Cameroon - Leadership

After 18 years in power, Biya's record of accomplishments is thin. According to local press reports, he averages more than 100 days off per year, mostly outside the country at his luxurious estates in Europe. He is reported not to have convened his government even once in 1995 and rarely met with ministers. 1n 1997, analysts noted that he avoided the office, leading to speculation that his government was adrift and in disarray.

For most of his rule, he has presided over economic decline and unprecedented corruption. Critics talk about a 30% rule, meaning that nothing goes through the Finance Ministry without a 30% fee. However, after topping Transparency International's list of most corrupt countries in 1998/99, Biya was eager to clean up his government. He dismissed government ministers accused of corrupt practices and announced an anticorrution campaign in his New Year 2000 address.

Biya risks leaving a legacy of subverting political reforms. Although he caved to demands for multiparty democracy in 1990, he manipulated voter registration, vote counting, and other phases of the electoral process in national-level elections. In spite of a law authorizing private media, he has not promulgated it and has kept a tight grip on the broadcast media. His government has cracked down harshly on dissidents, particularly those from the English-speaking (Anglo-phone) provinces. Amnesty International has reported that human rights abuses were common during the 1990s. In April 2000, about 100 alleged secessionists in Kumba, a major town in Anglophone southeastern Cameroon, were detained by police for sabotage.

Biya continues to struggle with the issue of national unity. Anglophone separatism continues to fester, with some members calling for greater autonomy through a federal structure. The Southern Cameroon National Council has submitted application to the United Nations (UN) for membership as the Republic of Southern Cameroon and has attempted to invalidate the 1961 plebiscite. In his New Year's address 2002, Biya warned seccessionists against violence, insisting that no threat to national unity would be tolerated. He also made it clear that he would not tolerate the rising tide of undisciplined behavior in military ranks.

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