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Who is Paul Biya? 32 Years in power but still a mystery to Cameroonians

January 06, 2014

Paul Biya has been president of Cameroon since 1992 Paul Biya has been president of Cameroon since 1992[/caption] There should be no mystery about him after 32 years in power. But Cameroon’s president remains difficult to pin down. Now as he ages, will we begin to see through Biya’s heart? Can we finally lay hold of him? Or is he perpetually at it, calculating, trying to hold on .EUGENE N NFORNGWA* After 32 years in power shouldn’t we already know more than enough about the man who rules us: who his friends are; what he believes; where he will take us next? When was the last time President Paul Biya had a toothache? Did his wife Chantal really runaway? What truly happened to the late first lady Irene? And the next government. When is that? Who is in? Who is out? What does he mean when he says “within the next few months, the right conditions should be in place for us to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our reunification”? How come all we ever know about the president after all these years is at best speculative? At one time Biya is candid, publicly shaming his failures, admitting he has not led. Another time, with a straight face, he takes us back, further back than we have walked with him. He is a charming man, once said former US ambassador Janet Garvey, according to leaked US diplomatic cables. He can also praise you today and jail you tomorrow. The truth is, Paul Biya’s presidency has thriven on brutal gamesmanship. He relishes his breastplate of secrecy. He can be unpredictable, even manipulative. He is nicknamed “The Prince”. His ministers are often as lost as we are. They find comfort in those discretional powers, a constitutional prerogative that reduces the legislature and judiciary to rubber stamps. But as he ages, will we begin to see through Biya’s heart? Can we finally lay hold of him? Or is he perpetually at it, calculating, trying to hold on. His speeches of the past few years have portrayed him as a man intensely concerned about the future of the country, desperate to receive credit for holding Cameroon together. More recently, he is willing to distance himself, to punish or disgrace his own men. “We are an individualistic people, more concerned with personal success than general interest. Our administration remains susceptible to private interest, which is most often in conflict with national interest.” He built it. He nurtured it. He watched it grow into a monster. Now he is lost. “We have abundant and diverse natural resources as well as modern and democratic institutions. Our country is peaceful and stable. What then do we lack?” Maybe a leader. It is hard to see Biya’s style as sustainable. He needs to lead not rule. He needs to walk not talk. He needs to be the President of Cameroon. Maybe he needs to be seen. Cameroonians don’t know their president. They cannot feel his pain. They cannot grasp his genuineness. They don’t take his air pounding seriously. He is a stranger, after 32 years Published with permission from Standard Tribune]]>

1 comment

  1. Mr. Biya is a veritable enigma. How do you expect the people to know him when his closest collaborators refer to him as a very mysterious man? After 32years and running, he is the only President who can admit the flaws of his octogenarian band of thieving and kleptomanic lads but would not throw in the towel.
    He is the only President on planet earth who does not realize that each time a government is limping and you are in-charge, you take full responsibility. He remains the only President who acknowledged the importance of Nelson Mandela but with a very golden opportunity to attend his funeral in solidarity, he rather fizzle out in thin air!
    He is the only leader who does not understand or master the tenets of inclusive leadership even as a smoke screen; reasons why for 32 years, he has refused to address Cameroonians in English just once.
    He is the only leader who is yet to comprehend the full meaning of incorporating simple prayers in an irreligious manner in all state functions.
    I am afraid on that day, he will have no answers to give the Almighty God.

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