By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 9th of October 2002, as Cameroon’s profile at the United Nations was raised by its participation in the Security Council. 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.
Membership of the Security Council is one of the most prestigious positions a country can hold within the world superstructure. Having the chance to preside over it is simply the icing on the cake. What is perhaps more telling is that by playing that role, Cameroon made a name not only for itself but for the Central African Sub Region to which it belongs, and by extension, the whole of Africa.
While Cameroon was at it, the country performed the hat trick of placing three points - all of them related to the region - on the Council’s agenda for the month of October. The three included the UN`s relations with the region, notably in the areas of conflict prevention and management as well as the maintenance of peace and security. The other points were the control of light arms and the role of women in the promotion of peace and security respectively.
This vantage position serves two main purposes for the country. Firstly, it confirms our country’s role as the leader of the region, and secondly, it helps to highlight once more, the pressing needs of a region from which Cameroonians, perhaps more than other nationals, stand to benefit immensely. Cameroon has so many opportunities in the region that if they were all to be exploited many Cameroonians would be smiling form ear to ear. Without any doubt, Cameroon is the `big brother` of the region. To begin with, of all the six member countries of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central African States better known by the French acronym, CEMAC, Cameroon is the most strategically located. It is the only country that shares a common border with all the other five which are Chad, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Cameroon is the only country, not only in the region but in the whole of Africa that is geographically located in the very heart of the continent, being more or less equidistant to the north, south, east and west. This tactical location has created some confusion in the sense that while some world authorities place Cameroon in the Central African zone, others have placed it in West Africa.
That is not all. In the region, Cameroon is the only country which combines desert, semi-desert, savanna and rainforest characteristics, to the extent that while parts of the north are sometimes starved of rain, a place in the South West known as Debunscha is on record as being the wettest place in Africa where it rains all year round. Although four of the six countries in the region have access to the sea, it is only Cameroon that has the privilege of serving as a supply route to the two landlocked countries, Chad and the Central African Republic. Of course, Cameroon is the only country that uses both French and English as official languages, not only in the region but in the whole of Africa.
Cameroon alone accounts for half the total population of the region. It is also more densely populated than any of the other five countries, having 30 inhabitants per square kilometer while the other countries have only six per square kilometer. Again, Cameroon alone accounts for up to 50 % of CEMAC `s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and has a much higher rate of consumption of commodities and investment. The country is also the indisputable bread winner of the region, supplying food to all the other countries and even to neighbouring Nigeria, although the latter is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and not CEMAC.
Cameroon’s numerous professional schools are not only unprecedented in the region but have also helped in training many of the professionals in the other member countries. These include the Institute of International Relations , the Advanced School of Mass Communication, the Advanced School of Public Works, the Advanced School of Posts and Telecommunications, the Army Training School, the Police College and the Advanced Teachers` Training College, the Advanced School of Translators and Interpreters, to name those.
With such considerable assets, why should Cameroon not cash in on the situation? Why the country promotes peace and security, it can go the extra mile and look at other areas such as those that can create jobs for the country’s numerous unemployed graduates, professionals and able-bodied retirees with a view to helping them find their feet.
Clearly, when Cameroonians start thinking regionally and not just nationally, they shall have crossed the Rubicon, both economically and politically.