Cameroon’s Biya marks 30 years in power

Updated 04 November 2012
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Cameroon’s Biya marks 30 years in power

YAOUNDE: Cameroonian President Paul Biya will on Tuesday mark 30 years at the helm, a guarantor of stability in a restive region to some and one of Africa’s worst dictators to others.
At 79, Biya joins the select club of heads of state who have ruled for at least three decades, just behind Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang, Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
Biya was reelected with close to 80 percent of the vote last year and could theoretically stand again in 2018 since parliament scrapped term limits in 2008.
“Paul Biya, our president, the father of the nation,” goes a song that extols the west African state’s “evergreen” ruler and has been played in the run-up to Tuesday’s anniversary.
Biya is only the second president of the country, since independence from France in 1960 after Ahmadou Ahidjo.
In a country with huge ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity which counts no fewer than 10 active rebellions, Biya is seen by some as a unifying figure. Most of Cameroon has a French-speaking colonial legacy, but it also has a smaller English-speaking part.
The opposition sees nothing in Biya but a ruthless dictator sitting atop one of the continent’s most corrupt regimes and leaving most of the population of the 20 million population to wallow in poverty.
“We are one of a handful of countries in the entire world to have had the same dictator for 30 years,” said Joshua Osih, vice president of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party.
“For 30 years, we have been hoping for a better Biya and a better Cameroon but for 30 years now, the country has been sinking,” he told AFP.
Biya formed the Cameroonian People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) in 1985 and today its cronies hold a monopoly of key posts.
Biya is a “master in the art of maintaining the status quo,” wrote French journalist Fanny Pigeaud in her book “The Cameroon of Paul Biya.”
But the ruling party denies accusations of despotism against Biya and argues that the president has protected basic freedoms and allowed political pluralism to flourish.
“The country is still under construction and Biya will go down in history as the president of freedom of expression and multipartyism,” CPDM official Herve Emmanuel Nkom said.
He argued that Cameroon’s stagnant economic performance was caused by the global downturn rather than a result of inadequate government policies or graft.
A year before Biya rose to the top job, Cameroon’s growth rate stood at a heady 13 percent while the economy expanded by only 3.8 percent last year.
A third of Cameroonians still have no access to drinking water and electricity. Some economists say the jobless rate is around 30 percent.
“The country has been unable to harness a potential that is well recognized,” Cameroonian analyst Mathias Nguini Owona said.
The Transparency International corruption watchdog twice ranked Cameroon as the world’s most corrupt country.
Jean de Dieu Momo, a lawyer and opposition candidate in the 2011 presidential election, argued that Biya had kept none of the democratic promises made 30 years ago.
“His long reign has been marked by egregious and recurring human rights violations,” he said.
The opposition politician cited alleged extra-judicial executions in the wake of a failed 1984 coup and a wave of murders and arrests following “food riots” in 2008.
Repression of the riots, which broke in protest at rising prices as well as Biya’s moves to cling to power, left 40 people dead, according to an official tally.
Rights group put the toll at 139 after some of the worst violence witnessed under Biya’s rule.
Biya, a Christian who studied in France, has also been criticized as an absentee ruler, who is rarely seen in public and discloses little about his political agenda.
Unlike his wife Chantal, whose extravagant leonine hairstyles have achieved cult status on the Internet, Paul Biya — nicknamed “the Sphinx” — keeps a low profile and spends much of his time abroad, notably in Switzerland where two of his sons attend school.


Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

Updated 22 April 2018
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Trump’s travel ban faces US Supreme Court showdown

  • The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban.
  • The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims.

WASHINGTON: The first big showdown at the US Supreme Court over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies is set for Wednesday when the justices hear a challenge to the lawfulness of his travel ban targeting people from several Muslim-majority countries.
The case represents a test of the limits of presidential power. Trump’s policy, announced in September, blocks entry into the US of most people from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. Chad previously was on the list but Trump lifted those restrictions on April 10.
The high court has never decided the legal merits of the travel ban or any other major Trump immigration policy, including his move to rescind protections for young immigrants sometimes called Dreamers brought into the US illegally as children. It has previously acted on Trump requests to undo lower court orders blocking those two policies, siding with him on the travel ban and opposing him on the Dreamers. Trump’s immigration policies — also including actions taken against states and cities that protect illegal immigrants, intensified deportation efforts and limits on legal immigration — have been among his most contentious. 
The conservative-majority Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Wednesday on the third version of a travel ban policy Trump first sought to implement a week after taking office in January 2017, and issue a ruling by the end of June. 
The lead challenger is the state of Hawaii, which argues the ban violates federal immigration law and the US Constitution’s prohibition on the government favoring one religion over another.
“Right now, the travel ban is keeping families apart. It is degrading our values by subjecting a specific set of people to be denigrated and marginalized,” Hawaii Lt. Governor Doug Chin said in an interview.
The Supreme Court on Dec. 4 signaled it may lean toward backing Trump when it granted the administration’s request to let the ban go into full effect while legal challenges played out.
In another immigration-related case, the justices on April 17 invalidated a provision in a US law requiring deportation of immigrants convicted of certain crimes of violence. Trump’s administration and the prior Obama administration had defended the provision.
'Politically correct'
Trump has said the travel ban is needed to protect the US from terrorism by militants. Just before the latest ban was announced, Trump wrote on Twitter that the restrictions “should be far larger, tougher and more specific — but stupidly that would not be politically correct!“
The challengers have argued the policy was motivated by Trump’s enmity toward Muslims, pressing that point in lower courts with some success by citing statements he made as a candidate and as president. As a candidate, Trump promised “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
The Justice Department argues Trump’s statements as a candidate carry no weight because he was not yet president. The policy’s challengers also point to views he has expressed as president, including his retweets in November of anti-Muslim videos posted by a far-right British political figure.
In a court filing last week, US Solicitor General Noel Francisco, representing Trump in court, said those retweets “do not address the meaning” of the travel ban policy.
Francisco cited Trump statements complimentary toward Muslims and Islam, including in a May 2017 speech in Saudi Arabia.
In defending the ban, the administration has pointed to a waiver provision allowing people from targeted countries to seek entry if they meet certain criteria. The State Department said that as of last month 375 waivers to the travel ban had been granted since the policy went into effect on Dec 8.