By Paul Ndiho
Cameroon’s longtime Leader Paul Biya officially begun his seventh consecutive term in power after a Constitutional Council he appointed rejected all 18 petitions challenging the results of the nation’s recent election.
At age 85, Paul Biya, Cameroon’s president since 1982, is one of the world’s oldest heads of state. He recently won re-election with 71 percent of the vote, his strongest challenger Maurice Kanto received only 14 percent.
Biya’s October 7th poll victory comes amid claims from opposition candidates that the election was marred by fraud, including ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. But Biya’s supporters disagree.
“Paul Biya is a guarantor of peace, success, prosperity and living together that’s why we’ve chosen our president. Am I telling the truth, yes, am I telling the truth, yes?”
The constitutional council rejected all 18 petitions claiming fraud, giving the long-time Cameroonian leader a seventh term in office. It’s possible that Biya could remain in power until at least the age of 92.
Amid post-election candidate claims, some opposition leaders rushed to declare themselves as the legitimate winners of the vote. Candidate Maurice Kamto, pronounced himself the winner before even the first results were announced.
“On this, I call on the republic’s defense force, forces of law and order to positively accompany these intense historical moments which the people of Cameroon have collectively bestowed on us memorable. My arms are open for us to work together for our national renaissance jointly.”
Kamto whose claims of victory was short-lived, alleged that six of the 11 members of the Constitutional Council were biased in Biya’s favor, and could not hand him the success that he claims he rightly deserves.
President Biya’s critics say his re-election did not come as a surprise that in fact, they expected him to win with nearly 100 percent of the vote since they say he allegedly controlled the process. Akere Muna, opposition leader says many Cameroonian citizens remain worried about the future of their beloved country and want to see him do more to unite the country.
“I am worried for my country, I am worried about the fact that people don’t realize how much this election is important for our country. Our countries really disturbed by crisis, for anybody to want to add an electoral crisis to the secessionist (crisis) is sad, it’s a serious situation. International organizations should take their responsibility, member countries of the U.N. should take their responsibility, the AU (African Union) needs to take its responsibility. There is a line of people. What is happening in the North and South is sad. Many people are dying, people are suffering, and villages are burned. It’s not a laughing matter, it’s not a matter of elections, it’s a matter of survival of the Cameroonian people and I hope the international organizations will do just that, make sure that this country stays safe, and make sure that what the people want is declared.”
Local and African Union election observers say the poll was mostly successful, with minor irregularities that didn’t affect the vote’s outcome. Critics say despite this win, President Biya faces tough times ahead, as tens of thousands of Cameroonians displaced by a bloody separatist insurgency in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest continue to push for secession.
The chaos began in October 2016 when lawyers and teachers in English-speaking cities went on strike in protest at having to use French in schools and courtrooms. Clashes broke out in the following weeks, and some protesters were killed, hundreds were arrested and put on trial for charges carrying long sentences or the death penalty.
Political analysts say support for secession continues to grow, as hundreds of thousands demand a breakaway state called Ambazonia.