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Monday, October 8, 2018

Ambazonia: review of the election day under high tension

Huge abstention and violence on Sunday marked the presidential election in the English-speaking West of Cameroon where armed separatists had announced their willingness to prevent the vote.

In Buea, the English-speaking South-West capital, surrounded by imposing security forces, the polling stations were deserted throughout the day, AFP journalists said.

"We are bored, no one comes to vote, people stayed at home because they were afraid," said Georges Fanang, deputy returning officer of an opposition party in an office in the city.

In this office, only 7 out of 420 registered voters made the trip about an hour before the official voting closes at 18:00 (17:00 GMT).

The 25,000 polling stations had opened at 08:00 (07:00 GMT). The diffusion of electoral tendencies is prohibited in Cameroon and the results are not expected before at least one week. The Constitutional Council has two weeks legally to proclaim them.

According to Hans de Marie Heungoup, a researcher with the International Crisis Group (ICG), "almost all the returns we receive place the participation rate below 5%" in the English-speaking regions of South-West and North-West where more 300,000 people had to flee their homes.

- "Emprise" separatist -

"This very low participation illustrates the hold that the armed separatists now have on these two regions," he told AFP. "At the same time, it expresses the symbolic break between a part of the English-speaking population and the Republic of Cameroon. "

Many polling stations could not be installed in villages in these regions, for fear of separatist  attacks. The separatists who had promised the" war "on polling day, threatening to attack voters who would vote

Three gunmen, suspected separatists, shooting at passersby in Bamenda, the capital of the north-west, were shot dead Sunday morning after being hunted down by security forces.

Shots of unknown origin were heard at mid-day by AFP journalists in Buea. A car from the government newspaper Cameroon Tribune and that of the sous-préfet were also targeted.

In the night of Saturday to Sunday, in the city of Kumba in the South West, a court was burned by "armed men", according to witnesses.

"It's not impossible that there will be troublemakers" in the English-speaking regions, Minister of the Communcation Issa Tchiroma Bakary said in the morning to reporters. "But I can assure you that the vast majority of people are ready and want to vote."

At midday, under a big blue sky, President Biya, 85 years of whom nearly 36 in power and who was seeking a seventh consecutive term, voted in Yaoundé.

- "Serenity" -

Dressed in a navy blue suit and accompanied by his wife Chantal, who wore a bright yellow ensemble, he welcomed the climate of "serenity" in which the campaign unfolded and hoped that "the Cameroonian people would continue to ( to trust him".

Faced with seven candidates, Mr. Biya is a favorite of the polls, despite the war that took place at the end of 2017 in English-speaking Cameroon, after more than a year of socio-political crisis that slowly degenerated into armed conflict.

Hundreds of armed separatists, grouped in scattered groups in the equatorial forest, are now fighting the Cameroonian army daily and violently.

More than 175 members of the Cameroonian defense and security forces were killed in the conflict in the English-speaking zone, as well as more than 400 civilians, according to NGOs. No record is available on the separatist side.

In the Far-North region, the army is also deployed to fight the jihadists of Boko Haram who launched repeated attacks since 2014 on the Cameroonian populations.

Just before the vote and for the first time since the 1992 presidential election, two strong opponents joined forces against Paul Biyai: Akere Muna and Maurice Kamto.

Elecam, the body that organizes the election, however, refused that the ballots bearing the name of Mr. Muna be withdrawn for the benefit of Mr. Kamto, believing that the withdrawal of his candidacy on Friday was too late and was not provided for by law.

Two other candidates can expect a significant score: Joshua Osih, candidate of the Social Democratic Front (SDF, main opposition party) and Cabral Libii, the youngest of the election at 38, who has strongly mobilized in its meetings.

Source: AFP