Today, Sunday, March 12, 2023, municipal and regional counselors will head to the polls in a process aimed at electing members of the Senate. While there are many questions about the democratic nature of the process, the issue for many today is that the elections seem to be a one-horse race, especially in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
The claim is that the election will hold in all 10 regions of the country including the troubled English-speaking North West and South west regions, but the evidence before any unbiased observer will confirm that this is not a democratic process, but rather one in which the CPDM is confirmed as the only party in Cameroon.
The armed separatist conflict in the two Anglophone regions has eroded any semblance of competition in the electoral process, giving the ruling party a free ride to victory.
Many people are of the view that the greatest problem facing the two regions is the peaceful end to the more than five-year armed conflict and a return to normal life.
Gunfire, kidnappings for ransom, disappearances by force, killings, destruction, and many other bad things are still rampant, but none of these issues are a priority for those seeking to represent their communities.
Atrocities are still being done to civilians by government soldiers and armed Ambazonia separatist fighters. Nearly every week, people are killed extrajudicially.
In all this, the two political parties competing in the Anglophone regions seem not to border much about the deteriorating situation as little or nothing is mentioned about it
In the North West region, where the SDF and the CPDM are expected to lock horns, their campaign messages are party-centered with little attention paid to the interests of the masses.
At their campaign launch on March 2, 2023, in Bamenda, the opposition SDF candidates said they would work for more decentralized funds for councils, allowances for councilors, more autonomy for the region within the “Special Status” framework, and a way for real dialogue to end the six-year-old armed conflict in the Northwest and Southwest regions. However, anyone following the conflict over the years knows that these have little or no bearing on the legitimate aspirations of the people.
The ruling CPDM is much concerned about grabbing seats at all costs. Throughout the campaign period, top CPDM bigwigs have been reminding counselors to put the party first.
“Give back to the party what the party gave you in 2020,” Former Prime Minister Philemon Yang, who is CPDM North West leader, told councilors during a meeting at the Ayaba hotel.
To the CPDM, it is not about the people but party discipline.
In the South West region, where the CPDM will run unopposed, counselors are being asked to vote for the CPDM, but no clear manifesto has been presented. The fact that the CPDM has no challengers further confirms that it is the only party allowed in the conflict areas.
Throughout the campaigns, the CPDM has had smooth sailing as they comfortably control almost all the municipal and regional councils in these regions.
The SDF, on the other hand, has been crying foul on the grounds that they do not have access to CPDM councilors, who are also supposed to listen to their campaign messages since they constitute the electoral college. This has further given credence to the views that the elections are merely a charade to confirm the CPDM as the only party in Cameroon.
Reports say the councilors have been caged to avoid accessibility for the opposition candidates.
It should be noted that the SDF controls only one council, Bamenda III, in the Anglophone regions.
Tensions are rising because separatist fighters have vowed to stop the exercise from happening in all of the divisional headquarters in the region, but from experience, this only ends up disrupting life for ordinary people who have no hand in the elections.
Since Tuesday, March 7, separatist fighters had already blocked some roads leading to divisional headquarters, including the Bamenda-Mbengwi road.
Major streets in Bamenda are littered with armed to the teeth government soldiers ready for any eventuality.
At the end of this charade, the people would have no say in who represents them, as anyone representing the ruling CPDM party, automatically becomes a senator in most areas.
By David Atangana