By Amos Fofung
Cameroon president, 87, has this week hit back at his political opponents who have for months now being strategizing on how to claim his throne. The ‘strongman’ of Africa granted audiences to outgoing American and Belgian ambassadors, Henry Peter Barlerin and Stephane Doppagne respectively.
Rumors had emerged of his death with critics accusing the government of trying to cover-up his demise by falsifying documents with his signature and even using his copycat to grant televised addresses.
Theories of Paul Biya’s death and plots by his collaborators to crown his successor have made news for months now with conspiracy theorist alleging the involvement of the French government, a very close ally and colonial master of Cameroon.
For little over five months, President Paul Biya went ‘missing’ from the public eye, staying away from every public gathering which he previously chaired- including the National Day celebrated every 20th May. Since his three-decade rule, Paul Biya has never missed a National Day celebration but this year he canceled the event altogether. Though COVID 19 was the official reason advanced for canceling the national day, critics of President Biya and conspiracy theorist saw in this additional evidence that Biya was dead.
They also based their assumption on the fact that French Ambassador to Cameroon, Christophe Guilhou break a decade-long tradition when he attended a military graduation in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, an event which has for years been chaired solely by president Paul Biya. Major announcements such as an investigation into the death of Cameroon journalist Samuel Wazizi in military custody and Coronavirus response plans were delivered by Ambassador Guilhou who said he had met in-camera with Paul Biya.
After his audience with outgoing American Ambassador, Henry Peter Barlerin at the Unity Palace on 14 July 2020 and another with Stephane Doppagne – the outgoing Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium on 15 July 2020, Biya has strategically and without bowing to pressure, proven he is very much alive and in good health.
Many, called for Biya to prove he was still alive by receiving Ambassador Peter Barlerin, a known critic of Biya’s government. At one point, the US embassy in Yaounde had to go on one of its social media pages to rebuke rumors that the Unity Palace, Cameroon’s executive mansion had denied a request of the US ambassador to visit and confirms if Paul Biya was alive.
Nicknamed the absentee president, Paul Biya who has ruled the Central African nation for 38 years now has swayed ambitions of his main opposition leader, Maurice Kamto of the Cameroon Renaissance Movement (MRC) political party, who was gearing up to step in his shoes.
Maurice Kamto has on several occasions urged the government to provide proof that Paul Biya is alive or watch him take over the leadership of the country.