Biya wins seventh term as president of Cameroon

Leader extends 36-year rule after vote marred by violence, boycotts and unrest

 Cameroonian president Paul Biya and his wife, Chantal Biya, listen to speeches in honour of his reign during a September election rally at the Maroua Stadium, in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Photograph: Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images

Cameroonian president Paul Biya and his wife, Chantal Biya, listen to speeches in honour of his reign during a September election rally at the Maroua Stadium, in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Photograph: Alexis Huguet/AFP/Getty Images

 

President Paul Biya has been declared the winner of Cameroon’s disputed elections two weeks after a vote marred by violence, boycotts and unrest, extending his 36-year rule over the central African nation.

Mr Biya won a landslide 71 per cent of the vote, the constitutional council for the majority French-speaking country said on Monday, in a poll marred by a violent separatist crisis in Cameroon’s western anglophone region that disrupted voting for roughly a fifth of its 24m citizens.

The declaration of victory came days after Cameroon’s constitutional council, widely viewed as being under Mr Biya’s control, dismissed 18 petitions calling for a rerun of the election. Maurice Kamto, a former minister in Mr Biya’s government, also claimed victory following the October 7th presidential vote. His home was reportedly surrounded by troops on Monday.

The ruling party and the council have defended the election process but many in Cameroon and in the international community view the vote as neither free nor fair.

Critics charge that Mr Biya, who will begin his seventh term as president, allows the façade of multi-party democracy in order to gain cover for his authoritarian rule, while cracking down on opposition leaders who could pose challenges to its authority.

On Sunday, the home of Kah Walla, an opposition politician who has run for president in the past, was surrounded by the security forces, she said, while internet service was reportedly disrupted in parts of the country, including the biggest city, Douala.

House arrest

Ms Walla said the security forces – who were not aggressive – seemed to have been sent “to stop me from leaving the house”, though neither she nor her political group had announced plans to attend protests against the regime.

There were reports of other opposition figures being detained or put under de facto house arrest, while a number of journalists, including one for Reuters, were also detained. On Monday, troops were deployed in major cities and opposition rallies were banned, according to Associated Press.

“The population is extremely unhappy, people are scandalised,” Ms Walla said by telephone. “I think we’re entering a state where clearly the people are against the current regime and ... we’re definitely going to ... organise and protest and do what is necessary to bring an end to this regime.”

The election took place during an armed rebellion– sparked by a government crackdown on peaceful anglophone protests in 2016 – that represents the greatest threat to Mr Biya’s rule since he took power in 1982. Hundreds of thousands of people have since fled violence from soldiers and militants, which has left hundreds dead and threatens to devolve into a fully fledged civil war.

According to official results, turnout in the anglophone north-west region was just over 5 per cent, with Mr Biya receiving more than 80 per cent of the vote. By comparison, in Mr Biya’s home region in the south, nearly three-quarters of voters turned out. He won 93 per cent of them.– Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2018