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Cameroon: Will the widespread unrest bring political change?

Cameroon was besieged this week by the worst violence in fifteen years, as a transportation strike, formally ended by unions on Wednesday, expanded into a more general protest against rising food and oil prices and President Biya‘s attempts to alter the constitution and extend his 25-year rule.

So far, at least six and as many as two-dozen people have been killed. Police have been firing tear gas at protesters, sometimes dropping canisters of gas from helicopters.

In Bamenda, a city in northwestern Cameroon, protesters pursued by paramilitary police reportedly used school children as human shields.

As the crisis mounts, Cameroonian bloggers and their readers, many writing from abroad, express concern for loved ones and debate the country's political future.

Le Blog du Prési, written by a Cameroonian man living in France, writes in a post entitled “The Hour is Grave“:

C'est par ce titre qu'un ami intitulait le mail qu'il nous adressait ce lundi. Et pour cause, de nombreux affrontements et blocages paralysent l'activité dans les principales villes camerounaises, Douala en particulier. La raison à tout ceci, le prince veut modifier la constitution pour s'offrir quelques années de plus de règne, en meme temps, il asphyxie la population obligeant les transporteurs à se mettre en grève et le mélange de tout ceci donne un cocktail explosif qui a malheureusement un effet boomerang parce qu'handicapant encore plus ce peuple déjà bien mis à mal.

This is the title a friend of mine gave an email he wrote us Monday. And for good reason. Numerous confrontations and road blocks have paralyzed Cameroon's main towns, especially Douala. The reason for all of this is that the prince wants to modify the constitution to give himself a few more years of reign, and at the same time, he asphyxiates the population by compelling the transport workers to strike. The mix of all this makes for an explosive cocktail which unfortunately has a boomerang effect, further handicapping this people who are already in serious jeopardy.

A reader named Edouard, currently in Cameroon, responds, saying the crisis is far more widespread and serious:

“L'heure est grave”. Mes frères, vu du Cameroun, le mot n'est n'est pas fort. Ce n'est pas seulement Douala quio chauffe. L'Ouest, le Sud-Oues, le Nord-Ouest et Yaoundé sont en ébullition.

La tension est montée d'un cran ce jour dans la capitale. Et figurez vous que c'est actuellement l'armée (les militaires) qui assurent le maintien de l'ordre. Il y a eu du feu un peu partout, et surtout à Mokolo et Tsinga. Même la poste centrale a été paralysée.

L'affaire a dépassé la grève des transporteurs terrestres. Je me tape environs 30km en aller et retour pour être au bureau. Mais depuis hier, notre journal n'est même pas imprimé. C'est par Internet qu'on essaye d'informer.
Les lendemains sont incertains.

“The Hour is Grave.” My brothers, seen from Cameroon, this word is not strong [enough]. It is not only Douala that is on fire. The West, the Southwest, the Northwest and Yaounde are all boiling over.

This day, tension has risen to a new level in the capital. And believe it or not, it is the army (the military) which is currently assuring order is maintained. There are fires all over, especially in Mokolo and Tsinga. Even the central post office has been paralyzed.

The affair has moved well beyond the ground transportation workers. I have to take 30km round-trip to get to the office. But as of yesterday, our newspaper isn't even going to print. It's by Internet that we try to keep people informed. The future is uncertain.

Another reader, PrincesseDi, writes that people in Cameroon have simply had enough, and expresses concern about her family and friends:

Je ne dors plus, je pense a ma famille, mes amis, tout ces etres chers restes au pays. Que vont-ils devenir? Tendons-nous vers in genocide? J'ai vraiment peur pour le Cameroun… Les populations en ont marre! 6000 frs la bouteille de gaz, 100frs le litre d'huile de palme, 350 frs le morceau de savon, 20 000 frs le sac d'engrais, plus de 600 frs le litre de carburant…. Pour quels salaires? Et Son Excellence de dire “l'ordre regnera par tous les moyens”

Ou va-t-on?

I can't sleep anymore. I think about my family, my friends, and everyone else dear who are still in the country. What is going to become of them? Are we headed toward genocide? I am really afraid for Cameroon…The people are fed up! 6000 francs for a bottle of gas, 100 francs for a liter of palm oil, 350 francs for a bar of soap, 20,000 francs for a sac of fertilizer, more than 600 francs for a liter of fuel…On what salary? And His Excellence says “order will prevail by any means necessary.”

Where are we going?

On Rue89, an independent, participatory news website in Paris, a reader named Azza writes that not even France's support of Biya may be enough to save him:

Encore un dinosaure de la Françafrique qui tente d'imposer par la force la continuation de sa démocrature à une population qui n'en peut plus du népotisme et des élections truquées.

Jusqu'à présent, il a toujours pu compter sur le soutient de Paris pour faire des bras d'honneurs répétés à sa population qui n'ose plus rêver de sa liberté.

Another dinosaur of Françafrique tries to impose by force the continuation of his rule upon a population that has had enough of nepotism and rigged elections.

Up until now, he could always count on the support of Paris to [express his indifference] for his people who no longer dare to [just] dream of their liberty.

Anglophone readers at Dibussi Tande‘s blog, Scribbles From the Den, were optimistic that the unrest might help usher in a long-awaited political renewal.

The Southwesterner:

At long last the awakening is taking place and guess what, my phone conversations yesterday morning and evening reveal the kumbaya happened in all the four corners of The Cameroons. From the North, South, East and West, what is to come is still in the making. The winner will be all of Cameroons children.

Innocent Ndifor Mancho:

Today the sons of Cameroon have realised that they need to take their destiny into their own hands. The essingan brotherhood and its band wagon of political charlatans for decades have manipulated elections, constitutions, human rights, justice. they have manipulated the police and the army, the students and the teachers. they have manipulated the youths and the elders. Of course, they forgt the very old wisdom that u can only fool all the people some of the time.

Nga Adolph:

It is time for opposition forces in Cameroon to make sweeping political capital out of this,for if we miss the “train” this time around all hopes of bringing about the much needed reforms will be lost irredeemably.Make no mistake,the momentum must increase and accelerate to engulf the whole nation just like a tide sweeps through every nook and cranny of a beach.

7 comments

  • swesha

    I would like to correct something in this article, this is not ” the worst violence in two decades”, the worst violence was in 1990 with the “villes mortes” and coups braisés. I hope that it does not reach that level.

  • Hi Swesha. Thank for your clarifying comment. That should read worst violence in fifteen years.

  • […] somewhat overshadowed by the larger – and more dangerous –demonstrations in Cameroon last week, at least four cities in Burkina Faso also witnessed strikes over skyrocketing prices […]

  • Karl Marx died waiting for the day peasants will rise up against the bourgeosie. It never happened in his lifetime. Populists borrowed the concept, from Lenin, Stalin, Mao to Castro, and today Communism is the most misinterpreted economic concept. However, the shadows of that is seen in western misinterpretation of African Affairs since the cold war. A little strike here by hungry peasants, looting there by dregs of society are now broadly misinterpreted by bloggers and pundits. Cameroon is the most poorly understood country, from its soccer to its politics, by outsiders and exiles alike.

  • Yuhniwo Ngenge

    Yes…Coronation of Biya and everlasting immunity…that is the kind of political change we get when we FEAR to fight the fight to finish.
    We have nothing to fear but FEAR itself…so said Barack Obama.

  • well there is time for every thing. there is a limit any government like that of biya can suppress people. let democracy in nigeria take proper root and biya will know that he can suppress no longer. people have been ignorant in the past but not now that the world is a global village.when more people are educated especially from nigeria then biya will see more problem. an old man who want to die in office. shameless fellow. biya is a shame to africa just like the old fool in zimbabwe

  • We have to stand up for our rights.Cameroon is a country that belongs to all of us and we must do everything to see into it that things move the way they are soppose to be. We should tree to fight from the top.why distroy the branches when the root are still strong? lot’s tackle corruption from the number one state man.let him came out and prove himself innocent then we know were to continue. We know those tracks

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