The Unforgiving Paul Biya of Cameroon: Endless exile of Ahmadou Ahidjo and no Room for Reconciliation

 The Unforgiving Paul Biya of Cameroon: Endless exile of Ahmadou Ahidjo and no Room for Reconciliation

N Melo
by N Melo
August 7, 2022 0

 The Unforgiving Paul Biya of Cameroon: Endless exile of Ahmadou Ahidjo and no Room for Reconciliation

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The body of the first president has never left Dakar since he died there in 1989.

His wife, Germaine Habiba, whom we met in the Senegalese capital, still raises the question of her husband’s return to his native country.

On November 30, 1989, Ahmadou Ahidjo passed away in his residence at Cap Manuel, in Dakar, Senegal. He was 65 years old, twenty-five of whom spent at the head of Cameroon. Noting the death, the former first lady, Germaine Habiba Ahidjo, requested and obtained from Thierno Mountaga Tall, Caliph of the Omar family and supervisor of the funeral, the right to depart from Muslim tradition and bury her husband. in a coffin. The request aimed to better preserve the remains of the deceased, to respect the last wishes that the latter had formulated in a letter addressed to Abdou Diouf, the Senegalese president. His wish: to be buried in his native land of Garoua (province in northern Cameroon).

Pending his repatriation, the body of the former head of state in exile was therefore temporarily buried in a vault in the Muslim cemetery of Yoff. Twenty-one years later, it still rests there.

“Ahidjo died on a Thursday. We buried him on Sunday without any Cameroonian official being present,” laments the widow. After the death of her husband, this half-breed of a Corsican father and a Fulani mother from the Far North of Cameroon, a state nurse, moved into a sober and elegant villa in the Dakar district of Almadies. She still resides there with Fatimatou, one of the three daughters from her marriage to Ahmadou Ahidjo. “Today, she confides, we live thanks to the rental of nine apartments located in the Plateau in a building acquired by my husband under Senghor, to whom he was close. »

Family or state affair

In Cameroon, voices are being raised to demand that finally, more than twenty years after his death, the remains of the first President of the Republic be repatriated, that a national tribute be paid to him and that, by this gesture, the country finally come to terms with his past.

Wasted effort. The family of the deceased and the Cameroonian authorities refuse to speak to each other and pass the buck. “I ask only one thing: the rehabilitation of Ahidjo, hammers the widow. I never asked Paul Biya directly, but I said it in interviews. On a set of France 24, in October 2007, Paul Biya defends himself from hindering anything: “Repatriation is, in my opinion, a family problem. If the family of my predecessor decides to transfer the remains of President Ahidjo, it is a decision that depends only on them. »

Foreign mediators have also failed to establish a dialogue. “Dahomean President Hubert Maga and Beninese President Émile Derlin Zinsou have repeatedly called for the rehabilitation and return of Ahidjo’s body to Cameroon. But Paul Biya never responded,” complains Germaine Ahidjo.

This is not the only misunderstanding that persists between the current head of state and part of his predecessor’s family. “As Ms. Ahidjo, I do not see myself returning to my country with a [diplomatic, editor’s note] Senegalese passport. It was Cameroon that took our papers away from us, it is up to them to give them back to us, ”explains the former first lady to Jeune Afrique .

On this delicate question also, Yaoundé gives a different version. According to the Palace of Etoudi, the Ahidjo daughters and sons come and go in Cameroon without any particular problem. “The son ofmy predecessor [Mohammadou Badjika Ahidjo, editor’s note] is a deputy”, likes to remark Paul Biya. Some do not fail to add that the most emblematic of the political heirs of the former president, Bello Bouba Maïgari, president of the National Union for Democracy and Progress (UNDP), has returned from exile and is part of the government. for over a decade. So who to believe?

Pariah after death

“The wounds caused by the bloody coup attempt of April 6, 1984 are still open, analyzes a former senior official. Perhaps the country is not yet ready to see Ahidjo again…” Unless it is a conflict between the current president and the most radical “Ahidjoists”. “As long as there is this dispute with Biya, I will not return to Cameroon, slice Ms. Ahidjo. They traumatized me, traumatized my children,” she continues.

As for the 1984 coup, which led to the former head of state being sentenced to death in absentia, Ms. Ahidjo continues to proclaim the innocence of her husband, who described him as “unhappy parenthesis”. That day, she recalls, a group of young officers from different army corps tried to seize power in Yaoundé. While in France, Ahidjo receives a phone call from Radio Monte-Carlo (RMC). The reporter asks him if he knows what’s going on. “But, Madame, you’re the one who taught me! he replies. “Mr. President, what if they were your supporters? raises the voice. “They will win”, dares the former president. For the power of Yaoundé, the crime is signed. Aggravating factor, it was a recurrence.

Indeed, after having resigned himself to handing over the presidency of the single party to his successor, the Cameroonian National Union (UNC), after a bitter leadership dispute, Ahidjo had been accused of having fomented a plot (known as “August 22, 1983″) and sentenced for the first time. Having become an outcast, the former president remained one after his death. Long after his death.

Germaine Ahidjo, the former First Lady of Cameroon, died in Senegal just like the husband

It was in Senegal where she had been in exile for 38 years that Germaine Ahidjo died. She died at the age of 89 and was buried in the Yoff cemetery in Dakar alongside her husband, Ahmadou Ahidjo, the first president of independent Cameroon, who died in 1989.

With our correspondent in Dakar, Théa Ollivier

The current Cameroonian President Paul Biya offered his condolences following the death of Germaine Ahidjo, former first lady from 1960 to 1982. The one he considers ” endowed with a strong personality “, ” contributed alongside her husband to the influence ” of Cameroon, according to the Head of State. It was ” the privileged witness to the history of its independence and the beginning of its construction as a free country “, he added

38 years of exile
However, Germaine Ahidjo has lived in Dakar for 38 years, exiled since the death sentence of her husband Ahmadou Ahidjo, accused of being involved in the failed coup of 1984, precisely against Paul Biya.

She then fought all her life to rehabilitate her husband and that his remains be repatriated to Cameroon during an official funeral. An unconditional demand for Germaine Ahidjo, even if it means creating discord with the Cameroonian authorities for years, without any agreement ever having been concluded. Even for her mother’s funeral, Germaine Ahidjo will never have set foot on the soil of her country of origin again before dying.

N Melo
NM
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