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2007-02-22 13:05:00
Embassy Yaounde
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DE RUEHYD #0227/01 0531305
R 221305Z FEB 07
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 08 YAOUNDE 000227 




E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2017

REF: A. 06 YAOUNDE 440

B. 06 YAOUNDE 191



Classified By: Ambassador Niels Marquardt, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).





E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/13/2017

REF: A. 06 YAOUNDE 440

B. 06 YAOUNDE 191



Classified By: Ambassador Niels Marquardt, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (SBU) President Biya's 74th birthday (February 13,
2007) revived speculation about who might succeed him,
especially if were not to complete his term in office (which
ends in 2011). The latest round of succession talk began
last year following his spring 2006 illness (Ref. A), and his
finally surpassing his sole predecessor in length of service
(24 years, and counting). Though no one is willing to put
himself forward as a possible successor or -- aside from
certain opposition politicians -- even admit openly to
presidential aspirations, there is a short list of popular
favorites whom we profile here. While this cable is not
meant to predict a successor or to weigh the chances of the
various individuals seen here as possible contenders, we
nevertheless have grouped the individuals into loose
categories reflecting where they stand today. In Cameroon's
complicated political system and society, far more than
qualifications will influence the selection of the next
president. Septel will report on the political context in
which the 2011 elections will take place, and should be seen
as a companion piece to this essentially biographic report.

Immediate Constitutional Successor:

2. (U) Should President Biya resign, die in office, or be
found incompetent to perform his duties, his temporary
constitutional successor would be the President (Speaker) of
the National Assembly whose term would last 40 days until new
Presidential elections are held. (In reality, 40 days would
not be sufficient and this interim period would have to be
extended.) He is constitutionally ineligible to run as the
permanent successor. (Note: Ref. B details the mechanics of
the constitutional succession).

3. (U) Djibril CAVAYE YEGUIE, President of the National

Assembly, is a native of the Far North Province. A physical
education teacher by training, he was a civil servant for
several years before entering politics in the early 1970s.
He served in Parliament from 1973-1978 and 1983-1988. He did
not run in 1988 but was elected again in 1992, facing
challengers from other parties for the first time. CAVAYE
YEGUIE was elected President of the National Assembly on
March 31, 1992 and has been re-elected every year since then.

4. (C) A member of the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic
Movement (CPDM), CAVAYE YEGUIE is not a particularly
charismatic figure and is seen as a political lightweight
easily manipulated by the Presidency. Some in his party even
question his repeated re-election as National Assembly
President. Nevertheless, he is an asset to the party in the
populous and thus politically important Far North Province --
where Biya and the CPDM are strong -- and he enjoys President
Biya's confidence. A Muslim, CAVAYE YEGUIE is married with



Prime Minister Ephraim INONI

5. (SBU) A relatively successful Prime Minister who
expresses no personal political ambition other than to serve
his president well, Ephraim INONI's competence has made him
in the eyes of many an obvious possible successor to
President Biya, although public opinion generally does not
give any Anglophone much chance at this time.

YAOUNDE 00000227 002 OF 008

6. (U) A native of the South West Province, INONI was born
August 16, 1947. Prior to joining the government he was a
primary school teacher. INONI is a Treasury Inspector
trained at the National School of Administration and
Magistracy (ENAM) in 1977; he also holds a master's degree
from Southeastern University in Washington, DC (1982-1984).
A member of the CPDM, INONI is married with four children; an
Anglophone, he is also fluent in French; indeed, he governs
almost exclusively in French.

7. (U) Prior to his appointment as PM on December 8, 2004,
INONI served for 12 years as Deputy Secretary General of the
Presidency, where a key responsibility was the national
program of bilingualism. He also was the GRC point person on
Bakassi and some speculate that his appointment as PM was a
reward for the ICJ ruling in Cameroon's favor. From
1982-1992 INONI held a series of finance, budget, salary and
treasury positions throughout Cameroon and in the Embassy in
Washington. He has served on several boards and gave up his
position of Chairman of the Board of Administrators of
Standard Chartered Bank, Cameroon when he became Prime

8. (U) When he came to the Prime Minister's office, some
wondered if INONI would be strong enough to exert a firm grip
over the Cabinet, especially in the face of strong,
independent and politically well-connected ministers like his
powerful former boss (until September 22, 2006, when he was
appointed Foreign Minister) Presidential Secretary General
ATANGANA MEBARA. (Other former bosses who now work -- at
least nominally -- for INONI include Interior Minister
MARAFA, PTT Minister BELLO Bouba, and Vice Prime Minister
Amadou ALI.) In his two years on the job, INONI has
established himself as a reasonaly strong and effective
leader with generally good control over most of Biya's
Ministers; however, his power is derived entirely from Biya's
and he has no political base of his own. He has achieved
impressive results in helping Cameroon reach the HIPC
completion point, in combatting corruption and revamping the
civil service.

Minister of Territorial Administration
and Decentralization

9. (C) A dynamic, personable and energetic man, MARAFA
HAMIDOU YAYA has an excellent relationship with the U.S.
Embassy -- as well as the French, Japanese, British, and
others. Like PM INONI, MARAFA's intelligence and
effectiveness have raised his national profile and make him a
possible presidential candidate -- perhaps even the
front-runner. He is the sole Cameroonian to have admitted,
albeit privately, to the Ambassador that he harbors that
ambition. He is also the likely preference of every Western
Ambassador in town, including this one. MARAFA's current
responsibilities include organizing the 2007 legislative
elections and pushing for improved security in Cameroon. His
personality, competence, and bilingualism also make him a
point person of choice to carry important messages abroad for

10. (SBU) MARAFA was born in 1952 in the North Province. A
U.S.-trained petroleum engineer (University of Kansas, 1980),
MARAFA also holds a BA in Geology from the University of
Yaounde (1976). A (not very devout) Muslim, MARAFA is a
senior member of the CPDM, fluent in both English and French
and married to a woman from Douala, with (adopted) children.
His marriage -- to a non-Muslim not from his region -- is
unpopular at home in Garoua, which means he has a better
national base of power than he does in his home town --
something unusual for a Cameroonian politician.

11. (U) Before entering government, MARAFA worked for the
National Hydrocarbons Company (SNH) where he served as head
of the Exploration and Production Department (1981-1990) and
as Technical Adviser in charge of relations with the IMF and
World Bank (1990-1992). In November 1992, MARAFA joined the
Ministry of Finance. He was appointed Special Adviser to the

YAOUNDE 00000227 003 OF 008

President in 1995, Secretary General at the Presidency in
1997, Minister of State and Secretary General in 2001. Biya
jailed MARAFA for several years after the 1984 coup attempt,
although there was no evidence against him, but the two have
obviously reconciled and Biya relies on MARAFA for advice on
many key issues.

12. (SBU) MARAFA became Minister of Territorial
Administration and Decentralization (MINATD) in October 2002
when legislative and municipal elections were postponed due
to poor organization. President Biya needed someone he could
trust and MARAFA has proved his reliability within a
sensitive ministry. MARAFA has worked hard to instill a
sense of national (vice provincial) loyalty among MINATD
employees and is the first Minister of Territorial
Administration to conduct a national tour to educate
Cameroonians about the importance of elections and
encouraging voter registration. He is widely seen as having
improved election organization and since February 2006 has
begun work on decentralization which is needed badly in

Amadou ALI
Vice Prime Minister and
Minister of Justice

13. (C) Depending on the prosecution of the country's
anti-corruption campaign, Amadou ALI could ride a tide of
popular support into higher office. At the same time,
however, he is making numerous, important enemies. As
Minister of Justice, ALI has a solid reputation for
competence and integrity. A garrulous but unassuming man,
ALI gives no indications of presidential aspirations, though
his impeccable reputation might make him a popular choice of
people fed up with corrupt government officials and looking
for a transitional figure they can trust. Biya obviously
trusts him with the most sensitive work now under way in
Cameroon. His main weaknesses are what is described as a
"poor education" and his lack of English -- though neither
seem to have hampered him in tough jobs. He is among the
most accessible Ministers to this Embassy, and most others,
and is regularly seen at diplomatic events. His current wife
is a medical doctor and they have one son together. His
first marriage, arranged when he was very young, produced
daughters who are 30 years older than his teenage son.

14. (U) A native of the Far North province, ALI was born in

1943. He is a devout Muslim, speaks French fluently and
understands some (but nevers speaks) English. He trained as
a civil administrator at ENAM (1971) and has a diploma from
the International Institute for Public Administration in
Paris (1970). ALI has been in government continuously since
1985 and has served in a number of ministries, including
Interior, Defense, and the National Gendarmerie. He served
as Secretary General at the Presidency (1996-7) and has been
Justice Minister since 2001 (and concurrently Vice Prime
Minister since 2004). ALI represented Cameroon before the
International Court of Justice in the dispute with Nigeria
over the Bakassi peninsula and is still the head of
Cameroon's delegation to the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed

Laurent ESSO
Secretary General at the Presidency


15. (C) Laurent ESSO is another of Cameroon's quietly
competent senior officials with a clean reputation, who seems
to enjoy the president's full confidence and whom many
believe is the one to watch. Indeed, he seems to be made
almost exactly in Biya's own quiet mold, and it would be
surprising -- in exactly the same was it was with Biya in
1982 -- to see him assume power. As Foreign Minister
(2004-2006) and as Defense Minister before that, ESSO was
distant, in part because he so often represented the
President at summit meetings and other international events;
however, his personality is cold and distance comes naturally

YAOUNDE 00000227 004 OF 008

to him with both foreigners and Cameroonians. He seldom met
with Ambassadors, even when in town. His move to the
presidency as Secretary General in the September 22, 2006
cabinet re-shuffle was seen as a sign of Biya's confidence in
him. Perhaps too reserved to be seen as a presidential
contender, he nonetheless has the experience and integrity
that could make him an attractive compromise candidate. As
neither a Northern Peuhl nor a Southern Beti, he represents
an option that could break a deadlock.

16. (U) ESSO was born on August 10, 1942 in Douala. He
received a BA in Law and Economics from the University of
Yaounde on 1969 and graduated as a lawyer at the National
School of Administration and Magistracy (ENAM). He is a
native French speaker, has a good knowledge of English but is
hesitant to speak it. ESSO joined the government in 1982 and
served in various functions at the presidency until 1996,
save a three year stint as Chancellor of the University of
Yaounde (1985-1988). In September 1996, ESSO was appointed
Minister of Justice; he moved to Health in 2000, to Defense
in 2001 and to External Relations in 2004. In every position
he was responsible for promoting quiet but positive change.
He is easily the most discreet member of Biya's inner circle.


Minister of Foreign Affairs

17. (C) Though viewed by some as a possible successor to
Biya, MEBARA is also rumored to be one of the more corrupt
officials in the government. This is perhaps why he was
removed from his post as Secretary General at the Presidency
in the September 2006 cabinet reshuffle and sent to the
Ministry of External Relations where, presumably, there will
be fewer opportunities to profit from his position. His
power base is now severely truncated and the reshuffle also
removed from government many of his closest Beti
collaborators. Should he be sanctioned for corruption it
would reduce greatly his chances of winning the presidency,
but not necessarily remove him from contention altogether.
There are growing rumors, however, that MEBARA could be among
those about to lose their government jobs. (Ref. C)
Allegations of corruption against MEBARA include getting his
hands into business deals that had to pass through the
Presidency for approval (most notably the "Albatross" whereby
the GRC paid for a Presidential aircraft which Biya found
unacceptable after only one hair-raising trip, and was then
unable to recover the funds paid for it), collecting large
sums from people in exchange for ministerial appointments,
and generally screening and filtering critical information
from reaching Biya.

18. (U) A native of the Center Province, MEBARA was born in
Yaounde in 1954. He received his BA from the Faculty of Law
and Economic Sciences at the University of Yaounde in 1977
and immediately entered public service. He left in 1978 for
France where he continued his studies, culminating with a
doctorate in Educational Economics in 1984. Since then, he
has worked in several ministries (including serving as
Minister for Higher Education), the PM's office and the
Presidency. In August 2002, he succeeded MARAFA as Secretary
General at the Presidency, a position he held until being
appointed Minister of External Relations in September 2006.
MEBARA is charming and speaks fluent English as well as

Polycarpe ABAH ABAH
Minister of Economy and Finance

19. (C) Unctuous and notoriously corrupt, Polycarpe ABAH
ABAH is also rich and powerful, leading some to suppose he
has escaped dismissal and arrest only because there are
greater concerns about the forces he could marshal if ousted.

YAOUNDE 00000227 005 OF 008

Amadou ALI has told the Ambassador that he is currently
investigating ABAH ABAH for alleged embezzlement in excess of
USD 200 million. The Prime Minister and Interior Minister
each recently told the Ambassador that Abah Abah recently
paid USD 30,000 to each of the Members of Parliament from his
native South Province, for undisclosed services rendered.

20. (C) Abah Abah is strongly rumored to have an enormous
network of personal business interests that trump the
national interest regularly. For example, he is said to have
a personal stake in the company to which he provisionally
awarded the Camair privatization contract, which remains
unsettled as he and the Prime Minister wrestle for control of
this sensistive file. While we have reason to believe that
his days as Minister of Economy and Finance could be numbered
(Ref. C), some fear that ABAH ABAH could stage -- or at least
finance -- a coup if President Biya were to die before ABAH
ABAH lands in jail. The extent of his abuse of office,
particularly as Director of Taxation, is so widely suspected,
however, that many fear popular unrest could break out if
ABAH ABAH ascends to new political heights. He is seen by
most Cameroonians as a living, prospering symbol of all that
is wrong here, and the fact that he survived the September
reshuffle remains a source of anger and disbelief among both
diplomats and everyday Cameroonians.

21. (U) Born in 1954, Polycarpe ABAH ABAH earned a BA in
Economics from the University of Yaounde and a Masters in
Administration from the University of South Carolina (paid
for by a USAID scholarship). An eloquent Francophone, he is
also fully fluent in English. He trained as a tax inspector
and at ENAM. A member of the ruling CPDM, ABAH ABAH was
appointed Minister of Economy and Finance in December 2004.
Competent in his official capacity, ABAH ABAH is credited
with leading Cameroon to the HIPC Completion Point (April

Gregoire OWONA
Minister Delegate at the Presidency

22. (U) A native of the Center province, Gregoire OWONO was
born in 1950. He has served as Minister Delegate at the
Presidency in Charge of Relations with the Assemblies (the
National Assembly, or Parliament, and when the 1996
Constitution is fully implemented, the Senate) since December

1997. A member of the ruling CPDM, Owona is the Deputy
Secretary General of the party's central committee -- a

position in which his influence is limited by his notoriously
bad relations with ailing CPDM Secretary General Charles
DOUMBA. OWONA is a computer specialist and ran a private
computer software business before joining government.

23. (U) As a possible presidential contender, OWONA is
appealing for being a moderate and a reformer within the CPDM
and for his openness to dialogue, a trait that has enhanced
his effectiveness in dealing with the parliamentary
opposition. OWONA is Vice Chairman of the National
Commission on Human Rights and was an International Visitor
in 1989.

Maurice KAMTO
Minister Delegate to the
Minister of Justice

24. (SBU) If there is a Barack Obama in Cameroon, it might
very well be Maurice KAMTO, a French-educated International
Law scholar and a prominent member of Cameroonian civil
society. Born in 1954 in the West province, KAMTO served as
the Dean of the Faculty of Legal and Political Sciences at
the University of Yaounde II before his appointment to the
Cabinet. He has a reputation as a brilliant intellectual
with unquestioned personal integrity and strong, progressive
ideas on democracy and human rights, views that got him

YAOUNDE 00000227 006 OF 008

jailed in the mid-eighties. KAMTO served as a legal adviser
for Cameroon's legal team on the International Court of
Justice ruling on the Bakassi dispute, and now serves on the
UN International Law Commission. A Francophone, KAMTO also
speaks fluent English. He is married to a senior diplomat at
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs who currently is in charge of
European Affairs.


Opposition Leader

25. (SBU) A native of the West province, Dr. Amadou NDAM
NJOYA was born May 8, 1942. He is a French-educated jurist
and political scientist, fluent in both English and French.
He is chairman of the Cameroon Democratic Union (UDC).
Although a career diplomat, NDAM NJOYA has been out of the
Foreign Ministry for a long time. Before entering politics,
he served as a university professor (1969-72), first director
of the International Relations institute of Cameroon (IRIC,
1972-75), Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs (1975-77),
Minister of National Education (1977-80) and at the
Presidency. He was selected as the consensus opposition
candidate in the run-up to the 2004 Presidential election,
having fulfilled the criteria as the most likely person
seriously to challenge Paul Biya, but the agreement fell
apart when John FRU NDI of the SDF decided to maintain his
own candidacy. He has been called "the best President
Cameroon will never have."

Bernard "Ben" MUNA
Opposition Faction Leader

26. (U) "Ben" MUNA belongs to one of Cameroon's most
prominent families. A bilingual Anglophone from the North
West province, MUNA has a legal background and is a faction
leader of the opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF).
Despite his prominent role in the SDF, MUNA also enjoys
support among members of the ruling Cameroon People's
Democratic Movement (CPDM). MUNA's law firm, probably the
best known in Cameroon, owes much of its success to the
family's connections and access to high levels of government.
As a result, Ben MUNA has been able to maintain good
professional relations with people throughout government,
despite his role as an opposition figure.

27. (U) 67 years old, MUNA studied law in England
(1959-1966) and registered with the London Bar in May 1966.
He held several jobs in provincial courts in Cameroon from
August 1966-1970 before leaving to form his own law firm. In
1974 he moved to Yaounde, rising to prominence in the legal
community and eventually being elected Chairman of the
Cameroon Bar Association in 1986. When the multiparty
system was established in December 1990, MUNA became an early
member of the Social Democratic Front, but was unsuccessful
in his attempt to become the party's presidential candidate
in 1992. In 2006 he again challenged the existing party
leadership, which has, for all intents and purposes, split
the SDF into two rival and, for the moment, irreconcilable

Opposition Leader

28. (C) Ironically, Cameroon's most prominent and
electorally successful opposition leader, Social Democratic
Front Chairman John FRU NDI, is the one perennial candidate
most people have already written off. FRU NDI's very public
rift with Ben Muna over leadership of the SDF has painted FRU
NDI as a divider rather than a unifier -- as did his selfish
behavior before the 2004 election (when he reneged on a deal

YAOUNDE 00000227 007 OF 008

that would have made NDAM NJOYA the consensus opposition
candidate). With 22 seats in Parliament, albeit down from 43
in 1997, the SDF is still the leading opposition party by a
wide margin. Nevertheless, the SDF has been unable or
unwilling to transform itself from the leading oppostion
party to the leader of the opposition parties. In 1992, when
FRU NDI won 36 percent of the ballots to Biya's 40 percent
(according to official results, which FRU NDI still
challenges), he was a real contender. Since then, however,
his national appeal has eroded considerably. Those who might
have seen the SDF as the opposition's hope for winning the
presidency in 2011 now are more inclined to blame the SDF for
its total disarry and for handing the CPDM an easy victory.

29. (U) A native of the North West Province, John FRU NDI
was born in 1941. He studied commerce in Nigeria and worked
for several companies there before returning to Cameroon
where he has been involved in the book selling business for
some years. FRU NDI has been the leader of the Social
Democratic Front since 1990. His constituency is
concentrated in the Anglophone North West and South West
provinces. FRU NDI is the only Presidential candidate in
2004 to have campaigned in all 10 provinces, but he was --
and is -- hampered by a lack of knowledge of French.



30. (U) This group of possible candidates might also be
called "sentimental favorites," whose electoral chances would
be enhanced significantly if sitting ministers do not pursue
the presidency. All enjoy broad popularity because of their
intellect and proven competence. Henri HOGBE NLEND and
Marcel YONDO are not members of current power circles --
something that is an organizational disadvantage but
popularly appealing. While it is not clear that Cameroon is
ready for a female president, 2011 is four years away and
Aissatou YAOU is the one woman in Cameroon with the proven
record in government (not to mention strong ruling party
credentials) and broad-based appeal to launch a credible
campaign. If popular sentiment in 2011 Cameroon is to "throw
the bums out," these outsiders could be suddenly

Former Minister of Finance

31. (U) A member of the opposition UPC (Union of the Peoples
of Cameroon), Henri HOGBE NLEND was in government until 2002.
He was an unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1997,
garnering 2 percent of the vote, but was named Minister of
Scientific and Technical Research in December 1997. Well
liked and respected at the time, some believe that he was
removed because he was so popular; he did not run for
president in 2004 because of strong competition within the
UPC. A long-time expatriate, HOGBE NLEND, the first
Cameroonian to earn a doctorate in mathematics, was a
professor of mathematics for 23 years at the University of
Bordeaux. A native of the Littoral province, HOGBE NLEND is
in his late 60s.

Former Minister of Finance

32. (U) A native of the South province, Edouard AKAME
MFOUMOU, was born on August 14, 1945. He holds a BA in Law
from the University of Yaounde (1969), trained at ENAM, is a
member of the CPDM and remains active in the party. AKAME
MFOUMOU served as Minister of Economy and Finance from
September 1996-April 2001. He was judged to be competent and
had good relations with the IMF and World Bank. He was an
early champion of anti-corruption by ending the practice
within his ministry of making contractors turn over 30
percent of their bills in order to have their vouchers paid.
Several months before he left office, supporters circulated

YAOUNDE 00000227 008 OF 008

"Akame for President" flyers in Yaounde and Douala, prompting
some to speculate that his popularity led to his removal.

Marcel YONDO
Former Minister of Finance

33. (SBU) Marcel YONDO served as Minister of Finance under
Ahidjo. He is the president of the Movement for the
Liberation and Development of Cameroon (MLDC) and was active
in politics in the 1990s, even running for President in 1997,
and garnering more than 1 percent of the vote. Apparently a
man before his time, YONDO did not run for president in 2004
because he favored uniting the opposition behind a single
candidate, an approach that failed. He has remained active
in a range of gatherings that bring together prominent
opposition leaders and intellectuals. Cognizant of his
intellectual capabilities, YONDO has been described as seeing
himself in a class above the rest, a view that could alienate
potential supporters.

34. (U) A native of the Littoral Province, YONDO was born on
July 23, 1937. He studied in France, earning a Ph.D. in
economics from the University of Grenoble. Returning to
Cameroon after his studies in 1968, he was named Assistant
Director of Salaries at the Ministry of Finance. He moved to
the Presidency in 1971 as Technical Adviser for Economic and
Financial Affairs. In 1973 he became the National Director
of the Bank of Central African States (BEAC), where he
remained until 1975 when he was named Minister of Finance, a
position he held until 1979.

Aissatou YAOU
General Manager,
National Investment Corporation

35. (U) Mme. Aissatou YAOU, currently General Manager of
the National Investment Corporation (SNI), has been a
trail-blazer among women in Cameroon. Though not known to
have personal political ambitions, she is nonetheless the
national president of the Women's Organization of the
Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement. She was the first
woman to lead the Ministry of Women's Affairs, she is the
second longest serving minister (16 years, 1984-2000). She
is responsible for enacting laws that changed the lives of
women nation wide, such as abolishing the requirement that
wives get permission from their husbands to travel, and has
enacted women's empowerment centers throughout Cameroon.

36. (U) A Muslim, YAOU was born in Garoua, in the North
Province on November 28, 1951. She is a French and
U.S.-educated economist, studying at the Universities of Le
Mans and Rouen, where she earned a BA in Economics in 1975.
In 1979 she earned an MBA from Claremont Graduate school.
Returning to Cameroon, she worked at SNI from 1981-1984,
before being appointed Minister of Women's Affairs (later
Social and Women's Affairs), a position she held until she
left government in 2000 and rejoined SNI. In 1986 she was an
International Visitor. (Ref. D offers more bio details on
Mme. YAOU.)