Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has announced the first regional elections in the country will be held in December this year, reported France 24. The elections will also be conducted in English-speaking provinces where years of fighting between the government and separatists have cost some 3,000 lives.
On Monday, President Biya signed a decree authorizing the indirect elections on December 6 in the country’s 10 regions, including in the restive North-West and South-West provinces. The elections will put in place councils provided for in a 1996 constitution in a move towards decentralization but still are yet to be implemented.
The regions will elect 90 councillors, who will have limited powers on local issues. Twenty of them will be representatives of traditional chieftains.
The two restive anglophone regions are home to a large minority of English speakers in a country where French speakers are the overwhelming majority- a situation that is the legacy of the decolonization of western Africa by France and Britain more than six decades ago.
The 87-years-old Cameroon president, who has been in power for nearly four decades, has promised these two regions a special status in a bid to quell the unrest. The 1996 constitution limited presidents to two seven-year terms but Biya’s party removed the term limits in 2008, allowing him to run again and extend his rule.
Meanwhile, John Fru Ndi, leader of a key opposition party, has said he will boycott the election unless there is a ceasefire first in the English-speaking regions.
Opposition leader, Maurice Kamto, has also vowed to organize protests against the regional elections if the separatist conflict is not solved before the elections take place.
The elections have been announced despite the coronavirus pandemic. Cameroon has so far reported 19,848 COVID 19 cases and 415 deaths. Around 18,450 people have recovered from the virus.