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Why Did President Biya Keep Old Men at the Helm of the National Assemly

Yaounde (National Times) – Millions of Cameroonians would have loved to see new faces at the helm of Cameroon’s House of Senate and Parliament on Thursday after both houses “voted” to extend the mandate of the current presidents. But, to their disappointment Biya’s CPDM maintained the old and sickly hands. Why?

The key reason is that Biya did not want to raise discussions of succession by replacing Marcel Niat Njifenji, the President of the Senate. President Biya is 86 years, by the time his mandate finishes, if he is still alive, he will 94. Because of his current age, speculations of Biya’s succession beseech the mind of any Cameroon politics follower.

Appointing someone new to replace Niat Njifenhi would have raised just those conversations that the President wants to avoid. The president of the senate according to Cameroon’s constitution replaces the President in case of his death or incapacity to rule. So appointing a new and young senate president would have sent the message that the new senate president is who Biya wants to take over from him.

On the other hand, appointing an old person of the same age as Niat Njifenji would have raised the spectacle that Biya does not want to give others the chance to rule after him. Or that he is undermining any thought and form of regime change. Changing the sickly Senate President would have also raised questions of tribalism, especially if the President would have appointed a non-Bamileke to head the Senate.

In addition to avoiding talks of succession, with all that is happening in Cameroon, keeping the old hands is safe.

Cavaye Yaguie Djibril is an old hand in Cameroon’s national assembly and Northern politics. No one knows the intricacies, backstabbing, gaming and violence in the house like the Northerner. Added to this cognizance about the house is his loyalty to President Biya. He championed the burning of MRC campaign materials in his electorate in 2017, and has used both influence and coercion, or violence, to maintain CPDM dominance in the North. Very few Northern leaders would have that competence, loyalty and vigour to keep the Parliament loyal to Biya as Cavaye Djibril.

A CPDM controlled Parliament without a staunch Biya loyalist, a competent figure, and an authoritarian leader is of little use to the President. Plus, Biya wouldn’t have appointed someone else from another region to replace Cavaye, that would have been selling out the Northist. So the reappointment was to Biya, a safe bet.

The other reason is that Biya took a wise electoral move. With the parliamentary elections anticipated this year or next year, Biya needs his tribal coalition in place to win the house. Even though the elections are unlikely to be free and fair, the President will need to save face by getting these elders to lead the campaign in their respective regions. Plus, these old men know how to win or rig elections, whichever way you think they have been winning elections.

Like many Cameroonians President Biya would have love too to see new faces as President of the House of Senate and Parliament, at least as consolation prize for all the government failures in Cameroon. But to Biya staying in power, means avoiding conflicts of succession, sticking to loyal and trusted friends, even if they are incompetent and corrupt, and oiling the machine that wins you elections.


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