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Cameroon’s President Celebrates 40 Years in Power; Opposition Seeking Electoral Reforms

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Cameroon’s government and its supporters are holding events this week ahead of celebrations Sunday marking President Paul Biya’s 40 years in power. Meanwhile, opposition parties are holding rallies calling for the 89-year-old Biya, the world’s oldest head of state, to change what they say are unfair election laws.

On Thursday in Nanga Eboko on the outskirts of the capital city of Yaoundé, supporters of Biya sang that Cameroon has remained one, undivided and prosperous despite the numerous challenges the central African state has faced since Biya became president in 1982.

The singing and dancing was part of week-long activities marking the 40th anniversary of Biya’s rule.

Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement, or CPDM, said it dispatched party officials to towns and villages to organize conferences and mobilize more support for the 89-year-old leader who, it said, has achieved a lot for the country.

Elvis Ngolle Ngolle is one of Biya’s close collaborators in the ruling party. He says freedom is top among the things Biya should be credited for and that « every citizen can express themselves in any way they want. »

He says that under Biya’s rule, Cameroon has enhanced women’s rights and vastly improved its education system. « In 1982, we had one state university, » Ngolle Ngolle said. « Today we have more than 11 state universities and hundreds of private university institutes. Incredible in 40 years. »

Ngolle Ngolle says Biya has stayed in power this long because a majority of Cameroonians love and always vote for him.

However, opposition political parties accuse Biya of rigging elections for decades, and wanting to stay in power until he dies.

The Cameroon Renaissance Movement, led by Maurice Kamto, says Kamto won the October 2018 presidential election and that the victory was stolen from him.

Another party, the Social Democratic Front, has joined the CRM in asking civilians not to attend anniversary celebrations to protest Biya’s long stay in power.

Christopher Ndong, the CRM’s secretary-general, said Biya shows no signs of giving up the presidency and that, « Cameroonians are aggrieved because of him. »

« The opposition political parties want him to revise the electoral code, making sure the next president of this country should be democratically elected, » Ndong said. « Cameroonians now want a democratically elected president. »

Ndong said many of Biya’s supporters have resigned from the ruling party and joined the opposition CRM during the anniversary event.

The ruling CPDM acknowledges that it has some internal leadership wrangling but has provided no details.

Loic Kankeu, a lecturer of public law at the University of Yaoundé, said Biya’s absence from conferences aimed at drumming up support indicates the aging ruler is tired. He added that many CPDM supporters want Biya to leave but fear reprisals if they express their views in public.

According to Kankeu, Jean Nkuete, the secretary general of the CPDM party, acknowledged during a meeting with decentralized CPDM party structures this week that leadership squabbles are tearing the party apart. He said malaise within the CPDM is pushing supporters and disgruntled CPDM leaders in many Cameroonian towns and villages to cross over to the opposition Cameroon Renaissance Movement party of Maurice Kamto.

Biya’s supporters are calling on the octogenarian to run for president again in 2025 while the opposition is asking him to hand over power to a younger leader. On July 30, during a visit to Cameroon by French President Emmanuel Macron, Biya said he still has time to decide if he will run again.

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3 million children at risk in Sudan as civil war engulfs – U.N

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The war between the army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces has killed 12,190 people, according to conservative estimates by the Armed Conflict Locations and Events Data project. It has displaced 5.4 million people inside the country, according to the UN, and sent over 1.3 million fleeing abroad.

Sudan’s raging civil war threatens the lives of almost 3 million children, the United Nations Children’s Fund said Thursday, as fighting imperils what had become a haven for hundreds of thousands of displaced people.

Fighting in the huge northeastern African nation has now reached Jazeera state, the country’s breadbasket with a population of 5.9 million people — half of whom are children, UNICEF said.

« This new wave of violence could leave children and families trapped between fighting lines or caught in the crossfire, with fatal consequences, » the organization’s executive director, Catherine Russell, said in a statement Thursday.

The latest about of violence broke out on April 15, as Sudan’s military and a powerful paramilitary force vied for power. Since then, heavy fighting has left hundreds of thousands of people facing the agonizing decision of whether to flee their homes or stay and risk injury or death in the violence. Cease-fires have failed to halt the power struggle and fueled the growing humanitarian crisis.

Civilians are often caught up in the crossfire as neighborhoods are divided between the armed forces, led by Gen. Abdel Fattah Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces, led by Gen. Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo.

Some 9,000 people have been killed in the violence, according to the U.N., but local doctors groups and activists say the death toll is likely far higher.

Almost 300,000 people have fled Jazeera state, moving to the nearby Sennar state, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Wednesday.

 

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‘Nothing for me in Cameroon’: Waiting in Tunisia, one eye on Europe

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Having lost everything and everyone precious to him, Joseph tries to hold things together, waiting to leave Africa.

Joseph Afumbom is a big man who has faced unimaginable tragedy.

The conflict in Cameroon between Anglophone separatists and the government killed the 27-year-old’s mother, father and siblings. It also took his home in Bamenda in the country’s northwest.

“I was there when the war started. The war took everyone,” he said, “It was three years ago. My brothers and sisters are all gone.”

With his home and family destroyed and no jobs available, Joseph felt he had no option but to gather his fiancee, Esther, and their three-year-old daughter and travel the 5,000km (more than 3,000 miles) overland to the Mediterranean coast. They arrived in Algeria, where they considered crossing into Tunisia and from there to Europe.

However, both Joseph’s fiancee and daughter died in El Menia. “They are all gone because of the cold,” he says. “That was last month.”

“I’m just trying to act normal, you know,” he tells Al Jazeera. “See, I’m smoking. I’m whiling away my thinking, trying to act like a normal person, but I’m not.”

He paused, allowing his thoughts to drift back. “We had been together for years. My daughter was three. I called her ‘Little Joy’.”

Eventually, Joseph crossed into Tunisia, making his way to the coastal city of Sfax before travelling by shared taxis to the capital, Tunis. He didn’t eat for two days.

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“There is nothing left for me in Cameroon,” he says. “I will continue to Europe if I have the opportunity.”

This article is the third of a five-part series of portraits of refugees from different countries, with diverse backgrounds, bound by shared fears and hopes as they enter 2024. Read the first and second parts here.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

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Chad: Supreme court approves ‘yes’ referendum vote

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Chad’s Supreme Court definitively validated the results of the referendum for a new constitution organized by the military junta that has been in power for the past two and a half years, a key step intended to pave the way for elections in the country at the end of 2024.

According to the final results, the « yes » side won with 85.90% of the vote, while the « no » side won 14.10%, with a turnout of 62.8%, the president of the Supreme Court told a press conference.

For some members of the opposition and civil society, the result of this ballots a plebiscite resembles designed to pave the way for the election of the transitional president, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal by the Bloc Fédéral, an opposition coalition which had called for the results to be annulled on the grounds of several irregularities in the voting process.

The opposition, which had widely called for a boycott, denounced, in the words of Max Kemkoye, president of the Groupe de concertation des actors politiques (GCAP), « a second coup d’état by Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno », in the face of results which, in his view, were not credible.

The new constitutional text is not very different from the one already in force, and still gives great power to the Head of State.

Mahamat Déby, 37, was proclaimed transitional president by the army on April 20, 2021, at the head of a junta of 15 generals, following the death of his father Idriss Déby Itno, who was killed by rebels on his way to the front. Idriss Déby Itno had ruled the country with an iron fist for over 30 years.

The young general immediately promised elections after an 18-month transition period, and made a commitment to the African Union not to run. Eighteen months later, his regime extended the transition by two years and authorized him to stand in the presidential elections scheduled for late 2024.

On the anniversary of the 18-month transition, October 20, 2022, between 100 and more than 300 young men and teenagers were shot dead in N’Djamena by police and military, according to the opposition and national and international NGOs.

They were demonstrating against the two-year extension of the presidential term.

More than a thousand were imprisoned before being pardoned, but dozens were tortured or disappeared, according to NGOs and the opposition.

 

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