Cameroon: From Chantal Biya to Eran Moas, the secret of Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh’s omnipotence

By Mathieu Olivier
Posted on Wednesday, 5 October 2022 13:20

Image by JA/TAR

Constantly 'threatened', never dismissed, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh, the Cameroon presidency’s secretary-general, holds the Etoudi palace’s reins alongside Paul Biya. He exerts this much influence thanks to his connections at the state’s highest level.

Appointed in 2011 as the Secretary General of the President (SGPR), Ngoh Ngoh has spent more than a decade in this position. Although he has been considered for a reshuffle on several occasions, he has managed to remain one of the Etoudi Palace’s masters, with the rank of minister of state.

A former diplomat who worked at the UN in New York, one of his strongest allies within the Cameroon presidency is Chantal Biya. However, he also relies on loyal supporters within the government, security spheres and the economy’s VIPs.

11 years ago, Ngoh Ngoh was appointed as SGPR thanks to the influence of Martin Belinga-Eboutou, a former UN representative in New York, who had been appointed to head the civil cabinet two years earlier, in 2009.

At the time, he sought to improve his relationship with the first lady and had therefore favoured Ngoh Ngoh, who was close to Biya, and originally from the same region (Upper Sanaga) as the latter’s family. He died in 2019.

Ngoh Ngoh can also count on his close relationship with Oswald Baboke, who is the civil cabinet’s current deputy director and a member of the inner circle of the head of state’s wife. The latter counterbalances the more delicate relationship that the secretary-general has with Samuel Mvondo Ayolo, the cabinet director. Ngoh Ngoh is also keen to make allies within Etoudi and has also maintained good relations with Jean-Claude Ayem Moger, President Paul Biya’s influential economic adviser.

As minister of state, Ngoh Ngoh has often been accused of taking advantage of his proximity to Biya to impose himself as an unofficial head of government. Several heavyweights in Yaoundé are in trouble with him, including the justice minister, Laurent Esso, who has regularly opposed him, and prime minister Joseph Dion Ngute.

On the other hand, several other figures owe him a lot. For example, the former minister of sports, and current minister of arts and culture, Pierre Ismaël Bidoung Kpwatt, who, like him, comes from the town of Nanga Eboko. His wife, Habissou Bidoung Kpwatt, is also close to Céline Ngoh Ngoh, the SGPR’s wife.

Ngoh Ngoh also counts among his followers the promising Célestine Ketcha Courtès, minister of housing – who was close to Biya’s mother – and diplomat Achille Bassilekin, who is now in charge of the SMEs portfolio and trained, like him, at Cameroon’s Institute of International Relations.

 

 

Ngoh Ngoh can hardly claim to impose his views on the heavyweights of the Cameroonian security services, such as the irremovable delegate general for National Security Martin Mbarga Nguele, head of the Directorate General of External Research Leopold Maxime Eko Eko, or even the minister delegate of defence Joseph Beti Assomo.

However, he is on good terms with minister of territorial administration Paul Atanga Nji, and has an ally in the Secretariat of State for Defence, headed by Galax Yves Landry Etoga, one of his former colleagues at the ministry of external relations (of which he was secretary-general from August 2010 to December 2011).

Other – discreet – influential allies include Biya’s Israeli advisers, who provide counsel on matters of security and surveillance, and notably Eran Moas. This businessman, who is the unofficial supplier of the Rapid Intervention Battalion, is always willing to spend some of his free time with the presidency’s secretary-general, especially at the Kribi seaside resort.

Ngoh Ngoh has also used his position at the Etoudi Palace to place some of his relatives at the head of some of the country’s major administrations. Victor Mbemi Nyaknga is the director-general of the National Electricity Transmission Company, while Bertrand Pierre Soumbou Angoula is still a valuable relay as head of the National School of Administration and Magistracy.

The engineer Joseph Ngo’o, who heads the Public Contracts Regulatory Agency, the presidency’s former chargé de mission Jean-Paul Simo Njonou, director of the National Refining Company and chairman of the board of directors of the Kribi port Cyrus Ngo’o, boss of the Autonomous Port of Douala, and the director-general of the Tax Department Modeste Mopa Fatoing – which allows Ngoh Ngoh to thwart certain ambitions of the minister of finance Louis-Paul Motazé – also appear in this valuable address book.

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