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Cameroon: Questions and Doubts Over Upcoming Election

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

On October 9, 2011, Cameroonians will be called on for the sixth time in their country's history to choose a president for the Republic. The election is characterized by the large number of both candidates and voters – more than 7 million [fr] of the latter in Cameroon and abroad – and by questions about the practices of ELECAM, the commission responsible for organizing the elections.

ELECAM, Cameroon's electoral commission by verni22im:  Creative Commons-NC-2.0 License

ELECAM, Cameroon's electoral commission by verni22im: Creative Commons-NC-2.0 License

This election will certainly leave its mark on Cameroon's history, thanks to the government's abundant efforts to enable all Cameroonians, even those in the diaspora [fr], to make their voices heard in this election. The number of polling stations has been increased, as outlined in the national bilingual daily paper Cameroon Tribune [fr]:

Ceux-ci seront répartis dans 24 670 bureaux de vote, soit 24 591 sur le territoire national et 79 ouverts dans les missions diplomatiques et consulaires du Cameroun qui doivent accueillir ce scrutin

The poll stations will be divided between 24,670 polling stations, that is 24,591 on the national territory and 79 open stations in Cameroon's diplomatic and consular missions which must accommodate the election.

But beyond these nice initiatives many doubts still persist about the election's organization, for at less than a week before election day, much remains to be done. For example, the electoral roll, published on September 21, raises many doubts about its authenticity, as Nicolas Vounsia writes in a Mutations article reposted by information site Cameroon-Info.net [fr]:

Malgré des efforts de toilettage dudit fichier par Elecam, certaines personnes ont des noms en doublons avec la même filiation sur différentes listes. Mais avec des numéros de carte nationale d’identité et des bureaux de vote différents. Cette supercherie est bien visible sur certaines listes électorales affichées.

Despite ELECAM's efforts to tidy up the electoral roll, some people are still listed twice (duplicated names with the same parentage on different lists) but with different national identity card numbers and polling stations. This deception is clearly visible on some of the displayed electoral lists.

ELECAM preparing for elections. Photo by DW Akademie-Africa (Creative Commons-2.0-NC License).

ELECAM preparing for elections. Photo by DW Akademie-Africa (Creative Commons-2.0-NC License).

The other challenge regards polling cards. Whilst already available at some local branches of ELECAM [fr] and whilst some voters are gradually taking possession of theirs, it turns out that none the less [fr], getting one's polling card is quite another story for other people, as stated [fr] by Georges Ndenga on Africa-Info website:

Ce qui semblait être une simple formalité, tourne plutôt au cauchemar aussi bien pour les potentiels électeurs que pour le personnel administratif de Elecam […] Tous les bureaux d’Elecam ont été pris d’assaut dès l’annonce du début de l’opération de distribution des cartes d’électeur. Les listes affichées sur les murs de certaines délégations communales, à cause des intempéries, sont devenues illisibles, l’encre ayant été diluée par la pluie. A ce niveau, l’on vous demande de présenter le récépissé d’inscription à défaut d’inscrire vos noms et prénoms sur un bout de papier afin que l’on interroge l’ordinateur pour savoir si vous êtes inscrit et dans quel bureau de vote vous l’êtes afin d’entamer la recherche de votre carte.

Face à l’affluence, un ou deux agents vous reçoivent mais un seul opère les recherches dans l’ordinateur et au fil des heures, le rang s’allonge et le ton monte. Entre les usagers et le personnel administratif s’en suivent des injures, des menaces et des vociférations. Seule la présence d’un policier en tenue et arme en bandoulière permet d’éviter l’affrontement

What looked like a mere formality, is increasingly turning into a nightmare, as much for the electors-to-be as for the ELECAM officials […] All ELECAM offices got stormed after the beginning of polling cards distribution was announced. The lists posted on the walls of some local authorities became illegible because of bad weather, with the ink becoming thinned down by the rain. At this level, you are requested to submit the receipt of registration instead of writing down your first and last names on a scrap of paper, in order to query the computer whether you are registered and in which polling station, before launching the search of your card.
To cope with the crowds, one or two officers are seeing you, but only one is operating the search on the computer, and as hours go by, the queue gets longer and the argument heats up. Abuse, threatening and clamour follow between citizens and officials. Only the presence of a policeman in uniform, weapon slung over his shoulder, is able to prevent a clash.

However, one big question remains: where to vote? Less than a week ahead of this election, excepted for the Cameroonians abroad [fr], many citizens still do not know which polling station they will have to go to in order to cast their vote, as no map of the polling stations has been made available so far.

The other unknown factor is the possible impact of the numerous calls [fr] to boycott [fr] this election, which have been issued hither and thither [fr] all year round.

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

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