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Cameroon’s President Paul Biya celebrates 40 years in power


YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Cameroon’s President Paul Biya celebrated 40 years in power Sunday, but stayed out of the …

YAOUNDE, Cameroon (AP) — Cameroon’s President Paul Biya celebrated 40 years in power Sunday, but remained on the sidelines as questions swirled about the 89-year-old, who is the only leader most have ever known. residents of the country.

Biya has not appeared in public since French President Emmanuel Macron visited the central African country in July. Decrees and photos of Biya receiving various diplomats are regularly published on the president’s social media accounts.

An event was planned at City Hall in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, to mark the anniversary of his presidency, but Biya was not scheduled to attend.

Nearly 100 young people marched through the streets of the country’s largest city, Douala, days earlier carrying banners with photos of the president and messages that included “Paul Biya: 40 years of stability, freedom and democracy.”

Darling Nguewa, a critic of the Biya regime, claimed that the government paid the marchers for such support. He and other opposition supporters said they planned to wear black on Sunday.

“November 6 is observed as a day of national mourning because Mr. Biya inherited a rich, prosperous and developing country,” Ngewa said. “And he began to unravel every sector of life and society.”

“Corruption has made its home in the country. So is bad management. Paul Biya is old and his public appearances are rare and this comes amid a succession battle,” he added.

Biya is Africa’s second longest-serving head of state: Equatorial Guinea’s President Theodore Obiang Ngema Mbasoga has been in power since 1979.

Biya was Cameroon’s prime minister and became president in 1982 after his predecessor, Cameroon’s first president after the country’s independence from France, resigned due to ill health.

Most of Biya’s appointments in the years that followed were members of his own southern Beti ethnic group, which quickly grew to dominate top prefect positions and the prime minister’s office.

He survived the 1984 coup attempt. When the first multi-party elections finally took place in 1992, Biya beat his opposition rival by just 4 percentage points.

In the decades since then, Biya’s party has used everything from fraud to redistricting to increase his victories and the ruling party’s legislative majority, according to political analysts. Human rights groups have accused him of brazen tactics, including torturing and intimidating opponents.

Biya has faced challenges in recent years ranging from a separatist movement in Cameroon’s English-speaking provinces to a threat in the north from Islamic extremists linked to Nigeria’s Boko Haram group.

Critics point to the role corruption has played in consolidating Biya’s regime, with the spoils allegedly going to his allies in the government, security forces and the president’s family.

Political scientist Aristide Mona said the celebration of Bio’s 40th year in power was “part of the tradition of consecration”.

“The people who are responsible for these different mobilizations are largely guided by the logic of clientelism, as everyone tries to show their loyalty, show a lot of loyalty and loyalty,” Mona said.

Showing loyalty becomes especially important as Bia gets older. The president’s son, Frank Bia, was more prominent on his father’s side. Some think he is positioning himself as a possible successor.

There are fears that the end of the president’s long tenure in the country of more than 200 different ethnic groups could lead to chaos.

“Biya did not take the time to prepare a successor, someone who could inherit his power,” Mona said.

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