Africa

Paul Biya’s campaign of intimidation

By Simon Allison 5 October 2011

It’s only a week until Cameroonians head to the polls to give Paul Biya another term in office. To make sure that’s what happens, Cameroon’s opposition is being subjected to arbitrary arrests and kidnaps, while Biya pulls all the strings to his advantage. By SIMON ALLISON.

On Monday morning, the president of the Cameroon International Association for Young Muslims was kidnapped from his house in Cameroon’s capital Yaounde. El Hadj Amadou is also the leader of the youth wing of one of Cameroon’s main opposition parties, Offre Orange.

Coincidentally – or perhaps not so coincidentally – the leader of Offre Orange, Hilaire Kamga, went through a similar experience last week. He was taken by force by unidentified individuals and kept for several hours before his release.

At around same time, police have placed the leader of a Cameroonian separatist group under house arrest. Mola Njoh Litumbe tried to drive his car out of his house on Saturday, but was prevented by a contingent of police from leaving. This comes after Cameroon arrested more than 40 people marching in support of the separatist group.

Cameroon’s long-suffering opposition suspects this is all a plot to threaten and intimidate them before the election on 11 October. Incumbent Paul Biya has been in office for nearly 30 years, but is facing increasing signs of dissent from both the country at large and from within his own party. His response has been to tighten his grip on power. Aside from the kidnappings and arrests, he’s also resorted to sneaky campaign tricks to get the edge over his rivals, such as booking all the billboard space in Yaounde before he announced the election date, making it tricky for his opponents to advertise themselves.

It looks like it will work. Cameroon’s opposition is too divided to mount a successful challenge on Biya (conspiracy theorists even suggest that Biya created certain opposition groups to divide his enemies), so he should win the elections. But in the long-term, citizens might start to resent just how blatant he’s being in his manipulation of power, and that’s when Biya will face a real challenge to his rule. DM



Read more:

  • Cameroon’s incumbent president seems poised for reelection, but not without tension in the Christian Science Monitor;
  • Opposition cries foul over abuse of incumbency by Biya on AllAfrica.com.

Photo: REUTERS

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