Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cameroon:Elections, Handshakes and Postponements.

By Tazoacha Asonganyi in Yaounde.
Not to worry: elections are being held left and right with varying outcomes. That in Côte d’Ivoire left the people Mugabe’ed or Kibakied, whichever you like. Do not mind the motions of support trickling there from ‘social democratic’ and ‘leftwing’ groupings. The Biyas, Wades and others of the same feathers are chuckling in amusement at the fact that they are usually confronted by noises about commitment to values like social justice, democracy, liberty, mutual obligation, opportunity for all, responsibility… The ‘left-wingers’ may retort that it is precisely because of these values that they refuse to hand-over power on a platter of gold to the other side, whatever the decision of the people. Pity for those who thought that ‘leftwing’ politics could bring progress to Africa; pity for Africa and the prospect for continental peace and tranquillity!
Our turn will come soon, in 2011, just like that of our next door neighbour, Nigeria. However, Nigeria will have a go at it several month before us. It is probably because their turn is more around the corner than ours that they seem to be taking it more seriously than we are. Whereas we are still clamouring at the door of our moribund ELECAM for the biometric system to be introduced into the electoral process, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria has since acted decisively.
Unlike ELECAM that is daily giving excuses about their hands being tied by the electoral laws they met in place, the renewed INEC and its President Attahiru Mohammadu Jega appointed in July 2010, have since forced the Executive and the Legislature to expunge all obstacles from the electoral law, and ‘Electoral Act 2010’ has since been published; INEC has produced a budget that would permit it to organize free, fair, and credible elections, and has since been granted the budget; it has launched a national/international bid for the procurement of 132.000 Direct Data Capture (DDC) machines.
The DDC machines have since been supplied as follows: Zinox Technologies Ltd (Nigeria), 80.000 units at 1.771,73 US$ per unit; Messrs Haier Electrical Appliance Corp Ltd (China), 30.000 units a 1.699,60 US$ per unit; and Avante International Technology Inc (USA), 22.000 units at 1.699,60 US$ per unit, all including taxes and charges. The machines were delivered within some 35 days of the orders, and are being distributed all over the Nigerian territory for electronic registration of voters that will last for 15 days from 15 – 29 January 2011. The timetable of activities for the 2011 general elections established by INEC shows that the elections will take place on 2nd April 2011 (National Assembly), 9th April 2011 (Presidential), and 16th April 2011 (Governorship/State Assemblies).
All this is to tell our ELECAM and Paul Biya that for October 2011, it is not yet late to stop the masquerade presently going on in the field, to start seriously all over again. It all depends on political will, and on the seriousness of those legally asked to help the nation to organize free, fair, and credible elections.
Then the handshake galore! Remember every other person outside the CPDM - leaders of political parties, trade unions, and associations - used to be nothing but ‘quacks and apprentice sorcerers. Remember also that during his 2008 end-of-year message to the nation, Paul Biya told us that the role of these quacks of yesterday was to act "as intermediaries to transmit to government the grievances of their constituents (and militants) ...", and he swore with his hand on his breast that he would always give a keen ear to their demands!
Of course, who did not doubt the sincerity of the promise that he would become a keen listener? In any case, political parties, trade unions, and associations passively transmitted information to him when they were consulted on the set-up of ELECAM, like had been done for NEO, but since their opinions were not "well founded" - as Biya would say - he ignored them!
The build-up to the recent visit of Paul Biya to Bamenda caused drumbeats for a Paul Biya – Fru Ndi encounter to rise to frenzy, with Fru Ndi almost dancing himself lame to the drumbeats! Meeting Paul Biya became like the finality of his life-struggle. And he finally met and shook Biya’s hand, a dream come true?
Well, let Fru Ndi keep this in mind: no neo-colonial regime can be changed with handshakes from positions of weakness. His cronies may drink their champagnes to celebrate his meeting Biya – at last – but there is still a formidable task ahead! They should better quickly dismiss this cock-and-bull story about people blocking meetings between the two: who really believes it? You imagine that Paul Biya really wanted to meet Fru Ndi and could not do so because somebody prevented him from doing so? For over 20 year?  That must be a big joke!
In any case, while Fru Ndi celebrates his symbolic victory over the handshake, he should ponder the following: “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...”
About postponements, Paul Biya took another devastating postponement decision, and everybody seems to be blaming everybody for the postponement, except Paul Biya himself! Indeed, everybody seems to have borrowed the lenses of Ateba Yene, who sees everything wrong with barons of the regime, except Paul Biya himself. Paul Biya suffers these days from the disease of postponement and secrecy. Like has happened in the past over many state issues, he recently postponed his visit to Bamenda, without giving any real reason. While in Bamenda, he postponed his famous handshake with Fru Ndi, we hear because he was ‘resting’. Now he has postponed the historic Ebolowa Agric Show at the last minute! And everybody has jumped onto the commentary arena, and is saying that everybody was telling a lie about the work that was going on in preparation for the show.
Nobody is telling us what the lie was: what was already done, and what was still to be done to make the holding of the show possible? Will it be done by “January”? Why would Paul Biya wait till the last minute to postpone the Show, without consideration for the losses the farmers will incur? Could the postponement be due to the ‘tiredness’ of Paul Biya following his “hectic” visit to Bamenda? Nobody wants to say anything concrete: only that everybody was telling lies to Paul Biya. Including his security network?
We already have a lot of governance problems. This culture of postponement and secrecy breeds speculation. In a regime like the one we have, speculation leads to suspicion and demobilisation. We deserve better than these, especially in the domain of agriculture which is the bulwark of the national economy, and the life-line of rural populations.

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