By Dibussi Tande
According to an article from Le Journal Chrétien, which is currently making rounds on the Internet, President Paul Biya is preparing to resign from office. The article states that French have decided that his successor will be from the Muslim North, “in keeping with neocolonial tradition”. The list of potential successors has allegedly been narrowed down to two prominent Northerners: (1) Ahmadou Ali, the current Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, and (2) Sardou Hayatou, a former Prime Minister and current head of BEAC.
The article claims that its sources have indicated that the preference for Northerners is based on the fact that “neocolonial networks” in France want someone from those ethnic groups that have collaborated with European imperialists since the days of the slave trade. Hence, in case the northern option doesn’t materialize, these networks would prefer a Douala, Bakweri, or even a Bulu President.
The article contends that Biya is also preparing a “diabolic” gift for his successor. By “sacrificing” a few individuals within his inner circle to the anti-corruption charade, the President intends to stir up trouble and leave behind a chaotic and ungovernable country. The article, however, fails to explain the benefits of this option to Biya or his courtesans.
The article ends with another doomsday succession scenario in which there will be a bloodbath if a northerner becomes the President. In this scenario, Beti hardliners in the army, notably those who crushed the northern-led coup attempt of 1984, will not sit by and watch power handed back to the Northerners without a fight.
Coming just days after the 73-year old Biya took ill during a visit to Equatorial Guinea the article definitely picks up on increasingly strident debates about presidential succession in Cameroon. That said, the article doesn’t stand the test of scrutiny. Not only is it a mixture of fact, fiction, fantasy and wishful thinking, it shows a poor grasp of Cameroon’s colonial history. Even more significant, it barely discusses the geopolitics of power in Cameroon, particularly the “North-South axis” which made it possible for Paul Biya to become president in the first place -- and which explains why northerners are considered by many to be the frontrunners in the presidential succession race.
To put things in their proper perspective, we will take an in-depth look at the North-South axis, which is also known as the as the Beti-Foulbe tribal hegemonic alliance, in a subsequent article.