- aid - Cameroon - development - Mediterranean Union - Paul Biya
Presidential holidays have often turned into poisoned gifts for world leaders whose summer activities are scrutinised by press and pundits. Cameroon's President Paul Biya is the latest to attract media attention for his costly holidays in the fashionable French sea resort of La Baule.
The presidential couple, Paul, his wife Chantal and their followers, have taken up residence in two luxury hotels in the western resort, occupying 43 rooms for three weeks at an estimated total cost of 800,000 euros, according to French media reports. And that’s not including restaurants, shopping sprees and luxury spas.
Staff at five-star hotel L’Hermitage confirmed that the Cameroonian leader was staying at the hotel for three weeks but refused to comment on the number of rooms he had booked.
Biya’s holidays has attracted much media attention because France announced in July it would grant Cameroon 537 million euros over five years to battle debt and poverty. According to the CIA factbook, almost half of the Cameroonian population lives below the poverty line.
According to French website Rue89, the added costs of summer holidays for US President Barack Obama, former US president George W. Bush and French President Nicolas Sarkozy have all been dwarfed by Biya’s expenses during his visit to La Baule.
The Obama family relaxed for a week on the US island Martha’s Vineyard, renting a house for an estimated 24,000 to 35,000 euros at their own expense. The question begs to be answered, who will foot the bill for Biya’s slinky French vacations?
Honoured in La Baule
While the press have been picking at Biya’s expenses, La Baule's mayor Yves Metaireau chose to honour the African leader and grant him the town’s medal of honour during a ceremony at the town hall on Friday.
“We are receiving a friend,” said the mayor, who refrained from commenting on Cameroonian politics and the country’s poor human rights record.
“This is the third time we have visited La Baule. We are very attached to this town and we are sure to come back,” said Biya in an interview with French daily Ouest France.
Meanwhile, French anti-corruption NGOs regularly accuse Biya of embezzlement and organisation Transparency International rates the country as one of the world’s most corrupt states.
Paris-based NGO CCFD, whose enquiries into properties owned by African leaders led to a legal probe in May, has accused Biya of using public funds to buy a villa in France and to fund an esoteric organisation, known as l’Osti.