How dictators like Cameroon’s Paul Biya maintain control and remain in power

Nduta Waweru October 08, 2018
Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: October 8, 2018

How dictators like Cameroon's Paul Biya maintain control and remain in power

Control flow of information

Since knowledge is power, what best way to take away the people’s power than by controlling the information and news the masses have access to.

Many dictators have perfected this act. They either take away sources of information or bombard the masses with propaganda that works for them and against their enemies.

Such tactics have worked before in Africa where dictators have controlled the press.  In Equatorial Guinea, ruled by Africa’s longest-serving president, there are no private media. All radio and TV channels are run by the government, giving it control on what is broadcast. In Gabon, there are a few private media but all of them are run by people close to the government, which means only content favourable to the government is presented to the public.

In other cases, like Kenya in the 1980s and 90s, the national broadcaster had to feature a portrait of then President Daniel arap Moi and all news channels must start with the activities of the president.  Moi also ordered that a portrait of him should be put in every business, company and government offices.  It is said that some of his ministers had to wear lapel pins with an image of him on it.

This was also the case in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), where then-President Mobutu Sese Seko ordered that every news bulletin must start with a photo of his face descending from the heavens.  His reason: Zaireans need to remember that he was a deity.

Interestingly, Biya has taken the opposite move. Instead of making himself ‘omnipresent’ in the eyes of Cameroonians, he has decided to be an absentee president. Biya spends most of his time overseas, only coming back to Cameroon for special functions and events, including the just held elections on Sunday.

According to the president’s website, he only makes his remarks during important events such as summits or when appointing ministers. His travels and activities out of the country are also documented.


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