Cameroons main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), looks all set to compete in the country’s presidential elections in October. The party held its congress on Saturday where it selected it presidential candidate.
For the first time since 1992, party veteran, John Fru Ndi would not be the party’s presidential candidate. Joshua Osih has been selected as the party’s preferred candidate instead.
Osih, a 49 year old former businessman who hails from the troubled anglophone southwest of the country, told excited activists that he would mobilise the party in all 366 local authorities for the election, expected to be held in October.
“Etoudi is within our reach,” he happily said, making reference to the presidential residence.
Joshua Osih is fluent in both English and French. And his party, the SDF, does draw much of its backing from two predominantly English-speaking areas in western Cameroon, which was formerly ruled by both Britain and France.
Before his emergence as presidential candidate, Joshua Osih was the party’s deputy leader. He served under the leadership of veteran party leader and founder, John Fru Ndi. John Fru Ndi had led the party since for over two decades. He had contested elections in 1992, 2004 and 2011.
He however lost all to incumbent, Paul Biya. But this year, Fru Ndi announced his withdrawal from the poll, saying he wanted to pass the torch to a younger person.
After easily beating two other candidates, one of whom pulled out late, in Saturday’s vote, Osih told the press that “our doors are open” and he would not rule out a coalition with other parties.
He will likely have a rival in prominent lawyer Akere Muna, an anglophone who last month won the endorsement of several small opposition parties and grassroots groups.
Paul Biya Aims To Extend Rule Despite Crisis in Anglophone Regions
Meanwhile, tensions remain high in the anglophone regions, where protesters who claim discrimination by the French-speaking majority have led to violence and a crackdown.
In Cameroon, anglophones account for about a fifth of the West African country’s 23 million population.
Anglophone demonstrators have demanded a federal state, while some secessionists have even called for an independent state they have dubbed “Ambazonia”.
But aging president Paul Biya has not yielded to their demands. The 85-year-old Biya, who has been in power since 1982, is expected to seek re-election in October. This is the popular belief even though he has not made a statement about it.
It would be terrible if Paul Biya were to contest again. Critics say his rule has been characterised by ruthless exploitation, corruption and repression. And with the recent unrest in the Anglophone region, a Paul Biya candidacy could increase discontent.
Meanwhile Biya’s approach to governance has never been one based on compromise or dialogue. So if he contests, and unrest begin in the Anglophone region, he would most likely resort to deploying lethal force and intimidation to bring about stability. And that could be a calamity for the country and its neighbouring countries.