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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Revelation: Paul Biya chews "now" bark and roots to shield

The reputation of the Cameroonian president sails between fantasies of a curious population and traits of character confirmed by the very close circle.

In Cameroon, reputations are forging at the speed of lightning. Many do not rest on anything and can often come close to slander or slander. Others are quite easily verifiable and find an explanation in the sociology of the country. Paul Biya, the first Cameroonian, does not escape this harsh reality.

His mysterious side provokes various comments and jokes. Just as it helped to forge many myths about himself. The movement of his jaws leaves, for example, always thoughtful, when he appears at public ceremonies, on television and especially during the grand parade of May 20 for the Cameroonian national holiday.Paul Biya always seems to be chewing something. The political scientist Mathias Owona Nguini, a keen observer of political mores in Cameroon, does not go to extremes:

"It is very likely that it is tree bark or plant roots that it chews as well when it is in public; and that would allow it to be invulnerable to any form of external aggression. "

A way to "shield" so, as they say prosaically Yaounde or Douala.

But one wonders if Owona Nguini delivers an objective analysis or summarizes the feeling of his compatriots. Cameroonians have a strong propensity to convey stories that touch on parapsychology. This is confirmed by Charles Atéba Eyéné, author of several hagiographic books on Paul Biya:

"We are Bantu. And, in this sense, adversity is never far away. It is therefore normal for the president to protect himself, even though he will never know exactly what he is chewing. It seems obvious that all this has an almost mystical side that impresses. "

Charles Atéba Eyene even thinks it is a need to" shield "so for a politician.Especially when he is so unfamiliar with the crowds as is the head of the Cameroonian state.

The meeting with Chantal

On this level, Michel-Roger Emvana, author of a biography of Paul Biya, The secrets of power at Karthala, says that "Biya lives folded on itself, which leaves many shadows hover . Besides, he works only with men in the shadows. Michel-Roger Emvana confirms a widespread idea, even in the depths of the working-class neighborhoods, according to which his first political and diplomatic advisor would be none other than Yon Omnès, former French ambassador to Cameroon from 1984 to 1993.

Another subject with sensation, it is the meeting of the president Biya with Chantal, the First lady. When he married her in second marriage, in 1994, comments are going fast on the place and the origin of their meeting. Bad gossips tell that the President would have delighted one of his courtiers. Others still evoke the supposedly dissolved past of this young woman born in 1971 and his manners, it is true at that time not customary uses of protocol republican.

Seventeen years later, we know a little more. At least on the place where was born their romance. Michel-Roger Emvana gives a very crisp version:

"They met at a party in Mvomeka'a [the native village of the President, ed]. Chantal Vigouroux was invited there, because she was very friend of the late Elise Azar, the wife of Bonaventure Mvondo [dit Bonivent], the son of Paul Biya's elder brother. "

They would then have been in secret for more than a year, before formalizing their union by a marriage that continues to pour a lot of ink and saliva. A simple story, therefore, and almost romantic, as the very zealous biyaist Charles Atéba Eyéné suggests.

Reports troubled with the army

The one who is also delegated to the press and communication of the youth section of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Rally (CPDM), however, increases the tone when it comes to to evoke Biya's relations with the army, which the opposition describes as reports of submission from one to the other.

"The president Biya is no hostage to anyone; there is not a single country where the army is not spared ", he claims to justify the fact that the salary of the men in uniform was not affected when the salary of the civil servants was reduced. three times during the 1990s.

Nevertheless the reform of the Cameroonian army that took place in 2001 was mainly perceived by the public opinion as a vast operation to promote many officers, and as a pretext for expanding the corps of generals. Since the Cameroonian army had not really experienced a redevelopment since 1973, the reform that took place ten years ago made many observers say that it is the expression of the fragility of the relations between the Head of State. and the military since the attempted assassination in August 1983 and the April 1984 coup.

Without asserting that Paul Biya is "the hostage" of the army, as his opponents say, his biographer Michel Roger Emvana still believes that "the fact of keeping men in uniform allows him to maintain a certain stability for his regime and in the country ".Even if, according to Emvana, he would have hardly forgiven the authors of the putschs of 1983 and 1984, in spite of the law of amnesty of 1989.

The persistent grudge the

political scientist Mathias Owona Nguini seems to know well the "a little spiteful" side of the chief of the State, which would not bear any authority other than his own, nor anything that might overshadow him."His extremely tense relations with Titus Edzoa [Editor's note: former secretary general of the presidency accused of embezzling 61 billion FCFA, or 93 million euros, and incarcerated for fifteen years] are only related to the precedence that this last on the President in the order of the Rose-Cross, "says the academic, who is also the son of a clutch of the regime.

This reminds of the shattering sacking in early 1987 of William Etéki Mboumoua.The Minister of Foreign Affairs and former Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) seemed to be in the spotlight at this time. "All this was not seen favorably by Paul Biya, especially since Etki is the only boss, except for the former president Ahidjo, who had, between 1962 and 1965."

Virtuoso songo'o

If Paul Biya is not known to be someone very fiery or very festive, a reputation seems to stick to the skin. Everyone agrees that the Cameroonian President is an excellent songo'o player. This game is often evoked by the opponents of Biya to ridicule him: he would not work and spend his time playing. His supporters, however, believe that, by practicing it, he has become a great strategist.

This board game typical of Central and Southern regions in Cameroon can find an equivalent in the West with chess. Highly strategic, it consists of taking the maximum of pawns to his opponent. The rules of the game vary according to the ethnic group, which supposes a rather sharp knowledge of the local customs."Biya is a songo'o expert; I had the opportunity to see him play several times, "confirms Michel-Roger Emvana, who adds that his partners are not necessarily his ministers, but a very closed circle of elite bulu, the ethnicity of the president.

These parts of songo'o, as explained by the biographer of the president, sometimes lead to long festive evenings in the residence of the head of state in Mvomeka'a, where good wine flows freely and where dance to the rhythm of the bowl, a dance for two of the Fang-Béti-Bulu peoples of South Cameroon. A painting that contrasts with the stilted image of a former seminarian whom Paul Biya has been carrying for almost thirty years.