Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has been re-elected for a seventh term, the country’s constitutional council said Monday, extending his 36-year rule over the nation.
The 85-year-old president won 71.3 percent of the vote, beating nine other candidates in an election marred by violence and low voter turnout.
Biya was announced the winner of the tensely-contested election amid high-security presence in Yaounde and other major cities.
Riot police and security personnel were deployed to major streets in Douala ahead of the announcement.
Security operatives surrounded the homes of two opposition leaders Sunday, preventing them from attending a planned protest calling for the annulment of the polls.
Biya’s win follows protests and petitions by opposition candidates, who alleged the October 7 polling was rigged in the leader’s favor.
Many voters in Cameroon’s troubled north and southwest regions stayed away from polling booths as violence broke out between security forces and armed separatists.
Ballot boxes in the southwest were half-empty as voters stayed away in droves.
Biya has often recorded a landslide victory in past elections. He was declared the winner of the 2011 elections by the Supreme Court, which found that he got 77% of the vote, beating out 22 other contenders.
Biya maintains his iron grip on the Central African country despite a growing secessionist movement, which has worsened security in the nation.
He has been accused by rights groups of presiding over a brutal regime, characterized by human rights abuses, particularly toward residents of Cameroon’s English-speaking provinces.
People in the country’s Anglophone provinces, who make up 20% of the country’s population, say they have been marginalized by a Francophone-dominated government that can be traced to Cameroon’s post-colonial era.
But tension deteriorated into a full-blown crisis last year after protests in Anglophone regions turned violent, with armed separatists calling for a country of their own.
Biya’s government has been accused of using its military to crack down on armed separatists. Secessionist fighters also stand accused of kidnapping and killing soldiers and civilians.
Amnesty International, in a report last month, said it had recorded 260 security incidents, including kidnappings of civilians and violence between Cameroon’s soldiers and armed Anglophone separatists this year.
The human rights organization said 400 civilians have been killed since January in escalating attacks between armed separatist groups and security forces in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.
Biya, in the past, has condemned all “acts of violence regardless of their sources and their perpetrators.”
Journalist Eyong Blaise reported from Yaounde and Bukola Adebayo wrote from Lagos.