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Ruler since 1982, Biya turns 85 as strife grips parts of Cameroon

Douala (AFP) – President Paul Biya of Cameroon celebrates his 85th birthday on Tuesday after 35 years at the helm of a country that today faces daunting problems, including a separatist revolt.

“The Cameroon of tomorrow, which is developing before our eyes, will have little connection with the Cameroon of yesterday… Let us seize the chance and take up the challenge,” Biya on Saturday said in a speech on the nation’s youth.

Three-quarters of Cameroon’s population, according to the most recent available statistics from 2014, are under 25. They were yet to be born when Biya in November 1982 settled into the presidential residence of Etoudi in the capital Yaounde, also called the Palace of Unity.

Biya urged young Cameroonians to vote in the next general elections due at the end of 2018, including a presidential poll.

But — true to his nickname of “the Sphinx” — he remained silent on whether he plans to run for a seventh term.

Several candidates have already declared their intentions, but the presidential camp has long since learned to keep a close watch over dissenting voices.

– ‘Divide and rule’ –

Biya has locked down all key posts and institutions, up to the creation early in February of a Constitutional Council of 11 members, the majority of whom come from the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC). Their duties will notably include the validation of election results.

A former student in a Roman Catholic seminary and then of political science in Paris, Biya “has put the saying ‘divide and rule’ into practice,” said Stephane Akoa, a researcher at the Paul Ango Ela Foundation.

“This is how he is able to remain at the apex of the system — forces who might have contested his power can’t get organised, let alone form a coalition.”

The most obvious threats to this picture come from separatists in the anglophone west, where two provinces were united with French-speaking Cameroon after independence in 1960. English-speakers comprise a fifth of the population.

Resentment runs high over perceived neglect by the francophone-majority regime. Dozens of people have been killed on both sides since a bloody crackdown on protest by October, sparking an escalation of bloodshed that led to a week-long curfew on Saturday.

Northern Cameroon, meanwhile, is vulnerable to raids against civilians and troops from across the border by Nigeria’s jihadist group Boko Haram. Cameroon is part of a regional military coalition formed to crush the movement.

– Foreign trips –

Biya’s taste for alpaca suits and silk ties and repeated and often lengthy absences, especially to Switzerland, have been a source for criticism in a nation where more than a third of the population still survives on less than two euros ($2.40) a day.

The foreign trips in particular have raised questions about Biya’s health. Rumours that he was sick circulated again at the end of January, but they were confounded by his television appearance on Saturday. His public appearances are so rare that they are closely scrutinised.

Biya offered an upbeat assessment of the state of the nation.

The threat from Boko Haram is “considerably reduced”, the anglophone regions have “calmed down” — though three gendarmes were killed on Sunday — and the national economy has been “embellished”, as he put it.

External commentators, though, say the threat of instability is casting a lengthening shadow.

“With the troubles in anglophone regions and the persistent threat from Boko Haram, the 2018 elections will be a greater challenge than previous votes,” said Hans De Marie Heungoup, a researcher with the International Crisis Group (ICG) thinktank.

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14 comments

  1. @Kongosa,

    when dis grand Pa die I hope seh all wa probs dem go be solved. Wadjo no go fight Beti again, Bami no go fight Bassa again, Sawa no go fight Graffi again. In short, Franco no go fight Franco again, Anglo no go fight Anglo again. Or better still, Franco no go fight Anglo again. All man go behave, so long as all man callé for yi own secteur.

    I like dis John Lennon yi song wor-wor, “Imagine”.

    Dreamers dem borkou (plenty) for dis grong…

  2. Funny how external commentaters mix up the issues ,when they are completely different from each other .With the long valient history of Cameroons welcoming people running from strife( within their countries) amd the generosity of Cameroonian boardering communities hosting them over extremely long periods they should stick to how the French accord has been so ristrictive to youth employment and the national treasury which remains the nucleus of any governing problem.No matter who runs the show .Period.

  3. Always surprised to see the cakes with ” HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY” An admission that English is the universal language. That’s why our Anglophone schools are flooded by children of the few elite that can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Cameroon should use its diversity to its advantage and not scorn it.

  4. One man rulling 25 million people since 1984. Forced to pay colonial taxes, subjugate the people into forced French assimilation. Brainwashed to hate anything English, be it it’s English speaking neighbours or its Anglo citizens. Chief financier of Boko Haram, refuses to modernize its infrastructure, economic dependency on its colonial master….oh boy you Cameroonians got chill.

  5. Celebrating birthday for a dead man?????.This is only possible in Cameroon

  6. Retirement is overdue!

  7. Murderer in chief

  8. Murderer in chief

  9. Pompidou Mensah

    Why can’t Franco’s smarten up and join the revolt against this tyrant? Your youth is suffering terrible, you can understand his stupid French and empty promises. $2.40 a day in such a rich country . wake up join the fight and regain your future.

    • Its very simple:- Two countries with two different cultures and history..The Anglophone is not use to taking **** too long..Slavery and fear to revolt is a typical in francophone africa..If you are honest , you will accept that over 90% of political changes in Cameroon started in Southern cameroon..Southern cameroonians are people who want to have total control of their land and resources..They want to liberate their land from French Imperialism..But East cameroon is still in same sleep since independence..They have given all they have to France and the only resistance France has in central Africa is coming from that small southern Cameroon of 8 million people..There is just every reason to be proud of the people of this region…

  10. Happy birthday ,His excellency Paul Biya, and many more healthy and peaceful years to you. All in Jesus Name.Love, Mercy.

  11. murderer in chief
    Photoshop pic

  12. Ambazonia Amba

    The picture has been photoshop. It is fake. That pa Don die. For the record Biya nova ever wear ei work clothes for celebrate birthday. Check all previous pictures. They hurry put constitutional council for block Niat.

  13. This wind of change blowing across Africa will Not Miss The Absentee Landlord In Yaounde!

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