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Cameroon: Controversies Around the Electoral Campaign

This page is part of our special coverage Cameroon Elections 2011.

The Central African Republic of Cameroon is in the last week of the presidential campaign that will end on October 9, 2011. While international election monitors have arrived in the country to observe the elections, the electoral campaign activities failed to convince most Cameroonians of the importance of what is at stake.

The conspicuous absence of Paul Biya

Criticised for the fact that he spends more time abroad than in the country, Paul Biya, the incumbent president and candidate is now being blamed for his absence from the political debate.

This subject has been feeding debate on the Twitter hashtag dedicated to the presidential election: #cmr11.

Campaign poster for Paul Biya, the incumbent candidate from Eric Mwamba on Facebook

Referring to the slogan chosen by the outgoing president for his campaign “The People's choice” Etumnamboa [fr], wonders on Twitter:

Je ne comprends pas il est le “Choix du Peuple” mais ne s'approche jamais de son peuple et a peur de lui

I don't understand, he is the “People's Choice”, but he does not dare approach his people and seem to fear it.

According to Félicité Ngadja of the Social Democratic Front in Canada on the information site camer.be [fr], the president's attitude is not a positive sign towards the population and towards Cameroon's international partners:

[...] disparaître du paysage politqiue une semaine après le lancement de la campagne électorale est plus qu’un mépris envers le peuple camerounais mais une insulte grave envers tous les bailleurs de fonds et les partenaires du Cameroun

[...] to disappear from the political landscape one week after the electoral campaign kicked off is more than showing contempt for the Cameroonian people, it is also a serious insult to donors and to international partners of Cameroon

Biya's announced visit in Maroua, the biggest city of northern Cameroon, did not seem to convince Cameroonian netizens. Twitter user NewsduKamer [fr], ironically commented about Biya's presence in the north on Twitter:

Attention au choléra…

Beware of cholera…

NewsduKamer refers to the fact that the north of the country is particularly affected by a cholera outbreak which has already caused the death of 500 Cameroonians so far.

In the following video posted on YouTube on the Paul Biya 2011 campaign page:

Biya dismissed the critics discussing potential division between the north and the south [fr], declaring during his visit to Maroua:

Je suis venu à Maroua pour marquer l’importance que j’attache à votre région, à la paix et aux problèmes du monde rural dans notre nouvelle dynamique pour mettre notre pays sur la voie de l’émergence

I came to Maroua to showcase my attachment to your region, to peace and to problems of the rural world.  This is in regards to our new dynamic to put our country on the way up to proeminence

On one of the statuses [fr] published on his official Facebook Page, Banla Maximus, a Bamenda based Cameroonian facebook user commented:

Personne ne peut gérer le Cameroun mieux que vous.Vous avez mon appui tout le temps.

No one can manage Cameroon better than you. You have all my support all the time.

According to Twitter user Kasbig [fr], the president will be campaigning in Douala, the economic capital of Cameroon, on October 5, 2011:

Le Nnom Ngii est à Douala demain, le 17h de CRTV est entrain de donner le programme. [...]

The Chief of the Chiefs will be in Douala tomorrow, on the 5 pm news broadcast of the CRTV [Cameroonian National Television] according to the television program. [...]

The information was confirmed on Biya's official Facebook Page. The visit could be considered historical: Paul Biya hasn't been to the city since September 20, 1991, when a crackdown on the opposition occured*.

Referring to the constant power shortage problems, Bubakaele [fr], another user of the Twitter feed #cmr11 notices:

avec la visite du Nom Ngii à #Douala, la lumière semble revenue dans certaines rues

With the visit of the Chief among the Chiefs in Douala, light seems to be back in certain streets

Paul Biya hasn't faced any of the 22 other candidates in a political debate since the beginning of the electoral campaign. In one of the weekly debates organised by the Panafrican channel Africa 24, opposition candidates Edith Kahbang Walla (Cameroon's People Party) and Anicet Ekane (MANIDEM) faced Grégoire Owona (Secretary General of the Presidential party Cameroon's People Democratic Movement – CPDM).

A weak or a weakened opposition?

Grioo.com [fr] published a review of candidates, highlighting their strengths and weaknesses.

Among them is Olivier Bilé, 44 year-old candidate of the Union for Brotherhood and Prosperity [fr] (Union pour la Fraternité et la prospérité – UFP) who distanced himself with his concept of “Political Fathism” (Foyisme politique) [fr]. The concept explained in the article on site Grioo.com [fr] consists of:

la création de 500 000 emplois par an tout au long de son mandat, la sortie du franc CFA avec la création d’une monnaie appelée le « camer » et la révision de nos structures mentales et spirituelles pour mieux gouverner avec Dieu comme repère fondamental.

Creation of 500,000 jobs per year during his mandate, exit of from the Franc CFA zone with the creation of a currency called the “camer”, and the amendment of cameroonians’ mental and spiritual structures for a better government with God as a fundamental marker

The reference to God doesn't suit some netizens like ETAMBA on Twitter:

[...] Faut qu'il laisse Dieu tranquille

[...] He should have left God alone

Jean Njeunga, also one of the 23 candidates, became the laughing stock of the Cameroonian online community after his appearance on a political show of Equinoxe TV, a private Cameroonian television channel. A YouTube video has been made available by user moanang and has been viewed by more than 23,000 visitors.

At 11:06 minutes, Jean Njeunga is asked by journalist Suzanne Kalla Lobè if he will suppress polygamy if he is elected president. Here is his answer:

I cannot suppress it because our ancestors started being polygamists [...] We are Africans, not Europeans [...] There are more women than men in Cameroon

A Facebook page called “Le Best of des Phrases de JEAN NJEUNGA – Etoudi 2011” gathers Mr Njeunga's best quotes.

But according to Chicago-based Cameroonian writer and journalist Dibussi Tande, such electoral spectacle is not a surprise. He explains on his Twitter account:

No political party (except the CPDM with access to state resources) can run an effective election campaign in 14 days

And he continues:

Election laws in Cameroon are not only meant to favor the incumbent but to ridicule the entire electoral process

On October 6, 2011, Africa Review reports that two opposition candidates, Edith Kah Walla and Anicet Ekane, organised a press conference to explain some of their grievances against the Cameroonian electoral system:

Speaking at a press conference Tuesday [October 4, 2011] in Douala, Mr Ekane charged that the Biya posters violated an ELECAM (electoral agency) directive that they should not be more than 60 centimetres long and 40 centimetres wide.

“These instructions have not been respected by the candidate of the ruling party because some of his posters are three metres wide and four metres long, which is totally illegal,” Mr Ekane declared.

Concerning the financing of the campaign, Mr Ekane and the Cameroon Peoples’ Party candidate Kah Wallah insisted they had not yet received any money from the Treasury, contrary to official promises.

Esther Dang [fr], another opposition candidate, while replying to a question from a Cameroonian citizen in a political show on Vox Africa [fr] channel also confirmed that as of October 3, 2011, she hadn't received public funds for her campaign. But she referred to this financing issue in a more tempered way:

C'est bien aussi cette situation qui permet aux camerounais de suivre les composantes de la démocratie camerounaise (…) ; cette situation permet aussi aux camerounais de se rendre compte que nous sommes un PPTE et qu'il n'est pas normal que nous déployions sur le terrain un arsenal de moyens, d'argent qui en correspond pas au pouvoir d'achat

This situation, which allows Cameroonians to follow the components of the Cameroonian democracy is good; this situation also allows Cameroonians to realise that we live in a heavily indebted poor country and that it is not normal that we deploy on the field an arsenal of means, of money which doesn't reflect the reality of our purchasing power.

*Erratum: Paul Biya's last visit in Douala was on October 9, 2004 [fr].

This page is part of our special coverage Cameroon Elections 2011.

  • Ngamby

    Cameroonians mobilized themselves in numbers in the economic capital to support President Paul massively during his visit in Douala as he went on, on a campaign tour which he began in Maroua in the Far-north region. It was another opportunity for President Paul Biya to commune with his people.

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