President Paul Biya turned 83 on Saturday, amid calls for another run at the presidency in spite of his advanced age, and retaining his reputation as one of Africa’s oldest and longest serving leaders.
He was born on 13 February 1933 in Mvomeka’a, a small town outside Sangmelima in the South region, where he is believed to spend a lot of time these days.
Unlike the anniversary of his arrival to power on 6 November, the president’s birthday is not publicly celebrated but is a remarkable political milestone because of how long he has been in power.
Biya has been in power since 1982. He succeeded Ahmadou Ahidjo, the country’s first post-colonial leader, who resigned suddenly on 4 November that year.
At 83, Biya is the second oldest African leader after Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old Robert Mugabe. He is also the second longest serving African leader, after Eduardo Dos Santos of Angola who has ruled his country since 1979.
The president’s current term runs until 2018, but his supporters – including ministers, members of his ruling CPDM part and some musicians – have been calling for a constitutional revision, an early poll and urging him to seek reelection.
Opponents have called the move irresponsible.
Biya made changes in the constitution in 2008 that qualify him for the next election. Cameroon has no upper age limit on presidential candidates.
At more than 80, many expect the president’s health to be frail at best. But his medical condition is a highly guarded secret and the media is not allowed to report on it.