Maurice Kamto

Cameroon: Divided opposition quashes hopes to unseat Biya

Deutsche Welle | On September 22, hundreds of citizens in Cameroon took part in an organized anti-government protest. But the numerous opposition parties are under scrutiny for lacking clear leadership or a strategy.

Cameroon’s opposition parties have much in common with one another. They all agree that the political landscape is in dire need of change following President Paul Biya’salmost 40 years in power. They also wish to see an end to the ongoing Anglophone crisis in the country’s south and are pushing for a free and fair electoral system.

Despite this, however, the parties have consistently failed to present a united front in practice. A planned nationwide protest on September 22 organized by the leader of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) party, Maurice Kamto, failed in its aim to facilitate the resignation or ousting of Biya.

Ako John Ako, the founder of the Cameroon Youth Movement Association (CYMA) says the opposition’s inability to come together is the main reason these demonstrations regularly unravel.

“The call for protest was unilaterally done by head of the MRC party, Maurice Kamto,” Ako told DW. “There should be a pre-consultation of all the opposition forces in Cameroon, before any nationwide protest is called.”

While the MRC branded the parties who did not join the demonstration as “afraid,” the president of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP), Edith Kah Walla, says for her party “and several other organizations, it was a question of timing.”

Bruised, but not beaten

With the much-anticipated September 22 protest having come and gone, many opposition supporters are now feeling the anti-climax.

But the MRC party has taken an optimistic view of the situation, claiming it still succeeded in sending a “strong message” to the government. The party’s secretary general, Christopher Ndong, has decried the heavy-handedness of the Cameroonian military and use of state intimidation to silence protesters.

“Over 300 people have been arrested, two people died in Douala, over a hundred wounded,” Ndong told DW.

While lawyers are beginning to galvanise efforts to ensure those who were arrested are soon released, the MRC says it will not give up its aim to unseat Biya from power and is urging other parties to join them at the forefront.

“Let other parties now come in and take the lead, we are ready to join them too, whenever they are ready,” Ndong added.

History repeats?

On the day of the protest, news quickly spread that Kamto and other MRC party leaders had been placed under house arrest.

The government’s swift attempt to quell the demonstration came as no surprise to many.

“Cameroon has for several decades been led by a repressive regime,” Ako said. “In the 1990s, more than six months of protests led by the opposition had a similar response – and they did not remove Biya from power.”

Observers have begun to question if Kamto has an alternative plan to delegate leadership of the opposition, should history repeat itself. The lack of a strategic, coordinated plan has been highlighted by some as one of the reasons why the wave of protests in the 90s faltered under Biya’s rule.

Ndong disagrees. Instead, he argues that the opposition “didn’t succeed because of the heavy presence of military forces, violating the constitution and rights of Cameroonians to march against Biya. People who are only fighting for change. Deploying soldiers to fight unarmed civilians was an intimidation tactic.”

Protests amid a divided opposition

A total of seven opposition political parties and civil society groups signed and endorsed the call for the latest nationwide protest. But with Kamto under house arrest, there was no obvious candidate to take his place as leader.

The MCR’s Ndong puts the blame on the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC) party and the CPP.

“We took the initiative to bring everyone on board, others are pulling us back,” he said.

Kah Walla agrees that finding a solution to the Anglophone won’t be found in the ballot box, but through peaceful protest. But she believes that taking to the streets without a proper plan will prove futile for the opposition movement.

“We have to establish a clear strategy, we have to establish clear communication,” she explained. “All of this was impossible to do before the 22nd so our movement said, ‘please, go ahead. We will not be a part of it’.”

But opinions are also divided within the MRC party. Key allies including Paul Eric Kingue, Celestin Djamen, Michelle Ndoki – who were jailed alongside Kamto for challenging Biya’s 2018 presidential election victory – have remained curiously silent over the issue.

Kamto remains defiant

Kamto – whose Yaoundé residence is still under military surveillance – has meanwhile taken to Twitter to celebrate the movement’s “victory.”

“The peaceful, patriotic and republican Marches of 22 September 2020 were a resounding success. Warm congratulations to the Cameroonian populations who have gone out in large numbers,” he wrote.

While some observers believe the September 22 protest did manage to debunk myths surrounding the government’s invincibility, possibly emboldening civilians, Biya still remains in power, while the opposition has no apparent strategy going forward.

Ako warns that any protest perceived to be a “one-man-show” cannot succeed.

“If we honestly want change, there should be a better plan,” he explained. “We have a common problem as Cameroonians, whether you are of the ruling CPDM, SDF, or a soldier. We are struggling to get the tyranny out and put our institutions on track.”

This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the protests took place nationwide, and not just in Anglophone regions.

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6 comments

  1. ‘**** FOOD FOR THOUGHT ****

    SC IS SC, LRC IS LRC.

    TWO SEPARATE COUNTRIES WITH TWO DIFFERENT INDEPENDENCE DATES, TWO DIFFERENT BOUNDARIES, TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLES, TWO DIFFERENT COLONIAL MASTERS, TWO DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.

    LRC GOT ITS INDEPENDENCE ON 1ST JANUARY 1960 (ASK THEM WHY THEY HAVE NEVER CELEBRATED THEIR INDEPENDENCE DAY!).
    SC BECAME INDEPENDENT ON 1ST OF OCTOBER 1961. THEY ARREST AND KILL US EACH TIME WE TRY TO CELEBRATE OUR INDEPENDENCE DAY.

    MY QUESTION BEGDING FOR ANSWERS IS:

    HOW CAN ANY PERSON IN HIS RIGHT MIND CLAIM THAT THE COUNTRY IS ” ONE AND INDIVISIBLE”?

    • CONCLUSION

      Only a mad person can claim that:

      SC + LRC = 0 + LRC

      LRC is ruled by the most corrupt, dishonest, faithless, deceitful, arrogant, foolish, stupid, despicable, evil, demonic and insensitive CRIMINALS on planet earth..

      A country ruled by deceit, deception and terror is likened to a house built on sand.
      It is common knowledge and a celebrated fact that a house built on sand cannot stand for long.

      Thank God, Dictator Biya’s UNWINNABLE, UNSTOPPABLE; UNCONTROLLABLE and financially UNSUSTAINABLE war will rescue the Anglophones from that sh*thole VIVRE-ENSEMBLE with LRC.

      GOD IS INDEED GREAT

    • **** BREAKING NEWS ****

      Former US Diplomat tells French Cameroun’s Biya: Step down!

      A former American diplomat Herman Jay Cohen has called on President Biya to step down. Ambassador Cohen made public his position via a tweet message dated 22 September 2020 in which he advised the Cameroonian dictator to emulate the example of his Algerian counterpart, Abdelaziz Bouteflika.

      “Popular anti-government protests have spread from the English-speaking west of #Cameroon to the streets of the capital Yaoundé. President Biya should follow the example set by former President Bouteflika of Algeria and retire with the dignity and esteem of old age,” the former US Under Secretary of State for African Affairs wrote.”

  2. The man who openly declared on television he is a Catholic want to be president kikikik

  3. the majority of patriotic Southern Cameroonians have realise that only guns will give them freedom from the genocide french cameroon regime of fake one cameroon,they will not be able to keep up their war in a couple of months/ years but the Southern Cameroonian resisitance, determination, revenge is the greatest weapon they have acquired since dictataor biya decided not listen to common compalints but to use the might of his terrorists military cracking down on ordinary unarmed civilians in 2016, now that the people have tasted the effectiveness of fighting with arms over 3 years instead of peace plants, the francophone regime will only get weaker,they either sit on the table with separatists to iron out the two different neighbouring countries or continue being defeated

  4. The last straw, breaks the camel`s back. Thank you for coming brothers.
    No turning back at this point.

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