Street battles mar Cameroon poll


Mark Huband in Yaoundé

The Guardian, 12 October 1992


RIVAL party militants fought running battles in the streets of the Cameroon capital Yaoundé on Saturday and one man was beaten to death at an opposition rally hours before voters went to the polls yesterday in the country’s first multi-party presidential election.

John Fru Ndi, leader of the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front, alleged massive fraud yesterday when Front ballot papers ran out in his home town of Bamenda and up to 10,000 people who had been on the register for legislative elections in March found their names no longer appear.

In Yaoundé a man was beaten to death by Front supporters, Mr Fru Ndi said, after he was ‘discovered’ with a gun at the party’s final rally. Asked if he believed an assassination attempt against him was being planned, he said: “I can’t think of any other reason why there would be somebody in plainclothes standing in the crowd with a pistol.”

Supporters of the National Union for Democracy and Progress Party fought members of President Paul Biya’s Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement in the streets of Yaoundéusing sticks with nails driven through them and rocks.

But government officials said voting had been generally peaceful in most areas yesterday. Observers in the capital said no cheating had been reported.

Supporters of Jean-Jacques Ekindi’s Progressive Movement said that some polling stations in the port of Douala had not received ballot papers for the party. Officials said this was because of Mr Ekindi’s decision to withdraw from the poll and support Mr Fru Ndi. However, the Front leader said yesterday that Mr Ekindi had not withdrawn, and that the absence of the ballot papers was intended to reduce the opposition vote.

Voters get ballot papers for each of the seven candidates, which go into separate boxes.

The refusal of the National Union for Democracy and Progress, which draws support from the large Muslim population in the north, to unite against President Biya, whose control of the national assembly depends on a coalition with minor parties, has led to predictions of a close result.

The winner has to obtain a simple majority and diplomats believe Mr Biya, who has been in power since 1982, is capable of winning at least 30 per cent of votes based on his solid support in the south.

This could be enough to give him victory, despite his unpopularity in many parts of the country.

© Guardian Newspapers Limited