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Cameroon: President Paul Biya Surprises Ministers, Holds First Cabinet Meeting Since 2015

Cameroon’s octogenarian President Paul Biya, who has ruled the central African country with an iron grip for decades, held his first cabinet meeting since 2015 on Thursday.

A brief letter calling his council of ministers to the Unity Palace did not reveal the agenda. Prime Minister Philemon Yang read out a statement afterwards on state TV, saying Biya had insisted that they “continue working”.

There was no explanation of why he had called the session and no other officials were permitted to speak about what went on in the conclave.

The president had told his cabinet that “the best way to serve the country is to do everything, to make all the sacrifices that are needed,” the prime minister said.

“There are a lot of things to do,” Biya had added, singling out the Africa Cup of Nations annual soccer tournament that Cameroon is to host in 2019, and the presidential election in October this year.

Minutes are never published, but if past cabinet meetings – often two or three years apart – are anything to go by, there would have been just one man talking. One in 2011 lasted ten minutes during which Biya entered, read out a speech, then left.

Biya has ruled virtually by decree since taking over from a retired predecessor in 1982 and then winning an election by 99.98 per cent a year later.

The meeting came as Cameroon faces a violent separatist movement in its western Anglophone region that a military crackdown has failed to quell.

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