This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 30th of June 2003, on the occasion of the holding in Yaounde of the 14th Meeting of the African and Indian Ocean Planning and Implementation Group (APIRG) for air navigation. 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), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
Although the Yaounde conference gave participants the opportunity to reexamine the use of air craft in Africa as a whole, it did so more tellingly for Cameroon, by virtue of the fact that the event was hosted by Yaounde. The procedure gave interested Cameroonians the opportunity to see first hand what air navigation on the continent is all about.
It was therefore not surprising that while delegates from other countries and their governments geared themselves up for updating on air navigation techniques in order to make the sky more secure, their Cameroonian counterparts appeared to be a step ahead. For instance, the general manager of the Cameroon Civil Aviation Authority, Sama Juma Ignatius who had already prepared well for the meeting, said the Cameroonian civil aviation outfit was already taking steps to conform to the modernization era. He did so, citing as examples the setting up of aircraft maintenance installations and the retraining of air and ground staff.
Another development in Cameroon’s preparedness in this area of transportation is the government’s recently introduced law that makes it mandatory for all civil aviation installations to be checked regularly as a means of ensuring that international standards in air navigation are observed. Even so, it must be acknowledged that for African skies in general and Cameroonian skies in particular to be safe, team work is required of all stakeholders involved. That is why the Agency for the Security of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar was put in place to oversee air security throughout the continent. Whether that organization is fully or even partially fulfilling the mission is another question.
Nonetheless, to be fair to the air navigation watchdog, the task assigned to is by no means an easy walk over. This is because its remit includes management of up to 161 million square kilometers, five flight information centres, ten regional control centres, fifty seven control towers, over 25 international airports, 76 regional airports, and a fairly large civil engineering support pool. The agency also carries out maintenance of equipment; it runs an information system and the Regional school for Rescue and Firefighting in Cameroon` economic capital, Douala. This job description has, of course, is within the overall navigation plan as defined and supervised by the civil aviation international body.
When Cameroon’s Transport Minister, John Begheni Ndeh spoke at the opening of the Yaounde gathering, he placed it within its global context. According to the minister, Cameroon took the lead in air navigation security because the country is always in favour of the international synergy which militates for an aviation active in the promotion of sustainable development of mankind, This he said, should be done through the war against terrorism, the protection of the environment and the search for the well-being of the people. In other words, the common good.
If it is acknowledged that Cameroon has done well, at least so far, the onus is on the other countries to show the same enthusiasm, matched by the same results, if not better ones.