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SDF May 20 Boycott: Treachery Or Patriotism? 

By Peterkins Manyong

Last Wednesday, May 20, SDF militants in their vast majority stayed away from national day celebrations. Given that the boycott was in protest against the stalled democratic process in Cameroon, no act could be more patriotic and commendable. The angry outbursts of some New Deal surrogates against the SDF, for its act, only confirm its appropriateness.

Francis Bochong Nkwain. Nkwain, former minister and Boyo CPDM guru, for instance, could not conceal his indignation at what he perceived as lack of patriotism in the conduct of the SDF. In Kumba, Ferdinand Asapngu and fellow SDF bigwigs had to answer queries for the decision. This was not the first time Fru Ndi’s party has boycotted a government organised occasion. The party stayed away from the 1992 Parliamentary election and its MPs have been walking out of parliamentary sessions.

If the regime is so pained by this year’s decision by Cameroon’s frontline opposition party, it is because of its far reaching political implications. The first is that the SDF, by this act, has gained the sympathy of Southern Cameroons activists. The regime was prepared for everything except an alliance between Fru Ndi’s party and the SCNC.

Those who blame the SDF for its decision seem to forget the history of elections in Cameroon, which is a chronicle of intimidation and fraud. Besides the SCNC, Fru Ndi has on his side those disgruntled with the electoral process. The ingenuity of the regime in this direction is common knowledge to Cameroonians. In 2002, the Biya regime organised and successfully rigged two elections in one. For the first time, too, an election was halted and postponed because SDF was seen to be in the lead. Fraud reached its apex, with the displacement of names on the electoral registers.

In 2004, the fraud machine was perfected to a point that Fru Ndi, who, from many indications, won the 1992 elections, scored a scandalous 17 percent. In 2007, the ruling CPDM carried out the most "transparent" rigging in its 22-year reign. It rigged four elections in two. The recent appointments into ELECAM was one act of provocation too many.

To rub salt on an already painful wound, Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, Chairman of the highly discredited ELECAM went on the air to tell Cameroonians that during his tour of the Northwest Region, he met SDF militants. If by that declaration he was giving the impression that ELECAM had finally been accepted, then that was a superlative act of intellectual dishonesty. A snake does not become less venomous by casting off its old skin. Fonkam Azu’u thinks Cameroonians are ignoramuses to be swayed by cheap rhetoric about resignations from the CPDM.

Fonkam can observe a thousand elections in South Africa and all the other democratic nations in the world, so long as the notion that le Cameroun c’est le Cameroun remains, he and his team can never conduct free and fair elections. Fonkam’s declaration to Cameroon Tribune that Cameroonians should remain steadfast in pursuit of peace didn’t go without notice. He is a university don and knows that when there is much emphasis on peace, the element of justice is bound to diminish.

Taking part in May 20 celebrations would be giving Biya a pat on the back, which he does not deserve. Patriotism goes beyond hoisting a flag and singing the national anthem. Patriots are identified by the sacrifices they make for their country. Rigging elections and manipulating the constitution to perpetrate oneself in power are perfect examples of how not to be a patriot.
The most despicable thing about the Biya regime is the impunity with which its top notches violate its own laws. This is a regime that drafted a constitution including an article that holders of public posts should declare their assets on taking office and on leaving it.

Today, Biya wants Cameroonians to believe that he is fighting corruption when he is, in effect, emasculating potential political opponents. Biya, like other full-fledged Machiavellians, has the right to cling to power. He has declared himself a lion, to emphasise that philosophy. He is not entirely wrong. The only problem with the regime is that it is not even an efficient autocracy. Late President Amadou ahidjo never pretended to be a democrat, but he managed the economy well. Children find it easier to tolerate a dictatorial father who provides their needs than a drunk who allows them all the liberty they need without food on the table.

The Biya regime thinks its solution to the country’s crime wave is to train more policemen and gendarmes. Bernard Shaw observes that the main function of a police force is to ensure that the rich man and his family lives in peace and even feeds dogs and other pets with delicacies while his poor neighbours starve. But when harsh sanctions are meted on prisoners it makes armed robbers more careful in order to escape arrest. This only increases the possibilities of being murdered in our homes or in our beds by hoodlums when we attempt to expose them.

The number of jail breaks in Cameroon is a testimony of this repressive system. It could therefore be said of Cameroon what a Russian radical once said when the rope being used to hang him fell off his neck: "Nothing is well done in Russia, not even hanging". The Biya regime is so incompetent that it can’t even keep the prisoners it spends so much time and force to arrest.

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