22, May 2019
For many months now, there has been speculation about the health of Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, who is hardly seen in public these days. There was even rumour that Mr. Biya, also known as the “monarch”, had died.
But Monday’s celebration of the country’s national day did not only confirm that Mr. Biya was still alive, it also proved that the monarch was in bad shape and was rapidly losing his mind.
Though a source at the Presidency had informed the Cameroon Concord News Group that he was gradually losing his mind, there were doubts as to the authenticity of that information.
However, a short video of the “monarch’s” wife forcing him to wave at the crowd during Monday’s event clearly confirmed that the man who once thought he was only second to God was clearly suffering from Alzheimer- a progressive mental deterioration that occurs in middle or old age, due to generalised degeneration of the brain. It is the commonest cause of premature senility and it is without a cure.
On the surface, Mr. Biya looked radiant, but underneath the foundation that had been applied to his face, is a huge story of agony, sorrow and pity. Mr. Biya who is also battling prostrate cancer and a failing heart is going through the toughest moments of his life. His failing health is affecting those around him and this has hit his wife like a ton of bricks.
She too is rapidly going down the hill. Over the last six months, she has lost more than 50kg and her hair has been falling off at a breath-taking speed. There are speculations that she could be suffering from a more dangerous form of cancer and her rapid weight loss seems to buttress this allegation.
Many of Mr. Biya’s close collaborators hold that the Southern Cameroons crisis that has resulted in the death of some 3,000 civilians has had a huge impact on Mr. Biya’s declining health.
A source close to the Yaounde strong man alleges that he regrets lots of things and he holds that the issue could have been handled differently if he had not listened to hawks in his government. The regrets are made all the more challenging by the increasing pressure from the United States, Canada and UK who are working behind the scenes to ensure that the monarch yields to their demand for the creation of a federal system in Cameroon.
Also, another source at the Presidency that elected anonymity has also said that Mr. Biya’s health is a major concern not only to his relatives, but also to his collaborators.
He added that the ailing monarch was supposed to go to Switzerland for proper treatment last month, but the information was leaked to the Diaspora and the plan was sabotaged, as members of the country’s Diaspora had announced that they would be disrupting things in Switzerland if he showed up in any of the Swiss hospitals.
“Mr. Biya is down. His health is failing him very fast. He does not even recognize those around him and this is causing many members of his government to be concerned. They know the end is near,” he said.
“All tweets you have been reading from Mr. Biya are written by his wife. She thinks Mr. Biya needs some inner peace and that could come from Cameroonians whom he has hurt so badly. The Biya family knows that the President will leave the country in a mess and this will be his legacy. Many Cameroonians will only remember him for the corruption, inefficiency and chaos that have become the hallmark of his government,” the source added.
“Mr. Biya knows that many Cameroonians have lost their lives in a war that is not even necessary. He understands that the solution to the Southern Cameroons crisis can only be found at the negotiating table and not in a battlefield, but he does not know how to come back to his words. He had declared that the form of the state was non-negotiable and that was what caused the situation to escalate. This is his greatest undoing and this is destroying him internally,” the source stressed.
“Cameroonians were right when they suspected that there was something cooking when Mr. Biya signed a presidential decree granting the Secretary-General at the presidency, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the right to sign any documents on his behalf but they simply did not know that the president’s health was fast deteriorating,” he pointed out.
“These days, it is hard to even see the president. He now lives like a recluse and his wife is the one issuing instructions on his behalf. Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh is simply the president and this has been decided by the president’s wife who is the face behind the mask. The choice of Ngoh Ngoh is not in error. He is Mrs. Biya’s relative and he is prepared to bend over backwards just to please her,” the source said.
“The president’s wife is keeping an eye on everything and she is ensuring that those she does not trust are elbowed out of the president’s inner circle. There are internal fights among those close to the president. It is obvious that a power struggle is in the offing in Cameroon. The Betis are scared of losing power. They are aware of the mess they have created in Cameroon and their fear is that the next president will not be from their ethnic group and he might come after them. This, to them, is very unsettling,” our source concluded.
Cameroon is at the crossroads. The multiple conflicts that are tearing the country apart might only get worse over the next couple of months. Boko Haram is intensifying its attacks in the north, Central African rebels are keeping the country’s army soldiers in the east of the country awake all night while Southern Cameroonians are not buying anything the country’s Prime Minister, Dion Ngute, is selling.
They argue that the government can never be trusted and that though Mr. Ngute is from Southern Cameroons, he has lost his credibility, as he has neither acknowledged the killing of fellow Southern Cameroonians nor even expressed regret for the government’s irresponsible actions.
His trip to the two English-speaking regions has not borne any real fruits, as the killing has continued and the burning of houses by government troops has intensified.
Besides, his call for dialogue and peace is clearly falling on deaf ears and he had announced that the government could discuss with all factions in the conflict except separatists. This has offended many and from the look of things, many Southern Cameroonians hold that any dialogue that does include separatists will be a total waste of time.
The Prime Minister’s trip does not seem to receive much support from outside. The Prime Minister did not offer much in terms of how the dialogue would be conducted and where it would be held. The Diaspora will be excluded from any dialogue if it will take place in Cameroon. The country’s Diaspora, especially Southern Cameroonians living abroad, does not trust the government. The arrest of some members of the country’s Diaspora at international airports in the country has given the government a very bad name.
Besides, the repatriation of many Cameroonians with dual nationality to countries whose passports they hold has upset many and made it hard for the government to be forgiven.
The government simply has a bad relationship with its Diaspora and if the Prime Minister is serious about holding a dialogue, his government must first release those in jail and then grant a general amnesty to all those who have played a rule in the crisis that has given the government a bloodshot eye.
While the Prime Minister is giving the impression that the Southern Cameroons crisis can be addressed, members of Mr. Biya’s inner circle are more concerned with a power struggle that is hurting the country’s economy and spreading corruption and intimidation.
For now, the “monarch” is more concerned about his health than that of the country. He has had many opportunities to exit the scene with pump and pageantry, but he has squandered every single opportunity and today, he is viewed by most Cameroonians as the villain that has brought untold hardship to his compatriots.
His war against Southern Cameroons is not popular with many East Cameroonians and this is gradually breaking the country along tribal and ethnic lines. If the transition is not properly handled, the country may implode when Mr. Biya exits the scene.
The world must keep and eye on Cameroon. A brutal inter-ethnic war is simmering underneath the surface. If Cameroon goes down that path, the entire sub-region will be brought down and the world will be left with a sticky situation on its hands. The time to arrest things is now. Postponing or pretending not to see what is happening in Cameroon is simply endorsing chaos that could be very expensive.
By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai
Chairman and Editor-in-Chief
Cameroon Concord News Group with files from Bamba Gaoussou in Yaounde