By Prince Kurupati
For the seventh time in a row, the name ‘Paul Biya’ was called out as the winner in Cameroon’s presidential election. Depending on one’s political affiliation (for Cameroonians), this was either good news or bad news.
Paul Biya has ruled Cameroon for six successive presidential terms and he is entering his seventh which will see him rule the West African nation for another 7 years. In his early days, Biya commanded a huge following across the whole country, when some military elements attempted a coup in 1984 (two years after he assumed the presidency) many Cameroonians sympathized with him after he managed to survive the onslaught. However, unknown to many, that unfortunate incident (attempted coup) changed the way Biya viewed power and politics in general.
In subsequent and successive elections that were held in Cameroon till the recent one, it’s evident that Paul Biya no longer views power as something that ought to be shared or taken lightly but that it is something which should be continuously consolidated, guarded jealously and ruthlessly protected in face of threats.
As stated by Stephanie Akoa, a researcher with the Paul Ando Ela Foundation think tank, “Today, it is impossible to imagine a scenario where Biya gives up power in a conventional way or naturally before the end of his mandate…As long as he can run for a mandate, I don’t see anything to stop him doing so.”
Taking into consideration Stephanie’s Akoa’s above statement and also the sentiments of resigned acceptance by most Cameroonians in the country, there was no way that the recent elections would have a different result other than a Paul Biya win. The 71 percent margin that Paul Biya won with according to many is actually conservative considering the well-oiled electioneering machine put in place by Biya.
With the announcement of Paul Biya as the president-elect immaterial considering anyone in his/her senses knew what the result would be, there is no need to dwell much on that part but rather, it’s time to look forward to the future and project if Biya in his seventh term will work to better the prospects of the country and at the same time work to uplift the lives of the millions of Cameroonians living in destitute conditions or not.
Welcome statement but will he keep the promise
Soon after the Constitutional Council announced him as the winner, Paul Biya tweeted, “Thank you for your renewed and large confidence…Let us now join in taking up, together, the challenges that confront us.”
Paul Biya’s tweet therefore at least on the surface shows us that he is not dwelling much on his reelection but rather, he is looking forward to the future. Secondly, the tweet acknowledges that there are some challenges that are confronting the country. For acknowledging these challenges, credit should be given to Paul Biya. However, acknowledging that there are some challenges is only the first step in addressing the challenges. After acknowledging, action/s should follow.
Of all the challenges that Cameroon is facing today, from political to economic and social challenges, there is one main thing that Biya ought to do i.e. to start taking action to calm the tension in Anglophone Cameroon. For over a year now Anglophone Cameroon has been characterized by a near civil war atmosphere. The instability in Anglophone Cameroon not only affects peace and security but it also affects the country’s standing in the international community making it difficult for the country to attract required foreign direct investment. As such, the priority for Paul Biya should be to normalize the situation in Anglophone Cameroon.
Apart from the Anglophone crisis, Paul Biya also needs to start reconsidering his ‘habit’ of spending much time in foreign lands. As reported by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), a consortium of investigative journalists, Biya spent “at least four and a half years of his 35 years in power on private visits” abroad mostly to Switzerland. While working in a foreign land may not ‘actually’ affect how he executes his duties, at times, his mere presence may work wonders.
Paul Biya no doubt faces some huge challenges ahead but these challenges if he sets his priorities right (opposed to the already surfacing rumours of him building a $475,000 mansion for the Constitutional Council head), can be corrected thereby paving the way for him to leave the stage a hero rather than a villain (when he finally calls time on his ‘presidency’ or when nature calls).