Democracy has been propounded by many scholars as the presence of an accountable limited government. By accountability, it means that leaders are responsible to their electorate, which can dispose of them if they think these governments are not living up to expectations. Elections have been regarded by many as a means, though not the most suitable means of having an accountable government in place. This is so because elections are occasional. Presidential elections happen to be one of these occasional events on the continent of Africa.
The Republic of Cameroon organised Presidential elections on 9 October 2011. For the first time in the history of the country, a law was passed which allowed Cameroonians in the Diaspora to vote. Many welcomed this innovation, especially eager Cameroonians in the Diaspora willing to take part in the democratic process of their beloved fatherland.
23 candidates contested for the post of President. The results of the Presidential elections were announced on Friday 21 October 2011. President Paul Biya came out victorious in these elections.
According to the French Foreign Ministry, the elections which gave President Paul Biya his sixth term of office were marked by “a number of flaws and irregularities.”
The U.S. ambassador to Cameroon, Robert Jackson, concurred with France, telling foreign media that there were indeed irregularities at every level of the elections.
Though the international community especially France, has termed the elections acceptable, France wishes that measures be put in place to ensure that irregularities do not occur during the legislative and municipal elections of 2012. This position was clearly put before foreign media by French foreign ministry spokesman Bernard Valero.
In these elections, President Biya’s closest contender Ni John Fru Ndi had 11 percent. Since then, his followers have been demonstrating against the results, which they claim was rigged in favour of Biya. Local media reported that in Douala, the economic capital, as well as Bamenda, the fife of Ni John Fru Ndi, demonstrations had been forbidden. Local media also reports that police presence had been stepped up around the country.
Eight out of the twenty three candidates of the presidential contenders protested against the results. These contenders include Jean Jacques Ekindi of the Progressive Movement (MP), Muna Acho Bernard of the Alliance of Progressive Forces (APF), Ekane Anicet of MANIDEM, Walla Edith Kahbang of the Cameroon People’s Party (CPP), Ndam Njoya Adamou of the Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU), Tabi Owono Joachim of the AMEC, Ayah Paul Abine of the People’s Action Party (PAP) and Ni John Fru Ndi of the Social Democratic Front (SDF).
The public hearings of these petitions were presided at by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Alexis Dipanda Mouelle. Most of the complaints were rejected for not respecting the legal way of writing and others for lack of proof.
Many Cameroonians home and abroad are definitely not happy with the outcome of these elections. These concerns are equally shared by the members of the international community, who though interested in the worries of the Cameroonian people, seem to accept the results as they are. One may wonder if this is not a sign of double standards by the international community, especially as they claim the results were flawed with irregularities, but ‘acceptable’.
This scenario is not only common with the case of Cameroon. Other African countries share the same plight. The truth is that if the international community truly cares about democracy in Africa as they claim to, then it is time for them to put away personal interests like the quest for oil and forests, and advocate for accountable limited governments on the continent.
The international community must be able to compel governments in Africa to put in place truly independent arms of government especially an independent judiciary free from coercion from the all powerful executive. If this is not done, Africa would remain underdeveloped and conflict prone, while the few amass political positions and wealth at the detriment of the masses.
Chofor Che is a civil servant of the government of Cameroon, associate at AfricanLiberty.org and Ford Foundation Doctoral Researcher at the Community Law Centre, Faculty of Law, University of the Western Cape, South Africa. This article is syndicated by AfricanLiberty.org.