Coronavirus: Cameroon President Faces Criticism Over Silence As Pandemic Looms

AFP | Cameroon’s president, Paul Biya is coming under fire for his absence from the national stage as the central African country faces a burgeoning coronavirus crisis.

A month after the first case of COVID-19 was recorded, 87-year-old has yet to address the nation — a silence that for supporters is a sign of gravitas but for critics one of failure.

According to official figures posted early Monday, Cameroon has 658 cases of the virus, with nine deaths, making it the second most-affected country after South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cameroon is already waging two violent conflicts, one against Boko Haram jihadists in the north, the other against English-speaking separatists in the west.

The fighters in the new front are doctors and nurses who are woefully lacking in masks and breathing equipment.

In his 37 years in power, Cameroonians have become accustomed to Biya’s long absences, mainly because of poor health, but his silence over the pandemic is raising sharp questions.

He posed for the cameras after talks with the US ambassador on March 11, but did not speak to the press.

Six days later Biya urged Cameroonians on Facebook to “respect” measures taken to combat the virus, but since then there has not been so much as a whisper from a leader who has overseen many crises since he took power in 1982.

– Biya ‘cannot be pinned down’ –

Biya’s track record suggests he is not a major communicator in the best of times, making just three or four appearances a year. But for researcher Stephane Akoa, “In a context like this, the presidential message is important.”

Last week, speculation mounted on social media that Biya could be dead, prompting a formal public denial by Communications Minister Rene-Emmanuel Sadi, who insisted that Biya was “going about his official business as normal”.

But there was no word from the president himself, provoking a sharp attack from main opposition leader Maurice Kamto, the runner-up to Biya in 2018 elections.

On Friday, Kamto demanded that the president address the nation within seven days, otherwise “the people… will inevitably see his failure”.

Biya’s silence “is becoming criminal,” he added.

Labour Minister Gregoire Owona snapped back, saying Kamto wished to politicise the crisis, calling it “shameful”.

Oswald Baboke, the president’s deputy chief of staff, commended Biya’s “wisdom… (and) restraint,” writing in the press that “the President’s Time cannot be improvised and cannot be pinned down.”

Thus far the youthful health minister, Malachie Manaouda, has been the point man for the coronavirus crisis, tweeting out frequent updates and detailing the government’s response.

But criticism has grown louder with the rise in known cases from 142 to 658 in a week.

– ‘Lack of coordination’ –

“Government communication is weak, its response was late and in some respects poorly prepared,” said Stephane M’Bafou, a consultant in public management and governance.

“There is an obvious lack of coordination,” said economist Albert Ze.

Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute on March 13 announced measures such as closing borders and a ban on rallies, which have been extended.

The one new step since then, attributed to Biya but announced by Ngute, has been the creation of a solidarity fund worth one billion CFA francs (1.5 million euros / $1.65 million).

Others say the response does not go nearly far enough.

“We must quickly declare a curfew, isolate the cities where cases are confirmed and move towards a general containment regardless of the socio-economic cost,” said M’Bafou.

AFP

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16 comments

  1. Death people don’t speak

  2. Those who have no strategy against an enemy have nothing to say. There’re no institutions in Cameroon that can adequately inform decision making. To deliver measures to curb a major threat to your society, you need reliable information such as populations statistics to determine the most vulnerable, information on medical resources, map to each region against its inhabitants, etc. Biya has to come out and say something that can assuage the fears of the citizens, but he is not one to show compassion. He doesn’t know how to roll up his sleeves and sympathise with the suffering masses. He is the God of Cameroon who excels at spending tax money in luxurious hotels abroad despite the raging poverty in his country. What do you want him to say, that he has nothing to say? Cowards hide.

  3. Under first president Alhaji Ahmadou Ahidjo, a message would be sent to the radio thus:

    M. Paul Barthelemy Bi Mvondo Biya, absent de son poste depuis deux mois est prie de regagner ledit poste avant lundi 6 Avril, faute de quoi il serait considere comme demissionaire!

  4. He has people working under his instructions. By the way can Biya’s voice or face heal covid 19? How many presidents made a speech & people got cured? You want to use covid 19 to kiil our grand father as you failled with guns?
    If Kamerounians obey who & minister of health’s orders, they’ll be safe. APPRENTICE WIZARDS. PLZ NO CEASE FIRE IN NW & SW. INSTEAD RELEASE INFECTED PEOPLE TO THE BUSH. IF I’M INFECTED & Have OPPORTUNITY TO GO There, I’ll gladly help my country with my live by infecting ambazozos. Touche pas a mon Kmer.

    • @ Mbamois stop writing non sense. Biya is dead. Biya died last Sunday March 29th. You can lie but you can’t do anything about Biya’s dead. Keep on praising ghost Biya, he will never ever come back to life for he’s gone forever. Biya don mbole. You stupid Biya supporters are not different from the Ambazonians. You don’t love our beloved Cameroon. Only an evil Cameroonian like Biya himself who doesn’t care if Cameroonians have roads, good hospitals, good drinking water, electricity etc. etc. will be supporting Biya even when he is dead. Why can’t you listen to very very good Cameroonians from Biya’s own tribe like Patrice Nouma, JP Remy Ngono who have put tribalism aside and are fighting for a better Cameroon.

      • You have the duty to prove your assertions.
        That’s jurisprudence

        • Let him show himself if he is alive. @ Mbappe stop worshiping a ghost because of tribalism. Be reasonable like JP Remy Ngono and Patrice Nouma. Biya is burning in hell as I write. My info is from a very very reliable source. I know Yaounde by far better than you. You are Bulu. Biya died Sunday March 29th. I repeat stop worshiping Ghost Biya he is dead.

        • I have nothing to prove to you ghost worshipers @ Mbappe. I dare him to show himself if he is still alive. BIYA DON MBOLE. His balls are burning in the wild fire of hell.

    • Incredible! So when a family is facing a dilemma, the first person to run and hide is the head of the family? Biya doesn’t need to come out in the public. He can talk to the people from his bedroom. It is not that his words will change the situation, but showing compassion at a time of great need is the responsibility of great leadership. Being a great leader means you have to put the lives of the people you serve first over your own, otherwise that post is not for you. He is a shrivelled old man who should have long retired and given way to the younger generation to continue the fight, yet he is clinging to power with all his frailty. It is of his own making that he is in this situation and thus needs to play the role for which he greedily clings on by spilling the blood of many.

    • this is called some serious talk.
      I applaud you brother.
      I am with you on this

  5. Has anyone stopped to ask why or how an epidemic which originated from Wuhan in China skipped to Europe (Italy, France, Germany, England, Spain) and North America( New York, Washington D. C., Toronto) to cause devastation?

    Well, China makes and gives affected persons three daily servings of fever grass tea. This drink aka as lemon grass grows all over Cameroon. It contains chemicals like methylxanthine, theobromine and theophylline, capable of stimulating other molecules that keep viruses at bay and help dry up suffocating mucus from the lungs.
    No wonder ancestors used the vaporization of boiled fever grass to make patients inhale to clear their respiratory distress.

  6. **** DEAD MEN DON’T SPEAK ****

    In a bid to join forces against the virus, French president Emmanuel Macron had a conference call on Friday with key African heads of state.

    They included; Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, DR Congo, Egypt, Mali, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and Kenya.
    Key issues discussed included the need for Africa to stand together, speak with one voice and work through financial institutions to mobilize resources and harmonise the support from international Partners”

    AND GUESS WHAT??????

    Dictator Biya was CONSPICUOUSLY absent

    WHY??????

    because he was recently NEUTRALISED by COVID-19 andhe is at present gnashing his teeth at the hottest place in hell.

    GOD IS GREAT!!!!

  7. His EXCELLENCY FRANCK EMANUEL BIYA
    Will speak when necessary. Keep calm.

  8. biya died 3 years ago when he waged a losing battle against the people of Ssouthern Cameroon,the genocidal dictator will not be missed hopefully he has dodge the ICC,he will be judge in Hell, his ministers and prime minister will face genocidal crimes together with bunch of regressive cpdm party which has plunged the country into a low class dirty, under deviloped banana lawless republic of world shame

velit, id quis vulputate, et, efficitur. neque.