Cameroon is witnessing another milestone in its political history with the oath-taking exercise of the Head of State, Presidentelect, Paul Biya tomorrow 06 November, 2018. He obtained 71.28 per cent of the votes cast to emerge winner among the nine candidates who went in for the poll. The election campaigns, as expected, demonstrated different views about the country.
But with a single winner identified by the people and confirmed by the Constitutional Council, Mr Biya is going to seal the pact with Cameroonians as he takes the oath of office before Parliament, the Constitutional Council, the Supreme Court, other State dignitaries and representatives of diplomatic missions in the country. Such a combination of solemnity and symbols reflects the unifying factor that the Head of State is expected to play in bringing Cameroonians under one thinking cap to work towards building a stronger nation.
Different political manifestoes presented during the election campaign have to get into a single shelf, which is that of the President of the Republic. He will therefore have an arduous task, looking at the hurdles. Security has of late been worrisome in most parts of Cameroon. The Boko Haram threats in the Far North Region, the influx of refugees from the restive Central African Republic, CAR, unrest in the North West and South Regions as well as refugees from Nigeria, internally displaced persons (IDPs) in both regions and in the Far North have all added up to the phenomenon of Cameroonians from the troubled North West and South West Regions becoming refugees in Nigeria.
Having spent 36 years running Cameroon, President-elect Paul Biya will once more be given the mantle of power to pursue and improve measures taken so far in each of the areas of concern faced by the country. Some of the internal setbacks identified by Cameroonians across the national triangle have been the desire to have a greater say in the management of national affairs. Although the Constitution defines Cameroon as a decentralised Unitary State, the component of the devolution of powers to local councils has been slow or even far below expectations.
The Ministry in charge of Decentralisation should in the days ahead further deliver on Paul Biya’s promise to get citizens better involved in their development activities. Another enigma has been the inability of Cameroonians to ensure food self-sufficiency despite the potentials. Basic commodities like rice, fish, etc. are still being imported in large quantities to meet local demand, whereas the food items could be produced to feed the entire nation and even exported. Talk of mechanisation or second generation farming has remained lipservice. The new tenure should be an opportunity for Cameroonians to be given what it takes to produce enough food.
Of course, any development endeavour must be powered by the required infrastructure. The construction of hydropower electricity dams, roads, railway, telecommunication facilities, among others, has been in short supply in Cameroon. Even the Information and Communication Technologies, ICTs, which have attracted several youth with the employment advantages that they offer need to be accompanied administratively, politically and technically.
Internet bandwidth, for instance, has not been convincing to most investors despite the existence of an optical fibre in the country, unlike other nations that are not privileged to have such infrastructure. Problems of governance, corruption and other malpractices seem to have bedevilled the provision of the required infrastructure to permit Cameroon play the role of economic driver within the Central African Subregion.
True, President Biya has already done much to curtail corruption, but the results so far show that much still has to be done. While the numerous development challenges need to be overcome to bring the population under the same thinking cap, the fact remains that some citizens have of late either felt left out of the mainstream or simply took their frustrations to the market place thereby depicting the country as a no-go-zone. The results has been a battered image for Cameroon abroad which can best be fixed through a reconciliation of the sons and daughters of the country.
Visiting the country on 2 October 2018, the President of the African Football Confederation (CAF), Ahmad Ahmad, alongside his Vice-President, Constant Omari Selemani, said flames about the inability of Cameroon to host the Total 2019 Africa Cup of Nations were being fanned by Cameroonians. Mr Biya assured him that Cameroon will be ready for AFCON come next year.
The President will certainly have to work on that to enable Cameroon live up to its billing during such an important continental rendezvous. These issues and many more have been exhaustively analysed in this special publication of Cameroon Tribune to mark the start of another seven-year tenure for President Paul Biya.