Monday, November 19, 2012

Biya on the helm for 30 years

Cameroon - After 30 years at helm of Cameroon president Biya Ranked amongst World worst Tyrants Cameroonian President Paul Biya on Tuesday November 6 marked 30 years at the helm, while other consider him the guarantor of stability in a restive nation, some describe him one of the Africa’s worst dictators to others. Paul Biya has been ranked one of the four worst dictators in sub-Saharan Africa and one of the world’s worst 20, by an author and commentator for the United States TV network, NBC.

The ranking appears in David Wallechnisky’s new book; Tyrants, The World’s 20 Worst Living Dictators (Regan Press) launched Friday, November 17. Wallechinsky, a historian, has worked as a commentator for the American television network, the NBC, and is author of several reference books.

The story, carried on has been floated around the world. According to the story, since 2003, Wallechnisky has been writing an annual article for Parade Magazine, ranking the 10 worst dictators currently in power. He has now expanded the list and written a book on the subject.

Biya is ranked with only two others in sub-Saharan Africa: Robert Mugabe and King Mswati III of Swaziland.The author comments: “Every few years, Biya stages an election to justify his continuing reign, but these elections have no credibility. In fact, Biya is credited with a creative innovation in the world of phony elections.”

Wallechnisky writes about Cameroon’s electoral process: “In 2004, annoyed by the criticisms of international vote-monitoring groups, he (Biya) paid for his own set of international observers, six ex-US congressmen, who certified his election as free and fair.”

Biya Regime’s Traditional Reaction

The tradition of the Biya regime has been to react bitterly whenever it has been rated at the bottom of the virtues of governance and transparency. When Transparency International, TI, ranked the government two years successively as topping the chart in corruption, government ministers were very vocal on missions, castigating the international NGO as lacking the knowledge and authority to carry on its Corruption Perception Index.

They argued that Cameroon could not come before Nigeria in corruption. A lot of effort was employed in this direction, instead of going the whole hog to fight corruption, eradicate bad governance and improve on its human rights records, issues that always earn the government a poor ranking.

Meantime, Nigeria engaged a fierce fight against corruption. Since then, ministers and governors in Nigeria have either been forced to resign or have been sacked.

But when the same TI ranked Cameroon sixth after Nigeria, every government official was impressed and while making a speech anywhere, slipped in the ranking and proudly pronounced TI to impress well-wishers.

President Biya, thereafter, started a fight against embezzlement and corruption but abandoned it as very few of generally known corrupt officials have been brought to book. The rest of lot are working freely and living comfortably.

The tyranny and dictatorship ranking comes in the wake of another publication ranking Cameroon among the five worst countries in the world in terms of governance. The others in this rank are: Iraq, Chad, Somalia, Zimbabwe and Romania.

The information is contained in a Governance Perception Index, a survey carried out at Harvard University led by Professor Robert Rotberg, of Kennedy School of Government, and President of World Peace Foundation. Government apologists have swung into action condemning the ranking and questioning the authenticity of the Harvard Professor’s findings. It should be noted that Harvard is one of the world’s best universities.

No Guarantee For Fair Elections

Sarli Sardou Nana, a Cameroonian pro-democracy campaigner holds that: “As Cameroon prepares for local elections in 2013, it is worth pointing out that until the government allows for free and fair elections, the country will never get out of poverty.”

Nana states: “Free and fair elections can only come about through an independent electoral management process in accordance with the Durban Declaration.”

He cautions that: “The government has to realise that Cameroon’s present image of a badly governed state means it will always be difficult to attract appropriate and substantial external investment to create jobs and eradicate poverty”.

But the government of Cameroon, in spite of undertakings signed with international organisations like the Commonwealth and others, on the score of pro-democracy and transparency, is reluctant to create an independent electoral commission as demanded by the people ahead of next year’s local elections.

Born in 1933, Biya has been in power since November 1982, following the resignation of his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahidjo.Since 1992, during the first multiparty elections, when Biya is generally believed to have lost to SDF Chairman John Fru Ndi, elections have been hugely frauded.

While other consider him the guarantor of stability in a restive nation, some describe one of Africa’s worst dictators to others.

“19. Paul Biya--Cameroon
Every few years, Biya stages an election to justify his continuing reign, but these elections have no credibility. In fact, Biya is credited with a creative innovation in the world of phony elections. In 2004, annoyed by the criticisms of international vote-monitoring groups, he paid for his own set of international observers, six ex-U.S. congressmen, who certified his election as free and fair.”

At 79, Biya joins the select club of heads of state who have ruled for at least three decades, just behind Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang, Angola’s Jose Eduardo Dos Santos and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Biya was re-elected with close to 80 percent of the vote last year and could theoretically stand again in 2018 since parliament scrapped term limits in 2008.

“Paul Biya, our president, the father of the nation,” goes a song that extols the West African state’s “evergreen” ruler and has been played in the run-up to Tuesday’s anniversary.

Biya is only the second president of the country, since independence from France in 1960 after Ahmadou Ahidjo. In a country with huge ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity which counts no fewer than 10 active rebellions, Biya is seen by some as a unifying figure.

The opposition sees nothing in Biya but a ruthless dictator sitting and top one of the continent’s most corrupt regimes and leaving most of the population of the 20 million population to wallow in poverty. “We are one of a handful of countries in the entire world to have had the same dictator for 30 years,” said Joshua Osih, vice president of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party. “For 30 years, we have been hoping for a better Biya and a better Cameroon but for 30 years now, the country has been sinking,” he told AFP. 

Biya formed the Cameroonian People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) in 1985 and today its cronies hold a monopoly of key posts. Biya is a “master in the art of maintaining the status quo,” wrote French journalist Fanny Pigeaud in her book “The Cameroon of Paul Biya.”

But the ruling party denies accusations of despotism against Biya and argues that the president has protected basic freedoms and allowed political pluralism to flourish. “The country is still under construction and Biya will go down in history as the president of freedom of expression and multi-partyism,” CPDM official Emmanuel Nkom said.

He argued that Cameroon’s stagnant economic performance was caused by the global downturn rather than a result of inadequate government policies or graft. A year before Biya rose to the top job, Cameroon’s growth rate stood at a exhilarating  rate of 13 percent while the economy expanded by only 3.8 percent last year.

A third of Cameroonians still have no access to drinking water and electricity. Some economists say the jobless rate is around 30 percent. “The country has been unable to harness the potential that is well recognised,” Cameroonian analyst Mathias Nguini Owona said.

The Transparency International corruption watchdog twice ranked Cameroon as the world’s most corrupt country.

Jean de Dieu Momo, a lawyer and opposition candidate in the 2011 presidential election, argued that Biya had kept none of the democratic promises made 30 years ago. “His long reign has been marked by egregious and recurring human rights violations,” he said.

The opposition politician cited alleged extra-judicial executions in the wake of a failed 1984 coup and a wave of murders and arrests following “food riots” in 2008. Repression of the riots, which broke in protest at rising prices as well as Biya’s moves to cling to power, left 40 people dead, according to an official tally. Rights group put the toll at 139 after some of the worst violence witnessed under Biya’s rule.

Biya, a Christian who studied in France, has also been criticized as an absentee ruler, who is rarely seen in public and discloses little about his political agenda., Paul Biya has been nicknamed “the Sphinx” who keeps a low profile and spends much of his time abroad, notably in Switzerland where two of his sons attend school.

©2012 The Vanguard Cameroon, Bamenda. A publication of Media World. All rights reserved.  All are welcome to comment. Leave a comment, speak your mind and take part in any discussion. As exchange of ideas and debates between opinions are fundamental for our democracy. And will push Cameroon forward. Comments with racist, homophobic, sexist, hateful, extreme Christian or extreme Islamic content will be removed. Leave the CAPS-LOCK off, no reason to SHOUT.

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