|President Paul Biya.|
In April 2008, after 26 years in power, his government modified the Constitution by suppressing the two-term mandate limit for the office of the president, which means he can run for president until nature calls.
In 2006, Mr. Biya's government was applauded for creating an independent body - Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), to manage elections in the country. This move was welcomed with the believe that it would put an end to phony elections that have dogged Mr. Biya's regime for many years. As a matter of fact, the transfer of elections management from the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization (MINATD) to ELECAM was a major step towards democratization.
Today, the situation in Cameroon is not looking good. Hopes of free and fair elections in 2011 have been shattered. In 2009, authorities appointed the 12 board members of ELECAM. To the disappointment of many Cameroonians, 11 of the board members are members of the Central Committee and Political Bureau of the ruling party - Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM). In other words, elections management was transferred from MINATD to the ruling party.
Is it possible to be both player and referee?
Note that the law creating the ELECAM clearly states that board members "shall be designated from the midst of independent personalities of Cameroonian nationality, reputed with their stature, moral uprightness, intellectual honesty, patriotism, neutrality and impartiality."
The appointment of members of the Political Bureau and Central Committee to the board of ELECAM has been criticized both in Cameroon and abroad. The head of the European Commission Delegation in Yaounde, Xavier Puyol, expressly condemned the move. Puyol said he understands Cameroonians' frustration with the electoral system and called on the authorities to do something to regain the peoples' confidence. He noted that if something is not done, fewer people would register to vote in 2011. In his own words, "it's sad that Cameroon which has a population of close to 20 million inhabitants has never succeeded to register up to 5 million on the voter list. This could be worst in the 2011 election and that is not good for the country."
Of course, as a Cameroonian, I'm worried about voter registration, and I'm determined to register and vote in 2011. However, my major worry is what would happen after the elections. I vividly remember the events that followed the controversial 1992 elections. Trust in the electoral system was down to zero, the ruling party emerged victorious, animosity flared and things went out of control. The human and material damage that ensued the violence was colossal.
With the 2011 presidential election around the corner, one question lingers in my mind - will history repeat itself?