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Saturday, October 13, 2018

Putsch missed against Biya: the film of events [Retro]

The beginnings of reign of the Cameroonian president were shaken by a failed coup d'etat on April 6, 1984. But this is also what allowed Paul Biya to consolidate his power for 35 years.

Since the end of the struggles for independence, Cameroon is seen abroad as a relatively stable country. But we all too often forget that he experienced other troubled times, especially in the first half of the 1980s. Two years after the arrival of Paul Biya in power, a military coup dwarfs the new regime. The country is plunging into a safe drift and ethnic rivalries are exacerbating between the North, Muslim for a large part, and the South, mostly Christian. We are not on the verge of secession, but the two parties look at each other in faience dogs during the ten years following the coup attempt of April 6, 1984.

But what really happened?

We know everything and almost nothing of this dark history. We know everything, because a large production has been delivered on the subject, including the book The Flame and Smoke (Ed Sopecam) of the late Henri Bandolo, journalist at the material time and who later became a thuriferous regime. We know almost nothing of it, because, finally, all that was said about this now famous "6-April" in Cameroon, relied only on rumors and notes of the expeditious trials that were against the instigators of the operation.

The movement "I dare!"

Still, in the night of April 5 to 6, 1984, Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, is suddenly awakened by gunfire, with bullets that get lost even in the homes of some residents. Telecommunications are cut off, and the national radio broadcasts continuous military music, until a message, read in a jerky fashion, announces the seizure of power by the movement "J'ose!", Because of the "Disrepair of the country and the pathetic situation of the management of the State of Cameroon". The voice thus expressed in the early morning of April 6, 1984, on the airwaves of Radio-Cameroon at the time, actually bears the word of a group of factious officers of the Republican Guard who decided to overthrow the diet. The curfew is established and the borders closed.

Only, as described by Henri Bandolo in The Flame and the Smoke, loyalist soldiers, led by General Pierre Semengué, organize the resistance. In a day, they return the situation and Paul Biya can speak to the nation, April 7 in the evening, as President of the Republic of Cameroon. The putsch is doing pschitt and the mutineers are getting out of hand. But, the day is bloody.A hundred dead on the floor. And no one still thinks it's just a beginning.

Immediately after the coup attempt, Ahmadou Ahidjo, the first president of Cameroon, who resigned two years ago and is accused of wanting to return to business, is at the mercy of suspicion. It is suspected the military from the north of the country, which comes from Ahmadou Ahidjo. In his speech to the nation, the day after the coup attempt, Paul Biya, a strategist, relativizes:

"The responsibility for the failed coup d'état is that of a minority of ambitious power-hungry and not that of such or such a province, let alone that of the Cameroonians of this or that religion. "

One might think that it was a way of embracing the enemy for better smother it.In fact, a real witch hunt then begins in the country. Many army officers and senior officials from the North are arrested, lawsuits follow and death sentences are rained down, property is confiscated.Between May and August 1984, about forty officers were executed in the public square. Former President Ahmadou Ahidjo is sentenced to death in absentia, forcing him to leave Mougins, France where he is on vacation, to go to exile in Dakar, Senegal, where he died a few years later.

Apart from their radio message on April 6, we really never knew what motivated the mutineers or who was really behind this attempted coup against Paul Biya. If the most famous of the putschists, Captain Guérandi Mbara, from the North, continues to vilify the regime of Biya and call for the uprising since his exile in Burkina Faso, he never said a word about his possible support. When he took the head of the mutiny in 1984, he is 30 years old. He is a specialist in ground-to-ground artillery, trained at the military school of Yaoundé, with celebrities like ... Thomas Sankara and Blaise Compaoré. Two years ago, the Cameroonian newspaper Le Messager paints a portrait of this former exile officer, and tries to make him say a word about the "real" instigators of the operation. In vain!

Duty of remembrance

In any case, during a little ten years, at least, until the amnesty law of the putschists, promulgated in January 1991, nationals of northern Cameroon will be seen a bad eye. The government will use all sorts of methods to repress and marginalize them, as the Cameroonian historian and environmentalist Eugène Fonssi, also editor of the Ecovoxx magazine, explains:

"The regime of Biya saw in this attempt of coup d'etat The State, the hand of the Fulani aristocracy, and drew all the consequences. One of the most notable effects is the rise of tribalism in Cameroon. "

Eugene Fonssi explains his point by the difficulty that have some to forget or forgive. This is the case of Dakole Daissala, another "northerner", as we call the nationals of the northern region of Cameroon, who was taken prisoner after 6-April:

"The duty of memory obliges me to remember everything to better forgive human weakness, in the name of the higher considerations that should appeal to all enlightened consciousness."

Is it these "superior considerations" that have led Dakole Daissala, like many others, to finally connect with the power in place?He became, sometime after this 1991 amnesty law, a minister of Biya.

And that's it, one of the great strengths of Cameroon's head of state. The attempted coup d'etat that he suffered also appears as what allowed him to consolidate his power. Paul Biya, as constitutional successor, took the lead of Cameroon, on November 6, 1982, after the resignation of Ahmadou Ahidjo. The rivalries between the different ethnic groups and the dispersal of the political landscape seem to have played their part. At the same time that the high-ranking "northerners" are hunted down, the populations of this region enjoy many favors. Very often, in the name of the famous policy of "regional balance" put in place from the early 60s.

I hold you, you hold me

Since this failed coup, the army has seen more than never be pampered. With the economic crisis, and as Cameroonian officials suffered wage cuts, the balance of the military has steadily increased, making wages the highest military of the Cameroonian civil service.

For example, in 2010, the defense budget was the second largest envelope of the Finance Act. A consequence of Paul Biya's promise to men in uniform in 2009, when the 31st and 32nd promotions of the Inter-Army Military School (Emia), to further improve the living and working conditions of the army. A visible but effective way to muzzle the great dumb.

General Pierre Semengue, who saved the Biya regime in 1984 from the hands of the mutineers, responds in a book-interview, "A whole life in armies," with Charles Atéba Eyene, a young regime's zealist in place. :

"the army is for defending the country and not to take power, except in exceptional cases, when nothing goes."

to continue to receive support from the same army, what better than grant him favors. With all-va promotions. The country today has no fewer than 25 generals. A record since 1973. And Michel-Roger Emvana, biographer of Paul Biya, who knew the events of 1984, to conclude:

"The fact of keeping the men in uniform allows him to maintain a certain stability for his regime and in the country."