Here is President Paul Biya literarily rising from the grave, 17 years
after he gave his last unscripted interview to Yves Mouroussi of Radio
Monte-Carlo. Even though in his characteristic enigma, he answers only
the questions he wants to answer and ignores the rest, let us be
thankful for small mercies.
Thanks to the Internet living up to
its reputation as the most democratic medium for the dissemination of
information, many Cameroonians are able to peek into the recesses of
their enigmatic leader's mindset for the first time.
it takes an interview by a foreign media to muscle Biya's hand to react
to important issues, or to announce political changes when he is under
intense international scrutiny and scathing criticism. What does this
say of the instinctive imagination of the Cameroon press? They fail to
hold Biya up by the leg, like a midwife holds up a newborn baby,
tapping its tiny butt to emit its first cries announcing he is alive!
comes across fundamentally as a man living a prosaic life in a
jiffy-bag in suburbia. A prehistoric man ahead of his time; his time
being the Mousterian era with other cavemen. He is so out of touch with
reality, gripped by delusions of his own intelligence. He actually
thinks that for a leader not to grant interviews, but to keep a
collection of his own speeches in some hidden corner is great thing.
What a load of tosh!
While he covered his views on Sarkozy’s
controversial Dakar speech with more verbiage, he tackled every other
questions regarding Cameroon with less detail. It does not occur to him
for instance that he epitomizes the kind of parochial and unimaginative
African that Sarkozy describes, even though he is quick to agree with
However, Biya admits that “giving interviews means keeping
abreast with the changing times.” If a live interview is the
motivational fulcrum from which to elicit grand political revelations
and magnanimous gestures from Biya, then our Press has failed woefully
to use this platform and be socially responsible.
On that premise let us now analyze the interview going on a point-by-point basis on some of the more momentous revelations.
admits that there is an issue with corruption in Cameroon, and that
there are spirited steps taken to tackle that. On that score,
Cameroonians and the world should be able to judge Biya on what he
says, by the concretization of such a reality. Here is what he said
globally, when he was asked if he is determined to stamp out corruption
“Corruption is a scourge not unique to Cameroon. We
are resolved to stamp it out. We are making progress through these
bureaus; the national anticorruption commission and the agency for
combating money laundering…”
The interviewer put it to him
directly that he should be careful about making such public utterances
as he is under scrutiny now from the parties with vested economic and
diplomatic ties with Cameroon; principally France and the European
Union. Biya gave an example using the Cameroon Ports, where the
Government has started realizing more revenue since the launching of
the anticorruption initiative, which was a mandatory condition for the
cancellation of the debts.
He also talked about how salaries
have been somewhat homogenized between civil servants so that some do
not received too much more than others. This, according to him is part
of the initiative to redress the economic and instill some moral
The SDF representative Monsieur Jean-Paul Tchakote
missed a great opportunity with the distinct lack of focus in his
question, by failing to put Biya in a corner. He started well, but
tangled himself in a forest of propaganda—I felt that was a missed the
opportunity to ask Biya directly about his heavy-handed approach
towards the opposition.
Whether constrained by his time slot
or galvanized by his political leanings, he compressed a loaded
question and put it to Biya in a bundle. Biya used the multiplicity of
the questions to obfuscate and preach about the successes registered by
his own party, and scored a point against Fru Ndi by pointing out that
Fru Ndi chose the venue for their meeting but he was a no-show.
poignant all-embracing questions were responded to with the most
ridiculous copout, i.e., that Cameroon shouldn’t be greedy if its
presence in international organizations has declined! Blah blah. He
then tackled the less risqué question and as usual used spurious
generalizations to refer to issues that are relevant and uniquely
applicable to Cameroon.
President of the Panafricanist Press Association was forthright, very
well put! Very important question. If there is truth in the rumour that
Biya plans to change the constitution in order to perpetuate his stay
Biya’s clearly does not see himself as one of the
pillars and primordial prehistoric dinosaurs of a past we are anxious
to get rid of, completely out of touch with the reality of
globalization of which Sarkozy speaks. He is not familiar with irony or
Most of the questions thrown his way were greeted with his customary ubiquitous “c’est un débat intéressant”
which we have often known him to use. He simply ploughed through with
his answers like a farmiliar ritual. On this issue, the Cameroon
constitution should be a point of reference. But he tried to wiggle out
of the succession question with a noncommittal response, keeping his
options open, and actually admitting that the constitution is not cast
in stone. If he plans to suspend the constitution in 2011 to perpetuate
his stay, we have this to refer to.
Let us wait to watch the
aftershocks of these initiatives, and see where the chips eventually
fall. If this is just one of Biya’s apocryphal platform performances,
then we have a point of reference.
That is left for us to ponder
over. If it’s going to take us another twenty-five years, then it will
be our tragedy not of Biya’s making.