YAOUNDE (Reuters) - Cameroon’s President Paul Biya said on Friday he would run for re-election in October, aiming to extend his 36-year rule and keep his place on the roster of Africa’s longest-serving leaders.
The 85-year-old who came to power in 1982 when his predecessor retired is seeking a seventh term that could see him rule well into his 90s.
It would leave him in rare company after former Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh were ousted in 2017. Of Africa’s living rulers, only Equatorial Guinea’s President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo has ruled uninterrupted for longer.
“I am willing to respond positively to your overwhelming calls. I will stand as Your Candidate in the upcoming presidential election,” Biya said in a tweet.
Biya, who has ruled virtually by decree since taking office, scrapped term limits from the constitution in 2008, allowing him to run again and prompting riots in which more than 40 people were killed.
After a meeting with Biya on Friday, African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki said the organization would send an observation mission to the Oct. 7 polls, which come at a turbulent time for the Central African country and for Biya.
A separatist insurgency in the western English-speaking regions has killed more than 80 troops since September, while a drop in the price of Cameroon’s key cocoa and oil exports has weighed on the economy.
A convoy carrying Cameroon’s defense minister, Joseph Beti Assomo, was attacked on Thursday in the southwest, army spokesman Colonel Didier Badjeck said on Friday.
The minister was unharmed and the convoy resumed its journey, Badjeck said. Another military source said at least six separatist fighters were killed during the attack.
Reporting by Josiane Kouagheu; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Edward McAllister, Catherine Evans and Andrew Heavens