France’s military operation in Mali has continued to garner moral, logistical and financial supports from all countries around the world except for one, Cameroon. While sympathetic countries are digging deep to chip in whatever they can afford, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has instead opted for a show-off trip to Paris.
Some people might call it a state visit to France or a meeting to strengthen Franco-Cameroon diplomatic relations. Better still, an invitation from French president. Whatsoever name you what to label the trip, it’s in fact meaningless at this crucial moment. No reasonable person would expect the French President, Francois Hollande, to be offering a state visit to a good-for-nothing president, especially at the time when his government’s hands are full or preoccupied with having a successful operation in northern Mali. Keeping security alerts on all its borders and diplomatic institutions abroad and also trying to provide protection and shelters to French and European Union citizens trapped in conflicts across Africa are other added duties for France to sort out.
However, though President Hollande, decided to receive him, what they may have discussed that would be of interest to both France and Cameroon is yet to be known. That is, if they actually had strategic or working meeting to discuss any topic of interest at all. With no much to talk about, some smart French entrepreneurs may have taken advantage to discuss business with his entourage. Again whether any lucrative deal could have been reached at is another impasse. Business people are interested in people that have feasible deals or potential markets that can entice investors. Unfortunately for Biya, his valises were instead full of bogus or made-up contracts, embezzlement case files, poor human rights records, bad governance, unaccountable foreign debts, and the list is inexhaustible.
Who cares about Biya’s visit?
In power for more than thirty years, Biya could hold the record for the president that has made the most visits to Palais de l’Élysée– the official resident of French president. From François Mitterrand, to Jacques Chirac to Nicolas Sarkozy, Biya has been a regular face with strange stories. Strange, in the sense that once there is a new president elected in France; Biya seems to take it as a personal challenge to make friendship even if the person does not like his persona, profile or politics. How Biya gets to arrange these official visits is also another mystery. People pay visits to others because they either have something amicable to show, share, offer or learn and eventually to build a mutual bond that would last for long. Biya on his part visits for the cameras, the media or to make cheap publicity since he is even a stranger in his own country. A president who nobody knows where he is, what he is doing and what his plans are. A president who does not know what his ministers are doing, and only wait to be told when something had gone wrong.
As Biya does not know who is doing what and what is supposed to be done and what is left to be done, his government if often chaotic with more than half of his ministers being thieves in disguise. Either it is pressure from foreign donors or an attempt to win back hearts, for three decades in power; it is only of recent that Biya has pressed for corrupt administrators to face trial for embezzlement. A good gesture, though initiated too late when the state coffers have been emptied and Cameroonians are left to bear the brunt of continuous misappropriation. They continue to live in abject poverty, when Cameroon is a country with plenty for everyone. The gross fraud carried out by ministers including a former Prime Minister has raised concern about the president himself since most of the ministers today in jail or awaiting trial were all his close associates. To go by the saying, show me your friends and I’II tell you who you are, therefore if your friends are thieves, there is no way that you can convince anyone that you aren’t a thief as well. It’s time waiting for Biya to try to convince anyone that he was not aware of all the corruption that have marred his government and brought Cameroon’s economy to its knees. If Biya cannot trust his ministers or administrators, then they cannot trust him, so are Cameroonians. How then can any business person want to invest in a country where corruption and embezzlement are so widespread? The answer is obvious that if Biya and his untrustworthy entourage went to France to win over investors for business deal, they surely returned with nothing.
Apart from the timing of the visit, Biya could be on France’s black list of leaders that must be dealt with using a long spoon. France may be right here, for if your people don’t like you then they must be something wrong with you. Cameroonians’ living conditions are dropping with underemployment quite high. The need for a change being what they all hope for though they still don’t know when it shall come true. With France being the highest importer and exporter to Cameroon, it is evident its leader know very well that Cameroonians deserve better lives since they know how much money come in and out of the country. As the visit has ended, the only thing Cameroonians should be hoping for is that President Hollande should force Biya to put his house in order – change his way of governance, and be ready to hand over power by not taking part in any upcoming election. Whether Biya would yield to any external pressure, only his age and health would determine that. Ageing, losing home support and trust, and ruling with an iron fist, Biya like Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is yet to accept that his time is up.