When Franck Biya, the eldest son of President Paul Biya, visited the Mbankolo disaster site in October, many saw a political action in disguise.
But, as always, Franck Biya did not utter a word; he was silent. Today, for the first time, he has said, “I wouldn’t want to talk politics.”
Franck Biya was speaking to a group of Biya fanatics in Monaco, France, who opted to name him the ‘honorary president’ of the ruling Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM) in the area.
Franck Biya turned down the offer and said, “Things are clear and should remain as such; I think in the texts governing the party (CPDM), everything is defined; we have the party’s natural candidate.”
When Franck Biya said the party has its natural candidate, he was referring to his 90-year-old father, Paul Biya, who has been president of the country for 41 years.
Since the start of President Biya’s seventh mandate following the 2018 presidential election, a movement called “franckists” came to light.
“Franckists” was championed by individuals who rallied behind the 51-year-old sole son of the late Jeanne-Irène Biya, who passed away in 1992. They openly articulated their desire to see Franck Biya succeed his father, Mr. Biya.
During a visit to Cameroon’s Northern regions in 2022, Franck Biya was accorded a ‘presidential’ welcome and reception, which he did not turn down.
For the past years, the “Franckists” movement has sprung across the country, with many taking part in national events unperturbed.
But on May 20th, 2023, his supporters were banned from taking part in the reunification parade in Bamenda, amid reports of similar bans in some parts of the country.
So, what happened? And why has Franck Biya never said a word about the movement?
Biya’s succession question
The question on the lips of Cameroonians today is, “Who will succeed Biya?” in case of a natural or abrupt departure?
Even though his current mandate ends in 2025, there are already calls for him to stand as president for an eighth term.
“Natural events may occur, and when they do, there will be chaos because there is no suitable successor,” said a political analyst on local TV during a debate.
“There are people who have toiled and worked for the party expecting compensation, and they won’t accept things being run by a ‘stranger’,” added the analyst, referring to Franck Biya.
Most importantly, however, there is no allowance within the Cameroonian constitution by which power can pass on from one Biya to another or to someone of the current president’s choosing. While many things in Cameroon might not be clear, the constitution is very clear about what should happen in the event of Biya leaving power.
Not a popular choice in Cameroon
When Macron visited Cameroon in July 2022 and met Franck Biya, it was interpreted as a strong message by Biya’s critics and pan-Africanists, who have routinely accused the French government of shaping politics and leadership in its former colonies.
But to ordinary Cameroonians, Franck Biya does not have what it takes to rule the country. “It will be a political mistake to even imagine he could rule Cameroon,” Dr. Simon Munzu, a renowned political analyst in Cameroon and member of the UK bar, told MMI during his appearance on ‘Cameroon in Thirty Minutes’.
“Even if we do not dare politically, we try at least to support initiatives that are tilted in the right direction,” Franck Biya told CPDM members in Monaco. Is he getting the message, or is it a strategy to divert public attention?
News Commentary by Mimi Mefo Takambou