9-10 August 2011
Following in-depth discussion at the recent Africa Committee meeting in Windhoek of the forthcoming electoral timetable in Africa and the electoral processes, it was agreed that an immediate visit would be made by representatives of the organisation to Cameroon to call for the holding of free and fair elections in that country. This visit, taking place from 9-11 August in advance of the elections scheduled for 9 October 2011, included discussions with government authorities, the leadership of the SI-member Social Democratic Front (SDF), electoral authorities and members of the diplomatic community in Yaoundé.
The Socialist International Secretary General Luis Ayala, accompanied by Steen Christensen (SDP, Denmark), together with SDF Chair John Fru Ndi and SI Vice-President Chantal Kambiwa, held discussions with Prime Minister Philemon Yang, during which they raised concerns expressed at the Africa Committee meeting on the organisation of the presidential elections in Cameroon. Among these was the composition of Elections Cameroon (ELECAM), the body appointed to oversee election matters in Cameroon, and the need for better representation of opposition and civil society among the members of this body. Measures to improve the transparency and accountability of the electoral process were also discussed, namely the need for a clear and precise electoral register and for a single ballot paper to be used in the presidential elections. The current system, under which a ballot paper is issued for each candidate, is much more prone to abuse and logistically extremely difficult to administrate in multi-candidate elections.
It was underlined by the SI Secretary General that the position adopted by the National Executive Committee of the SDF at its meeting on 6 & 7 August showed its willingness to participate in a process that would bring about democratically held elections, and that the good faith and commitment to democracy shown by the party, their followers and the Cameroonian people merited an adequate response from the authorities to ensure that free and fair elections would take place.
The delegation also met the board of ELECAM and its chairman Fonkam Azu’u, where the proposals of the International on the composition and work of that body and measures that needed to be taken in advance of the elections were discussed in detail.
The meeting held with the SDF leadership headed by party chair John Fru Ndi focussed on the efforts to ensure that the elections are credible and legitimate. The SDF is the leading political force in Cameroon demanding free and fair elections, as was reflected at a well attended joint press conference held by John Fru Ndi and the SI delegates in Yaoundé, which also underlined the readiness of the SDF to engage in a process of democratisation in Cameroon. The issues raised in the meetings between the SI delegation and government and electoral officials were also presented, with a clear message that the International expects that the authorities of Cameroon proceed with elections which are fully compliant with the principles of democracy.
Concerns were expressed that any democratic shortfall in Cameroon could jeopardise democracy in Africa, with the election there coming towards the beginning of a busy electoral calendar for the region. The SI Secretary General pledged that the International would continue to closely monitor developments in Cameroon, and the electoral process there in the hope that this year’s elections could mark a turning point for the development of democracy in that west African country.