Today, in Bamenda, Cameroon, the celebration of President Paul Biya’s 91st birthday has sparked a range of reactions among the people. In the midst of the celebrations, there are lingering questions about whether it is appropriate to be joyful while conflicts and socio-economic hardships persist.
The event, characterised by a caravan procession and an ecumenical service at Up Station Bamenda, witnessed the participation of bike riders. The allocation of significant funds for fuel by the Bamenda City Council has raised concerns among certain citizens. “We thank the City Mayor, but we are concerned. Should we need incentives to celebrate the head of state?” queried one bike rider.
Amidst the turmoil in the English-speaking regions, with the threat of war hanging over the nation, the president’s birthday is seen by many as a meaningless occasion. “Look at Bamenda, his second home; it is covered in dust. Is this how a leader cares for his people?” lamented a resident.
This year, Biya’s birthday is particularly significant in light of the ongoing turmoil. The cacophony of gunfire and explosions is a constant presence in conflict-affected regions, serving as a harsh reminder of the immense challenges faced by the people living there. However, there were moments of relief when clergy members provided prayers for the country and its leader.
“We presented the head of state with two symbolic gifts: a broom to sweep insecurity from the nation and to eradicate corruption, inertia, and indiscipline,” remarked Honourable Agho Oliver, parliamentarian for Bafut and Tubah.
Amidst the challenges intensified by the ongoing armed conflict, a feeling of optimism filled the atmosphere as people offered prayers for Biya’s well-being and guidance. “We have gathered here to wish the Head of State good health in his duty to lead the people of Cameroon,” stated Prof. Fru Angwafor, president of the North West Regional Assembly.
Although a few young people showed up to wish Mr. Biya a happy birthday, there are many who have concerns about the direction of the country due to the absence of necessary social services. At 91 years old, there are differing opinions on Biya’s future. Some argue for his continued presidency, while others believe it’s time for fresh leadership.
The commemoration of Biya’s 91st birthday in Bamenda highlights the intricate mix of emotions experienced by Cameroonians, emphasising the importance of open communication and united efforts to tackle the country’s obstacles and strive for a brighter tomorrow.