Paul Biya (Born Feburary 13, 1933)
Paul Biya has been ruling Cameroon for the last three decades. His political career blossomed rapidly under President Ahmadou Ahidijo in the 1960s as he served as the Secretary General of the Presidency from 1968-75 before serving as the country’s Prime Minister from 1975 to 1982.
A surprise resignation of Ahidijo in 1982 brought Biya to the power from where he has never looked back — by hook or by crook. His rule has seen several incidents of crime against humanity, torture of people and imprisonment of his oppositions and lately the human right abuses on LGBTs.
Following the creation of a unitary state in 1972, Biya became the Prime Minister in June 30, 1975. An ammendment in the constitution designated PM as the successor of the president that opened doors for Biya to rule the country. Ahidijo’s resignation came on the backdrop of Biya’s accustation of plotting a coup against him. Cameroon was going with a single party system when Biya was at the helm but under pressure he introduced multi-party politics in the early 1990s and that was the time when he felt the heat winning the 1992 presidential election by a slim margin.
Biya is sometimes characterized as aloof, making relatively few public appearances. Since the early 1990s, he has faced his strongest opposition from the Anglophone population of the former Southern Cameroons in the western part of the country. Although Biya made some efforts to open up the political environment, his regime still retains clear authoritarian characteristics and has largely bucked the trend toward democracy in Africa since the 1990s.
Under the constitution, Biya has sweeping executive and legislative powers. He even has considerable authority over the judiciary; the courts can only review a law’s constitutionality at his request. “Tyrants, the World’s 20 Worst Living Dictators”, by David Wallechinsky, ranked Biya with three others commonly in sub-Saharan Africa: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, and King Mswati of Swaziland.
He describes Cameroon’s electoral process in these terms: “Every few years, Biya stages an election to justify his continuing reign, but these elections have no credibility. In fact, Biya is credited with a creative innovation in the world of phony elections. In 2004, annoyed by the criticisms of international vote-monitoring groups, he paid for his own set of international observers, six ex-US congressmen, who certified his election as free and fair.”
After the main opposition boycotted the 1997 election, Biya secured more than 92 per cent of vote and in the next election in 2004 he officially took more than 70 per cent of the vote, although opposition parties alleged widespread fraud. His party, the Cameroonian People’s Democratic Movement (RDPC) has won landslide majorities in every legislative election since 1992.
A controversial amendment to the constitution was passed in 2008 that enabled Biya to run for a third term of office in 2011. The veteran politician went on to win a new seven-year term in the October 2011 election, in a vote that international observers said was marred by irregularities. Biya’s opponents rejected the result – which gave him a landslide 78% of the vote – and alleged widespread fraud. Civil society movements accused Biya of having locked down the electoral system to guarantee his return to power.
The Oslo Times International News Network