BRUSSELS– The European Union on Thursday urged Cameroon’s president elect, veteran strongman Paul Biya, to unite his country and overcome its troubles following elections.

The Constitutional Council, dominated by Biya loyalists, said the 85-year-old leader had won 71.3 percent of votes in the October 7 poll marred by allegations of widespread fraud, low voter turnout, and violence.

Reacting to the council’s announcement four days later, the EU’s diplomatic arm, the external action service, issued a mild statement that did not mention the fraud allegations.

“The European Union expects the President-elect to bring together all stakeholders to overcome the challenges facing the country, to the benefit of all Cameroonians,” a spokesperson said without mentioning Biya by name.

“While elections were generally held in a peaceful manner, some parts of the population were unable to take part in the vote,” the statement said.

“The EU reiterates its concern about the situation in the North-West and South-West regions of the country.

“It is crucial that the authorities are open to the proposals of civil society and religious authorities for a peaceful and lasting resolution of the crisis, and that a process of dialogue be launched as soon as possible with all actors in favour of peace.”

The EU statement said African Union calls to strengthen the legal and institutional framework for elections in Cameroon “could increase voter confidence in the electoral process and make it more inclusive.”

“Such reforms are crucial and the EU stands ready to accompany such a process,” it said.

The EU has sought to put Europe and Africa on equal footing in a new approach to the continent, fuelled in part by efforts to reduce migration to Europe.

“Africa does not need charity, it needs a balanced partnership and Europe needs this partnership just as much,” European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker said last month.

The US State Department took a tougher line Monday, saying voting irregularities cast doubt on the credibility of Biya’s latest victory and urged a peaceful way forward under Biya, who has ruled Cameroon with an iron fist since 1982.


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