In recent years, the debate over who will succeed Cameroon’s long-time president,Paul Biya, has become a point of political contention. The 88-year-old, who has held the top office since 1982, is due to end his latest term in 2025.
Until recently, Biya’s eldest son kept a relatively low profile. Most Cameroonians knew little about Franck Biya, who has worked as a businessman and entrepreneur.
But now, speculation is mounting that he may be preparing to take over his father’s role as leader. Social media has been flooded with images of Franck Biya as he allegedly gathers support for his own political party. Some of the videos are calling for his candidacy.
#Cameroon: Serge Akounou is a childhood friend of Franck, @PR_Paul_BIYA's son. Their friendship has hit a rough patch, likely b/c Akounou's father Gervais Mendo Ze, a former director-general of Cameroon Radio and Television has been imprisoned since 2014.https://t.co/SG71a2Whxa
— The Africa Report (@TheAfricaReport) March 30, 2021
A group of businessmen, politicians and government allies has even formed The Frankistes Citizen Movement for the Peace and Unity of Cameroon. Led by businessman Mohamed Rahim Noumeau, they are calling on Franck Biya to run for the presidency in the next general election.
An expected turn of events
Across the country, opinions vary on Franck Biya’s possible ascension to power.
But it’s the manner of the transition that has most Cameroonians concerned. While some think it’s possible that Franck Biya will go through the democratic process, others believe a free and fair power changeover is simply a pipe dream for the central African nation.
“It has been normal in Africa and in the Francophone system, which France has harnessed and upheld, that [authorities] always work with the children as successors of various presidents,” political analyst Ako John Ako told DW.
Franck Biya’s presidential ambitions don’t come as a total surprise in the context of the region. Togo’s current president Faure Gnassingbe was immediately installed as the nation’s leader in 2005 following the death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years.
the death of his father, President Gnassingbe Eyadema, who ruled for 38 years.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), incumbent president Felix Tshisekedi was elected to lead the Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDPS) after his father, former president Etienne Tshisekedi, died in 2017.
As with these similar cases on the continent, Ako says it is likely that Franck Biya’s run for his father’s job will provoke resentment among many in Cameroon and even worsen the country’s current crises.
“Franck Biya becoming president will anger many Cameroonians and may provoke other conflicts,” he says. “From fighting Boko Haram in the north, the Seleka [rebels] in the east and the [Anglophone] crisis in the north-west and south-west. It will keep Cameroon in pieces.”