The Social Democratic Front (SDF), a political party formed 32 years ago to oppose Paul Biya’s dictatorship is negotiating to join the government and get some members in the next cabinet reshuffle.
This ongoing negotiation was hinted at by Simon Fobi Nchinda, a Member of Parliament from SDF. Fobi Nchinda announced his party’s readiness to join Biya’s government while appearing on a Sunday television show to talk about SDF’s 32 years anniversary.
To normalize the negotiation, Fobi insists the SDF has always stood for a negotiated union which can accelerate good governance in Cameroon. As a pointer that the SDF is Fru Ndi and Fru Ndi is the SDF, the National Executive Committee (NEC) had earlier said the possibility to join a union government is being discussed at the level of the party and the man with the final decision to join or not to join is Fru Ndi, the National Chairman.
This explains the SDF’s participation at the May 20th march past, which was a last-minute arrangement by Fru Ndi in sharp contradiction to an earlier NEC decision not to participate. Pundits say the unhidden romance between the SDF hierarchy and the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon is sinking the party.
Jean Michel Nintcheu, Regional Chairman of the SDF in the Littoral region, who has always been at odds with Joshua Osih, the First Vice National Chairman accused Fru Ndi of mortgaging the party that had been created to oust Paul Biya’s corrupt government from power.
The SDF used to be an important part of politics in Cameroon, as it had 46 Members of Parliament (MP) in the National Assembly by 1996. The number of SDF deputies has since dwindled to just five coming from the Northwest, West, and Littoral, suggesting the party which used to be national is now only a shadow of its former self.
Though the numbers at the National Assembly have dropped drastically, SDF says the reduction in MPs doesn’t reflect its lack of popularity but blames it on the ongoing armed conflict in the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons, that frustrated elections taking place in SDF strongholds. The lack of elections in SDF’s strongholds allegedly opened the doors for soldiers to vote for Biya’s ruling party.
Fobi says the SDF cannot lose popularity in Cameroon when it is the party that has always represented the population and held those in government accountable. According to him SDF MPs and Senators are leading when it comes to highlighting the government’s failures in the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) projects, Covid-19 funding and most recently on an iron ore mining deal with a Chinese company.
The SDF says it played a role in leading the corruption fight that resulted in the incarceration of Mounchippou Seidou, erstwhile Minister of Post and Telecommunications and many other government ministers, who are in jail for corruption and embezzlement.
Fobi also says the SDF has fought for electoral reform and the results are showing, as a new elections body has since been created to replace the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralization (MINATD). The SDF claims that its work and protests forced the government to accept the use of computers and transparent ballot boxes.
With these ‘successes’, Fobi says the basic structures of the party are undergoing reorganization in preparation for a national convention of the Party in 2023. The SDF also expects a new leader in 2023, as Fru Ndi says that’s when he plans to retire so that the party is handed to a younger generation.
This, however, will not be the first time party officials are talking about Fru Ndi retiring. The Chairman gave the impression in 2018 that he was stepping back when he allowed Vice Chairman Joshua Osih to run for the president on the ticket of the SDF, but he retained control of the party structures. This is why pundits hold strongly that as long as Fru Ndi breaths air, he will be Chairman of the SDF.
But even as the SDF claims to be playing its role in the opposition, the party is also talking dialogue with Biya’s government. In addition to negotiating its own future with Biya’s government, Fobi wants the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons to give up on the armed conflict in favour of dialogue.
The dialogue, according to Fobi would end the armed conflict rocking the region, where pro-independence movements are seeking to restore the independence of the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons. Instead of fighting for the restoration of the independence of the former UN Trust Territory of British Southern Cameroons and renaming it Ambazonia, Fobi says the SDF would rather prefer a federal system of governance in Cameroon as was before 1972 is created.
The SDF, he says has been calling for dialogue and stating that those fighting to get to Buea should sit on the negotiations table with a strong argument as to why they prefer a new nation. During this dialogue, Fobi notes, Southern Cameroonians who still strongly believe that living in the Republic of Cameroon is better should put forth their own argument and the outcome might be decided in a referendum.