Cameroon’s Biya marks 30 years in power



Agence France Presse

Published — Sunday 4 November 2012

Last update 4 November 2012 4:26 pm

| نسخة PDF Print News | A A

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.

What's happening around Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: The Saudi led-coalition fighting to reinstate Yemen’s exiled government aims first to set it up in Aden and then return it to Sanaa if possible via peace talks with Houthi foes, a coalition spokesman said.But if the Iranian-allied Houthis did...
RIYADH: Nine Omani Umrah pilgrims, on their way back home, were killed and 34 were injured, in a road accident which took place near Khurais, between Riyadh and Al-Ahsa province.According to police, the coach carrying the pilgrims collided with a tra...
JEDDAH: The Kingdom and Namibia have signed a protocol to establish diplomatic relations between them.According to SPA, the protocol was signed on Tuesday by Saudi Arabia’s Permanent Representative at the United Nations Abdullah Al-Mouallimi and his...
JEDDAH: Official reports reveal nationalization levels of medical and health workers in the Kingdom remain low, with Saudi nationals making up only 21.7 percent of physicians, 31.8 percent of nurses, and 67.4 percent of ancillary staff.According to t...
JEDDAH: The Saudi Food and Drugs Authority (SFDA) will begin receiving clearance applications for medicines and medical supplies, including drugs containing narcotic or psychotropic substances, for Haj missions or other government bodies on Saturday....
JEDDAH: Saudi importers of cattle said the Haj season this year will not see an increase in the price of livestock due to the stability of the local market and the available supply.There are also guarantees from exporting countries that required quan...
JEDDAH: At the upcoming elections the national identity card will be the only approved document used for identifying voters of both genders and allowing voters to exercise their electoral right, provided all statutory requirements are met.In a press...
JEDDAH: Education Minister Azzam Al-Dakhil has spoken of a new education policy which emphasizes the importance of harmonizing admission policies in universities with the needs of the labor market.Al-Dakhil made these remarks during a meeting with un...
JEDDAH: Local bottled water consumption during the summer, Umrah and Haj seasons this year will increase by 10 percent.“This translates into an annual growth rate of between 4 percent and 5 percent,” Rashed Bin-Zouma, a water industry expert, was qu...
RIYADH: Four Saudi secondary students including a young woman from the Eastern Province have received prestigious medals at the 47th International Chemistry Olympiad (IChO), which concluded in Azerbaijan last week.The winners of the four bronze medal...
JEDDAH: The UAE’s decision to lift fuel subsidies beginning in August has raised the possibility of other Gulf states following suit.Economists suggest a wide disparity of prices of gasoline in the Gulf countries will lead to more petrol smuggling op...
DAMMAM: The tourism industry in the Kingdom is witnessing great interest by authorities to develop the archaeological areas, promote their support services and create the best environment for tourism products, said businessman Abdul Mohsen Al-Hokair....
JEDDAH: The ongoing World Circus at north Obhur has brought smiles on the faces of orphans, with its show of acrobats featuring 20 performers and clowns.The orphans of Al-Rawdah district charitable organization said they found the circus entertaining...
RIYADH: The Nepalese ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Udayaraj Pandey, thanked the Kingdom on Thursday as he ends his four-year tour of duty in Saudi Arabia.Earlier in the day, he called on Riyadh Gov. Prince Faisal bin Bandar to pay him a courtesy call a...
RIYADH: Movies produced by young and amateur Saudi filmmakers will be shown on Saudi Television starting in the middle of next week.“The films will be shown daily to encourage young Saudi filmmakers,” said Abdulaziz Fahad Al-Eid, senior broadcaster a...

Stay Connected

Facebook