He created surprise on Monday, the day after the presidential election in Cameroon. Considered the main opponent of the outgoing president, Paul Biya, Maurice Kamto declared himself the winner of the election even before the official announcement of the results.
A few hours after this dramatic turn of events announced at a press conference in Yaoundé, this former minister turned opposition leader since 2011, aged 65, agreed to answer Libération’s questions.
Journalist: Why were you in a haste to proclaim your victory in the presidential elections early, even before the Constitutional Council decided?
Kamto: We have done so on the basis of reliable information that we have already gathered. In most countries of the world, the results are announced the same evening or the day after the vote. In Cameroon, the Constitutional Council, with all members appointed by the President, has fifteen days to do so. Why such a delay in 2018 when we have the means to compile the results more quickly? We know that there has been fraud; in the north of the country, communications were cut off between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. without any official reason. Nevertheless, with the results sheets in our possession, I am certain of an undeniable victory. Why wait? Why wait? All I am asking for is change through the ballot box. I didn’t do anything criminal.
Journalist: However, your choice is not unanimous. The government rejects your proclamation, but also some opposition parties. One of them, Cabral Libii, is also said to have declared himself the winner through a Facebook post…
Kamto: I note that the post you just spoke about has less attention than my own statement. I have no comment to make at this stage. It may just prove that some candidates would be well perceived by the government. For the rest, I feel I am on the right path.Cameroon is a country where, unfortunately, we have become accustomed to wait. Under Paul Biya, the populations were “zombified.” For a long time in this country, we had the impression of a kind of Stockholm syndrome, where people ended up loving their torturers. In my meetings, however, I had the feeling that people were getting a taste for hope again. And how can we believe for a moment that Cameroonians would today be able to return to power through the ballot box an 85-year-old man, who has ruled for thirty-six years, has launched so many projects, none of which have been completed at exorbitant costs. I travelled around the country during this campaign, you have to see the state of the roads, the classes with 150 students, the lamentable state of the country… Who decreed that power was granted for life? Yet a Biya loyalist just said g that a Bantu leader should die in power. And no reactions have follwed after that statement.
Journalist: On Monday, shortly before you declared your victory, your HQ and home in Yaoundé were surrounded by the police. It is also said that your campaign manager is hiding after being directly threatened. Do you feel in danger?
Kamto: No, I’m not afraid, I refuse to live in fear.
Even though I can see that I’m being followed everywhere I go. For my campaign manager, I have not yet received any news, but I know that another representative of my party was kidnapped in Douala and then released. His jailers thought he was my campaign manager. For the rest, I was quite happy in my life as a university professor. I entered politics taking the risks, for a fight that I consider noble.
Journalist: Aren’t you afraid to push your activists to confront the police on the street if “your victory” is not recognised?
Kamto: Read my statement again: I have never called for violence. I talked about a “peaceful change”, I offered guarantee of immunity to the outgoing president. We will peacefully but firmly defend the results we have compiled. But legality is only valid if the laws are fair. Let us stop believing that the flawed institutions of this country are credible. In 2014, the regime passed a law, which under the guise of anti-terrorism effectively limits all freedom of expression and protests.. I was one of the first to fight this law which limits freedom.There are also laws that keep people in bondage.
Journalist: At the end of your statement on Monday, you reached out to the English-speaking minority living in two regions torn apart by clashes between secessionist movements and police forces. What will you do to resolve this conflict that undermines the unity of the country?
Kamto: I promised that once I become head of state, my first official visit would take place in theof the North-West and South-West, where Biya has never been since the beginning of the crisis. I want people to come out of the forests where they hide. I promised to rebuild the destroyed villages. We must establish an inclusive dialogue and stop believing that the military solution will solve the problem. In this crisis, extremists are not on one side only.
Journalist: Finally, What do you have to say about the way the West views Cameroon?
Kamto: I note with surprise that Europe did not send observers to these elections, although it often does in Africa. Are they not interested about peaceful change in Cameroon? It is a country that could be prosperous, that has many natural resources. And yet many Cameroonians are migrating to Europe. It makes me sick. But why is Europe not getting more involved, when it claims to be saturated by immigration? It is a similar observation for France. It doesn’t seem seem to be involved in change despite its economic interests in the country. I am not asking to be acclaimed, but that on the simple basis of information available to everyone, we look at this people and wonder whether they deserve to continue to live under this “deadlock.”
Culled from French Newspaper Liberation and translated from French to English by Elvis Boh