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Analysis: ELECAM – The Veritable Baptism Of Fire 

By Peterkins Manyong

The pride of the average woman is to have a baby. The African tradition, especially, perceives this element of childbearing as the very essence of marriage. But no sane person or society celebrates the birth of a monster. All the stories we have heard or read about Siamese twins, babies born with human heads and the bodies of animals, have this simple message: a deformed baby is a killjoy baby.

That was the feeling of most Cameroonians and friends of Cameroon when ELECAM was created. Its predominantly CPDM composition was its deformity. The resignation from the ruling party of its board members, beginning from its Chairman, Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, did little to assuage the feelings of most Cameroonians .

To them the resignations were a smokescreen, a ploy to hoodwink its critics. Some newspapers went further than criticise ELECAM. They published newspaper articles to the effect that Fonkam was involved in a visa fraud while he was Assistant Secretary General at the National Assembly. Fonkam initiated legal action against one of the offending newspapers.

But he had the misfortune to see one of these papers collapse without retracting its calumnious publication. He saw no logic pursuing a corpse into the graveyard. The stigma from the ELECAM Chair’s name was removed only recently when out gone US Ambassador, Janet Garvey, through an interview in a well known French Language daily, said Fonkam was not involved in the alleged fraud.

But even before Garvey’s interview, the effective strangulation of ELECAM had started, not undertaken by the opposition, but surprisingly from Biya himself who brought back the discredited MINATD to take part in electoral matters. It began with what can be described in the language of karate as "an upper cut". It denied ELECAM the necessary funding. The gravity of this ironic twist in the history of ELECAM is demonstrated by the letter of complaint to the Commonwealth written by Fonkam himself.

The ELECAM Board Chair reportedly lodged the complaint with William Shija, Secretary General of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, CPA during the latter’s visit to Yaounde. Shija confirmed that he had received such a complaint during a press conference in Yaounde. He disclosed that the Prime Minister had assured him funds would be made available to ELECAM and wished this could be done early enough to enable ELECAM do its work effectively.

What Shija didn’t know or preferred for diplomatic purposes to be unaware of is that the Regime dreads any electoral outfit that would not be dependent on it for its survival. It is not as if Biya, a constitutional expert, doesn’t know that for ELECAM to function it must first have funds and that such funds should be voted by parliament.

Biya knows that most wars are triggered by poorly managed elections; the June 14 report by the International Crisis Group, ICG, emphasised the fact, but since he has always managed to get away with electoral fraud, the ICG report is to him just another piece of hogwash which he is confident will produce no effect. Dictators have an infinite capacity to believe everything good about themselves, including the capacity to believe the lies they themselves tell.

Biya created NEO and happily killed it after it had demonstrated the effrontery to say the electoral process during its eight years of existence, was flawed. Today he is not taking chances with ELECAM. An election outfit is either with him or against him. If Marafa, one of the Regime’s pillars, could lash out so viciously NEO that was not independent, it is no surprise that it should cavil at the very idea of making ELECAM autonomous financially.

Early signs of trouble for ELECAM came with complaints from Gregoire Owona that the outfit was refusing to receive local CPDM officials. Of course, ELECAM’s critics saw in the complaint a stratagem to hoodwink the world into seeing it as neutral. Those who look beyond this thinking would admit that every sane individual loves integrity and would not want anything that could compromise it.

ELECAM’s hierarchy is no exception. ELECAM is, therefore, fighting a battle on two fronts: one with a public that wants it to prove its neutrality and its creator which doesn’t. The SDF, ELECAM’s most ardent critic, is not impressed with anything said about ELECAM and has vowed that elections cannot take place in Cameroon with ELECAM in its present state. The party does not say it is boycotting. Rationally interpreted, this means the SDF will physically prevent elections from holding.

The party issued a similar threat ahead of the 1997 Presidential Election and changed its mind on the eve of polling. And the SDF was a more formidable force then. Will it be able to implement its threat this time with voter apathy so high? If people are not interested in voting, they are unlikely to be ready to take a risk to prevent it, with the inevitable consequence of a confrontation with CPDM militants and security officials.

If ELECAM wants Cameroonians to take it serious, it should not stop at complaining to the Commonwealth or to any other body. It should convince Cameroonians that it can ensure transparent elections. Walters Mudoh, Coordinator of the Alliance of Progressive Forces in Batibo, quoting party Chairman, Ben Muna, told this analyst that his party was determined to register and take part in any future election. The reason, he said, is to prove to the world that Biya of 2010 is the same Biya who began election rigging in 1992.

Some SDF officials have, however, resolved that they are prepared to take part in registration on certain conditions. Henry Kum, Northwest SDF Chairman, gave three conditions. First, a bio-data system must be established, just as with the production of identity cards, to prevent the same individual from voting twice. Secondly, ELECAM must start registering voters afresh, not simply revise old registers with the names of dead people in them.

Lastly, all ELECAM Council heads should be equipped with computers and generators to ensure that the registration process is not interrupted. As indication of his party’s seriousness, Kum said ELECAM council heads who were SDF militants had started resigning. But Emmanuel Formou-kum Ning, Northwest ELECAM Chair, has refuted the allegation.

The latest source of headache for ELECAM is its Director General, Mohaman Sani Tanimou, who is reported to be acting in defiance of the outfit’s Board of Directors. The Post learnt that the Board was meeting by press time to examine this conduct as well as discuss other pressing matters.

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