Anglophone boycott as Biya marks 35 years in power

Cameroonian President Paul Biya. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Cameroon's President Paul Biya Monday marked 35 years in power with a series of activities largely boycott by the English-speaking regions of the country.

Largely described as an absentee landlord, the 84-year-old President Biya remains one of Africa's longest serving rulers.

He was sworn-in for the first time as Cameroon's second president on November 6, 1982, following the resignation of Ahmadou Ahidjo.

Commemorative activities were organised all over the country, mostly by the supporters of the governing Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), to celebrate a reign which critics blame for massive corruption and human rights abuses.

However, a political science scholar and a CPDM official, Prof Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, said Cameroonian was celebrating the landmark achievements of President Biya’s new deal government since 1982.

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Droves of supporters of the long serving leader clad themselves in party fabrics with a smiling Biya’s portrait, and held rallies where messages were read and allegedly forwarded to the president.

However, in the crisis-hit Northwest and Southwest, activists called on the people to observe “operation ghost towns”—which called upon the residents of the two English speaking regions to stay at home in protest.

There has been growing unrest in the regions over alleged marginalisation by the predominantly French speaking Yaoundé regime.

During the 34th anniversary last year, CPDM members called on the ailing president (also national chairman of the party) to be their candidate at the next presidential election.

Should the electoral calendar be respected, Cameroonians will go to the polls next year to elect a president. Legislative and municipal representatives will also be elected next year.

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President Biya is Africa's third longest serving leader, behind Obiang' Nguema of Equatorial Guinea and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe respectively.

President Nguema has been at the helm of tiny oil-rich Equatorial Guinea for 38 years, while the oldest serving head of state in the world, Mugabe, 93, has uninterruptedly ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in April 1980 (37 years).

Others who have spent more than three decades in power include Congolese President Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been president for 33 years, though not in one go, Yoweri Museveni, who has been Ugandan president for 31 years and King Mswati III of Swaziland, who ascended to the throne of the tiny southern kingdom 31 years ago.

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