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General News of Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Source: The Guardian Post Newspaper

Editorial: 32 years of Biyaism; those praises of deceit

In blowing the candles and extending our hearty cheers to President Biya for his canny ability to stay in power for 32 years and counting, we at The Guardian Post differ significantly with CPDM lackeys whose celebrations across the country were typified only with praises of “achievements” bordering on deceit.

Anniversary celebrations are designed to take stock of achievements, problems and chart a new way ahead for a better future.

But CPDM officials throughout the country concentrated on just singing songs of admirations and flattering to the point of mentioning “appointments of their sons and daughters” as achievements as if Biya would have worked all by himself. In their monotonous recital of praises, they made the president’s anniversary looks as if it was that of the party, confirming acerbic criticism that there is no distinction between the CPDM and the government.

What has really been President Biya’s achievements in 32 years after he inherited leadership from his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahidjo on a platter of gold?

In a continent inundated with violence, coup d’etat and the Arab spring that have chased out sit-tight leaders and sent some to their early graves, Paul Biya’s dazzling achievement has been peace which has reigned for the 32 years that he has been in power.

His 1990 liberty laws opened the floodgate of multi-party politics and some progress has been made in the democratisation process. The organization of elections by the ministry of territorial administration and decentralization was polished with the introduction of the National Elections Observatory, NEO, which was later replaced by Elections Cameroon. Though not an autonomous body, ELECAM however has some semblance of a free, fair and transparent outlook.

Press freedom also gives a good score for the president even though just recently, it is being dented by the new attributions of the National Communication Council which is believed to sometimes resorts to settling personal scores with “erring” media organs and journalists who can also be sanctioned by courts of law for the same “offence”.

The president earned a low score when at his behest, the constitution was changed by parliament often described as the government’s rubber stamp, to delimit the presidential term. Being president of the higher judicial council which appoints, promotes and punishes magistrates who err also defeats the purpose of separation of power which is the epic centre of any democracy worthy of the name.

In the area of infrastructure, some roads have been constructed including the Buea- Kumba stretch and patches of the Bamenda Ring Road in his “grand ambition” realisations. Work is advancing on the Kribi seaport, the second bridge across the Wouri River in Douala and other “grand chantiers” in the domain of water and electricity.

Educationally, Biya gets kudos for the creation of five more universities and post primary educational institutions in nearly every village across the country. Though still far from satisfactory, there have also been some positive achievements in the health sector but not good enough for a brilliant score.

The greatest weakness of the president has been in the economic sector. Almost a year ago, he rattled Cameroonians when he asked a question he was the sole person to provide the right answerer: “Why is it that Cameroon has everything in human and natural resources yet is not having the feel good effects?” The answer is shared by massive corruption, misappropriation, bribery, theft and impunity.

Biya took over power with advertising the policy of rigour and moralisation as his watchwords. Any performing government needs to be open and accountable to achieve economic growth which is at the centre of any nation. But the president soon found himself surrounded mainly by a small clique of Beti elite and other CPDM praise-singers.

Tribalism, corruption, embezzlement and egoism became the pain in the neck of his regime. On two consecutive years and later a third, Cameroon was listed as the most corrupt country on the planet. Paul Biya is not winning the “war” launched to fight the ills that keep the economy on clutches. The constitutional provision for senior officials to declare their properties as a means of fighting corruption when taking office and when leaving remains unimplemented for over two decades.

Unemployment and under employment are overwhelming to underline the failure of the regime. The sing song that glares the current and blinds the past is to emerge in 2035 when Ivory Coast, a country with similar economic characteristics and population like Cameroon just coming out of a brutal civil war will emerge in 2020.

Biya took over a buoyant economy which soon went into a recession. Civil service salaries were butchered, in some cases by 60 percent. It was quickly followed by privatisation which still leaves a sour taste in the mouth. The CDC, the second largest employer could only have the tea component sold. Water supply quality and quantity have not been satisfactory so has electricity that has changed hands twice after privatisation. Biya took the country from a middle economy to a Highly-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC) and invited the IMF and World Bank officials to supervise the management of the economy to underline the economic failures of the regime.

President Biya’s frequent visits abroad often raised questions as to who is in charge. His aides would say everything is so arranged to the point the country can be managed smoothly even while the president takes some breaks abroad. But that isn’t any achievement for a country with plethoric problems.

One of the weaknesses of President Biya has been to address the Anglophone problem. Under his regime, Anglophones have retrogress in both top level appointments and development to a point their highest ranking official in the regime occupies the fourth position in power instead of second as agreed before the coming together of the two Cameroons. The president has also ignored and spurned several calls to dialogue with aggrieved Anglophones represented by the SCNC.

Those are just the tip of the iceberg of the failures of Biya’s 32 years on the throne of Unity Palace which even Anglophone CPDM sycophants failed to point out during last Thursday’s celebration of President Biya’s 32 long years in power. But it is important he should be reminded as he and his CPDM bigwigs pop the champagnes with the hope that he will try to chart a new roadmap to resolve the problems in the coming years.

At The Guardian Post, we appreciate what Biya has done especially with the enactment of the liberty laws. But the way forward is to begin to prepare a younger CPDM candidate, given the weakness and divided opposition, who can succeed him at the 2018 presidential elections when he will be too old to run for office again. He can begin to groom the new team with a new government of young, dynamic technocrats with an Anglophone vice-president who can take Cameroon to the socio-economic and political sky and perhaps present him with a proverbial moon as gift in the next anniversary, not motions of deceit.