By Hafis Ruelfi*
If political sensitivity were the measuring rod for political uncertainty, then there is plenty of evidence that the political atmosphere in Cameroon is clouded. When the wind of change started in Europe in the 1990s, it swept through Africa with devastating effects, and some dictatorial regime resisted but later on succumbed.
In Cameroon, CPDM militants staged protest marches against multiparty politics. One of the political parties that gave sleepless nights to the Biya regime was the Social Democratic Front-SDF. But, on April 14, 2013, something happened in Cameroon politics that deserves a lot of critical judgment analysis. Ni John Fru Ndi, Bello Bouba Maigari and Adamu Ndam Njoya participated in an election which each recorded a tragic fall. They were crushed and humiliated in the April 14, senatorial elections which in their mind-set, they were sure to win. Knowing fully well that for the past 30 years, the Cameroonian people need political reforms that could usher in transparent, free and fair elections, the Social Democratic Front (sdf) of Ni John Fru Ndi, the National Union for Progress and Democracy (nudp) of Bello Bouba Maigari and CDU of Adamu Ndam Njoya, for personal benefits decided to participate in an election that was rigged in 2007. However, like Ndam Njoya and Bello Bouba, Fru Ndi decided that the SDF should participate.
The SDF party was against participating and asked Fru Ndi to meet Paul Biya and on the contrary Fru Ndi did not meet Biya but rather his envoy (Belinga Eboutou). While SDF militants were waiting on Fru Ndi to announce publicly what he discussed with Belinga Eboutou, Fru Ndi turned his back on the people and announced how he will personally contest by declaring his candidature. SDF militants were angry with Fru Ndi arguing that the SDF ought to have boycotted. Others even observed that Fru Ndi has played into the hands of Biya. The SDF filed candidates even in regions where they had no councilor. The CPDM list in the West and Adamawa were rejected. SDF was left with NUDP in Adamawa and CDU in the West Region. Little did the SDF knew that they were gradually being pushed out of the North West Region.
This, commentators say has come to confirm why for a long time now, some opposition political parties have contributed enormously for the Biya regime (cpdm government) to remain in power, rather than providing convincing reasons why President Biya should not be there when the shopping basket in every home is empty, and people find themselves in abject poverty in a country with too much natural resources. Change according to Bryant H McGill “will never happen when people lack the ability and courage to see themselves for who they are”. In clear terms, Ni John Fru Ndi, Bello Bouba Maigari and Ndam Njoya have been told in clear terms that their era of glory are over and that they have taken too much for the owners not to see and understand the trick. The political stalemate that looms large in Cameroon has been caused by people who talk change, yet they hate to see it happen.
These very politicians have been unable to be part of an opposition coalition. This is true because, the fact that the SDF, NUDP and CDU took part in an election that was rigged long ago is indicative of the fact that they are all there for their personal interest and not for general good. There is no gainsaying that the senatorial elections of April 14, 2013 have made many Cameroonians wondering whether these fellows who have been claiming a lot of political supremacy have anything to offer. The population is disgust and people do not really care about the outcome of the elections. The elections recorded an unprecedented and open absurd rigging. Yet, when the chairman of the People’s Action Party, Hon. Ayah Paul sent warning signals, the political deceits took it for a ride. On the other hand, Kah Walla of CPP also called for a boycott, yet it fell on deaf ears. Today, the very people who struck secret alliance with the Biya regime are shedding crocodile tears. There is no doubt that the present political stalemate in the country has been caused by these three politicians who initially considered themselves as the most indigenous politicians on Cameroon soil yet each has been humiliated.
The epileptic opposition
Ironically, Adamu Ndam Njoya was going in for the senatorial elections forgot that the CDU party had never gone beyond the Noun Division, yet he is the first to call for the annulment of the results in the West Region. Bello Bouba who took the advantage of the absence of the SDF in the 1992 Parliamentary to strike a deal with the Biya regime has been crushed so badly that too in the senatorial that he is threatening to quit government. On the other hand, Ni John Fru Ndi who before had threatened that the SDF will not take part in the elections with the present dispensation swallowed his words when he entered into a secret deal with the Biya regime. That secret deal is what has tied Fru Ndi hands as he is unable to make any public pronouncements ever since the senatorial elections took place. The SDF is actually wallowing in the gutter as he too has been put to shame with 14 seats in the West and Adamawa regions, losing gripe of his stronghold North West to the CPDM. This decision public opinion holds is another political blunder of the SDF given that Ni John Fru Ndi had earlier called on his militants to sharpen their cutlasses for a show-down if senatorial elections were called up. Yet the same Fru Ndi swallowed his words and plunged Cameroonians into another mess. However, commentators still hold forth on Fru Ndi on this pretense of Fru Ndi when after receiving a phone call decided to declare his candidature. The most pathetic thing is that SDF even struck a secret deal with the Biya regime.
Bello Bouba started seeing the end of his alliance with the Biya regime that catapulted him in government at it end when CPDM communication secretary, Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo told CPDM councilors in the West Region to vote SDF senatorial list, saying the instructions were from the head of state and chairman of the CPDM. Since one good turn deserves another, Fru Ndi also took the Cameroonian people aback when he also called on SDF councilors in the Littoral Region to vote CPDM list. Bello Bouba and Ndam Njoya were shocked to see the SDF benefitting from the fruits of the 1991 Tripartite with opposition parties. This is strange, but the truth is that the Biya regime has used opposition parties to consolidate his stay in power against the people’s desire. By participating in the senatorial elections, the SDF, NUDP and CDU betrayed the Cameroonian people.
It should be recalled that after the 1997 Parliamentary elections, Bello Bouba took an oath never to betray the Cameroonian people again. Like his colleague Fru Ndi, Bello Bouba boycotted the Presidential elections of October 11, 1997. While many were looking at Bello Bouba as a patriotic man at that time, in December of the same year, he broke the oath by joining the Biya government. He received the pay back he never expected when Mamadou Mustapha and Issa Tchiroma Bakary, his vice President and Secretary General whom he had left out of power sharing took him unaware by negotiating their entry into government. This was Bello Bouba’s third betrayal on the opposition. It should be noted that in 1992 Presidential elections, Bello Bouba rejected the idea of a unique candidate for the opposition. This was another frustration that kept commentators wondering about his level of patriotism. That was why the SDF cried of “the stolen victory” and again, Bello took Cameroonians unaware by recognizing Biya’s victory. Yet the same Bello Bouba wanted the SDF to walk out of Parliament in 1997 because his party could not obtain a parliamentary group. On the other hand, the relationship between Fru Ndi and Ndam Njoya has not been cordial at all. During the meeting of all opposition parties ahead of the 2004, Presidential elections, Ndam Njoya wanted the SDF to yield to him. That is how he succeeded in cajoling some few Francophone party leaders to endorse him. Fru Ndi out of annoyance stormed out as usual and the poll results were that Fru Ndi obtained 17% while Ndam Njoya got a meager 4%.
Genesis of Multiparty politics
In 1990, multiparty politics was forced into the throat of the Biya regime through creation of a “National Coordination for Multiparty Politics”. It led to the arrest of Albert Mukong, Yondo Black and several others. They were charged with subversion. The trial at the military tribunal in Yaounde in March 1990 witnessed the mobilization of the Cameroon Bar Association that supported both the accused and their claims. And despite denial, Ni John Fru Ndi took the courage to launch the SDF in Bamenda on May 26, 1990 amidst massive deployment of the military. Six innocent Cameroonians were shot to death. Many were arrested and detained nationwide in connect to the wind of change. Yet, Biya desperately accepted to carryout political reforms. On July 4, 1990, President Biya signed series of decrees creating a commission to revise the legislation on civil liberties. In March 1991, Cameroonians started crying for “National Conference” and when the Biya regime resisted, the opposition called for an endless strike that ended up with the famous “ghost town” whereby the economy of the country was paralyzed. In order to calm flaring tempers, President Biya diverted the attention by summoning a Tripartite for October 30, 1991.
Paul Biya succeeded in his game since he later discovered that he had infront of him a group of self-centered individuals claiming to represent the interest of the people. That is how on when SDF boycotted the March 1, 1992 legislative elections, Bello Bouba emerged from the madding crowd to betray the cause. The CPDM, NUDP, MDR, and a faction of UPC took part. CPDM won 88 seats, NUDP 68, MDR 18 and UPC 6 seats. This boycott was one of the biggest blunders of the SDF of Fru Ndi. On April 26, 1992, Biya formed a new government with an alliance with the MDR. Simon Achidi Achu was appointed Prime Minister while Dakole Daisala also picked a ministerial position for trading the opposition. On 11 October of that year, Presidential elections took place. Paul Biya was re-elected with 39.9% against 35.9 for Fru Ndi and 19.24% for Bello Bouaba. The CPDM was accused of rigging and of the “stolen victory”. The opposition cried fault and the validity of the polls were doubted by the National Democratic Institute. Rioting generated and a state of emergency was declared in Bamenda. Many were arrested while Fru Ndi was placed under house arrest. At that hope moment, Biya seek solace by negotiating an alliance with the UPC and the dissidents of NUDP. And again Biya outsmarted the opposition parties by absorbing some NUDP diehards into his government as well as UPC. Yet the opposition has learned nothing from the fact that they all contribute to the political stalemate in the country.
Cameroonians are aware that it is difficult to create drinking bar than to create a political party. There are more than 360 political parties in the country. Yet, majorities are satellite political parties without any following and not to talk of an agenda. In order to redynamise political grouping, government should streamline these mushroom parties. Their non-existence will bridge the gap of belly-type of politics. It is for this reason that these political parties whose geopolitical scoop ends at village level, others at Divisional levels and only a few have national connotations.
There is also an urgent need for new political reforms. These reforms include the introduction of one ballot system in voting exercises. This would give ELECAM whose impartiality is still doubted room to be given the benefit of doubts. However, the most important one is that there is absolutely no political calendar. It is the head of state who decides when to call for elections. This is the case of the legislative and municipal elections. Actually, Cameroon current parliamentarians have been enjoying the exercise of parliamentary powers since their mandate expired. The mandate of councilors and Members of Parliament expired and they were extended, while the extended mandate will elapse by 22 of May, 2013, the councilors are still enjoying bonus time, MPs on the other hand are still looking at President Biya to prolong their mandate maybe by two months. If Cameroon had a political calendar like in other countries, such a situation would be avoided. With all these lapses, a political stalemate looms large.
*Hafis Ruefli, is President of the Cameroon Citizenship Council– CCC