"Coalition", the speakers bellow one after another as they mount the rostrum. "Action," the crowd roars back. "Coalition," they repeat, "Action," the crowd responds. "Coaaaalition," for a third time, "Action now!" the crowd applauds amid deafening noise from drums and trumpets.
The speakers, nine in all, are leaders of different political parties who have now come together in the Coalition for National Reconciliation and Reconstruction (CNRR), Cameroon's major political alliance.
Since March, they have been holding countrywide rallies such as this one, preaching one message: That after 22 years in power, the time has come for President Paul Biya and his ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM) to relinquish power and bring in new blood at the top level of national affairs.
"The coalition is the last hope for real freedom and true democracy," says Adamu Ndam Njoya, leader of the Cameroon Democratic Union (CDU). "It is the last hope to bring change to our beloved country. And change must come. Democracy must win so that the Republic can live." The crowd loved it.
Other speakers emphasised the point: "The coalition is a dream team that has come to chase away the lion [Biya called himself the "Lion Man" during the campaign for the 1992 presidential election]. Twenty-two years is too much. A new day is dawning for Cameroon and Cameroonians," said Jean Pahai of the Progressive Party of Cameroon (PPC).
Taking the cue from Kenya's rainbow coalition, Cameroon's opposition parties have decided to join forces to fight the "Lion Man". John Fru Ndi's Social Democratic Front (SDF) and the CDU, the country's main opposition parties, formed the CNNR last November. Since then they have been joined by seven other parties. "Since 1992, much water has gone down the bridge and we have learnt our lessons," concedes the CDU's Ndam Njoya.
Among the many concerns on its agenda, the CNRR says it observes with regret "the resolve of the CPDM regime to maintain our country in a 'de facto' monolithic dispensation, especially through preventing, by all means, the holding of free and fair elections, which constitute the best democratic avenue for the resolution of the problem of every society".
If elected, the coalition plans to create a three-year transitional administration which would carry out a wide-range of political, administrative and economic reforms. …