Biya has this foolish Francophone mentality of believing that even the economy would do what the head of state wants
Cameroon under the late President Ahmadou Ahidjo was a nation that offered good employment opportunities and social security to its well-educated population. When President Paul Biya took over, the country became a place of so little hope that people left in droves.
From widely acclaimed man of rigour and moralization to a despotic dictator, Paul Biya’s 40-year rule of Cameroon has been one of Africa’s most prominent and successful failures.
Skilled at gaining an advantage, especially deceitfully over his opponents, the 89-year-old Paul Biya has outmaneuvered his political opponents for decades. He sidelines everyone within his ruling CPDM party and government except his right-hand men in the army, the gendarmerie and the police force. It is extremely difficult to depose him.
For more than three decades, Biya has inspired other leaders in the Sub Saharan region to emulate his tactics and extend their rule by manipulating the constitution and suppressing opposition through violence and intimidation.
Biya’s current violent war in Southern Cameroons is typical of his signature action — and it has devastated Cameroon’s agricultural production, transforming what had been known as Cameroon’s breadbasket into a battle field and creating thousands of refugees.
Biya declared war against the English speaking peoples of Southern Cameroons in ringing rhetoric and stated that Cameroon remains one and indivisible. Today and as I write, it does not matter that the war in Southern Cameroons is claiming the lives of thousands of innocent civilians including army soldiers. What is more important is that billions of FCFA including Covid-19 funds injected into the war is simply going to Biya’s army generals, Cabinet ministers, cronies and blood relations to his wife, Chantal Biya.
Millions of both French and English speaking Cameroonians have migrated to the West and in neighbouring African countries, and it is routine to find a former High Schoolteacher working as a carer or security agent in Europe or North America. Thousands of Cameroonians are in Germany, France, UK, Holland and Belgium including the USA. And those who have stayed behind have coped with an unprecedented unemployment rate and tourism has dried up to a trickle.
Biya has this foolish Francophone mentality of believing that even the economy would do what the head of state wants. His ruling CPDM regime is struggling to manage a dilapidated education and health services while Biya, his family and his closest allies are amassing world-class fortunes.
His Beti Ewondo gangs both in the army and in government have made Cameroon to become one of fear as a result of Biya’s far-reaching domestic spy network, the CENER. Hundreds of opposition supporters have been killed or disappeared in Douala and Yaoundé. Many more including Southern Cameroons detainees are being tortured.
It is very hard to remember that Biya once enjoyed praise for instituting rigour and moralization into Cameroonian politics. He is now known as a leader who marginalizes critics and restricts freedoms. Human rights groups and the Holy Roman Catholic Church have documented and condemned several killings including the murder of Bishop Balla of the Diocese of Bafia which now remains the darkest stain on Biya’s record and a scar that plagues the country.
Tarnished by the killings currently going on in Southern Cameroons, Biya still has strong backing from the French and he has constantly been using the army, the police and the security network to keep the people subservient.
Biya family’s lavish ways has become outlandish, even to the French Cameroun’s jaded public. The growing outrage among Cameroonians at the excesses is finally spilling over to the military. He is going to fall in a very quick and sad way.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai