* Risk of conflict before 2011 election - report
* Instability a threat to resource investment
* International community should demand reforms - report
By Richard Valdmanis
ABIDJAN, May 26 Cameroon faces the risk of
growing unrest before elections in 2011 due to public
disenchantment with President Paul Biya and the slow pace of
reforms, International Crisis Group said in a report on Tuesday.
Internal conflict in the oil producing nation, which is
viewed as one of central Africa's most stable countries, would
be a setback for regional democracy and unsettle billions of
dollars' worth of energy and mining investments.
"The failure of reform and continued poor governance mean
people no longer believe in the rule of law or peaceful
political change," warned ICG, an independent thinktank.
"Multiple risks of conflict exist in the build-up to
presidential elections in 2011 and beyond."
Biya, 77, came to power in Cameroon in 1982 and has held
sway since, often thanks to elections the opposition says were
unfair. In 2008, he orchestrated a constitutional re-jig
removing term limits that set off violent street protests but
allowed him to stand for the elections expected next year.
Opposition leaders have already accused Biya of attempting
to take control of the electoral commission to increase his
chances of winning in 2011.
Once-healthy oil production is declining. Figures released
on Tuesday showed Cameroon produced 6.09 million barrels of
crude oil in the first quarter, down 13 percent from the same
period in 2009 and little more than 50,000 barrels per day.
While Biya's government has announced plans to triple
electricity generation by 2020, power shortages are holding back
mining projects vital to diversifying the economy.
"The economy is weighed down by corruption and inertia, and
the population sees very little from what economic growth there
has been, mainly through exploitation of natural resources," ICG
said in the report.
The Communications Ministry said it had no immediate comment
on the report.
Neighbours and other international players should apply
financial and political pressure on Biya's government to push
reforms and prevent internal conflicts like those seen in West
Africa's Guinea and Ivory Coast, ICG said.
"The problems are of legitimate wider concern and present a
classic case of possible early conflict prevention," it said.
ICG added that the succession is a worry. "The end of Paul
Biya's presidency, only the second the country has known, is
likely to be fraught with risk. But it could also be an
opportunity to initiate the reforms needed to ensure the
country's longer-term stability," it said.
Major resource companies including oil giant Total (TOTF.PA)
and miner Rio Tinto (RIO.L) are active in Cameroon.
For a FACTBOX on Cameroon's energy and mining projects,
click here: [ID:nGEE5B60IZ] [ID:nLDE6040NI]
(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis; editing by David Stamp)