President Biya has traditionally taken his vacations in Switzerland where his entourage occupies books a lavish hotel at considerable cost.
The lobby calling itself Group of Cameroonian Patriots said Biya and his wife, who traveled to Switzerland for “a short private stay” Tuesday, are squandering tax payers’ money in Geneva’s posh Inter-Continental Hotel where the cheapest suite costs FCFA 600 000 ($1,200) a night.
President Biya, who habitually spends long periods out of the country, normally travels with a delegation of up to forty persons.
“For such a delegation, FCFA 24 million [$ 48,500] would be spent every night”, the group said.
Back home the average Cameroonian lives below the one-dollar-a-day threshold and more than half of the country’s 20 million citizens lack access to potable water, energy and proper health care.
“That Paul Biya, President of Cameroon, resides in Geneva is an insult to our country and to all Cameroonians. How do other heads of state who stay back at home and work during holidays do?”
The group also said the president was diverting state assets and funds into his party, the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM).
The group noted that Biya has been in power since 1982, treats the constitution “with contemp” by refusing to declare his assets as stipulated and encourages his followers to do same.
Article 66 of Cameroon’s constitution says all those holding public offices must declare their assets before taking up duty. But the law has never been respected.
It is not the first time Biya’s holidays in Europe and the spending are raising controversy.
After an official visit to Paris in July 2009, the president and his delegation stretched their stay further to three weeks in 43 suites booked in two palatial hotels in the seaside resort of La Baule in France where an estimated FCFA 585 million ($ 1.2 million) was splashed out.
This spree drew criticism from distraught Cameroonians and outraged international development partners, leading to an extensive media battle in Europe and Cameroon.
President Biya flew to Europe early this week as the international community and mainly the central Africa region got ready to broker a peace deal in Gabon between the Seleka coalition rebels and the regime of President François Bozize in neighbouring Central African Republic.
In an interview with France’s Radio France International, President Bozize had warned that the conflict in his country could spill over to neighbouring countries if care was not taken.
Biya’s critics have said his absence from the Libreville talks indicates that his private interests take precedence over the affairs of State.
Sources say the president will seek to meet French leader Francois Hollande in Paris in next few days.
The Group of Patriotic Cameroonians seeks to petition the French leader before he meets with Biya.