Cameroonians looking for missing president amid coronavirus crisis

Cameroon’s aged president is coming under fire for his absence from the national stage as the central African country faces a burgeoning coronavirus crisis.

A month after the first case of COVID-19 was recorded, 87-year-old Paul Biya has yet to address the nation — a silence that for supporters is a sign of gravitas but for critics one of failure.

According to official figures posted early Monday, Cameroon has 658 cases of the virus, with nine deaths, making it the second most-affected country after South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa.

Cameroon is already waging two violent conflicts, one against Boko Haram terrorists in the north, the other against English-speaking separatists in the west. The fighters in the new front are doctors and nurses who are woefully lacking in masks and breathing equipment.

In his 37 years in power, Cameroonians have become accustomed to Biya’s long absences, mainly because of poor health, but his silence over the pandemic is raising sharp questions. He posed for the cameras after talks with the US ambassador on March 11, but did not speak to the press.

Six days later Biya urged Cameroonians on Facebook to “respect” measures taken to combat the virus, but since then there has not been so much as a whisper from a leader who has overseen many crises since he took power in 1982.

– Biya ‘cannot be pinned down’ –

Biya’s track record suggests he is not a major communicator in the best of times, making just three or four appearances a year. But for researcher Stephane Akoa, “In a context like this, the presidential message is important.”

Last week, speculation mounted on social media that Biya could be dead, prompting a formal public denial by Communications Minister Rene-Emmanuel Sadi, who insisted that Biya was “going about his official business as normal”.

But there was no word from the president himself, provoking a sharp attack from main opposition leader Maurice Kamto, the runner-up to Biya in 2018 elections. On Friday, Kamto demanded that the president address the nation within seven days, otherwise “the people… will inevitably see his failure”.

Biya’s silence “is becoming criminal,” he added. Labour Minister Gregoire Owona snapped back, saying Kamto wished to politicise the crisis, calling it “shameful”.

Oswald Baboke, the president’s deputy chief of staff, commended Biya’s “wisdom… (and) restraint,” writing in the press that “the President’s time cannot be improvised and cannot be pinned down.”

Thus far the youthful health minister, Malachie Manaouda, has been the point man for the coronavirus crisis, tweeting out frequent updates and detailing the government’s response. But criticism has grown louder with the rise in known cases from 142 to 658 in a week.

– ‘Lack of coordination’ –

“Government communication is weak, its response was late and in some respects poorly prepared,” said Stephane M’Bafou, a consultant in public management and governance. “There is an obvious lack of coordination,” said economist Albert Ze.

Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute on March 13 announced measures such as closing borders and a ban on rallies, which have been extended.

The one new step since then, attributed to Biya but announced by Ngute, has been the creation of a solidarity fund worth one billion CFA francs (1.5 million euros / $1.65 million). Others say the response does not go nearly far enough.

“We must quickly declare a curfew, isolate the cities where cases are confirmed and move towards a general containment regardless of the socio-economic cost,” said M’Bafou.


49 thoughts on “Cameroonians looking for missing president amid coronavirus crisis

  1. Hey there! I simply wish to give you a huge thumbs up for the excellent info you have got right here on this post. I’ll be coming back to your web site for more soon.

  2. Hey there excellent blog! Does running a blog similar to this require a massive amount work?
    I’ve no understanding of computer programming however I
    had been hoping to start my own blog soon. Anyways, should you have any
    recommendations or techniques for new blog owners please
    share. I know this is off subject but I simply
    wanted to ask. Thank you!

  3. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish.
    nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be delivering
    the following. unwell unquestionably come more formerly again since exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  4. Hey are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog
    world but I’m trying to get started and set up my own. Do you require any coding expertise to
    make your own blog? Any help would be really appreciated!

  5. Thanks for a marvelous posting! I truly enjoyed reading it, you could
    be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog and will
    eventually come back very soon. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great job,
    have a nice afternoon!

  6. An impressive share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a colleague
    who has been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me
    dinner due to the fact that I discovered it for him… lol.
    So allow me to reword this…. Thanks for the meal!!
    But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this matter here on your site.

  7. Unquestionably believe that which you stated.
    Your favorite reason seemed to be on the net the easiest thing to be aware
    of. I say to you, I definitely get irked while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about.

    You managed to hit the nail upon the top and also defined out the whole thing without having side
    effect , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more.

  8. No matter if some one searches for his required thing,
    therefore he/she wants to be available that in detail, therefore that
    thing is maintained over here.

  9. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both
    educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head.
    The problem is something that too few people are speaking
    intelligently about. I am very happy that I stumbled across this
    during my search for something concerning this.

  10. Hey there! I know this is kind of off topic but I was wondering if you knew where
    I could locate a captcha plugin for my comment form? I’m
    using the same blog platform as yours and I’m having trouble finding
    one? Thanks a lot!

  11. Having read this I believed it was really enlightening.

    I appreciate you spending some time and effort
    to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and
    commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

  12. whoah this blog is magnificent i like studying your posts.
    Stay up the great work! You recognize, many people
    are searching around for this information, you could help
    them greatly.

  13. I loved as much as you’ll receive carried out right here.
    The sketch is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an edginess over that you wish be delivering the following.
    unwell unquestionably come further formerly again as exactly the same nearly very often inside case you shield this hike.

  14. I know this site provides quality depending content and extra material, is there
    any other web site which provides these things in quality?

  15. First of all I want to say awesome blog! I had a quick question that I’d
    like to ask if you don’t mind. I was interested to find
    out how you center yourself and clear your thoughts prior to writing.

    I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my thoughts out there.
    I do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first
    10 to 15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out
    how to begin. Any ideas or tips? Kudos!

  16. Whoa! This blog looks just like my old one! It’s on a completely
    different subject but it has pretty much the same page layout and design.
    Superb choice of colors!

  17. We stumbled over here coming from a different website and thought I might as well check
    things out. I like what I see so now i am following you. Look forward to
    looking into your web page again.

  18. Greetings! This is my 1st comment here so I just
    wanted to give a quick shout out and tell you I really enjoy reading your posts.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same
    subjects? Appreciate it!

  19. Heya i’m for the first time here. I found this board and I
    find It truly useful & it helped me out much. I hope to give something back and help others like
    you helped me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *