Just Elections are Vital to Peace: the Cameroon Case
After 36 years as a ruling president, Paul Biya has been reelected as the new President of Cameroon. On Monday, 22 October, it was reported that he garnered 71,28 percent of the votes, a stunning 55 percent gap separated the new President and all other candidates.
Election Results Bring Country-Wide Frustration
Oppositional candidates, claiming fraud and low turnout in the Anglophone regions, called for the election to be partially or fully cancelled. However, the constitutional council has rejected all petitions handed in causing tensions to intensify all over the country. The frustration of the Cameroonian people was apparent as protests took place in Cameroon but also in other countries, such as the United States, Germany and Canada.
Adding fuel to fire, the government has refused to allow peaceful demonstrations. Police officers have been placed on the streets in all cities of Cameroon, in order to stop any form of protests. During the last days, several opposition candidates and opinion leaders have been placed under house-arrest, preventing them from leading or support planned protests. In addition, journalists with the mission to cover protests have been arrested and the internet has been slowed down, making it difficult to use social media, such as Facebook and WhatsApp.
Volunteers from the “Cameroon women for Peaceful Elections” platform, coordinated by WILPF Cameroon have, through the Women Situation Room (WSR) call centre and election observation, witnessed and received first-hand information confirming widespread fraud and corruption. Additionally, the volunteers reported very limited access to polling stations in the two English speaking regions of the country, violating domestic and international law. A high degree of violence and intimidation have been reported on, including killings in the English speaking regions. Due to the security risk in the English speaking regions only high officials were able to vote as they were under the protection of high-level security guards. Despite this, the government claims that the voting turnout was high in these regions.
On Election Day, each polling station put together minutes which were reported to the Election Commission, ELECAM. However, incident reports received by WILPF Cameroon through the WSR call centre state that the minutes had been tampered with by the electoral body. ELECAM later published minutes that were widely different from those handed in by the polling stations. Though intended to be an independent and neutral body, ELECAM is appointed by the government, and as result it has strong liaisons with the ruling party.
Stop Undemocratic Election Processes
The platform “Cameroon women for Peaceful Elections” condemns the election process that has been undemocratic and has violated the constitution and other domestic and international regulations. This situation is jeopardising current peacebuilding efforts and is likely to plunge the country into a cycle of violence. The world needs to turn the spotlight to Cameroon and recognise the grave misconduct and abuse by the governing party. Cameroon has been in a fragile state for a long time and the need for conflict prevention measures to be established is vital. The platform “Cameroon women for Peaceful Elections” urges the international community to shine a light on the undemocratic process and encourage just elections as vital to peace.