Cameroon is celebrating the 90th birthday of President Paul Biya, the world’s oldest head of government. Supporters say they hope he will extend his four decades in power when the next election comes in 2025. Opponents say Biya has become authoritarian and cite concerns about his health. Young people, especially students, have been forced to take part in Biya’s birthday activities.
This song, Rigor, by Cameroon’s legendary artist, Jojo Ngalle, blasts through speakers at the 5,000-seat Multipurpose Sports Complex in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé.
Ngalle says in the song that Biya should be credited for bringing rigor and moralization to Cameroon.
Among the senior state functionaries celebrating the anniversary is Philemon Yang, Cameroon’s immediate past prime minister and Biya’s close collaborator.
Yang says he is celebrating an exceptionally good leader who has brought peace and development to Cameroon.
“We are celebrating longevity, achievements, political achievements, economic achievements, you can imagine democratization, that is a big achievement. So we are celebrating many things,” he said. “Rigor is with us, moralization is with us and, most of all, living together. These are psychological achievements which can never be reduced to nothing. We don’t see them, they are invisible but extremely important to us.”
The government says public places in towns and villages across Cameroon hosted activities Monday marking Biya’s 90th birthday.
Biya has been Cameroon’s president since 1982. He took over from Cameroon’s first president, Ahmadou Ahijo. Biya served as prime minister for seven years before becoming president.
He has won all multiparty elections since 1992, although opposition parties have always complained the elections were heavily rigged.
In 2008, he removed term limits from the constitution, allowing him to serve indefinitely. His current mandate ends in 2025.