Paul Biya, president of Cameroon since 1982, and his wife, Chantal, spend so much time on private visits to Switzerland that the staff of the Golden Corridors of the Intercontinental designate them by simple code names: “He and She”.
“It’s like they’re at home. They live there, “said one of the three former executives who regularly attended the ritual of paying bills.
Like other employees, this executive recalls signing a confidentiality agreement regarding details of Mr. Biya’s one-month stays: “If Cameroonians do not come, the hotel will close.”
The Intercontinental Hotel management said it would not comment on guests for privacy reasons. “Our employees have been thoroughly trained not to disclose information,” said one representative.
It is not unusual in itself for world leaders to spend dollars on luxury hotels. What distinguishes Mr. Biya’s escapades in Geneva is the abundance of time and money that he and his entourage spend there. The President has spent four cumulative years on personal journeys since 1982, the vast majority in Switzerland, according to the flight data collected by the Geneva Dictator Alert website, and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, an anticorruption group that has followed his travels. Some years, he spent a third of the year out of his home country.
“He still pays in cash,” said Herbert Schott, retired director of Intercontinental who first welcomed Biya in 1969.
For a quarter of a century, Schott hosted US presidents and offered Ronald Reagan a mattress to replace the hardest mattress in the House White House. But confirms that Mr. Biya was his best client. “He prefers to come to Geneva and sit down and no one would bother him.”
“The lion-man, as Mr. Biya’s followers call him, is currently the oldest leader in the world, counting his arrival at the post of prime minister in June 1975 in Cameroon.Since 1982, he is the president. He is the highest-paid African leader, with an official salary of $ 610,000 a year (about 35, 11 million CFA francs), according to Africa Review, a periodic review.