Yaoundé, Cameroon : Cameroon President Paul Biya, in power for almost 36 years, was sworn into office for seven more years on Tuesday, after winning October’s election in a landslide.
The 85-year old, one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, won the October presidential poll for the seventh time, in spite his questionable record that includes corruption and human rights abuse allegations.
During his inaugural speech, Biya acknowledged the “frustrations’’ of people in the English-speaking north-west and south-west regions, who feel marginalised in the otherwise French-speaking country.
The president promised to fast-track the decentralisation process to render local councils more autonomous, but condemned Anglophone secessionists, who have held regular protests over the past two years and sometimes stage violent attacks.
“War mongers, who are jeopardising our national unity and preaching secession should know that they will face not only the full force of the law, but also the determination of our defence and security forces,” said Biya.
However, the president remained mum about Sunday’s abduction of 79 students, their principal, the school’s driver and another staff member from a Christian secondary school in western Cameroon.
The abduction seems to be part of a plan by Anglophone secessionists to shut down all schools in the disputed regions, in a move to make the area ungovernable.
Biya was declared winner of the presidential poll with more than 71 per cent of total votes cast on Oct. 22.
His main opponent, Maurice Kamto has since called for a resistance movement against what he said was a flawed electoral process.
Biya was born on Feb, 13, 1933. He has been serving as the President of Cameroon since Nov. 6, 1982.
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 fake attempted coup where he eliminated all his rivals.
Biya introduced political reforms within the context of a one-party system in the 1980s. Under serious pressure, he accepted the introduction of multiparty politics in the early 1990s.
Biya is at present the longest-ruling non-royal leader in Africa and the oldest ruler in Sub-Saharan Africa after Robert Mugabe stepped down during the 2017 Zimbabwean coup d’état.
Biya has maintained Cameroon’s close relationship with France, one of Cameroon’s former colonial ruler besides the United Kingdom.
EARLIER : Cameroon President Paul Biya Wins 7th Term
Cameroonian President Paul Biya won an emphatic election victory with 71 percent of the vote, the Constitutional Council announced on Monday, extending his 36-year rule and cementing his place as one of Africa’s longest-standing rulers.
The widely-expected win gives the 85-year-old a seventh term in office and could see him in power until at least the age of 92. The only current African president to have ruled longer is Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo.
Most Cameroonians have known just one president.
Victory in the Oct. 7 poll came amid claims from opposition candidates that the election was marred by fraud, including ballot stuffing and voter intimidation. The Constitutional Council rejected all 18 petitions claiming fraud last week.
In addition, violence connected to a separatist movement in the western Anglophone regions forced tens of thousands to flee in the lead up to the vote, and kept the vast majority there from casting their ballot.
The announcement follows two weeks of political tension in the coffee and oil-producing country, during which Biya’s leading rival Maurice Kamto claimed victory based on his campaign’s figures, and as police tried to silence opposition marches in the port city of Douala.
Monday’s official results showed Kamto won 14 percent of the vote. Biya won with a big margin in nine of the 10 regions. In the South and East regions he won over 90 percent of the vote.
Authorities have defended the process. “The election was free, fair and credible in spite of the security challenges in the English-speaking regions,” said the President of Constitutional Council, Clement Atangana, on Monday.
In the days before the results were published 18 petitions calling for the election to be re-run were lodged by opposition members, some alleging fraud, at the Constitutional Court, the body responsible for announcing the results, before the results were announced.
Among those calling for a fresh vote were President Biya’s two main challengers – Mr Kamto and Joshua Osih of the main opposition SDF/FSD.
Mr Kamto went as far as declaring himself the winner of the polls despite producing no evidence to prove this.
Election observers from the African Union reported that the polls were “generally peaceful” but added that “most parties were not represented” when it came to who was allowed to oversee voting and ballot counts at polling stations.
The only other group to send monitors was the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), whose head urged candidates and stakeholders to do their part in preserving peace and use legal channels in any challenges to the results (in French).
False claims were made on Cameroon’s state-owned television that Transparency International had deployed international observers, forcing the Germany-based campaign group to issue a statement denying them.
Last week, the council rejected opposition claims that the poll had been marred by fraud and rigging.
No appeal or other legal remedy is allowed against the verdict of the Constitutional Council, thus the president-elect will be sworn-in by November 7 according to the law.
Biya, now to serve 7th term has been in power since 1982 and is Africa’s second longest serving leader.
Cameroon’s parliamentary and legislative elections were due to take place at the same time as the 7 October presidential elections but have been postponed to 2019.