Supporters Want Cameroon’s Four-Decade President, 91, to Run Again

Yaounde, Cameroon — Supporters are urging the world’s oldest leader, 91-year-old Cameroonian President Paul Biya, to run for office in the 2025 presidential election, potentially extending his more than four-decade rule.

They say Biya is the only one who can bring peace and development to the country, but the opposition says Biya must leave office after running Cameroon for decades.

Several hundred people sang in Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, on Sunday, calling for Biya to accept the nomination of the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, or CPDM party, in the 2025 presidential election.

Biya created the CPDM on March 24, 1985, three years after his predecessor, Cameroon’s first president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, stepped down due to ill health and handed power to Biya.

Biya has been president of Cameroon since 1982 and leader of his party since 1985.

During the party’s 39th anniversary on Sunday, party officials organized rallies in all Cameroon towns and villages to ask people to support Biya as their candidate in the 2025 elections.

Senior CPDM official Fru Jonathan described Biya as the party’s natural candidate, saying there is peace, unity and economic growth in the country. Jonathan said Biya is strong and healthy.

“We think that you don’t change a winning team,” Jonathan said. “If there is any challenger, let him come up, but we have not seen any challenger who can beat our candidate, so we all rely on him and call on him to continue to rule and bring our country to emergence as that is his vision.”

Biya has not said if he will be a candidate.

Cameroon senior state functionaries appointed by Biya, along with Biya’s party officials, credit the long-serving leader for constructing at least 6,000 kilometers of roads, providing electricity and water to towns and villages, and building several hundred classrooms and hospitals.

But Cameron’s opposition and civil society disagree with that positive assessment, saying under Biya the Cameroon Bank and the Fund for Agricultural Development created to fund farmers’ projects crumbled.

The opposition also says corruption has become widespread during Biya’s rule, with Transparency International ranking Cameroon as the most corrupt country in 1998 and 1999.

Cabral Libii, 44, an opposition parliamentarian with Cameroon’s Party for National Reconciliation, or PCRN, placed third in Cameroon’s 2018 presidential elections.

Libii said Cameroonian youth will not continue to watch Biya cripple the economy, deprive civilians of their liberties and freedoms, and rule Cameroon with an iron fist while now showing signs of being ruler for life.

He said Biya is the cause of sorrows brought about by extremely high unemployment, underemployment and crises in the English-speaking western regions that have claimed more than 6,000 lives.

Libii said Cameroon opposition and civil society are organizing themselves to present a candidate to oust Biya, whom they describe as elderly and frail to the point he is hardly seen in public.

Libii said Cameroon needs young dynamic leaders to salvage the country from underdevelopment.

Opponents said many youths were hired to take part in rallies to give the false impression that Biya is popular.

Both the government and Biya’s CPDM party officials deny that civilians, especially poor youth, were hired.

At 91, Biya is the oldest leader in the world and the second-longest-serving president after his neighbor, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea.

Biya’s party says he has won all presidential elections since the return of multiparty politics in Cameroon in 1990, but the opposition says previous elections have been marred by fraud.

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