Loyalists of Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, the world’s oldest political leader, are asking him to extend his four decades grip on power in the next election in 2025.
President Biya’s 90th birthday was celebrated in the 5000-seat Multipurpose Sports Complex in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé on Monday.
Although his absence from the events bolstered the case of those who have questioned his health, government officials maintain that the president is in good shape.
Cameroon’s immediate past prime minister and Mr Biya’s close collaborator, Philemon Yang, stated that he is celebrating an exceptional leader who has brought Cameroon peace and development.
“We are celebrating longevity, achievements, political achievements, economic achievements, you can imagine democratization, that is a big achievement.
“So we are celebrating many things. Rigor is with us, moralization is with us and, most of all, living together.
“These are psychological achievements which can never be reduced to nothing. We don’t see them, they are invisible but extremely important to us,” he said.
Meanwhile, Biya has ruled Cameroon since 1982 when he succeeded the country’s first president, Ahmadou Ahijo, for whom he previously served as prime minister for seven years.
He has won all multiparty elections since 1992, despite opposition parties’ strong allegations of rigging and electoral malpractice. He repealed term limits from the constitution in 2008, allowing him to serve indefinitely.
However, President Biya’s critics accused him of not been able to end prevailing corruption and the separatist crisis that has killed more than 3500 people since 2017.
The executive director of the Center for Human Rights and Democracy, Violet Fokum, also condemned the president for the alarming number of out-of-school children in the country.
“Look at the number of children who have dropped out of school. Ten percent of girls marry before the ages of 15, and then 31% by the age of 18.
“Schools have been shut down. When these kids are on the streets, they are recruited as child soldiers or they become bush wives to nonstate armed groups,” she lamented.