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SDF’s “No Elections” Decision – The Logic, The Realities 

By Peterkins Manyong

The idea of an opposition in any democratic set-up is based on the logic that the eye cannot see itself, except by reflection. This simply means that only somebody outside the system can see clearly the errors being committed by those controlling it. Following this argument, nothing can be more ridiculous than the idea of a union government. If the anvil reconciles with the hammer, no shoes would be repaired.

The SDF, Cameroon’s leading opposition party, is performing this rule by pointing out the shortcomings of Cameroon’s electoral system. It did so at the beginning of this year when it presented an 11-point proposal to Government and to the country’s election managing body, ELECAM, on what the party and its leadership are convinced could ensure free, fair, transparent and, therefore, credible elections in Cameroon. When President Paul Biya visited Bamenda, SDF National Chairman, Fru Ndi, and some top officials of his party gave him a copy of the document.

When it is considered that most of the upheavals in Africa now have their origins in flawed elections, no rational mind can find fault with SDF’s move. Even Biya himself saw that there was something lacking in ELECAM, reason why Parliament voted a bill retouching it. The retouch was a far cry from what the SDF and its National Chairman expected. Fair minded Cameroonians can’t fail to sympathise with the SDF, expressing dissatisfaction with the changes so far made in ELECAM.

The party argues that the regime has ignored the 11 points it proposed as a means to reform ELECAM, preferring rather to increase the Board membership to 18. But what realists find unconvincing about the SDF’s position about ELECAM is the threat that no election will hold in Cameroon with ELECAM in its present form. How does the party intend to implement this threat, these realists ask?

There is a clear distinction between a politician and an agitator. A politician is one with set objectives which he/she works to achieve. But an agitator is one who speaks to generate excitement and possibly draw applause from listeners. A politician says what is possible. An agitator says what is necessary as if it is a possibility. The SDF made a similar pronouncement on the eve of the 1997 Presidential Election. The party introduced a term "Active Boycott’ which it defined as "not only failing to take part in the election, but also ensuring that nobody else did".

It later decided only to boycott the election, either because it was advised to do so or because it realised the physical difficulty of implementing the threat. It was, indeed, a wise decision to call off the "active boycott". Besides, the fact that it could lead to confrontation with other voters or security forces who are sure to be on the alert or even present, preventing another person from casting his or her vote is a grievous human rights abuse.

The chances of the SDF succeeding in preventing voting this year are far slimmer than they were in 1997 because its militancy is less vibrant. While many find the threat unrealistic, Fru Ndi and NEC are confident it will happen. The SDF Chairman told The Post during a briefing that the Cameroonian people would implement the decision. The world of dreams is a very delightful one because there, wishes easily come true.

Cameroonians who possess an infinite capacity for dreaming believe that because it happened in Tunisia and Egypt, there will soon be a revolution in Cameroon forgetting that the Maghreb countries don’t have the same inclination to beer drinking as Cameroonians. They seem to have forgotten that situations worse than what triggered the uprising in those countries have taken place in Cameroon and nothing has happened. In 1993 the salaries of State functionaries were slashed by close to 70 percent, followed in 1994 by the devaluation of the FCFA.

All the regime does in such circumstances is to rely on its power-sharing partners, the breweries, to commence cacophonous promotion exercises where thousands of free beer bottles would be won. In a matter of days Cameroonians would all be in Wonderland, with their favourite deity, Bacchus, the god of wine, in full control. Thanks to this epicurean inclination, President Biya reportedly won a bet with the French who had sworn that the country would go up in flames. Biya told them Cameroon was Cameroon.

Why, for instance, are transporters calling off a well founded strike action knowing the persistent bad faith of the regime? At the height of agitations that brought down two governments in North Africa, the regime announced the recruitment of 25,000 thousand persons. Today, when the revolution fever is subsiding, the Ministry of Public Service and Administrative Reform has said the recruitment will be "progressive".

The recruitment was to be supervised by the Prime Ministry and impartiality was expected because of Philemon Yang’s known reputation as an incorruptible human being. But again, today, we hear CPDM stalwarts telling their militants they will be favoured in the recruitment and nobody has raised a voice in protest.

If the SDF were relying on the West in its campaign for a truly independent election managing body, the party should by now be feeding on the bread of sorrow:  the Americans are on the side of ELECAM on the issue of registration. US Ambassador to Cameroon, Robert P. Jackson, who was recently received by ELECAM Board Chair, Dr. Samuel Fonkam Azu’u, has stated unequivocally the  position of his country, which is "register, vote and protect your votes".

He said same when he attended a press conference titled "Protect My Vote Card", organised in Bamenda by the Martin Luther King Memorial NGO. During that Bamenda visit, he reportedly reiterated the message during a meeting with SDF National Chairman, Fru Ndi, at the party’s National Secretariat.

The same position is held by the UN as testified by its Legal Adviser in DR Congo who spoke to The Post recently (Interview edition No. 01250).  If the SDF attempts to obstruct elections, that act would be perceived as terrorism and the Biya regime would have the sympathy of the international committee if he deals ruthlessly with those apprehended.

With the above forces ranged against the SDF, whatever the genuineness of its intention, the party’s victory can only be moral. That is to say the SDF can boast if when elections are again flawed that it was never part of the process. But as in 1992, that would not stop Biya from savouring another 72,556 days in power.