“2025 will be a critical year in Cameroon” 0

2025 will be a critical year in Cameroon as parliamentary and presidential elections will be held and the presidential elections in particular will either make or break the country which has been in the spotlight for decades for all the wrong reasons. As Cameroon’s political parties start strategizing on how to edge out the unpopular CPDM, the country’s ruling party, which has been responsible for the economic and political cataclysm which has befallen Cameroon, Cameroon Concord News turned to Dr. Joachim Arrey for expert analysis of the trends, fears and concerns of Cameroonians.   “Fru Ndi clearly won the 1992 elections as reported by Albert Dzongang in a video given that he willfully participated in the fraud which robbed Cameroonians of their victory even when other major political opposition parties did not stand with Fru Ndi. Fru Ndi of blessed memory won not because Cameroonians loved him, but because they were simply sick and tired of a government which had spent most of its time sleeping at the switch. Corruption and indifference had become the hallmarks of the government and Cameroonians wanted to rid themselves of this government and the destructive malaises it had engineered for them,” says Dr. Joachim Arrey, a committed observer of Cameroon’s political landscape. Read the full interview!!

Cameroon Concord News: It is always a pleasure having you. From the last time you shared your thoughts with us, a lot has changed and Cameroonians are really desperate for political and personality change. However, this week, we saw more of the same following the election of Marcel Niat Njifenji and Cavaye Djibril. What is your perspective on this?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: I am really surprised at the behaviour of those Cameroonians who really thought the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate would not be returned to their positions. The truth is that Cameroon’s political leaders do not care about the population. The future of the country is the least of their concerns. Today, the country is on the edge of a cliff and there is nobody to pull it back from the brink. Cameroonians are leaving the country in droves and this is not a concern to the authorities. Our youths are unemployed and wasting the best part of their lives and the government has simply gone to sleep. But again, if you grumble in your bedroom and after that you head to an off-license to drown your sorrows in alcohol, nobody will know that you have been hurt. Our country’s youths must be politically conscious and active. It is their future which is being ruined by their grandparents who should not be having anything to do with politics. However, nobody hurts or exploits you without your approval. Your attitude towards life determines how people see you. Cameroonians have cheapened themselves and they are only worth a bottle of beer or a can of sardine for a seven-year period.

Coming back to your question, why would anybody think that because someone is sick and old, he cannot do his job? There are no age limits in our constitution when it comes to standing for an election. Marcel Niat Njifenji and Cavaye Djibril have the right to stand for elections in Cameroon though they are desperately sick and old. If Cameroonians need real and meaningful change, they know what to do. Nobody hands you the change you need on a platter of gold. Cameroonians are the architects of their own problems. The country’s constitution provides for peaceful demonstrations if the population disagrees with the government and its actions, and I think if Cameroonians want to see genuine change, then they must use this provision to make their point.  Indifference and silence are tantamount to acquiescence. If Cameroonians think that somebody will come from a different planet or country to change their destiny, then they will have to wait for too long. The state capture will continue for decades if Cameroonians continue to be sorry spectators of political events in their own country.

Cameroon Concord News: You just spoke about unemployment and a stalled economy in Cameroon. In your view, what could be responsible for Cameroon’s underdevelopment at a time when most countries are taking giant steps forward in terms of development?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Cameroon’s dismal economic performance is nothing new at the international level. The country is bereft of modern transformative and transformational infrastructure. The country’s cities and towns are shadows of their former selves. Douala and Yaoundé need an extreme makeover. Yaoundé is 90% slum. There are few structured neighborhoods in Yaoundé. There are many neighborhoods in the nation’s capital which have gone for decades without water and electricity and this is not a problem for the people and their leaders. Douala, once a vibrant city, has lost its shine and it is now mostly a massive slum. 

In many parts of our major cities, you will see garbage heaps lining our streets and fecal matter is a constant presence in many of our streets, reminding the vulnerable that they could be easily swept away by cholera or other water or air-borne diseases. Our cities do not have proper fecal sludge disposal mechanisms and this is hurting the health of our people. Each year, thousands of children in Cameroon die of water- or sanitation-related diseases and since the government has decided not to establish any vital statistics department, many Cameroonians are simply in the dark about the disaster that has visited their country. If this unfortunate trend has to be bucked, then a change of mentality and personalities must be on the country’s political agenda. It will be preposterous to use the same people who have engineered the problems for them to find an appropriate solution to the same problems. They will definitely come to the solution laboratory with the same mindset and this will cause the problems to linger.

As you already know, Cameroon is among the most corrupt countries in the world and our country had in the early 2000s earned the infamous distinction of being the most corrupt country in the world and it won this disgraceful award two years in a row. That was what Transparency International told us and, to the best of my knowledge, the country has only made giant strides backwards in this regard. Corruption is a major economic killer, especially when the corruption is fostered by those who are supposed to check it. I would like to refer Cameroonians to the latest Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International. They will certainly gain a better understanding why their country’s economy is facing some of the challenges it is facing.

Mr. Editor, good governance is the fertiliser which brings about economic prosperity if well combined with other economic factors. Cameroon has been mired in controversies which have ruined its reputation abroad and this is striking fear in the minds of many potential investors. Nobody in his right mind will like to put his hard-earned money in a country whose future is uncertain. Many investors see Cameroon as a ‘tinderbox’ which might go off any time if care is not taken. If you take a look at the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIAG), you will see Cameroon’s position and you will gain a better understanding of why our economy is making giant strides backwards. The country is being run like a personal plantation. Cameroon is the only country in the world where the price of alcohol is regulated with presidential decrees. It is the only country in the world where even night watchmen are appointed through an administrative instrument. Competence and effectiveness are not the determinants of who should occupy which position.

The beer sector is the only economic sector which is doing well as most Cameroonians sedate themselves regularly with these liquids just to forget about their multitude of sorrows which has been stalking them for decades like a stubborn shadow. Unbeknownst to them is the fact that alcohol is a suspect in the many cases of diabetes and kidney failures which are sending our young men to an early grave. Some of these drinks are now being produced at home in very filthy environments. There is no Drug and Food Administration in Cameroon which can regulate such activities and law enforcement is a joke as the law enforcement agencies are replete with the proteges of the politicians who are the architects of the mess playing out in Cameroon.

Cameroon Concord News: Recently, we have been hearing some concerned voices calling for a coalition of opposition parties in Cameroon as a possibility of beating Mr. Paul Biya who is being touted as the ruling party’s candidate in the 2025 Presidential election. What is your take on that?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: I look forward to the day that idea will be incarnated in Cameroon, but I don’t think it is a prerequisite. It will take more than an election for genuine positive change to be part of Cameroon’s political landscape and culture. I have been reading some articles that the country’s political parties must unite if they really want to win an election in Cameroon. Unity is good but, in our context, where disunity is strength, it will take a miracle to achieve total unity.

Honestly, those pushing for a coalition of the country’s political parties are either too young to remember that there was a “Union for Change” which stood behind Mr. John Fru Ndi in the 1992 Presidential Elections which Ndam Njoya, Bello Bouba and others sabotaged, or they are just too naïve to know that the country’s political mess is coded in its electoral law and constitution.

Mr. Fru Ndi clearly won the 1992 elections as reported by Mr. Albert Dzongang in a video given that he willfully participated in the fraud which robbed Cameroonians of their victory even when other major political opposition parties did not stand with Mr. Fru Ndi. Mr. Fru Ndi of blessed memory won not because Cameroonians loved him, but because they were simply sick and tired of a government which had spent most of its time sleeping at the switch. Corruption and indifference had become the hallmarks of the government and Cameroonians wanted to rid themselves of this government and the destructive malaises it had engineered for them.

The electoral code stipulates that only ELECAM has the prerogative of publishing election results and only ELECAM-published results will be acceptable. Strangely, it is the president who appoints members of ELECAM. I am still trying to figure out how the country’s president will appoint his political opponents in high positions at ELECAM. He will have to be high on something strange or there must be divine intervention for him to lose his mind to the point of not knowing what it takes to rig elections. Who on earth will be popular after 42 years in power, especially when he has not posted any convincing results?

It should also be pointed out that in the event of any election disputes, only the Constitutional Council has the right to address such issues. Once more, it is the President’s constitutional right to appoint the president and members of the Constitutional Council. Except Mr. Biya and his people completely lose their minds, there will never be any accident in this regard. Mr. Biya knows that most Cameroonians are cash-strapped and giving them appointments is one way of buying their consciences. Poverty hardly breeds virtue and this has been clearly demonstrated in Cameroon. We all can recall the day Mr. Atanganang Clement was appointed as the Constitutional Council president and how he celebrated like a child in a candy store. Pushing for a political coalition of opposition parties as a prerequisite for winning the 2025 President election is like looking for a very small needle in a massive haystack in Cameroon.

The country’s political opposition will never win an election if the current political dispensation is not reformed to reduce the ruling party’s grip on the country. Besides, calling for that coalition is like looking for love in a brothel when we all know what the residents of those brothels are selling – sex for money. The country’s political opposition is replete with people who know that they do not have any political clout but they just have to throw their hats into the ring, hoping that they can get something from the ruling party after the election. Poverty can disarm even the strongest army in the world and many Cameroonian politicians are desperately hungry, making it hard for them to be disciplined and principled. Sometimes, those empty shells known as political parties are the creations of the ruling party as a strategy to sell the rhetoric that the opposition can never be united, hence diminishing its chances of winning any presidential election.

Cameroon Concord News: What do you think can be done to get the country out of its tight spot?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Despite the tough challenges which lie ahead and though the ruling CPDM is the front-runner in an election which has not even been announced given that it is in total control of the election mechanisms, I would still urge our young men and women to get registered and vote for a candidate who can really turn the country’s fortunes around. Currently, the political landscape is crowded but a few opposition leaders are clearly standing out, though they are yet to convince Cameroonians or establish a national consensus on their ability to engineer a brand new and prosperous country. The MRC which is still facing challenges due to its inability to emerge from its tribal shell could lead the pack if it organizes itself and if it reaches out to other political parties. The Social Democratic Front, which in the past had bruised the ruling CPDM, could also work with the MRC to give the ruling party a run for its money. The country is a year away from the presidential election and a lot can happen between now and the elections. The opposition parties, which genuinely want to bring about change in Cameroon, can start dumping enormous pressure on the crumbling government for election reforms to be undertaken before the elections.  There are many refined and sophisticated legal minds in Cameroon who can provide the right advice to this political parties regarding constitutional and election reform in Cameroon.

Cameroon Concord News: It is always a pleasure talking with you. Any last word for Cameroonians?

Dr. Joachim Arrey: Cameroonians are a brilliant people when it comes to academics but certificates alone will not enable them to live the life they want in their country. It takes a lot of courage and discipline to trigger change in any society. Cameroonians must drop their bad habit of thinking that they know everything just because they passed exams. They must learn how to listen to the experts and they must walk away from the straight jacket of tribalism and regionalism which the government has imposed on them. The government has worked hard to divide Cameroonians but it is time for us to read through the government.

Let us understand that every Cameroonian is in need of good roads, good hospitals, good schools and a civil and civilized environment which will help us to live a healthy life. We must embrace a structured existence which is underpinned by discipline. Cameroonians are generating slums which are killing them slowly. They must urge their municipalities to help them to live a structured life. Neighborhoods in Cameroon are not organized, making it easy for slums to emerge. The government might have failed us, but we cannot afford to fail ourselves. Through community effort, we can reduce some of the garbage which is serving as a good breeding ground for mosquitoes and diseases. A great health strategy must be predicated upon prevention. If we make prevention our mantra, we will stave off many of those diseases which are robbing us of our happiness.

Cameroon Concord News: Thank you, Dr. Joachim Arrey!