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Paul Biya

Paul Biya

President Biya at the inauguration of the new U.S. Embassy, 16 February 2006

President of CameroonIncumbentAssumed office 
06 November1982Prime Minister Maigari Bello Bouba
Luc Ayang
Sadou Hayatou
Simon Achidi Achu
Peter Mafany Musonge
Ephraïm InoniPreceded by Ahmadou AhidjoPrime Minister of CameroonIn office
30 June1975 – 06 November1982President Ahmadou AhidjoSucceeded by Bello Bouba MaigariBorn 13 February1933(1933-02-13) (age 75)
Mvomeka'a, Centre-South Province, French CameroonNationality Cameroonian Political party RDPCSpouse Chantal BiyaReligion Roman Catholic[1]

Paul Biya (born 13 February 1933) has been the President of Cameroon since November 6, 1982.[1][2]


Personal life

Biya was born in the village of Mvomeka'a[1][2] in the Centre-South Province of what was then French Cameroon. He is a member of the Beti-Pahuin ethnic group. He studied in Paris at Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), where he graduated in 1961 with a diploma in International Relations. He married Jeanne-Irène Biya with whom he had a son, Franck Biya. After Jeanne-Irène Biya died on July 29, 1992, Paul Biya married Chantal Biya on April 23, 1994,[2] and he has had two more children with her.

Political career

He served under President Ahmadou Ahidjo; after becoming Director of the Cabinet of the Minister of National Education in January 1964 and Secretary General of the Ministry of National Education in July 1965, he was named Director of the Civil Cabinet of the President in December 1967 and Secretary General of the Presidency (while remaining Director of the Civil Cabinet) in January 1968. He gained the rank of Minister in August 1968 and Minister of State in June 1970, while remaining Secretary General of the Presidency. He became Prime Minister on June 30, 1975. In June 1979, a law designated the Prime Minister as the President's constitutional successor. Following Ahidjo's resignation on November 4, 1982, Biya became President on November 6.[1][2]

Because Biya is a Christian from southern Cameroon, it was considered surprising that he was chosen by Ahidjo, a Muslim from the north, as his successor. After Biya became President, Ahidjo initially remained head of the ruling Cameroon National Union (CNU). Biya was brought into the CNU Central Committee and Political Bureau and was elected as the party's vice-president. On December 11, 1982, he was placed in charge of managing party affairs in Ahidjo's absence. During the first months after Biya's succession, he continued to show loyalty to Ahidjo, and Ahidjo continued to show support for Biya, but in 1983 a deep rift developed between the two. Ahidjo went into exile in France, and from there he publicly accused Biya of abuse of power and paranoia about plots against him. The two could not be reconciled despite the efforts of several foreign leaders. After Ahidjo resigned as CNU leader, Biya took the helm of the party at an extraordinary session held on September 14, 1983.[3]

In November 1983, Biya announced that the next presidential election would be held on January 14, 1984; it had been previously scheduled for 1985. He was the sole candidate in this election and won 99.98% of the vote.[3] In February 1984, Ahidjo was put on trial in absentia for alleged involvement in a 1983 coup plot, along with two others; they were sentenced to death, although Biya commuted their sentences to life in prison, a gesture seen by many as a sign of weakness.[4] Biya survived a military coup attempt on April 6, 1984, following his decision on the previous day to disband the Republican Guard and disperse its members across the military.[3] Estimates of the death toll ranged from 71 (according to the government)[4] to about 1,000.[3] Northern Muslims were the primary participants in this coup attempt, which was seen by many as an attempt to restore that group's supremacy; Biya, however, chose to emphasize national unity and did not focus blame on northern Muslims.[3][4] Ahidjo was widely believed to have orchestrated the coup attempt,[4] and Biya is thought to have learned of the plot in advance and to have disbanded the Republican Guard as a reaction, forcing the coup plotters to act earlier than they had planned, which may have been a crucial factor in the coup's failure.[3][4]

In 1985, the CNU was transformed into the Cameroon People's Democratic Movement, and Biya was elected as its President. He was also re-elected as President of Cameroon on April 24, 1988.[2]

According to official results, Biya won the first multiparty presidential election, held on October 11, 1992, with about 40% of the vote; the second placed candidate, John Fru Ndi of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF), officially received about 36%.[5][6] The results were strongly disputed by the opposition, which alleged fraud.[5] In the October 1997 presidential election, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties, Biya was re-elected with 92.6 percent of the vote;[6][7] he was sworn in on November 3.[8]

Biya won another seven-year term in the presidential election of October 11, 2004, officially taking 70.92 percent of the vote,[9][10] although the opposition alleged widespread fraud.[9] Biya was sworn in on November 3.[10]

After being re-elected in 2004, Biya was barred by a two-term limit in the 1996 Constitution from running for President again in 2011, but his supporters sought to revise this to allow him to run again. In his 2008 New Year's message, Biya expressed support for revising the Constitution, saying that it was undemocratic to limit the people's choice.[11] The proposed removal of term limits was among the grievances expressed during violent protests in late February 2008. Nevertheless, on April 10, 2008, the National Assembly voted to change the Constitution to remove term limits. Given the RDPC's control of the National Assembly, the change was overwhelmingly approved, with 157 votes in favor and five opposed; the 15 deputies of the SDF chose to boycott the vote in protest. The change also provided for the President to enjoy immunity from prosecution for his actions as President after leaving office.[12]

He has been consistently re-elected as the National President of the RDPC; he was re-elected at the party's second extraordinary congress on July 7, 2001 and its third extraordinary congress on July 21, 2006.[13][14]

Biya regularly spends extended periods of time in Switzerland at the Hotel InterContinental Geneva where the former director Herbert Schott reportedly said he comes to work without being disturbed[15]. These extended stays away from Cameroon, while sometimes as short as 2 weeks are sometimes as long as three months and are almost always referred to as short stays in the state owned press and other media[16][17].

Opposition and criticism

Biya has been criticized by some as being a strongman, and is sometimes considered to be aloof from the people. He has also been strongly criticized by the Anglophones, the English-speaking people of Cameroon who live in the region formerly under British colonial rule, for their marginalization and oppression. His strongest opposition is from this region of Cameroon.

The historian David Wallechinsky, in his book Tyrants, the World's 20 Worst Living Dictators, ranked Biya with three others in sub-Saharan Africa: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea and King Mswati of Swaziland. He describes Cameroon's electoral process in these terms: “Every few years, Biya stages an election to justify his continuing reign, but these elections have no credibility. In fact, Biya is credited with a creative innovation in the world of phony elections. In 2004, annoyed by the criticisms of international vote-monitoring groups, he paid for his own set of international observers, six ex-U.S. congressmen, who certified his election as free and fair.”[18] In 2007, Parade magazine ranked Biya the 19th worst dictator in the world.[19]


  1. ^ a b c Profile of Biya at Cameroonian presidency web site (French).
  2. ^ a b c d e Biography at 2004 presidential election web site.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Milton H. Krieger and Joseph Takougang, African State and Society in the 1990s: Cameroon's Political Crossroads (2000), Westview Press, pages 65–74.
  4. ^ a b c d e Jonathan C. Randal, "Tales of Ex-Leader's Role In Revolt Stun Cameroon", The Washington Post, April 15, 1984, page A01.
  5. ^ a b John Mukum Mbaku, "Decolonization, Reunification and Federation in Cameroon", in The Leadership Challenge in Africa: Cameroon Under Paul Biya (2004), ed. John Mukum Mbaku and Joseph Takougang, page 34.
  6. ^ a b Elections in Cameroon, African Elections Database.
  7. ^ "UK Home Office Immigration and Nationality Directorate Country Assessment - Cameroon",
  8. ^ "Cameroun. Biya reinstalle", ANB-BIA, November 3, 1997.
  9. ^ a b "Cameroon's Supreme Court confirms Biya's re-election" Agence France Presse, October 25, 2004.
  10. ^ a b "President Biya is sworn in for another seven-year mandate.", Cameroonian government website].
  11. ^ "Cameroun: Paul Biya va modifier la Constitution", Panapress (, January 2, 2008 (French).
  12. ^ "Cameroun: adoption d'une révision constitutionnelle controversée", AFP (, April 10, 2008 (French).
  13. ^ "21 ANS DE TÂTONNEMENT",, July 21, 2007 (French).
  14. ^ "Paul Biya réélu sans surprise à la tête du RDPC",, July 22, 2006 (French).
  15. ^ Cameroun: Herbert Schott - Paul Biya est un sacré personnage
  16. ^ Le Chef de l’Etat en séjour privé en Europe
  17. ^
  18. ^ David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: the World's 20 Worst Living Dictators, Regan Press, 2006, pp. 286-290
  19. ^ The World's Worst Dictators - 2007
Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Paul Biya Political offices Preceded by
Office created Prime Minister of Cameroon
19751982Succeeded by
Bello Bouba MaigariPreceded by
Ahmadou AhidjoPresident of Cameroon
1982– present Incumbent
v • d • ePresidents of CameroonAhmadou Ahidjo | Paul Biya v • d • ePrime Ministers of CameroonEast Cameroon (1960-1972): Ahmadou Ahidjo | Charles Assalé | Vincent de Paul Ahanda | Simon Pierre Tchoungui

West Cameroon (1961-1972): John Ngu Foncha | Augustine Ngom Jua | Salomon Tandeng Muna

Republic of Cameroon(1975-): Paul Biya | Maigari Bello Bouba | Luc Ayang | Sadou Hayatou | Simon Achidi Achu | Peter Mafany Musonge | Ephraïm Inoni v • d • eChairpersons of the Organization of African Unityand the African Union (AU)

Selassie · Nasser · Nkrumah · Ankrah · Selassie · Mobutu · Boumédienne · Ahidjo · Kaunda · Daddah · Hassan II · Gowon · Barre · Amin · Ramgoolam · Bongo · Nimeiry · Tolbert · Senghor · Stevens · Moi · Mengistu · Nyerere · Diouf · Nguesso · Kaunda · Traoré · Mubarak · Museveni · Babangida · Diouf · Mubarak · Ben Ali · Meles · Biya · Mugabe · Compaoré · Bouteflika · Eyadéma · Chiluba · Mwanawasa · Mbeki · Chissano · Obasanjo · Nguesso · Kufuor · Kikwete

Categories: Presidents of Cameroon | Prime Ministers of Cameroon | Current national leaders | Alumni of Sciences Po | Family of Paul Biya | 1933 births | Living people | Cameroonian Roman Catholics

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