Cameroon’s first-ever regional elections polling ended on Sunday evening despite interruptions by armed separatists in the country’s English-speaking regions.
Sunday’s vote was boycotted by Cameroon’s two main opposition parties, Cameroon Renaissance Movement (CRM) and Social Democratic Front (SDF), citing a “biased” electoral code and insecurity in the country’s Anglophone regions of Northwest and Southwest.
Authorities said by the time voting ended at 6 p.m. local time, there had been no reports of major incidents that could derail the elections.
Armed separatists have been clashing with government forces since 2017 in a bid to create an independent nation in the Anglophone part of Cameroon. The government hopes the elections will help appease the crisis by accelerating decentralization.
“All the election material and documents were made available in sufficient quantity in the polling stations, and local polling commissions were all at work,” Essousse Erik, director general of national electoral body Elections Cameroon (Elecam), told a press conference in the capital Yaounde on Sunday evening.
The voting took place in observation of preventive measures against COVID-19, he added.
In the commercial capital Douala, traditional rulers and municipal councilors who constitute the electoral college expressed satisfaction after casting their votes.
“This is the first time this kind of election is taking place in our country and this is the first time for me to vote as a traditional ruler. Voting was wonderful and I feel our country is changing for the good,” Micheal Ndoumbe, a traditional ruler who voted in Douala, said.
“Everything was smooth and clean. We had no quarrels or irregularities as seen in other elections in the country in the past. We hope that vote counting will take place in a similar peaceful manner,” said Joseph Wakam, a municipal councilor who was among the first to cast a vote.
In the English-speaking part of Cameroon where armed separatists vowed to interrupt the elections, the voter turnout was “massive,” according to authorities, despite the killing of a voter by armed separatists.
Andoh Stanislous Tambu, mayor of Widikum-Boffe commune of the Northwest region, said that a municipal councilor of his municipality, Ancho Elias Ambi, was killed by armed separatists after casting his vote.
“However, that did not disturb us from casting our votes,” he added.
Meanwhile, on early Sunday, the army said its troops have killed a separatist commander in Babessi commune of the Northwest region who was notorious for kidnapping and killing civilians and security officers.
“No local election will ever raise such enthusiasm and passion. The reason is simple; the election of regional councilors today has come to complete the setting up of institutions provided for by the Constitution of our country,” Cameroon’s Minister of Territorial Administration Paul Atanga Nji told reporters in the capital.
Regional supervisory commissions would proclaim provisional results of the elections at the level of the constituency not later than 72 hours as of the close of the polls, and final results will only be proclaimed by the Constitutional Council within a period of not more than two weeks from the close of the polls, according to Cameroon electoral code.