Cameroon counts votes after 'hitch-free' presidential poll

Monday October 8 2018

Workers scrub the red carpet ahead of the

Workers scrub the red carpet ahead of the arrival of Cameroon's incumbent President Paul Biya and his wife Chantal at a polling station to vote in the Bastos neighbourhood of Yaoundé, on October 7, 2018. The final poll results are expected within 15 days. PHOTO | AFP 

NDI EUGENE NDI
By NDI EUGENE NDI
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Vote counting continued on Monday following a Sunday presidential election authorities said went on hitch-free in Cameroon and in the diaspora.

The election took place against a backdrop of threats from anglophone separatists who have been clamouring for secession and the creation of the Republic of Ambazonia. They had warned that they would not allow any election organised by the Yaoundé regime to take place in “their country”.

The Director-General of the Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), Dr Erik Essousse, told a press conference at the close of the polls in Yaoundé late on Sunday that polling stations opened and closed in accordance with the law, except for a few following a security plan established in the crisis-hit Northwest and Southwest regions.

“Voting operations as a whole were conducted hitch-free within the country and in the diaspora,” Dr Essousse said.

The diaspora

He said 6,619,548 voters were dully enrolled in the country and in the diaspora, but did not give the tally of those who actually voted.

The voters were choosing from eight candidates; among them incumbent President Paul Biya who has ruled the Central African state since 1982 and was running on the ticket of the ruling party — Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM).

The Constitutional Council, an organ that watches over the regularity of presidential and parliamentary elections, will proclaim the results within a period not exceeding 15 days from the close of the polls, according the electoral code.

“Given that our electoral system does not allow for the publication of trends about the results, I therefore urge all stakeholders of the process to exercise the greatest restraint right up to the proclamation of the final results,” the director-general appealed.

Further discrimination

In a joint press conference ahead of the polls, Communication minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary and his Territorial Administration counterpart Paul Atanga Nji said the government had reliable information that some political actors associated with foreign interests had set up groups of agitators to plan violent unrest, in case the results of the election did not favour them.

“The government has taken all appropriate measures to prevent any act that may lead to [post-election] violence and create a climate of disorder in every single part of the national territory,” the Communication minister and government spokesperson said.

An almost two-year long violence has gripped the English-speaking Cameroon regions. It started as an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers, but escalated into an internal armed conflict with fears the Central African country could slide into a civil war.

Violence and unrest escalated in late 2016 after a series of strikes and protests against what teachers, lawyers and students viewed as further discrimination against Anglophones. Between September 22 and October 1, 2017, large-scale protests were organised across the Anglophone regions to symbolically proclaim the independence of a new state of Ambazonia, but the government responded with violent repression.

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