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Leader of Church in Cameroon calls on president not to seek re-election

Crux | YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon – Archbishop Samuel Kleda, the president of the bishops’ conference in Cameroon, says President Paul Biya should step down.

Kleda, who serves as the Archbishop of Douala, made his remarks as officials of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, CPDM, called on Biya to once more run for re-election in 2018, extending his 35-year rule.

Samuel Kleda
In a wide-ranging interview with Cameroon’s French-language newspaper, La Nouvelle Expression, the archbishop said if the president “loves his country,” he will step away from office.

He said it would be better for Biya to think about a peaceful transition of power, “by giving power to someone else-either to a member of his political party, the CPDM or a member of the opposition.”

Kleda said those calling on the 84-year-old president to once more run for office are doing so only “to protect their personal interests and privileges…those people don’t love this country.”

Kleda is not the only Catholic prelate to call on the 85-year old president to resign. In 2012, the Emeritus Archbishop of Douala, Cardinal Christian Tumi, said it was necessary for Biya to step aside.

The cardinal said after 30 years in power and given the age of the president, it would be hard to see anything new he can bring.

“I would love to see a change. Change is always good,” Tumi told The Postnewspaper.

“I don’t see any change happening in Cameroon by 2035, the year the government claims will see the country transformed into an emerging economy,” he said.

Tumi explained that he wasn’t against the candidacy of Biya, but that at his age, regardless of endurance and physical strength, the president “can no longer run such a young and complex country.”

Both archbishops have also called for presidential term limits.

But supporters of the Biya regime have questioned the position of the churchmen, saying that it would be undemocratic to limit the terms of office of a president.

“If the people ask the president to continue the good work he has been doing, then it would be a violation of the people’s will if term limits are placed on presidential mandates,” said Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, a member of the Central Committee of the ruling CPDM.

In 2008, the Cameroon Parliament scrapped term limits to allow Biya to once more run for office in the 2011 elections. It was a widely unpopular reform that led to widespread unrest in the West African country, which left dozens of people dead.

Cameroonian writer Dibussi Tande – now based in the United States – described the development on his blog as being “tailored to suit the political whims and caprices of a single individual and his surrogates – a definite recipe for acrimony, chaos and disaster down the road.”

A flashback to Biya’s 35-Year rule…so far.

Biya came to power on November 6, 1982, after the country’s first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo stepped down after 22 years, citing his failing health.

Biya came to office announcing a new era that would be based on the principles of what he called a New Deal, based on rigor and moralization, as well as democratization.

For the first time since independence, Cameroonians dreamed of a country where corruption would become a thing of the past, and where the people would be free to choose their leaders.

But barely four years after taking power, Biya declared an economic crisis: For over three decades since, the country has reeled under the weight of rising unemployment, excruciating poverty, and a general sense that many people weren’t living out their dreams.

The much-promised rigor and moralization turned out to be a farce. In two consecutive years – 1998 and 1999 – Transparency International named Cameroon the most corrupt country on earth.

On the political front, Biya had said he wanted to be remembered for bringing democracy to Cameroon, but it took the deaths of six people in the country’s North West Region in 1990 to force the president to end the one-party rule in 1990, when the opposition Social Democratic Front was launched.

He went forward to win the first multi-party presidential election in the country by only 39 percent, although various observers declared that the opposition candidate, John Fru Ndi, actually won the vote.

“I have never seen any transparent election in Cameroon,” said Tumi.

Yet, the president’s men have pointed to the existence of about 200 political parties and a wide range of media organs as sure signs of the vibrancy of the country’s democracy.

The president has often touted peace in the country as his greatest achievement, but this, too, rings hollow.

The country has suffered political violence during elections, and the Nigerian-based Boko Haram has conducted numerous attacks in Cameroon as well.

Since last year, the Anglophone crisis – involving the aspirations of the 20 percent of the population that speaks English – has threatened to tear the country apart.

In July, the Catholic bishops called for prayers across the nation to achieve piece in the country.

“We want to entrust Cameroon as well as all other countries at war to the hands of God,” Kleda said.

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  1. the man is a time bomb waiting to explode, he has driven out young Cameroonians of entrepreneurs, achievers and people with aspirations. the dictatorship butcher has regressed the country, encourage army, police brutality towards civilian, he treats all Cameroonians as though he owns them, ghere is no Law on human freedom,99% of Cameroonians are unpatriotic, the entire regions is a shameful dirty slum of no visible 56 years developed,elites are uncaring, selfish minority of primitive embezzling men and women who only think of stealing with no positive agenda for their country and citizens,people are scared to speak out as the regime bribes spies to censor good thinkers, stinking country of voiceless people

  2. The writer of this article did a great job. A good summary of Mr. Biya’s ‘greatest achievements’ as Cameroon’s president. What a shame when we all celebrated his coming to power in 1982 and today, we wish that day never ever existed

  3. If the church loved the country it could redistribute most of its unused land to the local population all the way along to organising the burocracy and presenting the title deeds to each individual .That would be change aswell .
    Exactly how much land has the church accumilated in the time period he is talking about and what do would be inheritors of that land that was given to the church think about that.

  4. Small parcels in different areas to each person so food for the family will always arrive at the table.The church has made enough money ,untaxed out of Cameroon, they can at least , give something back.

    • Small mind. Why not stay quiet, considering that one will fault you on that?

      The church has spoken. Let the people say Amen.

  5. #1 “I want to be remembered as the person who brought multiparty democracy to Cameroon” said the brand new president.

    A few years down the road, the SDF party was launched with six innocent persons murdered by forces opposed to the president’s project on multiparty politics.

    Did the president distance himself from the scheme of the murderers to undermine him? If not, why?

  6. Korup Forest

    He is right but religion and politics should always be separated. Religion should have zero power.

    • Aterh carine

      You are right but remember God can use anyone to speak on behalf of his people inrespective of religion or political member of the society. Once you are a citizen of the country you are free to speak up your mind. But in Cameroon the reverse is true you can speak freely about the things going on in your country else you will be put in prison without a faults so let’s ride up for a change please. Thanks God us all and our nation for a better tomorrow.

  7. we don’t want him,he should go,he is the one that i causes all these problems in Cameroon,for more than 30 years,he has not do anything good,only bring problems in the Cameroon.
    it’s time,we the young of this beautiful country stall up and said no to him,because the future of this country depend on us.