President Paul Biya, accompanied by the First Lady and an impressive delegation of senior administration officials arrived in Libreville yesterday from Brazaville, Congo Republic, to participate in commemorative events marking the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the independence of Cameroon’s southern neighbour whose independence was obtained on August 15, 1960 from France. The President of the Republic went straight into business minutes after his arrival, inserting himself into a jammed- packed agenda of events.
Even in this beehive atmosphere, where events are lined up “bumper-to-bumper”, President Ali Bongo Ondima found time to be present at the Leon Mba international airport to welcome Cameroon’ first couple as they alighted from their aircraft at about 2.30 pm (Yaounde time). Accompanying the Gabonese president were Prime Minister Paul Biyoghe Mba, the Minister of National Defence, Mrs Angélique Ngoma and the Governor of the Estuaire Province, Thomas de Bouillon Ndze. President Biya , whilst in the VIP lounge, greeted a number of generals of the Gabonese armed forces before meeting a full turn-out of members of the Gabonese government. The setting was no accident. The warmth of the welcome tells eloquently of the new state of relations. President Biya is in Libreville for the second time in 14 months. It is true, the first visit was rather under sinister circumstances as he came for the funeral of the late President Omar Bongo Ondimba. But there are more signs to the new relations than just these visits. The new Gabonese President has made no secret of his gratitude for all that Cameroon did in the heart of the difficulties into which Gabon was plunged with the death of Omar Bongo Ondimba, his father.
President Biya is on record for having summoned, not only the Bongo household, but also close associates of the late President to ensure a smooth transition after the death of the former President. As the subsequent presidential elections began to come his way, Ali Bongo Ondimba rushed to Yaounde on September 11, 2009 to confer with President Biya. After a meeting with his host, he revealed to journalists that he had come to seek the wise counsel of a sage before engaging in any major political acts, referring to President Biya as his “father”. President Ali was in Yaounde last May (twice in one week) during the beginning of commemorative events for the fiftieth anniversary celebrations for Cameroon’s independence and reunification. He had the honour of making a key-note statement at the Yaounde “Africa 21”, international conference summoned on that occasion by the Cameroonian president to look back at 50 years of independence for African countries and to make projections for the future. He made a landmark statement on the future of the African youth which was quickly adopted as a reference document and highly acclaimed by the Cameroonian intellectual class. On that occasion, President Ali publicly urged the Cameroonian leader to take over the leadership in the Central African sub-region. A modest President Biya would not publicly jump on the opportunity; but regular meetings such as the present one in Libreville, will no doubt help to provide that leadership, of course, in the absolute respect of sovereignty, a policy Paul Biya had always encouraged and fostered.
Beyond the official business the President came to do in Libreville, Cameroonians resident in Libreville and even beyond, turned out in very large numbers to give the Head of State a rousing welcome. Hardly in recent memory has there been such massive mobilization for a visit by Paul Biya. The reason is not far-fetched. Just last month and as National President of the Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement, Paul Biya created a party section in Gabon to the satisfaction of thousands of members who have never ever missed any opportunity in the past to request for the creation of such a section. So, the presence of hundreds of flag-carrying members of the party yesterday in Libreville was a clear indication of the happiness and satisfaction of the numerous members of the CPDM in Gabon. Words can hardly carry the full picture of Cameroonians struggling to touch President Biya as he headed for his limousine. Exuberant party members shouted out thank you messages to him as he headed for his La Sablière coquettish guest house off the Libreville marina.
President Biya will be among some dozen of other Heads of State today, Tuesday at a military parade at Libreville’s seafront main avenue. Yesterday evening, he and the First Lady, Chantal also attended a gala night at the presidential palace during which their host was expected to make a speech at midnight, exactly the same time Leon Mba formally proclaimed the independence of Gabon 50 years before.
Nkendem FORBINAKE, Cameroon Tribune