Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cameroon: Opposition party barred from 2011 National Day celebration

May 20 is officially the National Day of the Republic of Cameroon, central Africa. This day is usually marked by nation wide celebrations, including march-pasts by members of the armed forces, civil society, political parties, students and other authorized groups. In the nation's capital, Yaounde, the march-past is usually chaired by the Head of State. This year, an opposition party was barred by the authorities from participating in the National Day march-past in Yaounde.

The Cameroon People's Party (CPP) was barred by the Senior Divisional Officer for Mfoundi Division from participating in yesterday's march-past in the May 20 boulevard in Yaounde. [Source]. According to the chairperson of the National Council of the CPP, the party, as required by law, deposited a written declaration to participate in the march-past with the authorities well ahead of time, but when party supporters show up for the march-past rehearsal on 18 May - two days before the ceremony - they were told they are not authorized to participate in the march-past.

The CPP was reportedly barred from the 39th National Day celebration because the a party declared its intention to participate after the 29 April 2011 deadline. The Chairperson of the CPP refutes this assertion - saying the  declaration was deposited before the deadline. [Source: In French].

The CPP marched in other parts of Cameroon, including Buea and Kumba in the South West region.

However, barring a political party from participating in National Day celebrations in the nation's capital goes contrary to basic principles of democracy and "multipartism." Such a decision by the Senior Divisional Officer of Mfoundi is unnecessary in a democratic society and infringes the right to free assembly and expression - the bedrock of free and democratic states.

Like members of all political parties in Cameroon, militants of the CPP reserve the right to participate in National Day celebrations all over the country without restriction. This right should not be arbitrarily denied.

Cameroon's presidential election is slated later this year in October. The barring of an opposition party from participating in the National Day celebration sends a wrong message and coincides with a recent call for free and fair election in Cameroon from the U.S. Secretary State, Hillary Clinton.

It's worth recalling that the Chairperson of the CPP was a victim of the February brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters in Cameroon's second city.

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