Cameroon opposition fails to see eye to eye

By Tansa Musa

Yaounde - Cameroon's opposition alliance failed to agree on a joint candidate on Friday to challenge President Paul Biya in an election next month, damaging already slim chances of beating one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

The alliance of main opposition parties was meant to endorse a candidate this week but veteran leader John Fru Ndi vowed to run on his own when former education minister Adamu Njoya won the nomination.

If Fru Ndi, who said a proper selection process had not been followed, and Njoya both stand in the October 11 single-round election, the opposition's chances of beating Biya will be almost zero, analysts say.

Biya, 71, who has ruled the central African oil-producing country since 1982, said on Wednesday he would seek another seven-year term.

He won multi-party elections in 1992 and 1997 but neither poll was considered free or fair by foreign observers.

"I discovered that I was ambushed by my colleagues in the coalition," said Fru Ndi, leader of the Social Democratic Front.

"I believed in and trusted the people with whom I worked but at the end I found out that they were dishonest and were interested in particular persons," he said.

The head of the panel charged with selecting the opposition challenger accused Fru Ndi of trying to impose his candidacy.

"The rules to which all of us willingly subscribed, including him, were respected," said Issa Tchiroma. "If he were the democrat he claims to be, he should simply bow down to the will of the majority."

Many people in the mainly Francophone country of 16 million believe the outcome of the election is already clear and use the phrase "There's no contest" to describe the vote.

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