It’s no accident that Paul Biya is the second-longest-ruling head of state in the world who isn’t a monarch. Nor that Cameroon’s constitutional council confirmed today that Biya, who has been in power for 36 years, has won a seventh term in office and is set to lead the country until 2025. By any objective standard, the Cameroonian election on Oct. 7 was a farce, according to outside observers. Voter turnout was marked by apathy, and in some regions, outright fear, with credible sources saying that less than 1 percent of voters cast ballots in some areas. In the country’s English-speaking regions, harsh crackdowns on an emerging secessionist movement kept many polling stations closed and left others mostly attended by soldiers. But the country’s state media want you to know that the elections went just fine, and they can cite “outside monitors” to prove it.
On Oct. 8, state-run outlet Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) interviewed a group of international observers who praised the country’s elections as credible and fair. One election observer, filmed by CRTV and identified as Nurit Greenger, a Transparency International observer, called Cameroon’s elections “extremely good.” She added, “I don’t think there is a way you can cheat.”
There was just one hitch: Transparency International has no election observers in Cameroon, and the organization has no ties to the group that appeared on CRTV.
“It’s still a bit of a mystery as to who decided to say that they were a Transparency International group,” Michael Hornsby, a spokesperson for the organization, told Foreign Policy. “But I think it’s very telling that one of the individuals kept repeating that they were trained by us—long after we had said we had nothing to do with them.”