Sunday, January 19, 2020

Cameroon: Biya, the president of the plague

With the war against Boko Haram, then the "crisis" (which seems more and more like a latent war) in the English-speaking regions, Paul Biya had to abandon his slogan of "president of peace". At the head of Cameroon since 1982 (but in the mysteries of power since 1962), this Françafrique dinosaur presides over the collapse of the country. Like the Gabonese Omar Bongo, but more discreetly during the first 20 years of his long career at the top of the Cameroonian state, he knew all the presidents of the Vth French Republic - until Emmanuel Macron, unlike to Omar Bongo. Propelled charge de mission to the Presidency of the tyrannical Ahmadou Ahidjo in 1962, in the midst of the Franco-Cameroonian war against the separatists then led by Ernest Ouandié, he gradually rose to the top of the State,

Secretary General of the Presidency in early 1968, Prime Minister in 1975, he took over from Ahidjo in November 1982, when he was forced to resign by the French. It only remains for Biya to be "elected", which he does without adversary in 1984 and 1988 then, in the era of multiparty politics, in 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011 - never on a regular basis. Biya was thus at the heart of power almost from the official independence of Cameroon, a former German colony placed under the shared supervision of France and the United Kingdom: first of all when the country was a federal republic of two states ( francophone et anglophone), created in October 1961, then after the end of federalism in May 1972. It is the embodiment of Cameroonian power and French accomplices. 

Joker with Holland 

From 2014, rumors circulated opportunely about the wish that the French would see him leave power, implicitly making him the new herald of the fight against the interference of Paris, in the eyes of a population who didn’t has legitimately not supported the French game in Ivory Coast. An old dictator then in power for 32 years is certainly a troublesome ally for François Hollande, who prefers to display himself with his Senegalese or Nigerian counterparts, who have become the democratic guarantors of his African policy. 

But the kidnappings of several French in the north of the country (including emissaries of Biya negotiate the release with millions of dollars) and the preservation of multiple French economic interests (Bolloré, Orange, Total, Société Générale, Rougier, Compagnie Fruitière, Vinci, Razel, etc.) make the Cameroonian stage essential during François Hollande's African tour in 2015 [1]. During the joint press conference, Paul Biya responds maliciously to the French journalist who questions him about his longevity in power that "Do not last in power who wants, but lasts who can", recycling an expression from the Cameroonian street to dismiss diplomatically in the ropes its counterpart, then at the lowest in opinion polls in France. Supporters of Biya exult, while French diplomacy discreetly ensures that the Cameroonian authorities will reverse their decision to remove Bolloré from the concession for the deep-water port of Kribi, under construction in the south of the country. Everything can go on, business as usual. 

Economic shipwreck

But the political immobility of a country run from the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva, where Biya spends most of his time, can only lead to collapse. The domestic economy is getting bogged down every day a little more, in favor of the extraction of the country's wealth, exported to China or Europe. In order not to lose preferential access to the European Union (EU) market, which in reality mainly benefits the exports of its banana agro-industry (the Marseille group Compagnie Fruitière at the head), Cameroon ratified in 2014 its Agreement Interim Economic Partnership (EPA), which has led since August 2016 to the progressive abolition of taxes on the import of European products. End of June 2017, Cameroonian customs are pleased to have recorded a shortfall "only" of 600 million CFA francs (91,000 euros) in 10 months, while projections were betting on 15 billion CFA francs in one year (23 million euros). Like banana exports, the dismantling of customs taxes will continue, reducing the tax revenue of a state ruined and over-indebted by 35 years of Biyaisme, while the population fights daily to survive. 

Political breakdown 

Since 2016, English speakers have been defending their rights: beyond the linguistic issue, it is a history, a legal system and a political culture that are at stake. The government has systematically suppressed the demonstrations against what the inhabitants of two large English-speaking regions call their "marginalization", leading to the escalation and radicalization of the movement - to which the government has responded since September 2017 with a real war against part of its population, which continues with sporadic attacks against the forces who regularly take revenge on the population. 

Tens of thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians have fled to neighboring Nigeria, as a Nigerian official explained to RFI's microphone (25/01): "We have identified nearly 33,000 Cameroonian migrants. Many arrived by road. But some people cross the forest, others cross the river. It is therefore very difficult to save them on our databases ”. Among these refugees, 47 English-speaking leaders were arrested and extradited to Cameroon in January, resulting in a conviction by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which declared on February 1 that "their forced return is in violation of the principle of non-refoulement which is the cornerstone of international refugee law ”. Probably not enough to shock Emmanuel Macron, who shines through the inhumanity of his own asylum policy, 

African Banknotes 274 - February 2018 Alice Primo


Source: African Banknotes 274 - February 2018 Alice Primo