20/10/2011 01:56:23
Meet the president and the prisoner Paul Biya
...Think about it! Cameroonians have a president. The trouble is that he is also a prisoner. He is a prisoner of the French, of the political and economic hawks, and of highly corrupt ruling elite around him. There are more prisoners behind bars at Kondengui and New Bell prisons who have more freedom of decision making than President cum Prisoner Biya currently wields. Poor chap! What a price to pay to be puppet in chief!
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By Boh Herbert
 
I cannot remember when I wrote a pro-Biya article. I am not neutral, as you may know. I don’t think I have filed a broadcast piece for radio or television that viewed President Biya positively.
 
So, let me shock those who have followed my political commentary by writing a pro-Biya piece.
 
Let me be fair, though. Biya does not deserve all of the blame we have saddled him with. He loves democracy. What he does not like is quitting power. Why should he trade those all expenses-paid trips to Swiss luxury hotels and the glamour of Unity Palace for a prison cell?
 
Biya is a pragmatist and a realist. That is why he will not pick to live in a prison cell at The Hague across the hallway from the former Liberian warlord Charles Taylor. In his shoes, how many of us would pick that jail cell over the comfort of Unity Palace?
 
Pragmatism calls on Biya not to contemplate a change of guard at Unity Palace. In Pidgin English, the question is quite simply: “Na who born dog?” Biya cannot – realistically should not turn power over to some opposition leader who does not guarantee his retirement? How many of us in Mr. Biya’s shoes would muster the courage to tell the many generals, colonels, ministers and other the political and economic hawks – including those in French political and economic circles – that you want to quit before they have given you their green light?
 
Would you make such a suicidal move when the hawks around you rely on your hanging onto power to escape prosecution for the many crimes they have committed in your name and in the name of your regime? How would you keep one of those trigger-happy, gun-wielding political hooligans from putting a bullet in your head? How would you convince the French that you are, indeed, looking after their interests, by bailing out before your “Gbagbo moment” has come?
 
CPDM diehards do not need to tell me. I know that Biya loves democracy but only to extent that it does not triumph and does not throw him into jail. That makes sense. Why would Biya be asked to embrace the ICC and its Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo? You do not do that after you have either ordered assassinations or done nothing to prevent them or prosecute its perpetuators. You don’t do that after you have blessed extrajudicial killings with your silence; not after you have turned a blind eye on horrendous human rights violations; not after you have abused power.
 
Think about it! Cameroonians have a president. The trouble is that he is also a prisoner. He is a prisoner of the French, of the political and economic hawks, and of highly corrupt ruling elite around him. There are more prisoners behind bars at Kondengui and New Bell prisons who have more freedom of decision making than President cum Prisoner Biya currently wields. Poor chap! What a price to pay to be puppet in chief! That’s probably why Joseph Owona penned that Constitutional draft which said the president is “irresponsible” for crimes committed during his/her presidency. Why blame the Prisoner Biya for what President Biya does?
 
Biya did not just sign up to do time. For years as Prime Minister under the late President Ahmadou Ahidjo, of the power-hungry president-to-be suffocated imprisoned in the role of Premier, doing everything to win the trust of the man who would make him president. Biya had to be everything to everyone. He was willing to let Ahidjo believe he would be easily manipulated. He got the French to believe he can be their puppet
 
Biya was not always a prisoner of the political rogues that surround him today. There was a time – true, it did not last more than a few months – but there was a time when, like millions of Cameroonians, I took Biya at face value and even became a Biya fan. You have to rewind to the very beginning of his reign to find something he did in the interest of Cameroon.
 
When coup plotters tried to oust Biya in the 6 April 1984 foiled putsch, I was one of those who could have given my life in his defense. I was one of many University of Yaounde students who stormed the Bertoua hotel of a petrified then Minister of Youth and Sports, Mbombo Njoya, asking him on the morning of that coup, to find the guns we thought we needed to shoot our way back into Yaounde, throw the rascals out of the capital and restore democracy.
 
We were fooled into believing that we had a Paul in power when we were really dealing with a Saul in power. It is easy to confuse the real Biya from the counterfeit. The real Biya is the one who so distrusts those around him that he does not hesitate to ask journalists (he did this to me when we travelled on a state visit to France in the late 1980s) if they have received pocket money he provided to them via his aides. The counterfeit is the one the political elite has shaped. The country ended with the Biya given to them by hell instead of the Biya they thought was handed down to them by the Heavens when Ahidjo resigned.
 
Cameroonians mistook Biya for a democrat perhaps because he hypnotized and bamboozled an entire nation into a trance. His “rigor and moralization” and “roll up your sleeves” sweet-talk stroke all the right notes of hope for fellow citizens, who hope that hard-work brings success and punishes fraudsters. It turns out – 29 years after (not too soon, I must admit) - that President Biya’s record is “zero promesse tenue”. He made three major promises during his first outing to Bamenda, just months after becoming Cameroon’s First Prisoner. He promised to be transparent about the management of oil revenue; he pledged to end the long, expensive trips to Yaounde to chase files; and he volunteered to be the engineer-in-chief in the construction of the Ring Road. Three decades down the road… the prisoner could not do what the president promised.
 
Let me try to hold up my own promise in writing this article by ending on a positive note. Biya’s reign has been so inspiring that it is hard to fault the Cameroonian comedian who says that the only thing really positive about the Cameroon Biya leads today is HIV. How unfortunate!

Boh Herbert

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