YAOUNDE – Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has been in power for nearly four decades and is Africa’s oldest and second longest-serving leader. Critics of Biya’s long rule suspect he is seeking a family dynasty after newly established groups this month started calling for his son, Franck, to succeed him.
The most prominent of the four groups asking Franck Biya to replace his father is the Citizens Movement in Support of Franck Biya for Peace and Unity in Cameroon.
Its coordinator, Alain Fidele Owona, says the movement was created at the request of young Cameroonians to support a young man to take over from the 88-year-old president. He says his movement supports Franck Biya because of his high sense of patriotism and love for nation.
He says Franck Biya is a very serious and discrete young man who works very close to his father Paul Biya for the development of Cameroon. He says Franck Biya is very polite, does not squander state resources and is a trained political scientist, which makes him highly qualified to succeed his father. He says he does not think Franck Biya will be able to decline ceaseless calls from the Cameroonian people to be president.
Owona leads groups of young people every weekend to Cameroon towns and villages. He says civilians must be informed that Cameroon will have a peaceful transition only by rallying behind Franck Biya should Paul Biya leave power.
Owona said his movement and others calling on Frank to be president are neither influenced by President Biya nor his close collaborators.
Secondary school teacher Fidelis Njomo in the city of Douala doesn’t believe that, and says he opposes the attempt to establish a family dynasty.
“Cameroon is not a monarchy. Cameroon is a state of law, and should the 88-year-old Paul Biya die, the constitution says the president of the Senate, not Franck Biya, takes over leadership. Paul Biya and his supporters should stop this manipulation that is intended to maintain their grip on power,” Njomo said.
Franck Biya, who is 49, currently serves as one of his father’s advisers but has not expressed any interest publicly in becoming president.
Prudencia Ngeh, a political analyst and visiting lecturer at Ndi Samba, a private university in Cameroon, says the trend in Central African states is for the sons of long-serving leaders to succeed their fathers.
“It is as if leaders in Central Africa want to stay in power until they die, and before they die, they prepare their children to take over. Omer Bongo in Gabon handed over to his son Ali Bongo. In Chad, Idriss Deby died, and his son Mahamat Deby wants to succeed him,” Ngeh said.
Paul Biya, who has been Cameroon’s president since 1982, is rarely seen in public these days. Ngeh said she would not be surprised if the octogenarian president one day proclaims Franck Biya as his successor.