Cameroon: After 40 years as President, what’s life in a post-Biya era ?

By Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Monday, 28 February 2022 11:52

On 13 February, Paul Biya celebrated his 40th anniversary as head of state, but what would happen if, in six months or a year's time, he was no longer able to govern? Who would replace him? Would a clan war break out? Would the army get involved? What about the opposition? We invite you to dive into the possible scenarios following an inevitable succession.

Here they were, once again, all gathered under the marble and gilding of Mvomeka’a, the head of state’s private residence. Chantal Biya dominated the august assembly with her flamboyant height. The first lady’s long red dress was an unmistakable eye-catcher.

Paul Biya, the former seminarian, chose a more sober-looking suit. Dressed in a white shirt, dark tie and jacket, the president later opted for a more casual outfit. His older children stood beside him. Less used to these formal occasions, his grandchildren ran around the large reception room, bickering with each other and leering enviously at the sugar and cream cake.

What if it was the last time?

The atmosphere was festive. A few hand-picked guests were waiting in another room. Paul and Chantal Biya were smiling. The photographer captured the moment and then checked the photo to make sure it wasn’t blurry. A few hours later, millions of Cameroonians looked at the photograph on their phones or computers and either commented on it among themselves or on social media, happy to be immersed – for a moment – in the intimacy of power. Some compared the image to that of the previous year, while others went back even further, examining the effects of time on the protagonists’ faces. A cruel but inevitable tradition.

On 13 February 2022, Biya, who has been president since November 1982, turned 89. What would happen if this were the last time he celebrated his birthday in power? What would happen if the Etoudi palace were to change tenants before the 2025 presidential elections? Who would be able to replace him?

In Yaounde, these questions remain taboo, even though they are still on most people’s minds. The Rassemblement Démocratique du Peuple Camerounais (RDPC, in power) is undergoing some changes, the various clans are clashing and dirty tricks abound. We are getting closer and closer to the fateful hour when the head of state will relinquish his dictatorial powers. So what will happen when he does?….

Find out more in our 4-part series

Understand Africa's tomorrow... today

We believe that Africa is poorly represented, and badly under-estimated. Beyond the vast opportunity manifest in African markets, we highlight people who make a difference; leaders turning the tide, youth driving change, and an indefatigable business community. That is what we believe will change the continent, and that is what we report on. With hard-hitting investigations, innovative analysis and deep dives into countries and sectors, The Africa Report delivers the insight you need.

View subscription options