March 22, 2023

In Cameroon, celebrations for the 40 years in power of Paul Biya and a lot of vagueness for the future

2 min read

The presidential party will celebrate Sunday, November 6, the 40 years of power of Paul Biya, 89 years old. Supposed to continue to lead Cameroon until 2025, he has not designated any dolphins and does not let his intentions appear.

The festivities marking the 40th anniversary of Paul Biya’s accession to power are organized by the Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais, founded by the president in 1985. Strange preparations: no one knows today if the main interested party will participate, Sunday 6 November, to this celebration.

At 89, Paul Biya, whose health seems fragile, cultivates discretion. His public appearances are rare. One of the last dates back to July 26, 2022, during Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Yaoundé. Asked about his intentions after the end of his mandate in 2025, the Cameroonian president had maintained the doubt: “The mandate that I lead has a duration of seven years, he recalled. When this mandate will expire, you will be informed on the point of knowing if I stay or if I go to the village.”

A joke that leaves in expectation the possible suitors to his succession. No one has officially declared themselves. On this subject, taboo in his entourage and dangerous for opponents, a few names circulate. First that of the eldest son of the Head of State, Franck Biya, a 51-year-old businessman who once participated in his father’s electoral campaigns. But some consider him uninterested in politics and rather weak-willed. Other names are cited, those of the current Minister of Finance or the Minister of Communication. Without forgetting the secretary general of the presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, who enjoys the support of the first lady Chantal Biya. It is he who de facto exercises a large part of the executive power.

A president who spends a lot of time abroad

Paul Biya has often stayed in Geneva, at the InterContinental hotel which he seems to appreciate very much. Last year, Cameroonian activists demonstrated in front of the establishment to denounce the president’s expensive stays in Switzerland and his repeated absences from Cameroon. This way of life raises questions all the more as the situation in the country deteriorates. 30% of the 28 million inhabitants live in poverty, while part of the presidential entourage benefits from the corruption reigning in Cameroon. “A clique of predators who enrich themselves by benefiting from the absence of the head of state”, according to a Cameroonian journalistic source. On the spot, the corruption that rages among the administration and in the army is an open secret.

However, the country must meet serious economic and security challenges. The English-speaking west of Cameroon – bordering Nigeria – is in the grip of an armed rebellion which has left more than 6,000 dead and a million displaced since 2016. Sunday the presidential party -the CPDM- will celebrate the 40 years of reign of Paul Biya on the theme of political stability and peace.