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Cameroon’s President Biya turns 90

Cameroonian President, Paul Biya, turned 90 on Monday, becoming, also, the world’s oldest leader.

Later on in the day, Mr Biya, who has also become the world’s second longest-running ruler, behind Equatorial Guinean President, Obiang Nguema, will be expected to cut a large cake, as he usually does on his birthday.

Media reports have cited some government officials as saying that the now spectacularly frail President will not be entertaining any elaborate celebrations to mark his 90th birthday.

As for Cameroon’s estimated 27 million people, the majority of them have not known any other leader.

The older population, however, may remember that their octogenarian ruler came to power in 1982 via a coup that toppled President Ahmadou Ahidjo, promising stability and democracy, and an end to corruption.

 Mr Biya’s critics have accused colonial masters, France, and elements within the military of placating him all these years.

They say support for the President among ordinary Cameroonians has evaporated over the years as economic progress has stalled, dissenting voices silenced, and the oil-producing country became split by a separatist uprising in the Anglophone regions that has killed thousands. There has also been a spiral in Boko Haram attacks in the country’s north.

“At 90, Biya should spend his days playing with his grandchildren,”  Edith Kah Walla, a civil society activist told Reuters.

“We live in a violent, brutal dictatorship. Over the past 40 years it has gotten more and more violent and brutal,” said Ms Kah Walla,  who was also one of Mr Biya’s challengers in the 2011 presidential election.

. “These 40 years are a huge setback for Cameroon,” she added.

Writing by Tony Okerafor