The official welcome ceremony of President Paul Biya and First Lady Chantal Biya takes place this morning at the Quirinale Palace in Rome.
All is set at the Quirinale Palace, the Presidency of the Italian Republic, to give the Cameroon Head of State and Wife, a hearty welcome to Rome. The welcome ceremony today marks the beginning of the State Visit of President Paul Biya to Italy at the invitation of Sergio Matarrella, President of the Republic of Italy. The arrival of the Presidential Couple at the courtyard of the palace slated for eleven o'clock this morning will witness a high-profile welcome by the Italian host, singing of national anthems, military honours and the raising of the Cameroonian flag on the Torino. After the introduction of the official delegation, the two Heads of State will move to the Studio alla vetrata for a tête-à-tête at the end of which, there may be press statements. Later in the day, the Presidential Couple is expected to visit the City Council of Rome for a tribute to the grave of the Unknown Soldier before other visits by President Paul Biya to the Prime Minister's Office, the Senate and the National Assembly. This first day of the State visit ends with a State dinner at the Presidential Palace around 20H. Within this day, First Lady, Chantal Biya will have some time for a separate programme. It will be recalled that President Paul Biya and First Lady Chantal Biya arrived in the Ciampino Airport in Rome, last Saturday 18 March 2017 in the evening, two days ahead of the State Visit that begins today. On hand to welcome the Presidential Couple last Saturday, was a top level delegation led by the Italian Minister of Territorial Cohesion, Professor Claudio de Vicenti and the Chief of the Italian diplomatic protocol. The Cameroon Ambassadors to Italy and the Vatican, Dominique Awono Essama and Antoine Zanga were also among the dignitaries at the airport to welcome President Paul Biya and wife. At the Hotel Cavalieri Astoria, the official resident of President Paul Biya and First Lady Chantal Biya in Rome, hundreds of Cameroonians in the Diaspora thronged the premises. Waving the national flag, in song and dance, they heartily welcomed their President and wife to Italy. Visibly in harmony with the patriotic ambiance and the expression of support and love by compatriots, the Presidential Couple responded positively to the colourful welcome. Last Saturday's dual welcome ceremony at the airport and the hotel set the stage for a fruitful and highly symbolic State Visit beginning today. It was a harbinger of the concretisation of all that is expected to result in positive yields in a visit with a heavy dose of economic fall outs. The outpouring of affection and public support for the Presidential Couple by the hundreds of Cameroonians in the Diaspora rings another positive note for the State Visit. Coming one year after the State visit of Sergio Mattarella to Cameroon, the presence of the Presidential Couple in Italy is a defining moment for the political, economic and cultural relations between the two countries. The quality of the official delegation accompanying President Paul Biya in this visit is an indication of its density, its scope and its ramifications. The quality and quantity in duration, diversity and intensity, is a pointer to its depth and capacity to drag the two countries more than ever before closer. Paul Biya and Sergio Matterella are poised to go down in the annals of history as the Statesmen who gave their all to strengthen and enrich the economic and political relations between Cameroon and Italy.