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2018 Presidential Elections: Support For Biya’s Candidature Further Splits UPC 

By Joe DingaPefok

Beleguel Nkot, UPC SG

The President and Secretary General of the legalised faction of the UPC have, since last week, bitterly disagreed over whether the party should support the candidature of President Paul Biya, or have its own candidate for the 2018 Presidential election.

The Secretary General of the UPC, Pierre Beleguel Nkot last week, sparked the open conflict with the President, HabibaIssa, when he publicly declared that the UPC will not send in a candidate for the 2018 Presidential election and that the party will instead support the candidature of President Biya.

The next day, the National President of this faction of the UPC, which used to be commonly known as Kodock’s faction, and now officially known as “President de Comité de Directeurs,” went public with a declaration that contradicted that of the Secretary General, by stating that party will have its own flag-bearer at the 2018 Presidential.

These contradictory public declarations created both confusion and tension in the party throughout the week. By the close of the week, a former President of the UPC, Victor Onana, who is a member of the current ‘Comité de Directeurs’, disclosed that the committee will have to meet on a date yet to be fixed, to resolve the conflict between the President and the Secretary General. He said the committee will, as well, have to take a definite decision on the 2018 Presidential election.

According to the former President, the committee has not yet taken a definite position on the issue of whether the party should support the candidature of President Biya or put up its own candidate at the elections. This also raised questions about the contradictory declarations when the party had not yet adopted a definite position.

The former President asserted that the Secretary General of the party does not have the authority to make the declaration he made last week. Onana explained that when the ‘Comité de Directeurs’ of UPC adopts an important decision which the public needs to know, or whenever there is an important announcement to be made by the party, it is the President and not the Secretary General to make it public.

Legalised Faction Also In Factions

There are over 10 UPC factions in the country and that even the legalised faction is itself today in two factions. One of the factions has as President of the ‘Comité de Directeurs’, HabibaIssa, and as the Secretary General Pierre BelenguelNkot. The other faction of the legalised faction has as President of the ‘Comité de Directeurs’, Baba Garba, while the Secretary General is Hon Robert BapoohLipot.

It is not clear as to which of the two factions the Biya regime will choose to recognise when elections come. For now, administrative authorities have allowed the two factions to operate unperturbed. Both have all held their different congresses, and each claims to be the legalised UPC.

Meanwhile, political observers hold that it is part of the strategy of the Biya regime to keep all the different factions of the UPC, and even the legalised faction, divided and thus weak; just like in the late 1990s when Kodock started considering himself as the only UPC leader with whom the regime could negotiate any deal. Then, Prof Henri HogbeNlend, apparently with the complicity of the Biya regime, moved into the country from France and caused a split of the legalised faction of the UPC. The then Minister of Territorial Administration, André Tsoungui, amplified the scandal when he recognised the two factions of the UPC faction as UPC ‘K’ (Kodock) and UPC ‘N’ (Nlend).

Kodock turned to Biya to cry for help to crush the HogbeNlend faction, but before he realised what was happening, HogbeNlend was appointed into Government while Kodock was kept out. After a few years, HogbeNlend was dropped and Kodock returned to Government and, of course, became very submissive to Biya.

The Hunt For Ministerial Posts

Political observers hold that the one major issue that regularly creates lots of friction in the leadership of that legalised UPC faction since the passing of Kodock a couple of years ago, is the relentless hunt for ministerial posts by the different personalities. The legalised faction of the UPC formally entered into an alliance with the Biya Government after the 1992 Parliamentary elections. Kodock entered the Biya Government twice. He was last dropped from Government in the cabinet reshuffle of September 7, 2007.

Since then, Biya has not appointed any UPC person into Government, despite the fact that the alliance between the legalised UPC and the Government remains. Some officials of the faction are asking whether it makes sense for the party to continue the alliance with the Biya regime when the party has been out of Government for close to 11 years. However, the recent appointment of a Senator from the UPC seems to be regenerating much hope that President Biya has not forgotten the UPC.

The declaration last week, by the SG of one of the ‘sub factions’ of the legalised UPC, BelenguelNkot, that the party will support Biya’s candidature, is seen by many political observers as a strategy by him to take credit for it and likely project him for appointment into the Government, if Biya is re-elected.

Meantime, the Secretary General of the other faction of the legalised UPC, Hon BapoohLipot, has made a controversial pronouncement, accusing three Presidential candidates of the opposition, Joshua Osih, Maurice Kamto and AkereMuna, of allegedly betraying the country in their discussions with foreign diplomats and other officials. Political observers think this is just part of the desperate strategy being mounted by BapoohLipot to draw the Biya’s regime attention towards him, for possible appointment into Government.