The cabinet reshuffle made by President Paul Biya comes as no surprise and brings no surprises. The perception that the few new faces that have been brought on board may be evidence of an institutional renewal or a shift in governmental policy towards dealing with increasingly new challenges may be misleading. The government is still very much the same old wine in old skin. President Paul Biya has sourced few individuals that are making their maiden entry into the ministerial level of governance from the same ministerial pool of ENAM administrators and bureaucratic careerists who have over the last half a century ran the polity aground.
The disastrous institutional, political, economic and so-cultural consequences on the majority poor caused by the arrogance, impunity, ineptitude and visionless governance by this category of civil servants are a source of great anxiety and potential violence. It is therefore misleading for anyone to characterize this as a new government. What occurred is a mere shuffle of familiar faces within ministerial positions and the recall or recycle of some who were previously dropped but placed on President Biya, tactical standby list of characteristic tribal misgovernance.
Apart from one or two outsiders coopted to give tactical cover this tribal cabal Paul Biya merely used this whitewash to further tame and control those power seeking members of the crime syndicate whom he identified, disgraced and jailed in Kondengui and their teaming supports in and out of their traditional constituencies. Some of his appointments are intended to circumscribe their ability and effectiveness to fight him from prison while relegating them and their potential influence to irrelevance while he charts perpetuates his eternal power.
The shuffle therefore is very much about Paul Biya and his desire to silence any potential threat to his regime of personal power. It signals no major policy changes, no desire to confront in any significant manner, the rising challenges confronting the polity and no sign that he will step down come 2018. Indeed, absent a clear statement regarding his willingness and or ability to hang on after 2018, many observers were hoping to read from a government shuffle signs on which they could analyze and predict the future of the polity which many agree is drifting in the wrong direction.
This shuffle alone provides an insufficient indicator on which to make a meaningful prediction. Considered with other factors however, it is possible to reasonably conclude that Paul Biya is on course to seek another mandate in 2018. This government, presently constituted, is not one that is intended to prepare the nation for a transition from thirty five years of personal rule. It is not one intended to bring meaningful reforms. It is not one intended to move the country out of its present dire predicament. Indeed, it is one intended to tighten the personal grip of Paul Biya on absolute power.
Those who may be speculating that come 2018, Paul Biya will willfully step down and make way for a new younger breed of leaders whom they hope will reconcile, a highly fragmented nation on the brink of disintegration should dream on. However, their hope and dreams may not be entirely hopeless, because these and others subterfuges intended to deflate the debate about the Paul Biya succession through cosmetic ministerial changes and other means may not be inelastic. 2018 it seems, is that magical year where Paul Biya may run out of tricks no matter the choices he makes. That year, the desire and will of a people considered too docile to take its destiny into its own hands may finally prevail.