Civic space violations following contested presidential elections

Cameroon held presidential elections on 7th October 2018, with incumbent president Paul Biya seeking a seventh term after 36 years in power. The elections come at a moment of an intensified conflict in the Anglophone regions between armed separatists and government forces, and the fight against armed group Boko Haram in the country's Far North region. 

Opposition claims the elections were marred by irregularities. On 19th October 2018, the Constitutional Council rejected the last of a total of 18 petitions, filed by the opposition, to annul the election results over allegations of voter intimidation, violence and ballot-stuffing. In the Anglophone regions, the North West and South West regions, voter turnout was extreme low due to the insecurity, including threats from separatists who banned the vote. International Crisis Group's Hans De Marie Heungoup, quoted by news reports, estimates that voter turnout in the Anglophone regions was a mere 5 percent. 

In the run-up to the announcement of the election results on 22nd October 2018, several civic space violations took place, including the banning of protests and gatherings, the arrest of journalists and internet restrictions. 

According to official results announced on 22nd October, president Paul Biya won the elections with 71.28 percent of the votes. 

Association

At least two opposition leaders were prevented from attending an opposition protest, planned for 21st October 2018 in Douala, which was banned by local authorities (see Peaceful Assembly). The home of Jean Michel Nitcheu of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), the main organiser of the protest, was reportedly surrounded by police officers. Édith Kah Wallah of the Cameroon People's Party also experienced the same situation.  

On 15th October 2018, police prevented a press conference of three CSOs from taking place. The Réseau des défenseurs des droits de l'homme en Afrique centrale (Redhac; Network of Human Rights Defenders in Central Africa), Un monde à venir and Dynamique citoyenne planned the press conference in relation to Cameroon's presidential elections in hotel Lumière, which was surrounded by police officers. Police reportedly justified their actions by saying that the organisers did not notify the authorities of the event and that there was a risk that it would disturb public order. Maximilienne Ngo Mbe of Redhac said to RFI:  

"We went to the headquarters of Redhac, and there they followed us with a big apparatus, with a pick-up waiting for us, probably to tell us that they could stop us ... There was the Commissioner himself who was there to conduct the operations."

Expression

According to Angela Quintal of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), journalist Josiane Kouagheu of Reuters and her driver were briefly arrested while trying to cover the protest in Douala. Both were released later. 

The Netblocks internet shutdown observatory noted a slowdown or a throttling of social media and messaging services, on the basis of 7,000 collected metrics over the weekend of 20th and 21st October 2018. Cameroon authorities have a history of selectively disrupting access to the internet. Between January 2017 and April 2018, authorities shut down or slowed down the internet in the Anglophone regions for prolonged periods, as reported previously reported on the Monitor

Peaceful Assembly 

A planned opposition protest in Douala, set to take place on 21st October 2018, was banned by authorities. The protest, organised by Jean Michel Nitcheu of the Social Democratic Front (SDF), was aimed at denouncing the elections results and the fraud and irregularities during the vote. While security forces surrounded the homes of two opposition leaders (see under Association), a massive deployment at the starting point and along the planned route, prevented the protest from taking place. According to Journal du Cameroun, at least four people were arrested in the Rond Point Dakar neighbourhood, where the protest was supposed to take place. 

Additionally, in anticipation of protests against the election results, anti-riot police were deployed on 21st October 2018 at major streets and roundabouts in Douala and Yaoundé.