“I don’t understand why Paul Biya is still President of Cameroon” Chimamanda Adichie


Nigerian Writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has blamed Africa’s former colonial masters and the docile nature of Africans for the bad governance in the continent.

The award-winning author was speaking to TheAfricaReport about colonialism and politics when she was asked if she is annoyed with France for what is happening in Cameroon.

“Yup… I am very annoyed by it. What is happening in Cameroon, it’s not as if the French government doesn’t know about it, but the French government also has a long history of propping up dictators in Francophone Africa,” she said.

“Nobody wants to talk about that. And so, instead, we say that there’s corruption in Africa. Yes, there’s corruption in Africa, and I don’t mean to say that the leaders are not responsible”

“Paul Biya is responsible for Cameroon, but it’s possible for Paul Biya to be there because he’s been propped up by the French government.

“And it’s not only in Cameroon, it’s happened in all of francophone West Africa. I don’t want to excuse the British but in anglophone Africa the influence and meddling is not as direct and so there’s a sense that we are a bit more in charge of our destiny.”

Adichie said her experience with a friend from Anglophone part of Cameroon (the English speaking side) led her to published a column in the New York Times about the crisis in 2018.

“I have a dear friend who is from there and I’ve been really close to the Anglophone crisis because of him and his family, she said.

“I’m there when there’s a blackout in the Anglophone region and he can’t reach them on Whatsapp, or when he’s organising with his friends to send things back.

“So I had a kind of intimate experience with this particular African disaster which gave me the confidence to write about it – it really broke my heart.

“It’s not really that I thought it was like Biafra, but with so many of these problems you trace it back and realise that it originates in colonial policy.”

The author wondered what Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, is still doing in office, and says it is unbelievable that Cameroonians have basically done nothing about it.

“I don’t understand why Paul Biya is still the president of Cameroon, I’m sorry, I don’t. How can you have somebody who has been in power pretty much my whole life?,” she said.

“But you see my problem is: why are Cameroonian citizens accepting this? There is something we lack in this part of Africa, which is that spirit of rising up and saying no.”

The Novelist also said that Africa has not completely shaken off colonialism, adding that pan-Africanism is the answer to the problems bedeviling the continent.

“The things that are happening all over Africa are not surprising, this is what happens when you create countries randomly, based on what is convenient for you,” she said.

“When we start to have good and accountable leadership in Africa, we will start to deal with the legacy of colonialism. It’s going to take a long time.

“But you have to remember colonialism was a dictatorship – there was nothing to learn from. Nigeria is an example, of course – I don’t think we’ve had fundamentally good leadership since we became independent.

“I think we (Africans) don’t talk enough to one another and we’re always looking outwards. Again I think leadership is the problem because you have all these men with their own egos.

“I don’t think it will be a utopia, but a more united Africa, an Africa that treads more with one another. Part of the problem is that the rest of the world sees Africa as something to use, and, sadly, Africans agree.”

In the same interview, Chimamanda also explained why she is not an ambassador for Nigeria and why she initially refused to be an American citizen. Read here!

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