|“||I am and will remain the president of all Cameroonians without exception, and the great winner in these elections is democracy.||„|
|~ Paul Biya|
Paul Biya (born February 13, 1933) is the 2nd and current President of Cameroon, having held the position since 1982. Following Robert Mugabe stepping down as President of Zimbabwe in 2017, Biya became the longest-ruling non-royal leader in the world and the oldest ruler in Africa.
A native of Cameroon's south, Biya rose rapidly as a bureaucrat under President Ahmadou Ahidjo in the 1960s, serving as Secretary-General of the Presidency from 1968 to 1975 and then as Prime Minister of Cameroon from 1975 to 1982. He succeeded Ahidjo as president upon the latter's surprise resignation in 1982 and consolidated power in a 1983–1984 staged attempted coup in which he eliminated all his rivals.
"Tyrants, the World's 20 Worst Living Dictators", by David Wallechinsky, ranked Biya with three others commonly in sub-Saharan Africa: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea, and King Mswati III of Swaziland. He describes Cameroon's electoral process in these terms: "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." In a 2005 interview William Quantrill, a retired member of HM Diplomatic Service, argued that the reluctance of Biya to delegate responsibility seriously hampered the quality of governance, with trivial decisions often delayed until he got round to delivering them, and that there was too much government interference in the economy in general.
His regime is supported by France, which supplies it with weapons and trains its forces. France is the leading foreign investor, ahead of the United States. One hundred and five French subsidiaries are located in all key sectors (oil, timber, construction, mobile telephony, transport, banking, insurance, etc.).
Biya has been widely criticized for rigging elections and becoming increasingly authoritarian over the years. Although Biya made some efforts to open up the political environment, his regime still retains clear authoritarian characteristics and has largely bucked the trend toward democracy in Africa since the 1990s. Under the constitution, Biya has sweeping executive and legislative powers. He even has considerable authority over the judiciary; the courts can only review a law's constitutionality at his request. The RDPC - the ruling political party that is also headed by Biya - continues to dominate the National Assembly, which does little more than approve his policies.
Biya amended the Constitution in 2006, allowing him to stay in office longer than the two terms mandated. Term limits were eliminated completely in 2008.
Biya has also been accused of human rights abuses and genocide, mostly against Cameroon's Anglophone (English-speaking) population. Torture is very prevalent in Cameroon. Biya has also suppressed journalists that have been critical of him, and homosexual activities are banned.
Evidence began surfacing in 2017 that a campaign of genocide was being committed against the Anglophones in Southern Cameroon, ordered personally by Biya. A petition to the United Nations gave details of police raping students at a university. Supporters are calling for the independence of Southern Cameroon before the violence escalates. The National Commission for Human Rights and Freedoms embarked on a fact-finding mission in Buea, to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the region.
Many allegations of indiscriminate killing, burning of villages, rape and humiliation of English-speaking citizens carried out by the BIR (Bataillon d'Intervention Rapide) have been made and proven by video footages that are available online. The BIR is a special force body that reports directly to President Biya. Individual sources testify that all of those sent to fight the secessionist militia are French speaking, thus widening the linguistic factor of a division with local residents.
As of September 2017, the Anglophone crisis has escalated into a fully-fledged armed conflict, considered to be a civil war by some. Southern Cameroon has declared independence from the rest of the country, renaming itself "Ambazonia". Numerous war crimes have been perpetrated by official Cameroonian army forces as well as the BIR. In August 2018, the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa published a list of 106 villages that had been raided by government forces since October 2017. Citing eyewitness accounts, videos and photos as evidence, the Centre claimed that 71 of these villages had been completely destroyed and depopulated, while the remaining 34 had been partially deserted.