A large proportion of the population in Cameroon feels that President Paul Biya has been in power for too long. With the country’s presidential elections just around the corner, RNW Correspondent, Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, asks is it time for change?
By Anne Mireille Nzouankeu, Yaounde
Paul Biya, the current president of Cameroon, is now 78 years old. He has already been in power for 29 years and if he wins the upcoming elections, he stands to rule for another 7 years. But the longevity of his rule has been criticised by many people, particularly young Cameroonians.
Youth lose hope
« 29 years in power is too long,” shouts former student, Ibrahim Nchoumpouo, while I ask him his views on Paul Biya’s previous years in power.
« I’m 27 years old and throughout my entire life I have only seen the same face: that’s not normal. I was not able to continue my studies after my bacalaureat for financial reasons. There is no social security or medical insurance here. Paul Biya must step down,” he explains.
Lucile Etoga has recently graduated in law but she is currently unemployed, just like her four brothers and sisters. « The youth have lost all hope. There is a very high rate of unemployment and corruption. I think that Paul Biya has reached his limit and he must give someone else the opportunity to save Cameroon, » stresses the thirty-year-old graduate.
« I cannot say that he has succeeded and it’s a shame he still clings to his power, » points out Garga Haman Adji, a well known politician in Cameroon and a member of the National Anti-Corruption Commission – an organisation tackling poor governance. « The older generation does not want to relinquish power which limits opportunities for young people. Paul Biya will achieve as little at the age of 80 as he did at the age of 50 or 60. »
For Garga Haman Adji, the fact that there are 22 opposition candidates to Paul Biya suggests that it’s time for change in Cameroon. « Biya has destroyed a large proportion of Ahidjo’s legacy [the former President of Cameroon]. By this I mean roads and infrastructure. He has also failed to bring development and hope to Cameroon. »
The politician goes on to explain that as a result of this destruction, Cameroon has “a poor reputation on the international scene. When we speak about Cameroon abroad, we only hear about under-development, debt, corruption and other bad things. »
However, Garga Haman Adji also makes clear that he doesn’t have anything personal against Biya as an individual. « He is my friend and I even supported him at a certain time. But I have to put my personal feelings aside when I think of the good of the state. Cameroon needs political change. »
Some people are nevertheless optimistic: « Despite poverty, Paul Biya gave us peace. There have been no wars in Cameroon like there are elsewhere in Africa. For this reason, I think we should give Biya another chance,” says another politican Engoulou Joachim. He also explains that it’s because of peace that he joined the Rdpc, Paul Biya’s ruling political party, for whom he will vote on October 9th.