On November 6, 1982, Paul Biya became President of Cameroon. Thirty-nine years later, he is still the head of the country. More than his record, it is his succession in question.
The "sphinx", the "dinosaur" or even the "mummy". The qualifiers, not always very nice, are not lacking on the side of the opposition when it comes to evoking the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya. Few of the affectionate nicknames attributed to the Head of State. This Saturday, November 6, Paul Biya celebrates his 39 years at the head of the country. A succession of mandates which made him the second oldest head of state in Africa.
If the first three decades of Paul Biya in the presidency were relatively supported by the international financial spheres and owe a lot to the policies of his predecessor Ahmadou Ahidjo, in recent years, the governance of the Cameroonian president has been debated. From extreme poverty to insecurity in the country, including the country's indebtedness, the absenteeism of the Head of State - who, to the taste of some, spends a little too much time on vacation in Switzerland - and the war of succession which does not say its name within the seraglio of Paul Biya, a question keeps coming back: is the Biya era definitely over in Cameroon?
The king is dead, long live the king !
To understand his announced fall, we must go back to the beginnings of the Biya presidency. To everyone's surprise, on November 4, 1982, then aged 58, the first President of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo, announced his resignation for "health reasons". At the time Prime Minister, Paul Biya succeeded him. There were many hypotheses on the reasons for this unexpected succession and, despite twenty-two years in power by Ahidjo, premature.
But the way the former president was treated since his departure from power, the reasons for his departure were quickly found: the internal war within the ruling party, the Cameroonian National Union (UNC), had indeed been fatal. to an internally weakened Ahmadou Ahidjo.
For his part, Ahidjo denounced, in substance, a medical coup d'état orchestrated by France and requested, in vain, the assistance of the United States to regain power in Cameroon. Unsuccessful: Ahmadou Ahidjo ended his life in exile in Senegal, where he died of a heart attack in 1989. Previously, he had been sentenced to death in absentia and had lost control over the UNC in just five months. his departure from power. The party was then renamed the Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (RDPC).
The death in the bud of hopes for democracy
As soon as he took power in 1982, Paul Biya directly subscribed to the economic structuring plan imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). A wild privatization and a dismantling of the State then took place during the 1980s and 1990s in Cameroon. With a regime that celebrates single-party rule, civil unrest in Cameroon is quickly felt. Paul Biya was elected president in 1984 and re-elected in 1988, when he was the sole candidate.
The beginning of the 1990s was nevertheless a bearer of hope for the Cameroonian political class. The country then experienced its first - and for the moment last - free elections, even if these were far from transparent. Paul Biya's unfortunate rival, John Fru Ndi, finished second in the 1992 presidential election, just four points behind the incumbent president. The opponent is then placed under house arrest and the French press is then happy to destroy the image of Fru Ndi. The Cameroonian authorities then launched an operation of repression against its militants by the Cameroonian authorities.
The presidential elections that followed - in 1997 and 2004 - were "farces", according to the opposition. Paul Biya wins these parodies of elections with 92% and 71% of the vote respectively. With a front multiparty system and increasingly obvious French support for the master of the Etoudi palace, power in Cameroon is caught in the grip of the Biya machine, which looks like a caricature of African politics.
Clear foreign interference
Paul Biya's fifth term then plants the seeds of discord, and explains the current situation in the country. It all started with a constitutional revision, between 2007 and 2008. Cameroon was then plunged into an unprecedented economic crisis. The wave of protests, and its murderous repression, is rocking the country. On the side of the West, with the exception of a timid denunciation of "irregularities" on the part of the United States, the international community gives the impression of ignoring what is going on in Cameroon, namely the in place of an increasingly autocratic power.
It must be said that Cameroon maintains, beyond blind capitalism, a varied primary sector totally controlled by foreign companies. And this in all sectors: oil, cotton, timber, agriculture ... European companies - Total, Nestlé, Perenco, Bolloré, Vilgrain, Diageo, Castel, Areva, Va Tech, Lafarge, Bouygues, SG - have control over everything of the Cameroonian primary sector. Thus depriving Cameroonians of significant financial resources, where Paul Biya and his very large family, they do not lack money.
The years of lead
It was not until 2015 and 2016 to see the rebirth of the protest against the Biya regime. On the one hand, the rise of the “vice-president” - the strong man of the regime - the secretary general of the presidency Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, launching a bitter struggle for the succession of Paul Biya. On the other hand, the Anglophone crisis in the west of the country is taking a bloody turn.
On the first point, Paul Biya remains solid as a rock, but he is torn : his son Emmanuel Franck Biya is the heir to the family fortune, but his wife Chantal Vigouroux is also very influential. The First Lady wields the cogs of the presidential party behind the scenes, her foundation raises colossal funds from billionaires and, in the NGO market, she has made the fight against HIV her battle horse. This influence of Chantal Biya however launches a real family battle, which will end with the failure of the candidacy of Franck Biya in 2018.
Weakened by numerous scandals, in particular by the escapades of Paul Biya's daughter, Brenda, the Cameroonian regime loses its credibility year after year. While Paul Biya celebrates his 39 years of presidency, he has never been so isolated. The political oligarchy grows fat with commissions levied on state contracts. Cross-border terrorism increasingly alienates the military, who feels abandoned by the head of state. The diaspora does not miss an opportunity to demonstrate against the tyranny of Paul Biya. And in the English-speaking region, the massacres of civilians continue. A very dark image of a feverish power and on the go. But everywhere, it is the question of succession which is debated, without a clear answer having, for the moment, been able to be brought.