A Special Report by Harry Yemti in Buea
Cameroonians yesterday 22nd July, went to the to elect members of parliament and municipal councilors. The elections were predictably marred by violence and massive rigging besides the fact that many Cameroonians boycotted the elections for various reasons. At least one militant from the ruling CPDM party, suspecting of abetting rigging was killed and several others were reportedly injured, following bloody inter-party clashes and mob action. Some observers have already qualified the elections as the worst organized since the return of multiparty politics in 1990 and the “most massively rigged”.
“I have seen badly organized elections, but I have never seen the scale of rigging I saw today”, said Eteki Njoh, municipal list leader for Buea Urban constituency, under the ticket of the opposition Alliance of Progressive forces Party (APF). In Garoua, the capital of North Province, a CPDM official who stood by paying electorate who voted for his party was lynched while another sustained severe knife injuries.
Similar situations were registered around the country. In Buea, the Provincial capital of south west province, a clash between APF militants and the CPDM at the Government Primary School Buea Town, group 1, left one Mrs. Bongwa Antonia in a critical condition. She was rushed to the Buea General Hospital and was reportedly responding to treatment.
Other minor clashes were reported across the country especially in the North West Province (Stronghold of Cameroon’s frontline opposition the SDF). In Santa, still in the Northwest province, ambulant voters who on the eve of elections had clashed with SDF supporters reportedly voted as many times as they wanted, even without their national Identity cards. All under the watchful eyes and protection of armed security forces. Fru Ndi, national chairman of the SDF, reportedly stepped in to save the life of a CPDM card carrying official.
In Jakiri, another town in the Northwest Province, former Transport Minister Nsahlai Christopher, who had earlier declared that victory for the CPDM was a matter of life and death, reportedly chased officials of The National Election Observatory (NEO) as well as those of the Social Democratic Front (SDF) from his Mantung residential quarter. Still in Jakiri, and with the help of the presence of intimidating armed military officers, pro-CPDM voters were allowed to vote without identification papers or without names on the electoral register as stipulated by the law. Jakiri veterinary students, with as many as ten voting cards, were also allowed to cast their votes in several polling stations.
Similarly, students of the local Government Training College (CEFAM), Buea voted as many times as possible after the electoral registers have been closed. In Lysoka on the outskirts of Buea, opposition militants stormed and disrupted a polling station over allegations that the ballot box had been stuffed and that their representatives were not allowed into the polling station. In many parts of Buea, CPDM militants used voting cards (alleged to have been stolen from the Divisional Officer’s Office and considered by many as fake to cast their vote). Eight CPDM militants in the town of Kumba were reportedly caught with over 800 and arrested. Six others were also arrested in Yaoundé and Wum in the North West Province for attempting to vote more than once.
In Douala-the economic capital, SDF officials who complained like elsewhere in the country that the indelible ink was everything but indelible bought pens and used the ink in place of the bad voting ink. The general complaint was that the ink was oily and watery. “Look at my hands, there is no evidence that I have voted. So I can still go elsewhere and vote”, said Lyonga James.
Low voter turn-out was quite visible in many parts of the country with less than nine people voting in some polling stations that had more than 500 registered voters. At the driving school polling station in Buea, for example, less than half of 154 people who registered actually voted. The same story with a polling station at Bonalyonga where only 83 people out of 200 voted. And the same situation was reported in major cities around the country.
Multiple voting without ID cards was equally quite visible in the nation’s Capital where teenagers without ID cards and whose names did not even feature on the electoral registers were allowed to vote as many times as they wanted while NEO officials looked away. In Donga Mantung, a military truck transporting gendarmes to Misaje to protect CPDM election riggers did not reach its destination as it fell into a valley, killing one on the spot. Several others who sustained severe injuries were rushed to the Nkambe district Hospital.
President Biya again violated campaign rules when he continued the campaigning for the ruling CPDM on election day. Immediately after casting his vote in Yaounde, the president said he needed more votes to press ahead with reforms of building and modernizing Cameroon. The president’s statement was followed by a tour of the city in what was widely seen as a move to shore up uncertain CPDM votes. It should be noted here that officially, campaigns and other political propaganda ended mid-night Saturday.
It is widely believed by many Cameroonians that Biya is targeting at least 160 seats in parliament to enable him alter the constitution to give him a third term.