Africa’s oldest president, Cameroon’s Paul Biya, won a seventh term on Monday after a Constitutional Council that he appointed rejected all legal challenges to the election. The United States had noted irregularities that “may have had no effect on the results but rather created an impression that the election was not credible or genuinely free and fair.”
Now analysts have said the country threatened by separatists faces further disturbance if President Paul Biya, doesn’t start preparing Cameroon for life without him after having been in power for decades.
There was heavy troop deployment in major cities ahead of the election announcement as the government banned rallies by the opposition, which had alleged fraud. More than 71 percent of the votes went to Biya, far ahead of Maurice Kamto’s 14 percent.
The election recorded a low turn-out of English-speaking regions after nearly a quarter-million people fled unrest by Anglophone separatists. The turnout in the Southwest was 15 percent and in the Northwest 5 percent while Biya won in both regions with more than 77 percent of the vote. Overall election turnout was 53 percent.
Fighting between the separatists’ ragtag bands and security forces accused by rights groups of abuses has led to the death of hundreds and posed as a major challenge for Cameroon, a close U.S. security ally against extremism and a new member of the U.N. Human Rights Council.
No details were given about the election authorities in the U.S statement.
But the fraud allegations and low turnout mean a weaker mandate for the 85-year-old Biya, who been in power since 1982. The government, several years ago did away with the presidential term limits.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres took note of the official announcement of results and called for all disputes to be handled “through established legal channels,” U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said. He added that Guterres said dialogue is the best path to unity.
“What I can tell you is that Cameroon will never be the same again,” human rights lawyer Felix Nkongho Agbor Balla told The Associated Press. While legal options for challenging election results have been exhausted, Cameroonians are more aware of their rights after watching the Constitutional Council’s hearings, he said.