Paul Biya: Indispensable to Cameroon?

For some months now, mainly militants of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) have been  calling on President Paul Biya to renew his candidature in the next presidential elections billed for 2018. Some have even gone as far as calling on the President to change the constitution again and call for earlier elections this 2016 rather than 2018. To this category of persons who want precipitated elections, they are basing their arguments on the fact that the country will be organizing so many elections in 2018 (council, parliamentary, senatorial and presidential) that it will be better if the main (presidential) election are rescheduled. Others say because of the Africa Cup of Nations in January 2019 organized by Cameroon, it will not be possible to organize elections in October 2018, three months after the biggest sporting event in Africa.
There is, however, another group that does not want any revision of the constitution for it will mean that there would be 3 constitutional revisions within 20 years. The well-known Emeritus Cardinal of Douala, (also called Christian Tumi by some) or the moral conscience of Cameroon, among others has advised the President not to prolong his stay at the helm of the Republic. This has been reechoed by some church leaders in their sermons, opposition party officials and even some civil society personalities. Cameroonians in the diaspora including well-known base guitarist, Richard Bona are also asking the President to step aside. Others like Kofi Annan said before the 2011 presidential election that he will advise Paul Biya not to stand as candidate. He also said that African leaders do not need to eternalize their stay in power. However, Mr. Biya went in for the election and won even though it was marred by fraud and irregularities.
Last February 13, Paul Biya celebrated his 83 birthday, 33 of which have been spent as the Head of State of Cameroon. The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) said in its 2014 population study of Cameroon that 35% of the population is made up of youth between the ages of 15 and 34, while those under 18 constitute more than half of the population. This means a good majority of Cameroonians have not known any other president except Paul Biya and his ideologies. Moreover, after having taken over in 1982, Paul Biya has been governing with one and the same people as most of those in top positions like Ministers, Managers of Public Companies are all above 60 with some of them even in their 90s. The youths have never had the opportunity to hold power, which means that when Biya will leave, there will be a power vacuum in Cameroon which may create serious chaos. Cameroon has suffered serious setbacks especially at the economic level with the country being classified as one of the worst to do business in the world. There is massive unemployment forcing many young people to either leave the country or use unorthodox means to make ends meet. Even the CPDM party is highly built around the person of Mr. Biya to the extent that it may face a complete breakdown in his absence. There is a latent conflict in almost every sector of public life, from low salaries to poor medical facilities, passing through a lack of infrastructure, corruption, tribalism and an almost everything-goes society where things are done based on the strength of one’s connection to an authority in the capital Yaoundé , and then the Anglophone minority problem.
In its 2014 report on Cameroon, the International Crisis Group advised Paul Biya not to vie for any position again. The report said that there is latent conflict in Cameroon which may explode at any time and it is better to prevent rather than cure. The majority of those calling on Biya to be president for life are either barons of the regime (who have passed retirement age but are not willing to abdicate their position in favor of any) or those who have soiled their hands in state affairs and may be exposed in his absence. They too want to die in their position as many of them are only relieved of their services by the cold hands of dead. They give the impression that Cameroon will cease to exist after Paul Biya but this has not occurred anywhere in the world, as even Germany prospered after Hitler’s end. It will be better for international bodies, especially the United Nations, to step in and pave the way for a new Cameroon via negotiations rather than sending peace keeping troops when the situation would have become very complex. As the end is being prolonged so the situation is being worsen.

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