By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This article is an adaptation of an earlier one I broadcast on the Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV) National Radio Station on the 9th of June 2004. The paper was broadcast on the occasion of the visit to Cameroon of Prince Edward of Britain. It is one of many I broadcast on the same channel between 2002 and 200, on the early morning prime time national and world news broadcast.
Perhaps the most striking thing about Prince Edward’s trip to Cameroon is that he hit the ground running, so to speak. This is because as soon as he arrived he pulled off his princely shoes, donned his rain boots and went straight to the Mefou National Park. This is the site where orphaned primates are rehabilitated jointly by the German World Aid Fund and the Ministry of the Environment and Forests. This is done with the assistance of the Bristol Zoo in Great Britain.
The Prince’s activities in Cameroon also included a visit to the Centre for the Rehabilitation of Handicapped Persons (PROMHANDICAM}. The Centre which has been receiving financial aid from the British High Commission in Yaounde was established in 1975 for the education of blind young people. The prince also visited Government High School, Ekounou within the framework of his being Chairman of the International Council. As such he was at the institution to fellowship with the youths and give them moral support and the assurance that he is one of them. At the British Council, the prince watched the Children’s Election Project, an initiative jointly funded by the British and Canadian High Commissions. It is aimed at initiating young Cameroonians into the practice of democracy and the electoral process. The project also seeks to consolidate civic responsibility, leadership and team work among youths.
Such being a snapshot of the princely visit to Cameroon, no one can doubt that the trip was a useful one for our country. But then, there is also a political interpretation to it. Firstly, it is an implicit lesson to those Cameroonians in London who demonstrated violently against Cameroonian President Paul Biya`s stopover in Britain, that Cameroonians must solve their own problems by themselves and not spill them over on foreign streets. And in any case, the British government also has its own security system and diplomats who serve to keep it informed of what goes on in Cameroon. That is why Prince Edward warmed up to Cameroon so soon after Paul Biya`s British visit.
The next point is that the prince’s trip served to convey Britain’s position on the ongoing debate about the configuration of the Cameroon map. Just like previous visitors of the British royal family to Cameroon, Edward viewed Cameroon as a single country under one flag, and not in terms of Anglophone Cameroon on one hand and Francophone Cameroon on the other hand. This point is important because such a stance flies in the face of the political school of thought that holds that the Anglophone part of Cameroon is a separate entity to which Yaounde has no right and no authority.
Whatever is the case, perhaps this is the opportunity for Cameroon and Britain to review relations which have so far not been exactly what they ought to be. A typical example is the fact that some British people do not seem to know that their country has a colonial past in Cameroon. They seem to view the country as a purely Francophone one. That is why when a Cameroon visits Britain, he is asked questions such as: “Oh, so you come from Cameroon? So you speak French?” Some still talk of Cameroon as “the Cameroons”, as if they do not know that officially, the two components reunited.
So far, Britain has systematically lagged behind in terms of trade with Cameroon. For instance, in 1997, Britain ranked as the eleventh importer of Cameroonian goods, coming after Gabon, South Korea and Holland. Britain has an acute shortage of manpower, notably in the areas of nursing and secondary school teaching. Fortunately for Britain, Cameroon has unemployed qualified staff in those areas who would gladly relocate to Britain. But the truth is that such an arrangement is unlikely, at least for the time being, because Britain will insist that such personnel be retrained in Britain before they are given jobs. Again, since the said potential employees do not have that kind of training yet, they will be denied a visa at the British High Commission on the grounds that they have not been offered a job in Britain prior to their seeking to go there.
As the prince’s visit adequately provides an opportunity for the two countries to settle these differences, it is in their interest to grab it and do what is necessary.