Inner Circle

Cameroon: Networks of Nathalie Moudiki, ally of Chantal Biya

By The Africa Report

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Posted on July 12, 2023 11:23

Nathalie Moudiki (centre) is the most powerful woman in the country after the first lady of Cameroon, Chantal Biya.
Nathalie Moudiki (centre) is the most powerful woman in the country after the first lady of Cameroon, Chantal Biya.

Nathalie Moudiki, a director at Cameroon’s Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures (SNH), has notable influence within President Biya’s inner circle.

In a video posted on Facebook on 23 May, Nathalie Moudiki, director of legal affairs at Société Nationale des Hydrocarbures (SNH), sent a message to women in positions of power: “Never be mediocre, never give in to pressure, but keep silent. Never join a system to get promoted, [and] never join a network,” she said. There’s a certain irony as Moudiki has powerful networks of her own, right up to the highest levels of government.

In her villa in the Hippodrome district of Yaoundé, next door to the Cour des Comptes (Audit Office), which has become one of the seats of power, high-ranking members of the republic jostle for an audience. Her husband, Adolphe Moudiki, has been managing director of the company for at least 30 years. The 84-year-old, weakened by poor health, spends most of his time in France, dealing only with the most sensitive issues.

Remaining in Yaoundé, Moudiki chairs the oil company’s major meetings and draws up tender schedules. Her legal affairs division reports to SNH’s general management, which in turn reports to the president. In this position, she has the right to review all oil contracts. In the Savannah Energy case, at the root of the diplomatic row between Cameroon and Chad, the names of Chantal Biya, Moudiki and Franck Biya, Paul Biya‘s son, are regularly mentioned.

As the most powerful woman in the country after the first lady, her network extends to the powerful Cercle des amis du Cameroun (Cerac), an initiative launched by Chantal Biya to help the most disadvantaged sections of the population. Émile Engamba’s daughter is treasurer of the organisation, which brings together almost all the wives of the country’s leading figures. Often prominent at public events, she is also honorary president of the association Les mamans de la SNH.

Moudiki has also made her mark in the cultural sphere. In 2022, she helped recover payment arrears for artists in Cameroon, which has helped win her many friends in the Cameroonian artistic community.

Émile Engamba 

Moudiki’s father, Émile Engamba, a former senior official of the Republic, is a great friend of President Biya. He was incarcerated for a time in Kondengui prison following accusations of embezzlement of public funds relating to the African Cup of Nations (CAN), held in Cameroon in 1972.

The investigation was led by commissioner Oko Petis, whose grandson Joël was appointed in January 2019 to head the investigations division of the Special Criminal Court’s specialised corps of judicial police officers. A friend of the presidential family, Engamba was rehabilitated by the president and was thus able to continue his career in senior administration.

Adolphe Moudiki

Moudiki’s husband is the managing director of SNH. Born on 10 December 1938 in Yaoundé, he trained as a magistrate and was appointed presidential adviser in 1982, before being promoted to secretary general of the prime minister’s office. In 1993, after the death of Jean Assoumou Mve, a close friend of Biya who was then head of the oil company, Adolphe was chosen to fill the post. When he is absent, his wife has always been seen, rightly or wrongly, as the boss of SNH.

Adolphe attended the École nationale d’administration et de magistrature (Enam) and was one of Biya’s companions at the Lycée Général-Leclerc in Yaoundé. His first wife died in 2000, and on 8 July of the same year, he married the former Nathalie Engamba from Zoum, the daughter of a close friend of the president. Adolphe belongs to an Akwa clan from the village of Bonamouti (Douala).

The heart of Moudiki’s network: The first lady of Cameroon has entrusted Moudiki with the treasury of Cerac, which brings together almost all the wives of Cameroonian ministers and dignitaries. The reward for a long-standing friendship? Very often present when Chantal Biya travels abroad, “it is Nathalie Moudiki who [unofficially] plays the role of translator” because of her excellent English, according to one of our sources.

Moudiki has somewhat eclipsed Julienne Djuiga Fotso, the wife of Victor Fotso, who accompanied Mrs Biya on her travels and was very close to her, as well as Yao Aïssatou, who was her unofficial adviser. Mrs Biya took over the reins of the foundation set up by Jeanne-Irène Biya, Biya’s first wife, before founding Cerac. Since then, the circle has widened and membership fees have risen to 1m CFA francs ($1679).

Cerac and the Chantal Biya Foundation have enabled her to consolidate her influence in the inner circle. Since her meeting with Moudiki, Mrs Biya has also distanced herself from several of her former networks in Essos, Mvog-Ada and Anguissa.

Samuel Mvondo Ayolo

Moudiki’s relationship with the director of the civil cabinet of the presidency is not very popular with the staff at Etoudi, where “she has often turned up unannounced”, according to sources close to the palace.

Nevertheless, Moudiki is Samuel Mvondo Ayolo’s cousin by virtue of a community relationship, and she accompanies him on some of his trips. She comes from the Yemvak tribe of Zoum and has a family link with Mvondo Ayolo, a Yetsan from Messok. They both come from the same ancestor, named Esabejan.

Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh

Moudiki is also linked to the secretary general of the presidency, who, like his predecessors, is also chairman of the board of directors of SNH.

However, Ferdinand Ngoh Ngoh has not always maintained friendly relations with the head of the oil company, whom he has tried on several occasions to sack and replace with one of his protégés. It was only thanks to Biya’s intervention that the latter managed to keep his job.

Oswald Baboke

Moudiki also has influence over the deputy director of the civil cabinet, having served since March 2018. This diplomat, who trained at the Institut des relations internationales du Cameroun (Iric), was a technical adviser in the head of state’s civil cabinet. He played the role of Mrs Biya’s chief of staff.

Grace Ashiri Dion Ngute

As is tradition within Cerac, the prime minister’s wife holds the position of general coordinator. Grâce Ashiri Dion Ngute was therefore chosen following the appointment of her husband Joseph Dion Ngute as the head of government in January 2019, and her duties have logically brought her closer to Moudiki.

Linda Yang

The wife of former Prime Minister Philémon Yang and an intellectual, Linda Yang is a close friend of Chantal Biya. She has often accompanied her to important events. Yang holds the prestigious position of honorary president (another decision-making body) of Cerac. Philémon Yang, although dismissed from the government, has remained very close to Biya.

Sam Mbende

Moudiki handed over 144m CFA francs to the chairman of the Cameroon Music Corporation (CMC), which manages receivables for artists and musicians. For Sam Mbende, who has a great deal of influence in the artistic sphere, Moudiki has become like a sister. He also plays an important role for musicians who want to be invited to the Etoudi Palace.


Moudiki is a close friend of K-Tino. It was thanks to her that Ayolo, on the first lady’s instructions, decided to renovate and equip the home of the 101-year-old mother of this bikutsi pioneer. His relationship with the singer extends into the private sphere. Tata Nathalie Moudiki, as she often calls her, is a friend of K-Tino’s family.


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