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July 05, 1985 - Image 19

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-07-05

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH

sensitive to reports in the French and
Israeli press that Israel is training a
presidential guard to protect President ,
Paul Biya.
Unique among African leaders, Biya is
considered a pragmatic intellectual with a
sincere desire to help his countrymen,
more committed to enriching his nation
than his own pockets. After serving in
government for 22 years, he assumed the
presidency in November 1982, following
the resignation of President Ahmadou
Ahidjo. Biya was re-elected in 1984.
Cameroon is a model of African-style
democracy, which is to say that strides are
being taken to give citizens more freedom
but within the framework of a one-party
system. "One has to view democracy in
Africa in a different light," explains an
Israeli official. "Experience shows that
when there is more than one party, the
people tend to follow their tribes rather
than an ideology. Nigeria has frequent
elections but they alio have frequent
coups." He praised Biya for his policies in
general and his relationship with Israel in
particular.
During a 45-minute meeting with Biya
in the splendid Yaounde executive palace
—photographs were not permitted; Biya
is reportedly embarrassed By the lavish-
ness of the palace, built by his predecessor
—the soft-spoken president gave every in-
dication that formal relations with Israel
were forthcoming, it was just a matter of
time and timing.
"It is natural for us to have relations
with Israel," said Biya, speaking in French
and recalling the "warm cooperation"
Cameroon shared with Israel up to the
Yom Kippur War. "We are re-evaluating
our relationship with Israel positively. If
we are a sovereign people, concerned with
our own interests, why can't we have a
cooperative friendship with Israel?"
He spoke of how the Jewish people have
contributed so much to mankind, of his
people's respect for Judaism and their
warm feelings towards Israel. If a referen-
dum were held today in Cameroon, he said,
70 percent of the population would favor
renewing full diplomatic ties with Israel.
What Biya did not say is that he is mov-
ing cautiously towards this step for
several reasons: he is pragmatic by nature,
he has only been in power three years and
wants to further solidify his position
before making such a move, and he is con-
cerned about reactionciamong Cameroon's
Muslims (about 20 percent of the popula-
tion) and the Arab states, especially Libya.
For now, Israeli officials are pleased
with the pace and depth of their relation-
ship with Cameroon and do not want to
pressure Biya.
But all indications point to a continuing
trend of improved relations between Israel
and Cameroon as part of a major effort for
the Jewish state to regain influence in
Africa.

tgwp:

,Friday,; July 5, 1985 19

Gadi Golan, a veteran
diplomat, is Israel's man
in Cameroon, posing here
at his Yaounde home.

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At left, a crowded
neighborhood In Yaounde,
the capital of Cameroon.
Below, the presidential
mansion, which some say
Is a source of embarrass-
ment for President Paul
Biya. The mansion was
built by his predecessor.

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