BUEA—President Paul Biya and his wife Chantal will arrive in Buea today, two days ahead of his planned visit to chair 50 years of reunification.
They were expected on Thursday but the Unity Palace announced yesterday that the president will make an early landing, to the pleasant surprise of city dwellers.
It is still unclear if Biya will attend any of the many academic and cultural activities building up to his key note speech on Thursday.
But he is expected to meet local politicians and other stakeholders during his stay in the historic city in which the Union Jack was lowered in 1961 to end British rule in the former Southern Cameroons.
Biya will confront deep divisions in a country he has spent the last 32 years working to unite when he joins the nation to mark the historic but highly controversial coming together of former Southern Cameroons and la République du Cameroun.
One issue he has not addressed forthrightly during his long rule is the Anglophone Question – a combination of complaints of marginalization, assimilation and even annexation by the dominant Francophone administration.
Over the years, separatists groups seeking the breakaway of the English speaking North West and South West regions have emerged and now challenge the legality of reunification.
Biya’s speech on Thursday is the most watched item on the agenda, which includes cultural displays and academic debates in Buea and “reunification matches” in all ten regional capitals.
The speech will give a glimpse into the president’s thoughts about the state of the 53-year union and the future of the country. He is expected to make the case for a common national destiny through an integrated Cameroon.
Authorities are trying to give the event a national dimension even though it is viewed by Anglophones as their Independence Day jubilee. The National Anthem will be rendered in French, according to the programme seen by our correspondents.
The president’s early visit could woo some public sympathy and rouse enthusiasm that was lost when he failed to make the trip at least three times over the last three years.
In 2011, the anniversary was canceled because of elections that year. It was cancelled during the following two years mainly as a result of slow execution of urban infrastructural work.
Our correspondents said people were pleasantly stunned by the yesterday’s news of the president’s early arrival.
“Buea has been in a festive mood since the Mountain Race on Saturday and this is very much like a continuation of a long festive period in the city,” she said.