Cameroonian President Paul Biya is celebrating his 41-year rule over the central African nation.
Last year, thousands gathered in the capital, Yaoundé, for the occasion but the president did not attend.
After seven years as the central African country’s prime minister, he entered the presidential palace on November 6, 1982, becoming only the second head of state since independence from France in 1960.
Many voices within the ruling Democratic Rally of the Cameroonian People (RDPC) have already called for him to vie in the 2025 presidential election for an 8th, 7-year term.
Critics of his regime, however, wore black on Sunday. Some cited corruption, bad governance, and an ongoing succession battle.
After the fall of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe in 2017, Biya became Africa’s oldest president and its longest-serving after Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who seized power in 1979.
In recent years he has cracked down on all opposition, political and armed, earning him rare criticism from the United Nations and Western capitals.
Under him, Cameroon has faced challenges in recent years that range from a secessionist movement in the country’s English-speaking regions to the threat in the north posed by Islamic extremists aligned with the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group.
Critics point to the role that corruption has played in entrenching Biya’s regime, with the spoils allegedly going to his allies in government, the security forces and the president’s family.
Last year, political analyst Aristide Mono said the celebrations around Biya’s 40th anniversary in power were “part of a tradition of sanctification.”
“The people in charge of these various mobilizations are very much driven by the logic of clientelism, as each tries to show his allegiance, to show a lot of fidelity and loyalty,” Mono said.
Displays of loyalty have become particularly important as Biya gets older. The president’s son, Franck Biya, has been more visible at his father’s side. Some think he is positioning himself as a possible successor.
There are fears chaos could break out in a country with more than 200 different ethnic groups once the president’s long tenure ends.
“Biya hasn’t taken the time to prepare a successor, someone who could amply inherit his power,” Mono said.
The president who celebrated his 90th anniversary in February last won a presidential election in 2018.
His public appearances are limited to pre-recorded, painstakingly delivered televised speeches.