Joseph Owona, former Biya acolyte dies aged 78 0

Professor Joseph Owona, a cabinet minister under President Biya and a successful academic, has died aged 78.

A Cameroon government embassy official in Paris, France confirmed the death of the peer, who became Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and was later appointed Secretary General at the Presidency.

Owona served as right-hand man to the 91-year-old President Biya during the early days of multi-party politics.

He would later serve as Minister of Health, Minister of Youth and Sports and President of FIFA’s Normalization Committee of the Cameroon Football Federation and retained a keen interest in the International Relations Institute (IRIC) in Yaoundé.

In the early 90s, he made a mockery of Cameroon researchers accusing them of not producing any results.

Sometimes referred to as a Biya favourite, Professor Joseph Owona began his rise through politics deep inside the secretariat of the ruling CPDM Central Committee.

He was a controversial figure described by many as the minister who brought problems to Biya while others brought solutions.

Owona was a law professor at the heart of the Biya’s government promoting tribalism and nepotism.  As Secretary General at the presidency, he was widely criticised for suggesting that no Bamileke could be head of state. He never withdrew his remarks after a firm rebuke from Etoudi but was removed from his role.

Born on 25 January 1945 in Akom, the polygamist served as a minister several times and was a member of the Constitutional Council from April 2020 to January 2024. He did his higher education at the University of Yaoundé and Panthéon-Sorbonne in France.

By Soter Tarh Agbaw-Ebai