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Paul Biya (born Paul Barthélemy Biya'a bi Mvondo, 13 February 1933) has been the President of Cameroonmarker since 6 November 1982.

Personal life

Biya was born in the village of Mvomeka'a 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 Parismarker (Sciences Po), where he graduated in 1961 with a diploma in International Relations. He married Jeanne-Irène Biya who had no kids even though she adopted Franck Biya who was born from a relationship of Paul Biya with another woman. After Jeanne-Irène Biya died on 29 July 1992, Paul Biya married Chantal Biya (38 years Paul's junior) on 23 April 1994, and he has had two more children with her.

Political career

As an official in post-independence 1960s Cameroon, Biya rose to prominence 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 the rank of Minister of State in June 1970, while remaining Secretary-General of the Presidency. Following the creation of a unitary state in 1972, he became Prime Minister of Cameroon on 30 June 1975. In June 1979, a law designated the Prime Minister as the President's constitutional successor. Ahidjo unexpectedly announced his resignation on 4 November 1982, and Biya accordingly succeeded him as President of Cameroon on 6 November.

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 Vice-President of the CNU. On 11 December 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 14 September 1983.

In November 1983, Biya announced that the next presidential election would be held on 14 January 1984; it had been previously scheduled for 1985. He was the sole candidate in this election and won 99.98% of the vote. 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. Biya survived a military coup attempt on 6 April 1984, following his decision on the previous day to disband the Republican Guard and disperse its members across the military. Estimates of the death toll ranged from 71 (according to the government) to about 1,000. 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. Ahidjo was widely believed to have orchestrated the coup attempt, 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.

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 24 April 1988.

According to official results, Biya won the first multiparty presidential election, held on 11 October 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%. The results were strongly disputed by the opposition, which alleged fraud. 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; he was sworn in on 3 November.

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

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 he 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. The proposed removal of term limits was among the grievances expressed during violent protests in late February 2008. Nevertheless, on 10 April 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.

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 7 July 2001 and its third extraordinary congress on 21 July 2006.

Biya regularly spends extended periods of time in Switzerland at the Hotel InterContinental Genevamarker where the former director Herbert Schott reportedly said he comes to work without being disturbed. 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. More recently his holiday in France is alleged to be costing $40,000 a day spent on 43 hotel rooms.

Opposition and criticism

He seldom leaves his Etoudi palace, and is more frequent in Switzerland than outside of the fortress palace in Etoudi, Yaounde. Even cabinet ministers rarely see Mr Biya. 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.

Tyrants, the World's 20 Worst Living Dictators, by David Wallechinsky, ranked Biya with three others in sub-Saharan Africa: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwemarker, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guineamarker and King Mswati of Swazilandmarker. 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. In 2009, Biya said he was going to reign for life. Strike broke out in Cameroon. He blocked radio stations that were in criticism of this which was against the constitution. According to the constitution, Biya is supposed to resign from office in 2011. He said there was going to be a "vote" to see if the congressmen want him to rule for life and of course he bribed them so they would vote for him.”


  1. Profile of Biya at Cameroonian presidency web site .
  2. Biography at 2004 presidential election web site.
  3. Milton H. Krieger and Joseph Takougang, African State and Society in the 1990s: Cameroon's Political Crossroads (2000), Westview Press, pages 65–74.
  4. Jonathan C. Randal, "Tales of Ex-Leader's Role In Revolt Stun Cameroon", The Washington Post, April 15, 1984, page A01.
  5. 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. 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. "Cameroon's Supreme Court confirms Biya's re-election" Agence France Presse, October 25, 2004.
  10. "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 .
  12. "Cameroun: adoption d'une révision constitutionnelle controversée", AFP (, April 10, 2008 .
  13. "21 ANS DE TÂTONNEMENT",, July 21, 2007 .
  14. "Paul Biya réélu sans surprise à la tête du RDPC",, July 22, 2006 .
  15. Cameroun: Herbert Schott - Paul Biya est un sacré personnage
  16. Le Chef de l’Etat en séjour privé en Europe
  18. "Cameroon defends Biya hotel bills", BBC, September 3,2009 .
  19. David Wallechinsky, Tyrants: the World's 20 Worst Living Dictators, Regan Press, 2006, pp. 286-290

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