Cameroon President Paul Biya speaks as he meets with French former hostages on the presidential palace in Yaounde on April 19, 2013. AFP PHOTO / REINNIER KAZE.
Cameroon’s aged president is coming underneath hearth for his absence from the nationwide stage because the central African nation faces a burgeoning coronavirus disaster.
A month after the primary case of COVID-19 was recorded, 87-year-old Paul Biya has but to deal with the nation — a silence that for supporters is an indication of gravitas however for critics considered one of failure.
In accordance with official figures posted early Monday, Cameroon has 658 circumstances of the virus, with 9 deaths, making it the second most-affected nation after South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa.
Cameroon is already waging two violent conflicts, one in opposition to Boko Haram jihadists within the north, the opposite in opposition to English-speaking separatists within the west.
The fighters within the new entrance are medical doctors and nurses who’re woefully missing in masks and respiration tools.
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In his 37 years in energy, Cameroonians have develop into accustomed to Biya’s lengthy absences, primarily due to poor well being, however his silence over the pandemic is elevating sharp questions.
He posed for the cameras after talks with the US ambassador on March 11, however didn’t converse to the press.
Six days later Biya urged Cameroonians on Fb to “respect” measures taken to fight the virus, however since then there has not been a lot as a whisper from a pacesetter who has overseen many crises since he took energy in 1982.
– Biya ‘cannot be pinned down’ –
Biya’s monitor report suggests he’s not a serious communicator in the perfect of instances, making simply three or 4 appearances a yr. However for researcher Stephane Akoa, “In a context like this, the presidential message is important.”
Final week, hypothesis mounted on social media that Biya may very well be useless, prompting a proper public denial by Communications Minister Rene-Emmanuel Sadi, who insisted that Biya was “going about his official business as normal”.
However there was no phrase from the president himself, upsetting a pointy assault from essential opposition chief Maurice Kamto, the runner-up to Biya in 2018 elections.
On Friday, Kamto demanded that the president handle the nation inside seven days, in any other case “the people… will inevitably see his failure”.
Biya’s silence “is becoming criminal,” he added.
Labour Minister Gregoire Owona snapped again, saying Kamto wished to politicise the disaster, calling it “shameful”.
Oswald Baboke, the president’s deputy chief of employees, counseled Biya’s “wisdom… (and) restraint,” writing within the press that “the President’s Time cannot be improvised and cannot be pinned down.”
To date the youthful well being minister, Malachie Manaouda, has been the purpose man for the coronavirus disaster, tweeting out frequent updates and detailing the federal government’s response.
However criticism has grown louder with the rise in recognized circumstances from 142 to 658 in per week.
– ‘Lack of coordination’ –
“Government communication is weak, its response was late and in some respects poorly prepared,” stated Stephane M’Bafou, a advisor in public administration and governance.
“There is an obvious lack of coordination,” stated economist Albert Ze.
Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute on March 13 introduced measures resembling closing borders and a ban on rallies, which have been prolonged.
The one new step since then, attributed to Biya however introduced by Ngute, has been the creation of a solidarity fund value one billion CFA francs (1.5 million euros / $1.65 million).
Others say the response doesn’t go practically far sufficient.
“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,” stated M’Bafou.