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Shame as Cameroon’s 89-year-old president’s memory fails at global summit

By Wangu Kanuri January 21st, 2023 2 min read

It was disturbing. Shocking. Embarrassing. The 89-year-old Cameroonian President Paul Biya appeared to be completely unaware of where he was at the US Africa Leadership Summit in Washington DC. President Biya further appeared to not know why he was there.

A video clip on YouTube which captured the incident also showed how amazed the octogenarian Head of State was by the number of people in the room. He even asked whether he had become a celebrity.

“Who are all these people present?” he is heard asking in the clip. “Why? I did not ask for this,” he says.

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Efforts by his aide-de-camp to explain to him the purpose of his presence fails bear any fruits.

“Are there important personalities amongst them?” he inquires.

“Yes. President Kagame just spoke and it is your turn. You have the microphone,” the aide de camp explains.

“There are ministers in the room. Your mic is on. You have been introduced,” he adds.

“Okay you mean I should now speak? Where?” President Biya asks.

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“You can do it sitting down here,” the aide de camp answers

“Why?” he asks.

President Biya then begins scrutinizing the pamphlet that he was supposed to read. All this while he remains seated.

Then his aide-de-camp returns to the stage to prompt him but he remains seated perusing the pamphlet in his hand.

“Everyone is waiting for you to speak,” says the aide.

“Is there no one here to coordinate this?” President Biya shoots back.

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President Biya, who will be clocking 90 next month, marked 40 years in power in November last year. Biya is Africa’s second-longest serving leader behind Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, has been in power since 1979.

President Biya was Cameroon’s prime minister and became president in 1982 after his predecessor, Ahmadou Babatoura Ahidjo, Cameroon’s first president following the country’s independence from France, stepped down due to health reasons.

In 1994, two years after the death of his first wife, Jeanne-Irene, President Biya married Chantal, a former waitress and model almost 40 years younger than him, and who is famous for her exuberant hairstyles and high heels.

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