Cameroon: Diaspora Fail to Participate in Elections

This post is part of our special coverage Cameroon Elections 2011

Seven million Cameroonian voters were called to elect their next president on October 9, 2011. However, the question of the abstention seems to be the great winner of this ballot, in particular that of Cameroonians living abroad.

This year's election was significant for the reason that since August 8, 2011, [fr] Cameroonian citizens in the diaspora were allowed to vote for the first time.

Cameroonian Voters in Dakar. Image by George Esunge Fominyen on (CC).

Cameroonian Voters in Dakar. Image by George Esunge Fominyen on (CC).

The Cameroonian population living abroad is estimated at between 2.5 million [fr] and 4 million people [fr]. According to an article published on [fr], this number varies because of administrative reasons:

Dans une récente interview, le Minitre des relations extérieures, Henri Eyebe Ayissi, expliquait que « d'une part, la carte consulaire du Cameroun ne couvre pas tous les pays d'émigration. D'autre part, même dans les pays pourvus de postes consulaires, la situation est très contrastée. D'une manière générale, nos compatriotes de la diaspora ne se font pas systématiquement enregistrer auprès des services consulaires. Outre une certaine indifférence, l'explication réside, soit dans l'ignorance de cette formalité, soit dans le fait que ceux qui se trouvent en situation irrégulière hésitent à sortir de l'anonymat.»

In a recent interview, the Minister of External Relations, Henri Eyebe Ayissi, explained that “on the one hand, the Cameroonian consulary card does not cover all countries of emigration. On the other hand, even in countries provided with consulates, the situation is very contrasted. Generally, our fellow citizens from the diaspora don't systematically register themselves with consulate services. In addition to a certain indifference, the explanation resides in the ignorance of such a  formality, or in the fact that those who live abroad in an irregular situations hesitate over renouncing their anonymity.”

The decision to allow Cameroonians from the Diaspora to vote might be related to economic reasons. According to a 2011 World Bank report, Diaspora For Development in Africa, the potential savings of Cameroonian migrants within Cameroon is equivalent to 3.8 % of the GDP. Moreover, bank and other informal money transfers are estimated between 9 and 24 % of the GDP.
A financial manna perceived by every Cameroonians. Hotmongo ironically commented on this subject on Twitter :

La participation de la diaspora a l'économie c'est western union. LOL

The participation of the diaspora in the economy is Western Union. LOL

According to the Cameroonian Electoral Commission (ELECAM), 25,578 Cameroonians abroad registered on the voter list. At the time of the adoption of the voting decree, website [fr] published an article in which the author already doubted ELECAM's ability to register the estimated 2.5 million voters abroad :

Une opération dont on doute de sa réalisabilité, à deux mois de la date de l’élection présidentielle.

One can doubt of the feasibility of the operation, two months from the presidential election.

In fact, the presidential decree was signed on August, 8, 2011, and the deadline for voter registration was on August 31, 2011. Short delays added to a call from diaspora to boycott the election might have led to this result.

The CODE (an association gathering democratic and patriotic organisations of the Cameroonian diaspora – Collectif des Organisations Démocratiques et Patriotiques de la Diaspora Camerounaise) led the boycott movement. On its blog [fr], the organisation explains:

- [Nous] Réaffirmons notre farouche opposition à la mascarade électorale qui se déroule
actuellement au Cameroun et en diaspora ;
– Dénonçons par conséquent la poursuite d’un processus électoral mafieux, totalement
illégitime, et qui n’a pour but que de maintenir Paul Biya au pouvoir pour le grand
malheur du peuple camerounais.

- [We] reaffirm our staunch opposition to the electoral masquerade which is currently going on in Cameroon and in the diaspora;
– We therefore denounce the mafia electoral process as totally illigetimate, which only aims at maitaining Paul Biya in power for the great misfortune of the Cameroonian people.

In the following video posted on YouTube by Seumoprisma on October 8, members of the CODE in Belgium demonstrate to reminded Cameroonians in the diaspora that they must not vote on October 9 and instead call for Paul Biya to step down:

According to an article by the daily newspaper Le Jour, published on 237online [fr], among the 40,000 Cameroonians counted in France, only 900 went to vote. Paul Biya, the outgoing president, got 64.97% of the popular vote.

Ebot Tabi comments on Twitter:

If you look at the number registered and compared to the number of voters, you see that only the Biya people did vote

This post is part of our special coverage Cameroon Elections 2011

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