Cameroon`s First Female Presidential Candidate
As the count down to the 2011 presidential elections lessons, Cameroon’s political landscape is boiling with a strong feminine touch, as Edith Kahbang Walla gets registered in the country’s history as the first female presidential candidate. Her intention to vie for the presidency has since October 2010 left an indelible mark in the minds of Cameroonians who least expected the much needed quest for revival in the country’s opposition to come through the hands of a woman. Kahwalla in making this move equally made history as the first Cameroonian to declare her candidacy for the October 2011 presidential elections.
According to Kahwalla her focus is on making the opposition dynamic enough to attract the Cameroonian people aboard. She is bent on restoring the image of the country’s opposition which has over the years lost its credibility in the eyes of people. “There is no opposition in Cameroon they are all the same corrupt and hungry people. They deceive us and make us build our castles in the air. They are toothless bulldogs who have been barking for more than a decade”, voices a once vibrant opposition militant in the town of Bamenda, birth place of multi party politics in Cameroon. The tendency in Cameroon has been for government to lure opposition leaders into ministerial positions who in the long run end up joining the chorus of the government.Cameroon`s current minister of Communication was before his appointment, an opposition leader with a strong critical eye on government’s policies. Today he is an ardent spokesman for the government. Cameroon’s main opposition leader Ni John Fru Ndi has left unanswered questions in the minds of the people with regards to his newfound friendship with the Head of State, characterized by public handshakes and exchange of New Year wishes. Contrary to the expectations of his former admirers, Ni John Fru Ndi has been extremely tolerant to the misdeeds of the Biya regime.
To many, Kahwalla`s idea of reviving the opposition is a much needed one, given the fact that the current opposition is in no way ready to oust the Biya regime which has been in power for 28 years, waxing strong in corruption, dictatorship, human rights abuse and many other ills which have for decades proven to be incurable ailments even to the international community. Cameroon under the coaching of president Biya has once been recognized by Transparency International as the Worlds most corrupt country and has always occupied prominent positions in the organization’s yearly rankings of top corrupt countries in the world. President Biya has equally been saluted as one of Africa’s five worst dictators. In 2008, the parliament amended the country’s constitution undoing the limitation on the term of office of the president; despite wide spread protests from the population. Recently the parliament stripped the electoral body of the rights to release provisional results during upcoming elections. A move which has been described by the opposition as a new trick to ensure smooth rigging during the upcoming elections.
Kahwalla finds the need to press for a wind of change that will bring the youth to decision making positions. She laments over the fact that there has been a generational gap in the country’s leadership for too long with the country’s main leaders and politicians counting 70 years and above. Kah Walla plans to put in place constitutional and institutional reforms which would permit an independent national assembly.
Kahwalla promises the introduction of electoral reforms that will guarantee free and fair elections. She envisages decentralization to foster equal distribution of material and human resources. Economic policies that would strengthen the country’s over 90,000 entrepreneurs through financial and technical assistance are also part of Kahwalla`s strategic plan.
Edith Kahwalla is at the helm of Cameroon Oboso, a nonpartisan civil society organization which has as objective. Informing and organizing and enabling Cameroonians act with regards to their economic, political and social rights in the nation. She would be going in for the presidential as an independent candidate.Kahwalla recently resigned from the Social Democratic Front party where she served as chairperson for the strategic committee, on grounds that the party was too sluggish in implementing anti-Biya policies. She stands for immediate action as suggested by her campaign slogan “The Time Is Now”. Kahwalla`s critics describe her gesture as premature given the fact that she is new in the political forefronts.
Gender stereotypes, religious belief systems, and political thought have for ages excluded women from politics in Cameroon. Out of 180 parliamentarians, only 29 are female and of 390 mayors just 20 women are amongst. The co-existence of customary and statutory laws, the corrupt political system and fraudulent practices, have greatly fertilized the marginalization of women and who are interested in politics.