By Innocent Chia
It is a rat race within the highest echelon of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) as to who succeeds Paul Biya as party leader and candidate at the upcoming Presidential elections. Unimpeachable sources close to the President confirm that Biya called a secret meeting at the Unity Palace in which he literally threw in the towel, citing uprisings in the Mideast that have seen the ousting of Tunisia’s Ben Ali and the fall of Egypt’s Mubarak. “La salle etait comme un tombeau” (there was graveyard silence in the room) our source said.
Who will fill the void?
His closest collaborators in recent years are either languishing in jail or have fled the country for their dear lives – Titus Edzoa, Atangana Mebara, … explaining the confounding silence and lack of excitement at the president’s disclosure. Close to three decades in power the President’s “inner circle” was unable to turn their heads in the direction of one among them that would be said to have been groomed for succession. While demanding complete and unquestioning loyalty from his collaborators, Biya’s treatment of them, however, indicates how expendable his collaborators are, always casting them into his den of Lions just to save his own skin.
Leave Frank Biya Alone!
There is always a tug of war in Cameroon on whether rumor springs from the peasantry or from corridors of power. Often times, the regime tests the popularity of an unpopular move by tossing out tit bits of it in rumor form. A most persistent rumor that flourishes on the eve of Presidential elections or whenever the issue of succession surfaces is that Frank Biya, the President Biya’s son with his late wife, has been in training camp in Canada and France waiting for a nudge from the father.
But according to our sources, the Frank Biya stock may have suffered a setback. A Biya loyalist, after clearing his throat to call the President’s attention, is said to have mustered the courage to mention the name… “Mon Excellence, le President de la Republique…” The President, without as much as lifting his eyes to look in the direction from which the voice came, is said to have motioned for the voice to speak up.
“Mon Excellence, Frank…” Our sources say the President became livid at the mention of Frank Biya’s name, cutting off the speaker before he could hear any more of it. “Laissez Frank en dehors de ceci” the President warned, asking for his son to be left out of it. In the opinion of one source, this is a sign that President Biya is watching very closely what is happening to autocrats from Jordan to Yemen. They are joining Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in reneging plans and constitutional maneuvers that had been set in motion for their sons to become successors.
If not Frank, Who?
It is a most pathetic question that the proponents of perpetrating a dictatorship such as Biya’s have been mindlessly repeating ad nauseum. And it is the same question that was raised by the pretentiously self-effacing egomaniacs who are known cheerleaders and organizers of “Motion of Support” letters and pro-Biya marches. Knowing how their colleagues who whispered such aspirations to the mirror have ended, it is no news that there were deflections away from self to avoid any recriminations. The self-deprecation is not sufficient in and of itself. Loyalists to Biya have to be consumed by and project his invincibility, his omnipresence, omniscience and yes, omnipotence.
These projections have been bought wholesale and megaphoned by democrat, independent and republican talking heads on TV alike; a situation largely created by the retrenching within the press corps when international bureaus were closed off as part of cost-cutting measures in sour economic times. We readily understand why the big question with regards to the unfolding of Mubarak’s Egypt has been that of knowing who else will fill his shoes. Certainly he has been a formidable US and Israeli ally and equalizer in the Middle East.
But do his accomplishments diminish or take away from the ability of any other qualified Egyptian to deliver, not only to the international community but to the dreams of young, unemployed Egyptian graduates? Can the peace, security and interests of the US and Israel not be met concurrently with the peace, security and interests of the Egyptian people? There is much talk about how educated the Egyptian society is; is it not antithetical to be unable to find any other Egyptian that can better achieve what Hosni Mubarak has brought to the table in his three decades in power?
The quintessential benevolent despot that he is, Mubarak defiantly told the world and Egyptians that he had to finish the work that he has started!What work is it that only one man can finish? Even more important, who gives the mandate for the work? Is it not the people?
President Biya and his coterie of self-serving kleptomans justify their hijacking of the people’s power by literally stating that their populace is too stupid, too ignorant, inexperienced and unworthy to attain such echelons of power. I don’t happen to agree with any of such characterizations.
After the aborted coup d’Etat in 1984 President Paul Biya not only rooted off the large contingent of Northerners and other suspected groups from the Presidential Guard squad, he quickly understood that his longevity in power was a function of how well he treated the military. A happy military is a happy Biya. The military became the pillar of his administration, solidifying its position in his heart during the ghost town operations initiated by the opposition following the stolen victory at the polls on October 11, 1992.
Since then, President Biya has multiplied by several-fold the number of military Generals from the two – Semengue and Tataw, who, at over 80, are still in active service today. When the CFA currency was devalued and salaries halved, the military may as well have got a pay raise. Many recall that Biya and Mubarak came to power within a year of each other – Mubarak having an edge in seniority. The similarities between both men apparently do not stop there. The way they have put their military to use is not going unnoticed to the avid observer.
Taking advantage of the credibility of their military, both men have deployed the military as “agents provocateurs”. How unconscionable is it for the Egyptian army to stand by and watch civilians butcher fellow civilians with machetes? Some pundits have said the army is acting with restraint. I beg to differ.
The Egyptian Army has clearly sided in this matter with Mubarak and pro-Mubarak forces. By not pushing away the pro-Mubarak (pro-government forces) that aggressed the unarmed anti-Mubarak forces, who have been peaceful over the last week and half, the Army basically acted as accomplices to the fact.
These are tactics that Biya has deployed successfully in Cameroon. A most recent show of force was in preparation for the President’s visit to the Northwest Regional capital, Bamenda. The military besieged the region and a State of emergency reigned in Bamenda. Businesses were crippled. The official media sang praise songs on the wonders of the regime. No one dared talk about the rising unemployment among the young college graduates. No one dared link the pervasive banditry to the skyrocketing unemployment. A town under siege was impressively painted as living through its best moments of security.
More to Come from Africa
Facts are stubborn. The Western media and pundits must do a better job reading in-between the tealeaves. There is more unwinding to come from Africa as job prospects continue dwindling especially for young people who are forced to graduate from college and go right back to the high school bedrooms in the family house. I will go on a limb to predict that the generation of Africans that were handed power by colonialists, who are still very intimately aligned with traditional authority and customs, will either die out or get pushed out of power before Africa takes a turn for leaders that respect term limits and the will of the people.
Until then, the refrain from the people is that “Biya must go”. All they want to hear from him in a televised address is that “I will not run for re-election in October 2011.” It will be the best legacy that he could ever give Cameroonians. Such a decision will open wide the field for free and fair elections. His presence alone thwarts the game. Even more important, such a decision not to run in October, 2011 will save a bloodbath that will ensue if he goes down any other way. He has the power to do it now and go out on his terms with dignity. It’s his choice. Until then, the clock is ticking…tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock, tick, tock….
It is true a dictator is nothing but an obedient puppet. They are either obedient to the master in Europe, America or obedient to self-created circumstances that they have become prisoners of – Biya killing all the Northerners in 1984 and imprisoning his close collaborators has closed the doors for him and the prospect of going to Kondengui and facing his demons is nothing he wants to face in this lifetime. Hence, he will rather die in power than live it.
The only way out is a la Ben Ali. It entails more than sending text messages saying “Biya must go”. There needs to be more thought to it, better organization, purpose and leadership – otherwise it will Peter out like the February 2008 demonstrations in Douala.
Source: The Chia Report
- I go tok!! New Biya Regime ‘scams’ emerge as Elections loom ahead. (prgoretti.wordpress.com)
- Paul Biya pulling Cameroon slowly into civil war (juliusche.com)
- “Is Mubarak’s trial shame or fame for Africa?” by Nkwazi Mhango (afrospear.com)