party, will put up a different candidate that the country could rally behind peacefully and bring change through the ballot box in Cameroon. The SDF has been reduced to the token party that justifies the Cameroonian government's claim to democracy by having the SDF act as an official free functioning opposition party yet it enjoys no official power. As it has turned out, the SDF Chairman who has been in that capacity for 21 years, like the current President, has not seen the light to make way for another candidate that can unify the opposition to bring change but he enjoys the benefit of the token role.

'We now have myriads of candidates and political parties that are in contest for the Presidency of Cameroon. As we have seen in history especially our own, if we support the various candidates based on various obligations, the results will remain the same. The current President will be re-elected. Cameroonians will be divided and their social, economic and political enslavement will continue.'

African Arguments profiles the two leading candidates in Zambia's September 20 presidential elections:

'Incumbent Zambian President Rupiah Banda faces an uphill battle to retain the position he inherited in 2008 from the late Patrick L. Mwanawasa... Mr. Banda has been unable to retain the electoral support enjoyed by his predecessor... Banda's unpopularity is especially marked among the underclasses of the capital, Lusaka, and the Copperbelt, the country's industrial heartland. The predicament of the 74-year-old Banda has much to do with the inequitable distribution of the social costs of privatization and with his perceived 'softness' on corruption...

'Born in the same year as Banda, the charismatic Michael Sata (aka 'King Cobra') is no less a political dinosaur than Zambia's current president...His crude brand of populism, drawing on both nationalist rhetoric and less outdated anti-globalization discourse, has been shown to strike a chord with disaffected urbanites and also with Bemba speakers in his ethnic hinterlands, the Northern and Luapula Provinces...

'With sections of the international community showing signs of uneasiness about the prospect of a Sata victory (the spectre of Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi's current disastrous incumbent, is just round the corner), some informed Zambian analysts (and the Economist Intelligence Unit as well) predict a tight Banda victory in the presidential race and a split or PF-dominated parliament. In this latter scenario, it is not unrealistic to hypothesize the stipulation of a post-electoral, anti-Sata pact between the MMD and the UPND.'

The New Dispensation reports on the growing controversy in Liberia over alleged plans bring in Nigerian troops to maintain law and order during the October 11 presidential election:

'Media reports suggest Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf may be considering the use of Nigerian troops to strengthen security for Liberia's October 11 general elections.

'The Liberian Daily Observer newspaper Monday called on President Sirleaf not to "withhold such vital information from the people."

'Liberian Information Minister Cletus Sieh told VOA he was not prepared to comment on the matter.

'However, Jerome Verdier, former chairman of Liberia's disbanded Truth and Reconciliation Commission said President Sirleaf has no legal authority to unilaterally bring foreign troops into Liberia.

'"Firstly, the United Nations is there [in Liberia]. The United Nations has responsibility for security in Liberia. I think it would be illegal to bring in foreign troops without the consent, or acquiescence, of the United Nations," he said.

'Verdier said President Sirleaf must seek the approval of the Liberian legislature.

'"Secondly, is whether the president has the authority to do this unilaterally? No, the president cannot do it alone, that is, exercise sovereign authority. She must seek the immediate consent of the national legislature. Besides that, there is no justifiable reason for inviting foreign troops into the country," Verdier said.'

Dibussi Tande blogs at Scribbles from the Den.

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