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Wednesday, August 22, 2018

facing Biya, a single candidacy of the unlikely opposition

With less than two months of presidential elections in Cameroon on October 7, a single candidacy of the opposition against the outgoing president Paul Biya, 85 years including 35 in power, seems unlikely, according to the admission of candidates met by AFP in Douala and Yaounde.

Eight candidates will be running in this one-round election against Paul Biya and several meetings have been held between some of them for a rally behind a single candidate who may be better able to beat him. The idea of ​​a "primary" was even mentioned.

But these meetings have so far remained unsuccessful and the short time remaining before the polls does not augur well for a positive outcome, especially as two of the main candidates, Maurice Kamto and Joshua Osih, do not hide their skepticism.

"I do not believe that there will be a single candidate, it is not realistic," says Maurice Kamto, 64, national president of the Movement for the Renaissance of Cameroon (MRC), especially established in the west of country.

This former Minister Delegate for Justice from 2004 to 2011, a lawyer at the Bar of Paris who has successfully negotiated for his country territorial dispute with Nigeria on the peninsula of Bakassi, believes that we must "get rid of the myth of the only candidate, in 1992, we already talked about it ... "

- "Candidates raised" -

He claims that there are "candidates raised" by the regime, including Garga Haman Adji, a native of the North, who could absorb voices from this region and avoid that they are focused on a candidate opposed to Biya better placed than him .

In addition, Mr. Kamto believes that an "addition of candidates who represent nothing" can not lead to victory. On the other hand, there may be a grouping of certain candidates with whom he has already had contacts. "I do not prejudge anything," he says.

According to Johua Osih, candidate of the Social Democratic Front (main opposition party), it is certainly "always desirable to increase his chances", but he does not think that a single candidacy is "indispensable to a victory against Mr. Biya ".

"We won an election in 1992 without a coalition and we think our forces on the ground can help us win" the one in 2018, says the 49-year-old MP and businessman.

In 1992, the historic leader of the SDF, John Fru Ndi, was narrowly defeated by Paul Biya, but his supporters then denounced fraud and claimed that it was their candidate who had won.

Joshua Osih concedes that "if other parties and other candidates want to join us it will make the task easier" and notes with satisfaction that "several political parties that have not submitted presidential candidates have already joined us" .

"For some, they have strengths higher than those who are in the running for this election," he says.

- "Make a gesture" -

One of the few still believing in a possible rally of "alternative" forces in Biya is Akere Muna, a famous 66-year-old lawyer, former Cameroon coach and founder in his country of the anti-government NGO branch. Transparency International corruption.

"I spoke with most of the candidates and I see this awareness that the people expect us to make a gesture," he says.

"From October 8 (2017), when I announced my candidacy, I made it clear that I was working for that (a rapprochement) and I am doing it," adds the candidate. "I meet everybody, I talk to everyone and I think it's very feasible".

Akere Muna assures that he is ready to "desist without problem" for another, "without precondition". But, he says anyway, "we would have to agree on certain main things, because the important thing is not who gets behind who, who proposes what".

For Maurice Kamto, the weakness of opposition candidates in previous elections was mainly "the absence on the ground, before and during the election". Since 2012, "we travel tirelessly throughout the country," says one who has just spent three weeks in July in northern Cameroon, going from "village to village".

And the polling day of October 7, will "be present in all polling stations" to monitor operations. "We train our tellers on fraud techniques," he says.

A sentiment shared by Joshua Osih whose party plans to train 48,000 tellers to be present in all 25,000 polling stations installed throughout the country on 7 October.