Friday, October 21, 2011

Election Announcement Day

I have been travelling a lot lately, for various reasons, but it just happened that I would be in Bamenda for the day the election results were announced. For your information back home, Bamenda is the seat of the opposition leader. I arrived last night around 8 PM. Everyone on my bus was handed a piece of paper issued by the Bamenda City Council that called for peace.
This morning I woke up around 8 AM. Muriel and I (both made temporary residents of the Bamenda office because of standfast) went out in search of breakfast. We walked to the usual spaghetti-omelet shack, but they were closed. The second place we went to had an open door, but turned us away (at 9:30 AM) with the excuse that they were tired and wanted to rest. Upon questioning at a third place, we were told that people were afraid because of the election results. I asked that woman why she was still around if it might become dangerous and she just shrugged, saying “what can I do?”

I would estimate half the stores in Bamenda were closed, although there were a few taxis running. I was able to get to my village without mishap, and sat down with a friend to watch the results be announced. 2 hours later, I left his house. In Cameroon, “election results being announced” means a man from the supreme court sits in front of cameras reading the statistics for each polling district. I watched the Minister of Transportation sleep. I watched the men (and women) of the supreme court sit around looking bored, but stylish, in robes and wigs that imitated Great Britain from a few hundred years ago. I heard Garoua’s statistics announced as having 900,000 votes for Biya while less than 200,000 people voted at all in Bamenda. (Bamenda is larger than Garoua).

My second stop in village was the school. It was 1:00 on a Friday, but there were only a few students in an abandoned classroom. They appeared to be practicing for choir, but one student told me they were praying for peace.
After that I went to visit a friend who lived nearby. She praised my bravery multiple times, saying that soon she would “go to the village” for safety. After I told her she was already in village, she said “well, since you are here, we will stay here”.
My final stop was to visit my neighbor and landlady (and to stop by to say hi to my replacement volunteer). She wasn’t home so I gave her a call. She was out at a nearby bar, drinking while waiting for results to come in. I joined her and sat and discussed for a few hours before coming back into Bamenda. (At this point, they are still reading statistics that no one really cares about anymore).
Bamenda at 6:30 was dark and quiet, with only a few taxis and motorcycle taxis to break the silence. I saw a large group of policemen milling about aimlessly.
My impression? Other than the defaced billboards of President Biya, no one will protest over the election. I have been repeatedly told over the past few months that even if they don’t like the president, people will not fight, because at least they have food.
We will see. It is currently 8:30 at night, and the final results have not been announced. They started reading numbers at 11:00 AM.

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