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Biya’s Limousine Malfunction Smears May 20 Celebrations 

By Yerima Kini Nsom

President Paul Biya’s hopes of a smooth presiding over the 44th edition of the National Day in Yaounde on May 20, 2916 were momentarily dashed when his limousine broke down on the May 20 Boulevard.
The breakdown simply marred the fanfare that had started to spice the celebrations.

Biya’s embarrassment started when he climbed into the black limousine and it could not start despite the driver’s attempts to bring the engine to life. The President was then forced to abandon the crippled limo for another one that was on standby, to perform the ritual of reviewing the guard of honour and waving at the crowd.

Meantime, the Presidential guard had to lend a hand to push the broken down car and parked it somewhere behind the grandstand.
That misadventure sparked off varied reactions as some onlookers wailed in disapproval while the images on the social media went viral.

Apparent doomsayers interpreted the incident as signs of end times to the Biya regime. They claimed that the incident was pregnant with extraordinary circumstances.
But many people, who watched the scene, said it was just an ordinary misfortune that the Presidential limousine developed a technical fault during an event as important as the National Day.
A diplomatic official told The Post that the incident could be very embarrassing, but remarked that it was very ordinary.

He recalled that US President Barack Obama’s car broke down during his visit to Ireland in 2013. Obama’s “Chrysler” car suffered a technical fault after it was fed with the wrong fuel.

The Ghanaian President suffered the same embarrassment two years ago on his country’s Independence Day when his state car “Toyota Camry”, broke down. As embarrassing as it was, the Yaounde incident is no novelty. A few years ago, President Biya’s car had a tyre puncture in the Mvan neighbourhood in Yaounde and that delayed his journey to his native Mvomeka village in the South Region. But comments at the corridors of the Unity Palace were somewhat accusatory to the effect that someone in the car maintenance chain might not have done his work properly. There are fears that heads will roll on the issue.

This year’s National Day was celebrated under the theme: “Defence forces and the dynamic forces of the nation standing together to combat terrorism and preserve peace and territorial integrity.”

Given the security context in which it was celebrated, the forces of law and order conducted aggressive checks. People were not allowed to get to the grandstand with their phones. In some cases, some security officials simply told people to put off their phones.

The May 20 Boulevard and its environs, were awash with plain clothes security operatives on a red alert.

Rented Militants

Only parties represented in Parliament were allowed to march on May 20. Thus the nine political parties were in a scramble to showcase their numerical strength. It was business as usual as parties made last-minute recruitment of students to swell their ranks.

Many young girls and boys dressed in black skirts and trousers respectively, were in the place, waiting to grab the T-shirt of any political party that proposed the highest fee for the march-past.
The deals, The Post learnt, ranged between FCFA 1000 and 3000.

As usual, the ruling CPDM party stole the show with a huge crowd of militants that marched-past in front of the Presidential tribune. They chanted doxologies on President Biya, calling him the “android president.” As SDF marched-past, they chanted their clenched-fist slogan; “Power to the people and equal opportunities.”
March-past of the defence forces was marked by a contingent of troops from Niger Republic.

Sentenced To Unity Palace Dinnerbiya-limo

Being part of dinner at the Unity Palace on May 20 was a tough battle. People started streaming in as early as 2 pm for the epicurean party that was slated for 6 pm. They were sentenced to standing in the hot sun for hours. The security checks were stricter. No cell-phones, no electronic devices, in general, were allowed in.

The security and protocol officers were permanently on their heels to contain the over 10,000 man-crowd. After waiting in the hot sun for long, one middle-aged man cut the posture of Ferdinand Oyono’s fiction construct, Meka, in The Old Man and the Medal. He removed his black pair of shoes and stood dejected with socks on the tarmac. He sweated profusely even as the sun had begun to set.

As one survived the security checks into the esplanade of the State House, there was hope of savouring the Unity Palace dinner. When one reached the red carpet that leads to the right wing of the palace, it was like crossing the Rubicon. One woman who had stood for too long suffered a malaise at the entrance to the hall. Medics rescued her.

Meanwhile, there was free-for-all eating and drinking. Many, especially those who came for the first time, scrambled to feel television cameras.

All these happened in the “shaba” meant for the less prominent. The main hall where the President moved round greeting guests was another world, that of the high and mighty of the society. Here, invited guests to the Yaounde International Economic Conference, Ministers, Ambassadors, top class business people, politicians and their spouses mingled freely. There was calm and serenity as guests hugged each other.

The President sauntered in, shook hands with some of the guests for less than 20 minutes and went back to his abode. The curtains then officially fell on the 2016 National Day celebrations.

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