Saturday, November 6, 2010


By Tazoacha Asonganyi,Yaounde.

During the tripartite conference of 1991, one of the agreements upheld by all participants was that there should be a constitutional provision that a presidential mandate would be 5 years, renewable once, giving a maximum of ten consecutive years at the helm of state, if the people wanted. A singlehanded-modified version of this agreement was inscribed in the 1996 constitution in article 6(2) which provided that each elected president of the republic would serve a term of seven years renewable once.

Paul Biya

In doing this, Cameroonians were aware that by nature, human beings are vain, self-seeking and easily corruptible, making them victims of the allures of power and honours, or of the material benefits bestowed on them by those in power. They were also confident that 10 years were largely enough for any good intentioned individual to serve the people in the capacity of president of the republic.

By the time of the tripartite conference and the eventual publication of the “new” constitution in 1996, Paul Biya had already served the country as president for well over 10 years. But since laws are never retrospective, he was still allowed to face the new constitution as if he was starting with a clean slate, on the proviso that he would go after at most two new terms of seven years each. This is why there was much talk about the first seven years, and then the second seven years, until... ops – the clock seemed to be racing faster than he thought!

 Long before this seven-years-renewable-once clause was changed, Cameroonians had started contemplating what the future reserved for us, and I wrote as follows in an essay titled Cameroon after Biya: Prospects for Change and Continuity “...speculating about the day after a leader in Africa is usually considered in bad taste ... whether it is in terms of age or health, there is very little that one can accurately speculate about for the advent of the “new” day. After all, Wade just got re-elected at age over 80; and Lansana Konte could not even walk to a polling station to vote for himself because of ill health, and yet he was re-elected into office...Therefore no speculations on health and age as facilitators of the emergence of a new day in 2011 can hold much water. Nor can one be sure that the 7-year clause in the Constitution will bring the “new” era. Aging leaders are usually very reluctant to give up office; and any excuse is usually good enough...”

Excuse(s) they found, and the term limits clause was removed to allow Paul Biya to reign... for ever! On the heels of 6th November 2010, a third volume of what the regime people describe as “the people’s call” for Paul Biya to be candidate in 2011 was launched. In doing so, they want us to capitulate to the lie that such motions of support on the people’s back reflect popular sentiments in Cameroon.
The “people’s call” is the umpteenth fraud of some CPDM militants on the people. The call is nothing short of different versions of texts written in offices in Yaounde by party zealots from various corners of the country. With these gesticulations, the regime people seem to be affirming their belief in Hitler’s line that no matter how big the lie, repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as truth.

One of the trademarks of Paul Biya in 28 years has been his failure to respect the terms of political deals struck with other stakeholders. He has repeatedly trumped opponents with his single card of reneging on political deals on term limits, NEO, ELECAM, and others, over which he has always behaved like a man of second thoughts.  Thus, symbolic victories usually thought to be won by his opponents with the striking of deals and the clinching of promises, sooner or later, turned into defeat. This is because much attention is not usually paid to the practical politics of the new deal of exploiting the gullibility of opponents and friends alike, to further the single, obstinate goal of the life presidency of the prince.

There is something really surreal about what the CPDM is presently involved in. They are involved in abstractions about the people and their problems, and promising that if Paul Biya remains in the presidency come 2011, they will find solutions to the problems that have been around for the past 28 years, staring all of them in the face! To show the lack of seriousness in these abstractions, they are making long-range promises that will mature by 2035, long after most of the long-range planners and many of us would be dead!

As CPDM militants celebrate 6th November, they should keep in mind that the people have changed a lot over 28 years. The media revolution has broadened and deepened the people’s thinking, and reinforced their insistence on taking control of their destiny. The people have learned a lot from some of the powerful symbols and symbolic acts about change communicated to them from all corners of the globe during the better part of 28 years, right in their bedrooms. 2011 will neither be like 2004, 1997, nor 1992!

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