October 25, 2011 / 9:44 PM / 8 years ago

Cameroon's Biya promises youth jobs after poll win

YAOUNDE, Oct 25 (Reuters) - Cameroon’s President Paul Biya promised more jobs for young people and said he would set Cameroon on the path to being an emerging nation in a speech on Tuesday after he was declared winner of this month’s presidential election.

Cameroon’s supreme court said on Friday 78-year-old Biya was re-elected by a widely expected landslide in a vote that U.S. and French authorities have said was marred by irregularities.

Biya won 77.9 percent of the votes against a field of more than 20 opposition candidates.

“We will make Cameroon an emerging country, that is, a country with strong democratic institutions, enjoying strong and sustainable growth,” Biya said in a speech on Cameroon’s national television.

“We are going to transform our country into a vast construction site which will provide job opportunities for young people and create wealth that can be redistributed equitably,” Biya said.

Biya has promised to build roads, power plants, and a deep sea port and he is seeking to attract more investment to the country’s agriculture and mining sectors with the goal of securing emerging market status for Cameroon by 2035 — putting it in the same bracket as countries such as Mexico or Malaysia.

Cameroon, a modest crude producer in the Gulf of Guinea, is the world’s fifth largest cocoa producer and the Central African region’s breadbasket, supplying food to Chad, Central African Republic, Congo Republic and Gabon.

But its economic growth has underperformed some of its neighbours and the local media and opposition have criticised Biya for allowing corruption, red tape and nepotism to fester.

Biya, one of Africa’s longest serving presidents, who has ruled the country for nearly 30 years, altered the constitution in 2008 to remove term limits so that he could run again in the Oct. 9 election, sparking off days of street riots that killed over 100.

International election observers have said that though the poll was conducted a peaceful manner, several irregularities were observed while Cameroon opposition parties have said the results were not credible due to the irregularities.

France, the country’s former colonial power, urged Cameroon authorities in a statement over the weekend, to take steps to ensure that the problems seen during the poll were resolved before the country’s legislative election expected in March next year.

The U.S. ambassador to Cameroon said they too had identified irregularities in the voting process but these problems did not affect the outcome of the election.

“We recognise that President Biya won the election ... We identified irregularities and shortcomings in the election, we do not believe that those affected the outcome of the election,” Robert Jackson said on Cameroon national television after meeting the country’s foreign minister on Tuesday. (Reporting by Tansa Musa; Writing by Bate Felix)

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