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Conflict of interest in Cameroon’s electoral bodies

Members  of Cameroon’s People Democratic People’s Party (CPDM)  in the South Region of the country have issued a motion of support calling on the ruling President, Paul Biya, to stand as the party’s candidate in the October 2018 Presidential elections.

The motion of support signed by elected government officials, party barons, and traditional leaders from the South Region called on Mr Biya “solemnly to be a candidate in the presidential election of October 2018.” The party members declared that “Paul Biya is our candidate for the next presidential election, given his eloquent record, his national and international credibility, diplomatic, economic, social and cultural” achievements.

In Cameroon motions of support are informal strategies used by party supporters to demonstrate loyalty and subservience to the president. Motions of supports are also pre-electoral mechanisms used to rally grassroots support for the party’s candidate.

The motion of support by CPDM supporters of the South Region was originally signed by one member of Constitutional Council, Fouman Akame. The Constitutional Council is the body in-charge of resolving post-electoral conflict and matters relating to abrogation of the constitution in Cameroon. Biya appointed the seven members of the Constitutional Council in February 2018.

The decision by the constitutional judge to sign a motion of support has received public backlash, as many see it as conflict of interests. Local NGOs and citizens have accused the CPDM of “being a referee and playing at the same time.” According to Flaubert Djateng, coordinator of the NGO Zenu Network, “at the level of his responsibility as a member of a body like this, Fouman Akame should not be signing a motion of support.”

However, Cameroon’s Minister of Higher Education Jacque Fame Ndongo has apologized to Judge Akame for wrongly adding his name to the list. According to Jacques Fame Ndongo, Marie Foumane Akame, the wife of Foumane Akame, was the original signatory of the said motion. Fame Ndongo apologized to Foumane Akame, as well as the Constitutional Council, whose “image and credibility may have been unintentionally damaged.”

Akame’s case is not the only case perceived by local groups of demonstrating systematic conflict of interest in the upcoming 2018 elections. Erik Essousse, the new director general of the body responsible for organizing elections in Cameroon, Election Cameroon, appointed on May 28 by presidential decree, is accused by the opposition of conducting a “witch hunt” a few months from the expected presidential election in October 2018.

Edith Kah Walla, leader of an opposition party, Cameroon People’s Party, has informed the public that her party will not be participating in the October 2018 elections. She accused Biya of systematic fraud and of capturing  Elections Cameroon, the body in charge of organizing elections in the Cameroon.

Fame Ndongo may have redeemed the image of the constitutional council but many Cameroonians are skeptical of the government’s will and capacity to organize free and fair elections.