Cameroon his holding Presidential elections this Sunday, and incumbent Paul Biya – who’s ruled the country for 29 years – is expected to win and continue its authoritarian rule.
The Cameroonian philosopher and post-colonial theorist Achille Mbembe is one of the most insighhtful commentators on African politics. His recent interview at Slate Afrique (translated into English by Dibussi Tande on his blog “Scribbles from the Den“) on the subject of the elections, which he defines as a “non-event”, is a must-read from start to finish, but here’s an extract I found particularly interesting:
QS: How do you explain Paul Biya’s longevity at the helm of the state for 29 years?
ANS: Having understood very early on that in order to stay as long as possible in power, one had to do nothing, Biya put in place a new system of government which I call government by inaction. Biya studied Machiavelli a lot, and successfully adapted his lessons to a typically African situation. Paul Biya’s genuis is to have discovered that power has no objective other than power itself. The goal of those in power is not to accomplish any grandiose project whatsoever. It is simply to hold on to power. Thus, to govern is to not govern.