When Paul Biya first took over the presidency of Cameroon, Ronald Reagan was in his second 12 months of presidency, Madonna had not but topped the charts, and the Soviet Union was nonetheless almost a decade away from disintegration.
Biya, who will flip 89 into energy on Sunday 40 years, has turn into one of many world’s longest-serving leaders due to iron-fisted rule and the assist of loyalists in key positions.
Seven years after changing into prime minister of the central African nation, he entered the presidential palace on November 6, 1982, changing into solely the second head of state since independence from France in 1960.
His four-decade fist is a tribute to tightrope strolling expertise in a rustic grappling with social, political and safety issues and affected by financial inequality.
His nicknames among the many public are “Popul”, a type of Paul, and “Sphinx” – proof of his crafty.
“All you need to do is lose your head for a second, and also you’re achieved,” Bea instructed a reporter in 1986.
In October 2018, he received a seventh consecutive time period after elections marred by allegations of fraud, low turnout and separatist violence within the English-speaking areas of Cameroon. He was declared the winner with 71.28 p.c of the vote.
After Robert Mugabe’s fall in Zimbabwe in 2017, Biya turned Africa’s oldest and longest-serving president after Equatorial Guinean President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who took workplace in 1979.
In recent times, he has cracked down on each dissent, political and armed, incomes him uncommon criticism from the United Nations and Western capitals.
>> Questions on human rights in Cameroon throughout Macron’s go to
His public appearances are restricted to pre-recorded and painstakingly delivered televised speeches.
Biya’s regime helped appoint loyalists to key positions – president of the Nationwide Meeting, commander of the military and head of the state-run oil and gasoline firm – underpinning his lengthy rule.
The Minister of Larger Schooling, Jacques Wim Ndung’u, mentioned in 2011: “We’re all creatures or creations of President Paul Biya. We’re simply his servants, and even his greatest slaves.”
“In case you attempt to oppose Biya, you may be crushed,” mentioned Titus Edzoa, a former confidant of the president who was the secretary basic of the Biya presidency between 1994 and 1996 and held ministerial positions a number of instances.
He mentioned that Biya used “violence and terror based on his temper and rumors to subdue his comrades and the whole folks.”
Edzoa resigned as Minister of Well being in 1997 to run for elections. After that, he was arrested, charged with theft and spent 17 years behind bars.
Maurice Kamto, who misplaced to Biya within the 2018 election, was arrested the next 12 months after saying he was the sufferer of an “electoral delay”. He was held for 9 months and solely launched after worldwide stress.
Within the turbulent English-speaking west of this Francophone-majority nation, Biya for years rejected federalist calls for.
Anglophone campaigners turned to extremes, resulting in the declaration of an impartial state in October 2017 – a transfer that led to a crackdown by Biya. The preventing claimed about 6,000 lives and compelled greater than 1,000,000 to flee their properties, based on estimates.
>> ‘The uncared for disaster’ within the English-speaking areas of Cameroon
Born in 1933, the third in a household of 9 youngsters, Pia was educated to turn into a Catholic priest earlier than attending the elite College of Sciences Po in Paris. France is an ally and a serious international investor.
“He’s a fervent Catholic. He has good relations with the Vatican. However he additionally usually consults spiritualists,” mentioned a well-informed supply in Yaounde.
Two years after the loss of life of his first spouse, Jane Irene, Pia married in 1994 to Chantal, a former waitress and mannequin almost 40 years his junior, who is thought for her plentiful hairstyles and excessive heels.
A safety official in Yaounde mentioned he survived an tried coup in 1984 that left psychological imprints.
“Earlier than, he used to exit to Yaounde, he was near folks. However he thought – he was caught for hours in a bunker and there have been gunshot wounds in every single place when he got here out,” the supply mentioned.
After that, unlisted public appearances turned uncommon, and when Pia’s motorcade handed by way of the streets of the capital, the crowds have been turned away.
His frequent absences from Cameroon, principally in Switzerland or in his village within the south of his nation, have come beneath heavy criticism.
The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Mission (OCCRP), a consortium of investigative journalists, present in 2018 that Pia had spent “at the very least 4 and a half of his (first) 35 years in energy on non-public visits” overseas, at an estimated price of $65 million. .