Scheduling Local Elections In War-time Sparks Controversy

Cameroon is scheduling local elections early next year. The scheduled elections have sparked controversy among political parties and the citizenry.

By Kesah Princely and Regis Che

Opposition political parties in Cameroon have begun reacting differently to government’s decision to organize municipal and legislative elections in early 2020. In a communique released by the country’s leader, Paul Biya who recently clocked 37 years in power, the elections will be held all over the national territory on February 9, 2020.

Despite calls from some opposition parties such as the Cameroon People’s Party, CPP, that an ongoing deadly conflict in Cameroon’s two minority English-speaking regions be resolved before convening the elections, the octogenarian Biya went ahead to schedule them.

How election controversy is felt among opposition political parties

While the CPP and Popular Action Party, PAP, stand that elections should not be held when part of the country (Anglophone regions) is being hit by a war President Paul Biya declared two years ago, the Social Democratic Front, SDF, and Cameroon Renaissance Movement, CRM, are rather prepared to challenge the ruling CPDM party in next year’s elections.

Why the SDF Party flipped

Prior to the scheduling of these elections, Cameroon’s main opposition party, SDF, warned against organising them without resolving the Anglophone crisis first. It also resolved to boycott parliamentary sessions.

During a national executive committee meeting that brought together mayors and parliamentarians of the opposition SDF party of National Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi on Saturday November 9, the party’s Communication Secretary, Paul Nji Ntumassang told the media that holding elections in the heart of the deteriorating armed conflict in the North West and South West regions was of no essence. He claimed that the country’s election governing body, ELECAM and other administrative offices in the crisis ravaged part of the country have all shutdown owing to the ongoing conflict.

But, barely four days after, the party changed its stance. It now says it is ready to take part in the February 2020 elections, and its parliamentarians will return to parliament.

 “… SDF has been privy that government is to deposit some important bills at the national assembly that are to the interest of the people. Thus we have to be there to deliberate,“ Denis Nkemlemo, one of the party’s Communication Secretaries told Mimi Mefo Info.

The rift in the CPP Party

The Cameroon People’s Party, CPP, has lampooned the Head of State for announcing elections when the country is in chaos. According to the party’s leader, Edith Kabang Wallah, the current regime has failed Cameroonians in all spheres of life for nearly 40 years.

The firebrand female opposition leader argued that there should be no election without a meaningful dialogue to: “resolve the Anglophone problem, redefine the nature of the Cameroonian State, and redefine the form of the Cameroonian State.”

To her, institutions such as ELECAM and the Constitutional Council need to be reformed before any election.

“After 37 years, we say NO! We will no longer accompany this president [Paul Biya]. We will also not sit and fold our hands. We will shout NO; in the media, on social media and by any means available,” she added.

However, the CPP is divided. A camp led by its supposed Founder and Chairman, Rev. Prof. Samuel Tita Fon says it will go in for the elections in February. He has called on Cameroonians to ignore Kahbang Walla’s faction of the party which is against elections. It remains unclearunclear how the CPP will face the elections.

Why the CRM wants the local elections

Militants of the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement, CRM party of Professor Maurice Kamto who was recently released from prison for organizing protests against the regime in power, say they are ready to contest in next year’s municipal and parliamentary elections.

Despite fighting a lost political battle against President Paul Biya’s government, Professor Maurice Kamto and his supporters who claim their victory was stolen during last year’s presidential election have resolved to forget the past and face their opponent in the 2020 twin elections.

In an exclusive interview with the party’s Secretary General, Barrister Christopher Ndong told EboniGram that the party will canvass for seats in all 360 municipalities across Cameroon.

The human rights lawyer claimed that the only way to resolve the problems plaguing the nation is not by boycotting elections, but, by actively participating in order to kick out the 37 year-old regime which he said has failed the country since it took over power from the country’s pioneer president, Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1982.

The CRM is confident their “victory cannot be stolen’’ in the upcoming elections given that votes will be counted directly by election officials in the various polling stations.

“The elections inolve everyone at the local level, so they will be able to supervise properly, defend properly and make sure the results reflect the polling, the results come out on the spot and Yaounde [ELECAM’s Headquarters] only declares what comes from the polls,’’ he stated.  

The CRM’s chief scribe told EboniGram that since the Biya regime has hitherto rejected all their proposals to engage in sincere talks that will deescalate the tension in the country’s Anglophone regions, they are poised to have a majority in parliament so that they can reconcile the country.

“We have the people of the North West and South West at heart and we believe we can solve the conflict,” the legal mind emphasized.

The ruling party’s response

Members of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, say they are ready to win the most seats in parliament, and get a majority of  municipal offices during the elections in early 2020. This party has always won a large number of seats during local elections and it remains unclear whether the situation will be the same this time around.

Can there be any hitch-free elections in Anglophone Cameroon?

The prevailing atmosphere in Anglophone Cameroon has made many a person to wonder if any election can be held unperturbed. For three years now, hostilities between the Cameroonian army and non-state actors fighting for a breakaway Republic they call Ambazonia have heightened across the two Anglophone regions of the CEMAC member state.

In 2018, President Paul Biya deferred local elections that were due to be held that year. Many suggested the postponement was mainly as a result of the deadly armed conflict that has been a threat to the country’s unity. From September 30 to October 04, 2019, the Head of State organized a major national dialogue to restore peace and rebuild the two war ravaged regions.

38 days after the holding of the said reconciliatory dialogue which received heavy criticisms, clashes have intensified between the belligerent parties, economic and academic activities have remained grounded. According to a recent report from UNICEF, about 855000 children lack access to education due to the deteriorating crisis.

It remains uncertain how the government intends to organize the February 9 2020 elections given the high rate of insecurity in the regions. The head of ELECAM on state media insisted that elections will be held in the two turbulent regions.

Separatist fighters have said citizens of what they claim to be their territory – Ambazonia – will not take part in any election organized by people they have qualified as their colonizers – the regime of President Biya.

What about the Special Status?

90 days to the holding of the municipal and legislative elections, it is difficult to predict how credible the voting process will be in the dreaded zones as the death toll augments.

Will a “Special Status” avert the status quo and set the stage for elections in Anglophone Cameroon?

President Paul Biya on Tuesday November 12 revealed that he was working towards the acceleration of a decentralized system of government through the implementation of a special status in the troubled North West and South West regions of Cameroon.

The special status was the brainchild of a four-day-long Major National Dialogue that was held in the country’s capital, Yaounde.

He made the pronouncement during a two-day peace conference convened by French President, Emmanuel Macron in Paris-France.

Anti-Biya critics have chided him for announcing the implementation of the special status in a foreign country, instead of his own country where those affected by the crisis are based.

It is not clear if separatist fighters will accept Biya’s special status offer given that they are longing for a breakaway republic – Ambazonia.

This Young Woman’s Desire to Support Her Community Will Blow Your Mind

This young woman desires to support her community at any cost. She wold not give up despite political tensions in her country putting her at risk.

By Paul Njie and Kesah Princely

When Ngu Justance Falone was 19, her quest to assist humanity heightened. It wasn’t because she wanted the fame that came with owning an NGO, but because deep within her, there was something not going right with the way society treated the less privileged.

What motivates this young woman?

Growing up in Muea, one of the roughest neighborhoods in Buea, South West region of Cameroon, Falone despised the notion that people had about her locality. The area is largely considered an avenue for everything evil —theft, promiscuity, violence, filth, moral decadence and a high propensity of dropping out of school.

Falone’s work serves the vulnerable of her community

Touched by these phenomena in her area, she was poised to change the narrative. And, in 2016, it was just about time she unleashed the bombshell. The then teenage high school student launched the Child Enrichment and Future Leaders’ Association, an NGO aimed at creating awareness on the need to embrace education and lead a decent life. 

As much as things went well with the foundation, there was need to restructure and re-strategize — this prompted a renaming of the organisation to Falone Foundation in early 2019. Since then, Falone Foundation has made huge impacts on the lives of Cameroonians, especially those from the crisis ravaged Anglophone minority regions.

After a conflict broke out in the two Anglophone regions of the bilingual country in 2016 — the same year Falone began her humanitarian work— her zeal towards philanthropy doubled, owing to the devastating consequences of the conflict which turned violent.

The challenges she has faced

But something went wrong along the way. Deep within the ongoing socio-political upheavals, she’s been finding it difficult to organise her routine campaigns to promote education in Buea, where she began before relocating to Douala, a neighbouring Francophone city.

Falone and her team

Threats from Anglophone secessionist fighters who want a breakaway state called Ambazonia, have made it even more difficult for the 22 year-old. The separatists have banned all school related activities, against what they claim is a poor system of education initiated by the Francophone dominated government.

“The Anglophone crisis has affected me a whole lot because, most of the activities I always carry out are in the South West, and that’s Buea. Given the fact that they [separatist fighters] said no schools should operate in the North West and South West regions, I could not donate there,” she said.

According to a recent UNHCR report, over half a million people are internally displaced in Cameroon, owing to the ongoing violence in the English speaking section of the country. The fifteen-member team of the humanitarian NGO has been able to locate and assist a few out of myriad internally displaced persons in Douala.

This young woman would not give up!

Though faced with a plethora of challenges, the dynamic enthusiasts have succeeded to visit and donate didactic material to students, organise clean-up campaigns in different orphanages and streets, as well as hold seminars to empower youth and promote sustainable development in Africa.

Falone Foundation

The Falone Foundation is gearing up for a mega project in Dschang, another Francophone town, in 2020, to provide aid to internally displaced persons despite financial constraints.

“It’s very difficult for me because the number is large and getting donors to sponsor this project is not really easy.”

Amid these challenges, the quality of her deeds to humankind has earned her foundation a nomination at the Returnees Awards 2019.  But, on thing is for sure; win or lose, Falone will always derive pleasure in one thing: reaching out to the vulnerable and knowing that it meant a great deal to them.

Russia-Africa Nuclear Deal: More Harm than Good

18 African countries just signed Nuclear deals with Russia. Hopefully, they did their home work before signing these deals.

By Bovet Maloba

Europe is running away from Nuclear plants, there are hundreds of thousands of antinuclear protesters in France, meanwhile Germany is leading the antinuclear campaign in Europe because of how dangerous this form of energy is. But guess what. While European is making sure to reduce the nuclear matter in their space and soil, Africa seems to be all to willing to bear the weight for Europe.

I don’t see why Africans should embrace it. We have huge waterfalls that can generate electricity or, better still, we can go into solar technology not Nuclear. Corporate and government opinion on nuclear energy have often been skewed towards what I will call the politics of benefitting some parties against others. Najat Mokhtar, deputy director-general and head of the Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) told a discussion panel on nuclear energy at the Sochi economic forum that: “Nuclear technologies are a very important tool in the development and drafting of sustainable development goals.”

African statemen are buying into this rhetoric. Claver Gatete, minister of infrastructure of the Republic of Rwanda, seemed to be corroborating Moktar when he said “We have a dream: we want to become a highly developed country by 2035 and a country with a high standard of living by 2050. Nuclear energy should be the main driver for achieving the goals facing our country.”

The truth, however, is far from what these politicians are saying. let us take a scenario that no one actually prays for as an example. If one nuclear plant has an accident it can cause a terrible disaster to that entire region for hundreds of years. Accidental release of harmful radiation is one of the biggest drawbacks of nuclear energy. Moreover, nuclear energy requires an enormous amount of capital for just a single plant to go operational. Some data show it might cost up to $12 billion to build a modern nuclear plant. 

Furthermore, not only is it outstandingly expensive to build a plant, it is also expensive to run a nuclear plant successfully, as it cannot function without Uranium, a mineral which is in high demand for the creation of nuclear weapons by the most powerful countries on earth. Now if you weren’t thinking about it, Uranium is also extraordinarily costly.

One must note that Africa’s greatest worry in this deal should be how to dispose of or manage nuclear waste? Nuclear waste contains unstable elements and is highly radioactive. It’s very dangerous to our environment, as not even the sea or  oceans can be used to dispose of the waste. The waste also has long term implications that can be very dangerous to human health. It can take hundreds of years for any nuclear matter to be fully absolved of its calamitous properties to humanity and the environment. Cit can cause cancer and other diseases.

If ever Africa should consider this sort of agreements, perhaps, in my opinion, the only thing connected to the word nuclear that some African countries should embrace is nuclear weapons. The world seems to be built on the principle of power being in the hands of those who possess nuclear weapons. Perhaps, in other to be a contender in the international scene, Africa should vie for nuclear weapons. But then, that is another stretch of debate on a whole new level.

Do not forget the Chernobyl and fukushima nuclear disasters that left lastingly devastating effects in their wake. Dangerous nuclear accidents happen very often. Scientists estimate that hundreds of thousands of people were severely affected by Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine and the radiation from it spread throughout Europe. It will cost billions of USD to clean the atmosphere and environment completely after such disasters. Imagine Africans who don’t take anything serious, where will they get the money and technology to manage such a disaster, if that lot ever became theirs? 
The way forward, in my opinion, is for Africa to embrace renewable energy, especially solar technology, which is less expensive and relatively safe for humanity and the environment. Please warn your leaders!