Cameroon votes in presidential polls as conflict rages
Gb news24 desk//
Cameroonians are voting in crunch presidential polls on Sunday, with octogenarian leader Paul Biya seeking a seventh term against a backdrop of unprecedented violence in the country’s English-speaking regions.
The vote follows a last-minute opposition unity bid to dislodge the 85-year-old incumbent, one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers, reports AFP.
Two leading opponents have formed the first electoral union since 1992, but talks between the array of other opposition parties to create a “super-coalition” to deny Biya another seven years were apparently unsuccessful.
In the Bastos public school in the capital Yaounde, where Biya will later cast his vote, brisk voting got under way as soon as the polls opened.
“I feel proud,” said Patrick, 38, an airport worker after voting. “I want the next president to consolidate what we have achieved in Cameroon. I want the elections to pass off peacefully, that’s my only hope for the polls.”
Voters in the queue were watched by a heavy security presence including members of the presidential guard, deployed ahead of Biya’s arrival.
Cameroon’s 6.5 million eligible voters are casting their ballots as the toll continues to mount in the anglophone southwest and northwest, which have been rocked by a separatist insurgency launched a year ago against the mainly francophone state.
The violence has claimed the lives of at least 420 civilians, 175 members of the security forces and an unknown number of separatists, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think-tank.
In Buea, capital of the southwest, three separatists of the so-called Ambazonia Republic were gunned down on Friday while a priest was executed by soldiers on Thursday, according to witnesses.
The far north is also mired in insecurity, as Nigeria-based Boko Haram fighters mount attacks despite efforts by the US to equip and train Cameroon’s military to battle the jihadists.