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Cameroon: Israel looks after Paul Biya’s security with elite forces

In depth
This article is part of the dossier: Cyber surveillance: a new market, with old clients

By Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Wednesday, 5 February 2020 08:18

Paul Biya, the President of Cameroon. © Lintao Zhang/AP/SIPA

From communication interception technology to physical security, Cameroon’s state security market is entirely in the hands of Israelis.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call it “Little Tel Aviv.”

The Israelis practically feel at home in the neighbourhood of Bastos in Yaoundé.

Four-wheel drive SUVs with tinted windows abound and the air is rife with rumours about the presence of advisors and/or spies within Paul Biya’s circle.

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Abraham Avi Sivan, the Cameroonian president’s former security advisor who died in 2010, was a regular there.

Eran Moas, Etoudi Palace’s current securocrat, and his wife are also frequently spotted in the neighbourhood. Sivan, Moas and their spouses even founded an ape sanctuary in Cameroon.

Indeed, Biya and Israel have close, long-standing ties. The Cameroonian president has been wary of the French intelligence service ever since the attempted coup d’état that nearly overthrew him in 1984.

He thinks that his predecessor, Ahmadou Ahidjo, was the right-hand man of Jacques Foccart and the External Documentation and Counter-Espionage Service (Service de documentation extérieure et de contre-espionnage – SDECE).

Israel’s imprint on security in Yaoundé

Determined to side-line the French, Biya turned to Israel on the recommendation of the United States. This is how he met Sami Meyuhas, who had worked in Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko, alongside Shabtai Shavit, who led the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad from 1989 to 1996.

With Shavit (who currently runs Athena GS3, a subsidiary of Mer Group) in Tel Aviv, Meyuhas in the sub-region, and Sivan and former Israeli general Mayer Heres in Yaoundé, the Israelis gradually transformed Paul Biya’s security apparatus.

Their first order of business was to create the Rapid Intervention Battalion (Battalion d’intervention rapide – BIR), now led by Heres.

Then, in Yaoundé, they installed various antennas and technology enabling the interception of telephone and electronic communications.

Sure enough, several buildings in Bastos are outfitted just like the presidential palace roof.

The French have had to deal with this reality. To this day, Cameroon’s security market is considered “inaccessible.”

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