On Sunday, Oct 7, eight of Cameroon’s 10 regions will vote in a presidential election that could end the long running leadership of Paul Biya, who has been president since 1982 and prime minister in the 7 years prior. Nine persons will contest in the elections, including Biya and international lawyer, Akere Muna.
The Anglophone separatist has threatened a showdown. The country loosely managed a bilingual population colonized by both the British and French separately.
The weak amalgamation of both parts led to an imposition of the French court and school systems on the minority English speaking part. These concerns erupted into a war when government attacked the Anglophone minority protesting this status quo.
‘There is localised violence in the Anglophone regions … more than 1,000 men have pledged to dislodge the elections in those regions by violence,’ says Hans de Marie Heungoup, senior analyst for Central Africa at the International Crisis Group.
‘We are very much on the brink of a civil war,’ said Kah Walla, who is from an Anglophone region.
She is the leader of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP), but the group declined to put forward a candidate for the coming vote.
‘Separatist groups have gotten to a stage where they control some territory and have promised violence if the authorities attempt to hold elections there and the government has vowed to hold elections there. So the population is caught in the middle.’
Southern Cameroons became German Kamerun in 1885, eventually transiting to joint French and British administration. Opting not to join Nigeria as it sought independence in 1961, it instead joined the French Cameroons, which had already gained independence a year earlier.
By 1972, the federal republic of Cameroon had become a unitary state; while the south kept its English laws and academic system, the rest of the country stuck to the French legal system and the baccalaureate schooling alternative.
At the root of its defiance are grievances over the dearth of infrastructure even though it is home to the oil that makes up 40% of the country’s GDP.
The fighting has caused over 400 deaths and created more than 20,000 refuges, many of whom have fled into Nigeria and are appealing to the Government for aid assistance.
The elections won’t be free and fair. The system is already rigged to give the president a structural advantage, Kah Walla from the People’s Party Leader said.