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Post-incident Cameroon’s president leaves Geneva after spate of protests

Cameroon president Paul Biya, as seen in the country's capital in October 2018

Cameroon president Paul Biya, as seen in the country's capital in October 2018

(Keystone / Nic Bothma)

Cameroon president Paul Biya, whose presence in a luxury Geneva hotel caused protests and some diplomatic upheaval, has left the city. 

The Federal Department of Foreign Affairsexternal link (FDFA), which instigated diplomatic contact with Cameroon over a reported attack on a Swiss journalist, said it was aware of the departure. It pointed to Geneva-based Tribune de Genèveexternal link, which first announced that a plane carrying the presidential couple had flown off at 12:30. 

On Thursday six members of Biya’s staff were convicted by Swiss judges investigating a reported attack on a Swiss public television journalist in Geneva last week. Geneva prosecutors found the individuals (five men and one woman) guilty of coercion, damage to property, and illegal appropriation. 

A journalist from public broadcaster RTS filed the complaint following an incident on June 26 outside the InterContinental hotel in the city. The journalist says he was assaulted by members of Biya’s security team who took his bag containing a mobile phone and wallet. The seized items were later returned. 

Ambassador summoned  

The incident took place during a demonstration outside the hotel, where Biya was staying. The alleged assault prompted Switzerland to summon the ambassador of Cameroon to Bern, where he was told that “such incidents are unacceptable, and that freedom of the press is protected and must be respected.” 

At around the same time, the Swiss foreign ministry announced that Switzerland was acting as a facilitator in the crisis in north-western and south-western Cameroon

Some 250 anti-Biya protesters returned to the hotel last Saturday and were dispersed by tear gas and water cannons after some tried to break through police lines. 

A 2018 report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) accused Biya of spending a considerable amount of his time abroad since coming to power in Cameroon in 1982, much of it at luxury hotels in Geneva.


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