CAMEROON AND THE COMMONWEALTH
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 13th of March 2002, when Cameroon celebrated Commonwealth Week. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaounde, between 2002 and 2005.
This, as we know, is Commonwealth Week, the time of the year set aside by the 54 members of the Commonwealth family for commemorating the worldwide organization.
As a fully-fledged member, Cameroon enjoys equal access to the facilities and benefits that accrue from membership of that world body. These fallouts are not, as some may think, a cash dispensing machine, ready and waiting to dole out hard cash to the needy; neither is it a quick way to get a visa to travel abroad.
The Commonwealth, which spans Europe, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean, has a population of 1.7 billion people and is the largest world organization after the United Nations. One of the organization’s objectives is to make the world of its members and the world at large, a better place. As such, it helps in promoting human rights, democracy as well as sustainable economic and social development. The Commonwealth is also committed to racial, religious and sexual equality. Member countries have in common the use of the English language. Our country, Cameroon, is of course, part of all of that.
Member countries network among themselves for their collective and individual good as well as for the good of the structure as a whole. Heads of State and government meet regularly, so do their ministers in conformity with decisions taken at the higher level. Once a decision is taken, it becomes incumbent on the commonwealth Secretariat, located in London, to do the follow up and assure the implementation, on behalf of the Commonwealth.
There are over 60 sub organizations within the Commonwealth, many of which run activities and programmes from which member countries such as Cameroon benefit. These include the Royal Commonwealth Society, the Commonwealth Nurses` Federation, the Commonwealth Trade Union Council, the Commonwealth Magistrates` and Judges` Association, the Association of Commonwealth Journalists, the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation, the Commonwealth Youth Programme, and the Commonwealth Science Council, to name those. Again, Cameroon is in a position to benefit fully from those advantages. To all intents and purposes, that statement is not to be taken lightheartedly because by all indications, Cameroon, which is one of the relatively latest members of the Commonwealth, appears to be lagging behind in terms of enjoying the advantages offered by the organization. A typical example is the statement made by Dr Nkobena Fontem some five or so years ago when as Director of Commonwealth Issues at the Cameroonian Ministry of External Relations, he remarked that the main problem Cameroon faced in the Commonwealth was the fact that it was not using up its allotted quotas.
It is, no doubt, as a full member that Cameroon is today celebrating the Commonwealth. Such an event, undoubtedly, gives the Youths of our country, the opportunity to share and showcase their talents in diverse fields such as music, art exhibitions, food tasting, fashion shows and dance as well as sports, like in the case of the 17th World Commonwealth Games held in the United Kingdom in 2002.
Interestingly, the Francophonie to which Cameroon also belongs offers similar opportunities, thus giving Cameroon, the best of both worlds. It must be stressed here that the Commonwealth and La Francophonie, in the case of Cameroon, are for all Cameroonians, regardless of whether they are Anglophones or Francophones. In other words, French speaking Cameroonians have the same equal access to the Commonwealth as their English speaking counterparts, just as the English speaking ones have the same access to La Francophonie as their French speaking counterparts. The two organizations are ours and we are part and parcel of them. So, let’s use them, and use them to the fullest.
Tikum Mbah Azonga