Cameroon President Paul Biya and his main opponent Maurice Kamto have found new grounds for confrontation thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The fight against coronavirus has revived in Cameroon a war of bosses that began in the polls almost two years ago, between the indestructible Paul Biya and his main opponent, Maurice Kamto, who proclaims himself “elected president”.
The pandemic has not favored a political ceasefire as in other countries on the continent. Although Cameroon, with officially more than 5,300 Covid-19 pollution and nearly 180 deaths by the end of May, is one of the most affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
On the contrary, the confrontation between Paul Biya’s power and Maurice Kamto’s party, “anyone instrumentalizing the fight against the epidemic”, underlines for the camera’s political scientist Sévérin Tchokonte for the AFP.
>> See: Coronavirus, the African challenge: investigating the evolution of the pandemic on the continent
In thirty-seven years of President Paul Biya’s leadership, Cameroon has been stuck in a political crisis since the re-election in October 2018 of the 87-year-old head of state.
His victory is still contested by Maurice Kamto, his rival, who had launched peaceful protests after the election before being jailed for nine months and then released under international pressure.
Completely deleted since being released from prison in October, he seems to have picked up since the beginning of the Cameroon epidemic in mid-March. Accidentally assisted by a strangely absent head of state who waited more than two months before speaking publicly on TV about the coronavirus.
Collection operation started by opponent Kamto
At the end of March, Maurice Kamto issued him an ultimatum and demanded that he address the Cameroonians before seven days. “In the current context of a serious danger to the nation, its silence is not only irresponsible, it becomes criminal,” the opponent tackles.
Three weeks later, he even announced that he had started a process to explain the vacancy in power. During the process, Maurice Kamto initiated an operation called the Survie-Cameroon Survival Initiative (SCSI) to raise funds for the fight against coronavirus.
This “caused a tension in the government that saw it as a confirmation of the failure of the national response system,” says Sévérin Tchokonte.
>> See: Covid-19 in Cameroon: the country has chosen chloroquine
Because the management of the crisis of Yaoundé is upset by critics. Thereafter, the authorities did everything possible to prevent the initiative. Since the beginning of May, a dozen SCSI volunteers have been arrested for distributing “according to the police” illegally, masks and hydroalcohol.
The government had already prevented the collection from being also classified as “illegal” by the end of April ordering mobile operators to close the accounts that received the donations. And the judicial police launched an investigation in particular for “money laundering” directed at two relatives of Maurice Kamto in charge of SCSI.
“The Cameroonian ruling party is using the pandemic to resolve points and punish the opposition,” said the international organization Human Rights Watch (HRW).
“Regime’s survival or continuity depends on its ability to control or neutralize MRC”
Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) by Maurice Kamto “performs confused actions that put him in the trap of politicization” of the fight against coronavirus, argues an official of the Power Party, the Democratic Assembly of the Cameroonian People (CPDM), Jean-Baptiste Atemengue .
“The one who built his illegitimacy is Mr. Biya himself,” said Olivier Bibou Nissack, spokesman for Maurice Kamto, offended by “the criminalization of a humanitarian measure to help people in danger.”
For Sévérin Tchokonte, “the survival or continuity of the regime depends on its ability to control or neutralize the MRC: this is why the government, when MRC takes an initiative, systematically responds”.
>> See: “Cameroon has never reached such a level of political violence,” says opponent Maurice Kamto
Other opposition parties have initiated measures against coronaviruses without being directed by the government.
After more than two months of silence, Paul Biya finally addressed his people in a televised speech on May 19, asking for a “holy union” for the coronavirus.
At the same time, Maurice Kamto also spoke in front of the camera live on his Facebook page to condemn “the barbaric and repeated attacks by the regime in place” against his initiative.
The government has decided to ease the restrictions on closing borders, restaurants and bars, and schools will also be opened on Monday. These decisions are already shattering part of public opinion and opposition, Maurice Kamto condemns “disastrous management” of the crisis.