He is believed to be 89(born February 13, 1933), at Mvomeka’a, in the Southern part of French Cameroon . As president since 1982, he has outlived four French Presidents, eight UK Prime Ministers and six U.S Presidents. The BBC and other Western Media outfits describe him as an absentee landlord, who governs from his Intercontinental Hotel suit in Geneva, Switzerland. The Wall Street Journal cautions the world not to declare him missing until his entire floor at the hotel is searched. Here he and his about 50-man entourage spend an average of $40,000 a day on hotel bills alone, excluding other amenities. His chartered round trip to Geneva and back to Yaoundé cost about $855,000. In addition to this extravagant lifestyle is his waste on lobbyists in DC. Between 2017 -2020, Vanguard Africa reports that he spent about a million dollars on lobbyists in the US. This has increased since then with more firms reaping from the dictator as he tries to cling unto power and cleanse his image with massive killings of the minority English-speaking population. Foreign Policy Magazine details the lobbying by Biya and other dictators in Washington DC here.
He is a product of French colonial rule in Africa and has maintained an iron fist in this Central African country with a checkered history unopposed for four decades. He is the continent’s second longest governing dictator, with 40 years as president, seven prior to that as Prime Minister, and a couple as minister. This “African Strongman’s” horrible human rights record is no secret to the world – arbitrary arrests and disappearances, army and police brutality, mass bunker prisons, jailing of journalists among other crimes. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), ranks the country as the second in the world after Egypt in jailing journalists for false news charges. The U.S State Department’s 2017 human rights report on the country puts the abuses squarely on the frail 86-year-old Paul Biya who is the legislative, judiciary and executive head of Cameroun, ordering arrests and detentions at will. He equally controls every social and cultural life of the country including the Catholic Church, where prelates from his tribe have vehemently defended his ills.
Military Brutality over Development
While development has stagnated since 1982 when he took over power, his military has benefited from enormous latest western-style weapons and training. This support has elevated any uniform-wearing officer to the status of a demi-god. Biya’s name is branded by these arrogant officers as a license for gross human rights abuses with impunity. Nowhere are these crimes evident daily than the systematic annihilation of the minority English-speaking population that has got a short end of the stick from a union with the majority French-speaking country, since 1961. Here innocent civilians and their residences are razed by the soldiers with no remorse. just like Hitler called the Jews names to help in their extermination, Paul Biya and his killer squad started by calling the English-speaking people DOGS(chien), and now secessionists or terrorists, thus justifying their extermination.
Presided Over the Mass Execution of Every Ethnic Group but His
As one of Cameroun’s oldest administrators, Paul Biya has participated and also presided over the massacre of all other ethnic groups in the country but his Beti/Bulu clan.
Biya and the French presided over the annihilation of more than 100,000 Bamilekes and Bassas in the pre and post colonial era.“Cameroon’s independence from France was a bitter struggle,” Cameroonian editorialist Gabriel Mbarga told RFI recently. Nationalist unrest broke out at the end of France’s 10-year rule in 1955 and was brutally suppressed by French forces, leaving thousands dead. “It became very violent after the suspension of the UPC independence party and the assassination of its leader Ruben Um Nyobe on 13 September 1958,” Mbarga said. “Estimates of the death toll, still debated by many experts, range from 100,000- 400,000 people killed between 1959 and 1964. In the department of Sanaga Maritime, largely populated by the ethnic group named the Bamileke, 120,000 were killed in 1960 alone” Mbarga concluded. (Click here).
Although only about 1000 people were officially said to have been arrested and eventually sentenced to death by Biya, for a failed coup in 1984, living witnesses talk of a deathly purge of northerners by the dictator following the coup. Thousands are said to have been eliminated. Since then, Biya has been more brutal in his crack down even on legitimate opposition. in 2008 during legitimate demonstration against higher food prices and an attempt to change the constitution to enable him run as president again, Biya and his soldiers are said to have killed more than 100 civilians. The U.S Statement Department’s 2008 report was blunt on the dictator’s actions,“Security forces committed numerous unlawful killings. Security forces also engaged in torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners” (Click here).
Majority of people on the streets of Cameroun had long felt it was time for the frail and stone-hearted octogenarian to go, but the fear of incarceration and charges of sedition, terrorism, or other trump up charges, all punishable by the death penalty put a lid on these rumblings from imploding. Measured opposition on the internet is seriously monitored by the regime’s secret men who are everywhere.
“How can our prayers be answered in Zimbabwe?’’, a brave social media post by a frustrated Camerounian made the rounds, after another sit-tight octogenarian – Robert Mugabe was overthrown in November 19, 2017, by Mnangagwa. Other paranoid Cameroonian activists caricatured Mugabe with luggage on his head dragging a seemingly glued Biya behind. Despite these abuses which run afoul western values, the puzzling question has been; why has the dictator been able to stay in power for this long, when others with less human rights crimes such as Maduro of Venezuela are on the West’s chopping board?
In addition to unfettered French intervention in FrenchCameroun’s affairs since 1959, as part of a pre-independence agreement, including deciding who rules, Biya has benefited enormously from Western and Chinese military assistance. According to the website Defenseweb, Biya’s arms suppliers include the United States, South Africa, Spain, Serbia, Russia, Israel and France. These countries have delivered weapons ranging from “armored vehicles, transport and combat helicopters, mortars, unmanned aerial vehicles and light and transport aircraft.” Most in the guise of fighting Islamic extremism. The U.S even maintains a drone base in the country and helps with training. Mr. Biya has not shied to direct these weapons against his citizens frustrated with his loathsome administration.
While some of these countries are known for their dismal human rights records, the silence of others like the U.S, Canada and Germany to well corroborated abuses have been stunning. An Amnesty international investigation in 2017, shows abuses at Fotokol and Salek military base in the Northern part of the country (Click here). The base at the time of the abuses had about 300 U.S personnel. Victims claim they saw white men in the window of their cells. Numerous evidences of families and children being massacred in the North (Click here), and rivers with corpses and mass graves in the English regions of the country have failed to muster western ire. Kudos to the Kingmaker – France that ensures the world looks elsewhere. While the old global order has largely insulated these abuses from a global audience thus a leeway for songbirds of human rights to conceal their double standards, digital media has provided no space for such spins. These crimes are easily and instantly put on the menu and dining tables of these global power-players like the UN and its member-states
Policymakers who have often reacted instantly to abuses in their own countries have remained indifferent to such gory images coming from their dictators such as Paul Biya of Cameroon. The UK for example despite agreeing that Paul Biya has committed crimes against humanity in the anglophone regions still signs a $1.5B oil and gas deal to be executed in the anglophone regions where the massacres and ethnic cleansing are taking place (Click here). Here a French Cameroun-appointed administrator on radio ordered villagers to leave or be “neutralized” – a word used by the dictator and his soldiers as they kill for fun in English-Cameroon.
While this western hypocrisy has fortified the position of these dictators thus increasing their appetite for more genocidal acts on their citizens, it has also eroded the credibility of organizations like the UN and countries like the US, UK, Germany etc, as leading global defenders of human rights. Even the U.S has overlooked its own laws by continuing to maintain military relations with Mr. Biya despite the Leahy Law that forbids assistance to any country with questionable human rights records. In the midst of what the U.S Ambassador to Cameroon Mr. Henry Balerin calls “targeted killings” of anglophones, the U.S still donated military aircrafts to the dictator.
At Least 40,000 English-speakers(Ambazonians) Massacred since 2016
It is estimated that Mr. Biya has killed more than 40,000 innocent civilians in the English-speaking regions of the country who are demanding for a safeguard of their rights in the union which they voted to belong as co-equals in 1961. More than 500,000 are internally displaced with another 120,000 as refugees in Nigeria (Click here). To see the unfolding genocide, click here. While these evidences equal or supersede the same crimes, the U.S and the West are advancing as reason to depose Maduro of Venezuela, who has been in power for shorter than Biya, the West’s darling dictator remains steadfast in his abuses including jailing political dissenters. The almost 90-year-old dictator’s desire to ethnically cleans any community that opposes him are articulated even by some of his ministers who believe such actions is justified. For Biya’s Justice Minister, Momo Jean de Dieu, annihilating any Camerounian who opposes Biya will be justified just like Hitler’s massacre of 6 million “industrious and arrogant Jews”, who posed a threat to him and Germany (Click here). As one Cameroon activists puts it, “It’s hypocritical for the Israeli Ambassador to Cameroun to be outrage and demands an apology over Jews and holocaust comments, when the actual holocaust is happening with the Anglophones in Cameroon”.
Rigged Elections with Bogus Election Observers
Since Mr. Biya willy-nilly accepted multiparty politics in 1990, he and his ruling Cameroun People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) continue to choke with victory constipation at all elections while all contenders cry foul. To embellish his image globally, the old fox has embarked on lobbying and fake election observers. In 2005, while election observers such as former Canadian PM, the Roman Catholic Church under Cardinal Christian Tumi, characterized Biya’s 71% victory as “surrounded by fraud like previous ones”, the dictator was up with a big bounty for fake election observers from the US. Biya picked up the tab of $80,000 for an Association of Former Members of the U.S Congress headed by a Biya lobbyist at the time, Ronnie Shows. The association despite global assessment of a fraud election, endorsed the outcome claiming: “This is what democracy is about.” A month after, one of the six-members of the delegation signed a new lobbying contract with the dictator to feed global opinion about the democratic strides being undertaken.
Sticking to his old playbook, the octogenarian and cronies produced the same script in 2018. However, new technology was not on their side. With gross apathy and verifiable election rigging, Mr. Biya this time hired some fraudsters from the U.S ranging from farmers in Ohio to a Jewish activists/Journalist in the name of Nurit Greenger, claiming to be representing Transparency International (Click here). A claim debunked by Transparency International. When questioned on social media for the gross deception, the group’s leader was unapologetic and offensive, blocking anybody on social media who challenges their action on the Cameroun election. The state’s propaganda media houses that lied to the country about the independence of the observers have maintained sealed lips on the scam. Despite these documented anti-democratic tactics to cling unto power at all cost, the “democratic” West have stood by the old dictator failing even to formally condemn these totalitarian actions that have deprived the country of some of its citizens and meaningful progress. Mr. Biya is more focused on quashing dissent than the well-being of the repressed population. As one French Cameroun blogger puts it, “Putting pressure on Maduro to resign while, coaxing with dictator Biya is bad for western values”.
Is the end in Sight?
At almost 90, the Lion man is scarcely seen at official ceremonies that he used to preside over. What the world and country is used to now is compulsory younger portrait of Biya, displayed at such events and others by loyal party leaders and his appointed followers. The state media (CRTV), has embarked on a skillful media manipulation of his every appearance, such as diverting viewer attention when the old man fumbles at well-planned ceremonies like the African Nation’s cup or Macron’s visit to the country. His recent dismal appearance was at the US- Africa Summit November 2022, where a frail-looking Biya, was filmed in a conference center demanding from his assistant, if there were important people in the room. Many interpret it as his inability to know where he was. “How can a president at an occasion for presidents be asking if there are important people present.” A social media post questions. These snippets of blunders are fodder to the population of the country who have no outlet for their frustration. It happened in the US because the dictator, and his state media had no control over the event. Back in the country, while all opposition has been silenced, his eldest son, FranK Biya, has been allowed to test his political power by criss-crossing the country talking to traditional leaders loyal to his father. Many have interpreted the move as groundwork for his eventual successor to his father. A father-son succession typical in all the countries of the Central African Region.
Biya and son Frank Biya
With brutality, nepotism, bribery and corruption, divide and conquer, Biya has succeeded to stay in power, but coking a combustible tank that will definitely explode when there is no scary image of him at every corner in the country. The anglophone regions that today has limited control from him is moving increasingly away from Biya and maybe the two Cameroons as was initiated in 1961. The majority Muslin north is equally claiming that any post-Biya succession must revert back to them. These uncertain events are likely to unfold uglily for the Cameroons.