Threats galore as Cameroon presidential campaigns begin

Opposition leader Maurice Kamto addresses a rally in the commercial capital Douala on September 22, 2018 at the beginning of the campaigns for the October 7 presidential election

Campaigns for the October 7 presidential election in Cameroon entered the second day Sunday with the incumbent President Paul Biya defying threats from separatists to keep off Bamenda in the crisis-hit Northwest region.

Prime Minister and head of the ruling CPDM Philemon Yang told the militants and the sympathisers of the governing party in the Northwest that the current socio-political context of Cameroon required an experienced head of state and President Biya was the choice.

“It will be imprudent to elect a president who does not have the required experience. Make sure you cast your vote for President Biya, any vote against him is a vote for uncertainty,” Mr Yang said.

In Douala, opposition candidate Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) disregarded a prohibition by a local administrator and addressed hundreds of supporters at his opening campaign rally on Saturday.

Poll agency

The Divisional Officer for the Douala Four District, Mr Jean-Marc Ekoa Mbarga, had banned the gathering saying would interrupt traffic as the venue, opposite the Government Bilingual High School of Bonaberi, did not have enough space for the event

Two other opposition candidates, Mr Joshua Osih of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) and Mr Serge Espoir Matomba of the United People for Social Renovation (UPSR), also launched their campaigns around Douala, while Barrister Akere Muna of the Now Movement and flag bearer of the Popular Front for Development (PFD) party, opened the campaign with a rally in Yaoundé.

Twenty-eight candidates had submitted their documents to compete for the election, but the Cameroon poll agency, ELECAM, retained just nine, including incumbent President Biya.

Observers say the failure by the opposition to present a single candidate increased the chances of the incumbent as Cameroon has a one-round election system, where a candidate only requires to garner the most votes to be declared winner.

The territory

Separatists have threatened to impose a ‘state of emergency’ on the troubled English-peaking Northwest and Southwest regions ahead the vote.

Anglophone separatist activists who have been clamouring for secession and the creation of the Republic of Ambazonia, have warned that they would not allow any election organised by the Yaoundé regime to take place in “their country”.

They have also announced there would be no movement in and out of the territory from September 25 to October 10, but the government has vowed that the election would take place in a serene atmosphere nationwide.

An African Union election mission has been assessing the process. The 12-member long-term election observation mission arrived on September 5 and will remain in the country until October 19, “to comprehensively assess the electoral process in line with the African Union Long Term Election Observation Methodology,” the AU said in a statement.