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Cameroon Goes To The Polls as Biya Seeks to Extend 36-year Rule

It would maintain a long held status quo in the oil and cocoa producing Central African country where, despite relative economic stability and growth of over four percent a year since Biya was last elected in 2011, many of its 24 million citizens live in deep poverty. Most have only known one president.

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Looming over the polls is a secessionist uprising in the Anglophone Northwest and Southwest regions that has cost hundreds of lives and forced thousands to flee either to the French-speaking regions or into neighbouring Nigeria. Ghost towns remain, where the few who have stayed say they are afraid to go out and vote.

Some opposition parties have united in an effort to bolster support and harness discontent about the country’s crumbling infrastructure and about Biya, who they say has ruled Cameroon like a personal fiefdom for too long. The president goes years without convening cabinet meetings and spends long stretches out of the country with his wife Chantal, most often holidaying in Switzerland.

“There are many problems. There are no roads, no hospitals. We are poor. Biya must go,” said 31-year-old businessman Emmanuel Bassong during an opposition rally in the capital Yaounde on Saturday.

The African Union and other organizations are monitoring Sunday’s vote, but opposition candidates have already complained of efforts to fix the election in Biya’s favour.

Biya’s home advantage is clear across the hilly, green capital, where thousands of posters lining the roadside and draped down the side of high-rise buildings declare “the force of experience” of the incumbent. Tailors sell fabric bearing Biya’s face that they make into dresses and suits seen all over town.

Billboards advertising other candidates meanwhile are almost totally absent.

Government spokesman Issa Tchiroma Bakary on Saturday laughed off the idea of the opposition posing a threat to Biya.

“The likelihood of his victory is beyond reasonable doubt. I am confident that the game is already done,” he said.

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Written by MT

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