Empire News Africa

African Entertainment News Online…

Paul Biya has been Cameroon’s president for 40 years – and he would possibly win workplace but once more

Spread the love

At 89 years previous, one of many oldest leaders on the earth, President Paul Biya of Cameroon has marked 40 years as head of state. He assumed workplace in 1982.

He’s the second longest serving chief in Africa. The longest is Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema, in energy since 1979.

Cameroon skilled a protracted spell of political stability beneath Biya’s iron hand. However this finally unravelled when an Anglophone rebellion broke out within the south-west and north-west and when radical Islamists entered from Nigeria. Domestic pressure for Biya to just accept a transition has additionally been persistent.

However Biya stays non-committal about relinquishing energy in 2025, which might be the top of his present seventh time period of workplace.

What explains Biya’s longevity in workplace and why is Cameroon unable to marshal a transition?

I’m a scholar of democratic research and regime sorts in Africa and a commentator on African political developments. I’m eager about why the continent is saddled with ageing presidents who should be having fun with their retirement when it desperately wants younger, agile and modern leaders equal to its challenges.

A brilliant begin

Biya succeeded Ahmadou Ahidjo, Cameroon’s president from 1960 to 1982, after his shock resignation. Ahidjo had been battling an financial disaster and widespread corruption. He had superintended a one social gathering state and an exceptional centralisation of energy within the presidency.

When Biya turned president in 1982, he promised political liberalisation, together with democracy, civil and human rights and financial development in Cameroon.

For some time, he labored to realize a few of these objectives. The nation achieved political stability and unity, and relative financial transformation by way of his “new deal”. There was even a momentary easing of the draconian police state.

However within the late Nineties, there was a gradual halt to political liberalisation, fiscal self-discipline and authorities accountability. This occurred after the 1984 bloody coup attempt by the Republican Guards.

Biya turned more and more unyielding to political lodging. First he purged Ahidjo’s faction inside the ruling party and finally he locked out any significant problem to his management from inside or exterior the social gathering. In the end although, beneath exterior stress, he agreed to a multiparty dispensation in 1990.

This has step by step and systematically been hollowed out, making a monolithic system that entrenched Biya in workplace for the final 40 years.

Biya’s endurance

Cameroon’s politics has lengthy been dominated by Biya’s Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounaise, which rebranded from the Cameroon National Union in 1985. It had been the dominant social gathering since 1966. After a proper opening up of the political area to multipartyism, this has step by step been weakened.

There was a failure of political social gathering institutionalisation. A whole bunch of small events mushroomed – 300 to date, many allegedly secretly bankrolled and managed by Biya. They supply a façade of democratic competitiveness. In actuality, they’ve weakened reputable political opposition.

The absence of a united and consolidated opposition has enabled the entrenchment of a dominant social gathering system. The ruling social gathering has a dominant majority in each the Nationwide Meeting and the Senate (63 seats of 70). This erodes any probability of real checks and stability.

The social gathering has additionally used electoral mechanics like redrawing boundaries for electoral benefit and in locations outright fraud to broaden victories and consolidate majorities.

Learn extra: Why upcoming polls in Cameroon won’t end the violence

Elections have change into little greater than a procedural inconvenience, the place Biya runs with no risk of shedding.

For example, in 2004 Biya received with 70.9% of the vote. After the 2008 constitutional revision to take away time period limits, he was re-elected with 78% of the vote in 2011.

In 2018, he received 71.28% in opposition to his challenger, opposition chief Maurice Kamto.

Biya has created a lease looking for political class that not solely does his bidding however retains him in energy with minimal resistance. Cameroon is a leading exporter of timber in Africa and fifth largest cocoa producer on the earth.

The nation ought to have sufficient assets to cut back excessive poverty and underdevelopment. But the proceeds are plundered by way of corruption and to take care of a clientelist community.

Politicians should present allegiance and loyalty to Biya. The choice is being out within the chilly or in jail. Biya has additionally stuffed senior positions within the administration, the army and safety businesses and the civil service with individuals from his southern ethnic group. Most notably he has relied on the Rapid Intervention Battalion, a extremely educated army commando unit, to make sure the common military is unable to maneuver in opposition to him.

The Anglophone conflict has additionally enabled Biya to deflect consideration from his misrule. The violent battle has left thousands dead in a civil conflict in opposition to the secessionist English-speaking areas of the nation.

Learn extra: African Union needs a more robust response to conflict in Cameroon

Biya, counting on French and lately Russian backers, used the battle to strengthen his home hand and deflect worldwide criticisms.

One other issue is the focus of energy in Cameroon. Nothing substantive will get carried out with out the sign-off of the president. No arm of presidency or entity of the state has gone unpoliced, together with the judiciary: judges are nominated instantly by the president.

Merely put, there is no such thing as a aspect of public life untouched by the Biya regime.

Considering a put up Biya period

The president’s mandate runs out in 2025, at which period he shall be 92. Whereas he has proven no indicators of exiting the stage, discuss of a put up Biya period is rising.

Though the ruling social gathering has not held a celebration congress since 2011, therefore dampening the transition debate, there may be periodical inner social gathering reorganisation. The president has used it to reward and test potential threats to his supremacy.

Biya’s stewardship has long term its course. Its longevity depends on ruthlessness and political astuteness.

Sadly, the actual value is to the nation’s democracy, which has lengthy suffered fissures that may solely be healed by political renewal by way of a change of guard. And this modification is one which even Biya can do little to forestall.