Thursday, August 22, 2019

Etoudi Pala: understand the Biya character in seven points

For thirty-seven years, Paul Biya has exercised power without revealing anything of himself. To pierce it up to date, we must trace the thread of an existence marked by theatrical moves.

In the privacy of his Mvomeka'a residence, does Paul Biya think of destiny? This passionate of classical letters wonders about this "Moïra", to quote Homer, blind and inexorable fatality ?? While listening to one of his favorite composers, the German Ludwig van Beethoven, feels the anguish of leaving the work of his life unfinished?? Few are the intimate of the head of state able to pierce the mysteries of the palace of Etoudi, hardly less opaque than those of Eleusis, in ancient Greece.

Since coming to power in 1982, everything has been tried to understand the president: psychology, mysticism, even astrology. But Paul Biya was able to hide, trying, as a close friend says, "to observe without being observed." In the fog that he likes to maintain, he began, in October 2018, his seventh mandate. After a contested election in the midst of an Anglophone crisis that is shaking his country as rarely as it has been in his history.

As you please, William Shakespeare described the world as "a theater" in which everyone played a role in "seven ages". Lover of literature, Paul Biya, the seven-term sphinx, did he read the English playwright ?? Young Africa hits the three shots of his epic.

Young years a discreet seminarian

Some have called it "the terror of Nden?"Did father Antoine Wollenschneider imagine in his Catholic school in this village in the Center region that he was going to help forge the identity of the future president of Cameroon ?? In the mid-1940s, Paul Biya is still a studious boy, rather frail. Often, it is his older brother, Benoît Mvondo Assam, or his cousins, Benoît Assam Ebolo and Hyacinthe Eyinga Miame, who take care of protecting him. We want to make him a priest. Direction the seminary Saint Joseph of Akono.

"Those who did not end up in the priesthood were still leaving with a psychological rebirth that made them honest and quiet men," says a comrade of the president, quoted in the biography written by Michel Roger Emvana. "Some people think he's cold. It's wrong. [...] He can become warm and extrovert [...]. But he also knows how to be discreet and taciturn? "Confided her sister to Jacques Fame Ndongo, a fellow traveler who became Minister of Higher Education, according to the same book.

In 1952, Biya joined France, where he met his first wife Jeanne-Irene. At the Institute of Higher Studies of Overseas, the Cameroonian distinguishes himself with Louis-Paul Aujoulat. The former Secretary of State for France overseas sees him as a disinterested young man, not passionate about the political jousting around Ahmadou Ahidjo, first president of independent Cameroon. For Aujoulat, Biya is without ambition and represents the perfect second for the head of state. Only the first lady is suspicious. Germaine Ahidjo feels no confidence in the one whose silence, she thinks, must hide something.

1962-1982 The conquest of power

Biya has always been able to choose its protectors. In 1962, his ascension begins: he enters as head of mission to the presidency. '' Assiduous '', '' reserved '', '' devoted? '', A former colleague is full of praise. In 1967, he was appointed director of the civil cabinet of the president, who does not hesitate to entrust him with the delicate files. Some joke about the "valet?", The "puppet?" Biya. But the 34-year-old will surprise them. "He was athletic, had a healthy lifestyle, practiced jogging at Mont Fébé," recalls a French man living at the time in Yaoundé. Biya is also training in tennis with Zacharie Noah, Yannick's father. "He was a very good administrator, and Ahidjo relied on him," recalls a former cooperant in Cameroon. Ahidjo had admiration for him, and Biya was fascinated by the president's charisma. "

In 1975, Ahidjo named him prime minister. To his wife, he explains that he chose "the most posed?" On June 29, 1979, he even made the prime minister his constitutional successor. The former seminarian, who has never been elected, is forging an image in public opinion. "For a long time he thought he was not in politics, but that was his strategy," one of his acquaintances says. On November 4, 1982, Ahidjo announced his resignation in favor of Biya. At the residence of the Lake, home of the Prime Minister he is leaving, Jeanne-Irene filters the entrances. The new president accepts the congratulations. Whiskey and champagne are served. But the party is not glitzy. "He immediately started to govern with a mask?" Recalls an old friend.

In 1982 and 1983, Biya composed its governments by consulting Ahmadou Ahidjo, but gradually put his pawns, including Joseph Zambo and Jean Nkuété, to counter the faithful of the former president. To Ahidjo's surprise, the "valet?" Asserts itself.

1983-1984 The ruthless riposte

The confrontation is inevitable, and June 18, 1983 marks a turning point. Biya has just overhauled his government, without warning Ahidjo. The latter does not fool: he summons all ministers of the North to the residence of the Lake, where the former president has taken up residence.He wants to push them to resign. In the night, Maïkano Abdoulaye, Minister in charge of the Armed Forces and faithful of Ahidjo, in turn assembles officers of the North. But Biya learns the maneuver.

On August 22, he announced that individuals linked to Ahmadou Ahidjo were arrested for wanting to "undermine the security of the Republic." Prime Minister Bello

Bouba Maïgari is sacked, like maïkano Abdoulaye. Ahidjo is sentenced to death in absentia on February 28, 1984. From France, he castigates "the phobia of the coup d'etat [which] seized Paul Biya?"."Biya learned to govern from ahidjo, who knew how to be devious and ruthless," says our former French co-worker.

Barely a month later, on April 6, an attempted coup plagues Yaounde. The presidential palace, where Biya took refuge, is attacked. On the night of 6 to 7, the Loyalists counter-attack. On the evening of the 7th, Biya announces that calm has returned. "Victory is won," he adds. Is he talking about the battle with Ahidjo ?? It is now said to be wary, even paranoid. "From that moment on, Biya made sure to control the North and never give up the bridle to the security apparatus," says one close to the presidency.

1987-1988 The first failure

Some still live it as a betrayal. However, when Paul Biya pronounces before the deputies on June 20, 1987, the phrase "we will not go to the IMF", he is applauded. Since independence, Cameroon Ahidjo has applied a liberalism called "planned?", In which the state retains a strong hold on an economy led by five-year plans. This allowed Cameroon to better weather the 1973 oil crisis than its neighbors. But the hard times begin in the mid-1980s. Cocoa, coffee and cotton suffered a decline of nearly 65% ​​in value, and oil prices plummet.

Paul Biya is thirsty for rupture. He published in 1987 for the liberalism community, book in which he exposes his ambitions. "The idea was to promote more social justice and to put order in the management of public affairs," recalls a Cameroonian economist. In other words, says a former president: "He wanted to convey the idea that the state was no longer a cash cow." "But the president did not want the measures to be taken. austerity seem to be imposed by the foreigner? "he adds.

"It was necessary to preserve this pride which the Cameroonians had to have better crossed the crisis than their neighbors", explains an economist. "Paul Biya was anxious to submit to the IMF," says a close friend of Etoudi's palace. But, despite the launch of a sanitation program, the results do not follow, and the promise of the president is shattered. In September 1988, Cameroon entered a structural adjustment program of the IMF."This may be Biya's first failure," says one opponent. "We saw the end of the Cameroonian model, and the awakening was painful."

1991-1992 The time of the strategists

We are on June 27, 1991. Before the National Assembly, Paul Biya takes a stand: "I said it and I maintain it: the national conference is not applicable in Cameroon. [...] We will submit to the verdict of the polls. "The country is however in unfortunate posture. In May, the opposition, led by John Fru Ndi, has the wind in its sails.

She is launching a campaign of civil disobedience to paralyze activity in the big cities. Many call for national dialogue and departure from Biya. But the interested party has a strategy: the ballot boxes. "It's one of his characteristics: he does not give in to pressure," says a regular of the presidency. Advised by his secretary-general, the northerner Sadou Hayatou, and his discreet minister Laurent Esso, he proposes early legislative elections in early 1992. The ruling party gains only a relative majority, but Biya has managed to divide the opposition between Bello Bouba Maïgari, who integrates the assembly, and the most radical.

"He has taken his hand again, pushing the Social Democratic Front to boycott and leave the field for a while," recalls an observer. "He did not want the conference and was afraid of losing power, like Kérékou in Benin or Sassou Nguesso in Brazzaville?", Adds a close friend of the presidency. "His strength was playing the elections against the conference, which he knew was difficult to master. It is a form of conservative revolution, which did not derogate from the doctrine of La Baule. "

2007-2011 The eternal candidate

" 2008 is the confirmation of the stationary state of the Cameroonian patient? ", Slips an opponent of the time.Since the previous year, the country is out of breath. In the western provinces of Cameroon, especially in the Littoral, calls are being made for civil disobedience. In his camp, Paul Biya faces dissensions, especially since he must, constitutionally, leave power in 2011. "Biya saw the potential dolphins, like René Emmanuel Sadi or Marafa Hamidou Yaya, fidget and considered that the country was not ready? "recalls a former president.

At the initiative of the French communicator Patricia Balme, it evokes at the end of 2007 in the media the idea of ​​a revision of the Constitution removing the term limits. On December 31, he confirms: this limitation "does not fit well with the very idea of ​​democratic choice." Advised by Laurent Esso, who became secretary general of the presidency, or Martin Belinga Eboutou, his new director of the civil cabinet, he relies on the petitions that Grégoire Owona - Deputy Secretary General of the Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (CPDM) - does not miss not to circulate. The reform of the Constitution was adopted on April 10, 2008, by the assembly, while the riots shake the country.

"Biya has managed to establish itself as a perpetual candidate to put an end to the race for succession," concludes our former Etoudi Palace. René Emmanuel Sadi quickly shows his support, in "the interest of Cameroon?".  Pandora's box will remain closed during the 2011 presidential elections.

"Biya forced the ambitious to choose between prison and patience. [The former secretary general of the presidency] Titus Edzoa and Marafa Hamidou Yaya have fallen, but Sadi remained faithful? "Decrypts an ex-minister. Edzoa confided: "Biya is Machiavellian [...], he makes sure that each and every one get into it."

2019 The hunted man

On June 26, 2019, at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, Paul Biya tries to immerse himself in the serenity of Switzerland, alongside his second wife, Chantal - who has gradually become one of the great organizers of the presidential palace. But 2019 is not a year of peace for the couple. After the Anglophone crisis and the disputed presidential election of 2018, the tension has steadily increased.

Activists from the diaspora managed to sneak into the palace. Among them, a woman concealed handcuffs and waits for Biya to follow him. It claims, like the other demonstrators massed in Geneva, the resignation of the president. The "handcuffs?" Plan fails, but unrest breaks out, and the Swiss police are forced to intervene. The incident turns to the diplomatic crisis. Under pressure, Paul Biya and his wife leave Geneva on July 5 at 12:30.

"I think this has affected him a lot, especially since diplomatic pressure has also intensified," says a source who knows the head of state since the 1970s. Paul Biya, 86, thinks he to his inheritance ?? "He does not give in to pressure, but is attentive to his image abroad," adds a source to Etoudi. One of his former sports partners concludes: "He has kept a religious fund and knows it is not eternal.Of course, the latest events should fuel his thinking.