|Emanuel Kwalar Mbonjo on Biya's visit to Bamenda|
|Written by Eugene N. Nforngwa|
|Wednesday, 21 April 2010 12:54|
BAMENDA--Waiting for President Paul Biya has intensified in the North West capital, Bamenda.
Understandably, expectations are running high. It is the president’s fifth visit to the region and the people hope many of their problems would be resolved, at least this time.
As we update on the mood ahead of the president’s visit, we explore the views of the youth through a young Anglophone entrepreneur of North West origin Emmanuel Bongjo Kwalar.
Recently, Mr Kwalar launched the second edition of a football tournament he initiated a year ago dubbed Bongnjo-Wepngong Tournament for young people in Ndu sub-division. The events brings together youths from about a dozen villages to compete for a cash price of CFA500,000.
In this interview, he explains the philosophy behind the tournament and shares a young man’s views on Biya’s coming visit to Bamenda and the celebration of 50 years of Cameroon independence.
President Paul Biya is coming to Bamenda, as a young person, what does this mean to u?
We are very excited that the president is coming. This would be his fifth visit to the NW and this shows that in spite of the political past of the region, the president has a special place for the region in his heart. It is a great opportunity for him to see the challenges faced by young people in this region and find solutions for them.
What do you expect from the visit?
The NW has very many development challenges. One of them, perhaps the most important for young people, is the absence of a university. The upgrading of ENS Bambili into a School of Education was a very important first step. We hope that the president will concretise this with the creation of a state-run university.
The second thing is the building of the Ring Road. President Paul Biya promised more than twenty years ago to personally supervise works on this road. This visit offers him an opportunity to know first-hand that the road has not been done. I understand that certain people have told the president that the road has already been built, but that is not the case. The head of state should use this opportunity to assure the people of the NW that the road will be constructed sooner than later.
Unlike what many people may think, the NW is endowed with many natural resources from mineral to hydroelectric energy potentials. The president should announce a plan to develop this potential so that the people of NW can find jobs at home and participate in the development of their own region.
As young people, we are also looking at the announcement of plans to encourage business and investments in the NW. There have been plans to create an industrial zone but I think that we need to go beyond this. The NW deserves a free-trade zone so as to attract investors from other parts of the country and the world to the region. Nigeria offers a huge market for goods produced in the NW. The building of border roads is crucial if North Westerners must take advantage of this.
How do you think the visit will play out politically?
No doubt the NW is a very political vibrant region. In spite of the fact that this visit is apolitical, it is going to turn out to be an important political capital for President Paul Biya, especially as it is coming on the eve of a very important election. But that will depend on what he will say and how the people of the North Wes will respond to it.
Already, the political odds are better for the head of state today than they have been at any other time in the history of Cameroon. More and more, the CPDM is becoming popular in this region, going by the last elections. So it’s no longer a battle for an exclusive SDF stronghold. We should see the CPDM try to come out strong to prove that they can also lay claim to the North West.
As a young Anglophone, aren’t you worried that this visit has to do with 50 years of the Cameroon military?
Several interpretations have been made about what this means. But I think that most people are missing the point. The military is a very important institution to the sovereignty of every state. By deciding to mark 50 years of the military in Bamenda, the government has demonstrated that Bamenda is a very important city in the politics of Cameroon. It is something that should be seen as an honour. There are many places that could be better suited, like Yaounde, which is the seat of the Cameroon military. I think the people of the North West should celebrate and be proud that the region has been chosen to host this very historic event.
It is true that the Cameroon military was founded before Anglophone independence, but as a united country, we have only a single military which we should be proud of.
Biya’s visit is coming at the time that Cameroon is marking 50 yrs of independence.
Some people think that this undermines the independence of Anglophone Cameroon.
Not at all. There is no doubt that Francophone Cameroon had its independence fifty
years ago. It’s okay to celebrate that hallmark and there is nothing absolutely wrong. We should not forget that the 50th anniversary of reunification which coincides with 50th anniversary Anglophone independence will also be marked in 2011.By spreading jubilee celebrations over two years, the government has taken care of the concerns and the historical facts of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroons. If there were any misgivings at the beginning, I think these have been well taken care of.
You have just launched of football tournament in Ndu. What prompted you?
First of all, this is my division of origin. It is a question of giving back something to the place where I grew up and child. So it is much more than the sport.
This is part of a project that I started a year ago, called “Transforming Lives Through Soccer”. Football is a game that mobilises and breaks all kinds of barriers. The first objective is to permit young people find something worthwhile to be engaged in so that they can stay away from crime and substance abuse. At the same time, it offers youth of all walks of life, park boys and students alike, an opportunity to interact breach class barriers.
Thirdly, while the games are going on, a campaign has been organised to educate the public on the effects of HIV/AIDS and how to prevent infection. We also encourage young and old people alike to take a test so that they can know their status. In the future, depending on the availability of resources, we plan to add free testing to the programme.
This year, we added another very important topic to the public education campaign. Climate change has been a very serious issue and people in this area are already feeling its effects. Rivers are drying up, farmland and grazing fields and getting scarce and the poor access to water has worsened. We are now encouraging the people to plant trees that are known to play a good role in carbon capture like wild plums and avocados.
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