Cameroon’s President Paul Biya, the second longest serving African president at 36 years in power, has been inaugurated for another seven-year mandate. In his speech, Biya promised to defeat terrorism in the country but made no mention of 82 people kidnapped Monday in Cameroon’s restive Anglophone region.
Cameroonians sang the national anthem Tuesday as Biya was sworn in.
In his speech, Biya promised to solve Cameroon’s problems and urged unity. He said they would continue fighting terrorism until separatists in the two English-speaking regions drop their guns or are defeated.
He says in the northwest and southwest regions of Cameroon, negative forces took advantage of some worker complaints to execute their separatist plans and acts of terrorism.
Violence broke out so the government responded with measures to preserve public order, he says, and assure the safety and security of people and their property. Secession is against Cameroon’s constitution, says Biya, and the indivisible nature of the nation.
Biya made no mention of gunmen kidnapping 79 students and three teachers on Monday from a school in the northwest region.
Cameroon authorities say the gunmen are separatists, while a separatist spokesman claims the military is framing them for the abduction.
On the walkway of Yaounde city council, hundreds of people displaced by the region’s fighting watched the inauguration on a giant-screen TV.
Fifty-five-year-old Julius Tetang says he has been hosting 30 displaced people from the English-speaking town of Mbengwi. He wants Biya to find a solution to the region’s unrest.
“They have about 18 secondary schools and none is going,” he said. “They have about 76 primary schools and all are empty. Most of the inhabitants have abandoned their areas. The rate of killings is heavy. People are running away from bullets.”
Cletus Fonyuy, 32, fled fighting in the English-speaking town of Kumbo. He says his wife and brother were killed last month in clashes.
“Mr. Biya has been given another chance to stop killing our people of the northwest and southwest regions,” he said. “He should ask his military to stop killing our people, these are our brothers. We are one so he should do something to show that we are one.”
Biya was declared the winner of the October 7 presidential poll with a landslide victory of 71 percent of the vote. His strongest challenger, Maurice Kamto, was a distant second with 14 percent.
Kamto and his supporters claim the poll was rigged by election bodies chosen by Biya and loyal to him. Security forces on Tuesday’s on stopped Kamto’s supporters from trying to protest Biya’s inauguration.
Christopher Bime, 24, says police prevented him from protesting what he called Biya’s stolen victory.
“So he has been there for 36 years, youths are suffering too much. Youth that have gone to school and they are having certificates in their pockets but they suffer all over the country,” he said.
Biya has been in power in Cameroon for over four decades — serving seven years as prime minister and 36 as president.
In 2008, he removed term limits from the constitution, allowing him to serve indefinitely.
When his new term is finished, he will be 93 years old.