Posts Tagged ‘Cameroonian elections 2011’

Cameroon: Did you say election?

Yaounde, October 7, 2011. Photo: Sunday Alamba/AP

Do you know there’s a presidential election tomorrow (October 9th) in Cameroon?

Unless you’re Cameroonian or closely follow Cameroonian/African politics, you may not have heard anything about this election.

And yet…Paul Biya, president and favored presidential candidate, has been in office for nearly 30 years. That alone — in this year of massive political upheaval — would seemingly bring a bit more media attention to Cameroon’s upcoming election. If nothing else, one might ask why there’s no viable opposition in Cameroon and what this portends for the country’s future “stability” (“stability” being the grand achievement of Biya, who at 78, is not going to be around for much longer).

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Election Year Flurry of Public Works (announcements)

Sign announcing the Kribi airport "construction project". Photo by Christiane Badgley

Bridges, dams, hydroelectric plants, roads and railways! In Cameroon every day seems to bring another announcement of an ambitious, much-needed and long-overdue public works project. Before long the country will be buzzing with activity and from Kribi to Douala, Limbe, Yaounde and beyond, Cameroon will be on the fast track to development, heading for middle income status by 2035 (You can download the government working paper, Cameroon Vision 2035, or read about it at African Economic Outlook).

The Chinese, the French, the Americans and the World Bank are all announcing projects and  loan packages for infrastructure and industry — certainly many lucrative deals are on the horizon. There’s just one catch, though. This is Cameroon and it’s an election year.

All sorts of promises get made during an election year — that’s politics everywhere, I imagine.  But Cameroonians have watched their president make hollow promises for decades.  Drive along any road and you’ll see signs announcing public works projects. Sometimes the signs indicate the duration of the work, “36 months”, but don’t include a start- or end-date. Or you’ll see a start-date, but nothing else. Either way, it’s often a sign next to nothing or next to a pile of rubble that looks like it’s been there, untouched, for months. So, understandably any announcement today will likely be perceived as nothing more than “effet d’annonce” (hype).

The "paved" road from Kribi to the border (Equatorial Guinea). Photo by Christiane Badgley

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