Professor Joseph Owona, a prominent academic and onetime confidante of President Paul Biya, died late Saturday, January 6, 2024. His son Mathias Eric Owona Nguini confirmed on Facebook. He was 78.
No details of the cause or location of death were provided. Unconfirmed reports suggested he passed away in France.
"The great man is gone," his son wrote. "Our beloved father and respected patriarch, Prof Joseph Owona left us this January 6, 2024. May his soul rest in peace."
Owona's career spanned government, academia, and sports administration. He served as a member of the Constitutional Council from 2020, having previously held key positions as Secretary General of the Presidency, Minister of National Education, and Minister of National Health.
A close advisor to Biya, Owona rose to prominence after the President's 1982 ascension. He held the post of Deputy Secretary General of the Office of the President in 1985 and became Minister of Civil Service and State Control three years later.
Owona's tenure as Minister of Higher Education (1990-1992) coincided with the creation of the ruling party CPDM, which he co-founded. He then served as Secretary General of the Presidency before returning to government roles in health, youth and sports, and national education.
Owona's influence extended beyond politics. He was a celebrated academic and constitutionalist, founding the prestigious International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC), the country's diplomatic training center. He also chaired the Cameroon Football Federation's Standardization Committee during a period of crisis and FIFA oversight.