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Paul Biya, Cameroon’s Roaming President

Cameroonian president Paul Biya has long been known for his travels abroad for private business. With two Cameroonian journalists we calculated just how much time he had spent out of the country.

Each time the president comes and goes, this makes the cover of the government-owned newspaper Cameroon Tribune. So we collected and analysed 35 years, over 4000 editions, of this newspaper.

We revealed that Cameroon’s president spent at least 4.5 years on “brief private visits” since he came to power in 1982. Much of that time was spent at a 5-stars hotel in Geneva, adding up to around $200 millions in travel costs. This investigation was published by OCCRP.

Our findings were picked up by many outlets (e.g. BBC in French, in English, and in PidginDW, RFI, Voice of America, New York Times,  RTS Swiss radio, Courrier International etc.). The government-owned newspaper, Cameroon Tribune, did a cover page on our investigation, accusing us of destabilising the country, and the national TV news bulletin had several pieces with a similar critique.

I was interviewed by France 24 in French, France 24 in English, BBC Focus on Africa, BBC Newsday, BBC Focus on Africa, and RFI in English and in French.

I’ve also written a political analysis for African Arguments, looking at how these trips fit into Biya’s laissez-faire approach to ruling Cameroon and a piece explaining how we did it for OCCRP and for GIJN.