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 5th of February 2003. The paper was broadcast as a reaction of government’s appointment of Chiefs and Attaches to the newly created Communication Centres in major Western countries. It is one of many articles I broadcast on the same channel between 2002 and 200, on the early morning prime time national and world news broadcast.
Although the appointed officials may not have formally started work in their new stations, their impending take off is no longer a secret. The fact is that the opening of Communication Centres in Cameroon Embassies and High Commissions abroad obviously marks an important milestone in the life of the nation. To say the truth, the significance of the move is so overwhelming that one can not help wondering how the nation has coped so far, without information professionals abroad spearheading the country’s information drive.
Whether the appointed Centre Chiefs and their subordinate attachés like it or not, it is going to be a very hectic period for them. That is because at no time has the urgency of information flow been felt more than now in Cameroon, between Cameroon and the outside world. Increasingly over the decades and years, information technology and practice have grown faster and become more complicated. The officials leaving the country to man the newly created structures will find that working in the West is a serious affair, and a world of a difference from the laid back attitude that Cameroonians have towards civil service work. They will also have to learn how to come to grips with doing things differently, and of course, better.
A large number of persons and organizations such as scholars, investors and tourists will want to cash in on the newly created offices and visit them for information on Cameroon. For that category of visitors to Cameroon, finding information on the country at the embassy had been a nightmare because the embassies were not adequately prepared for such a task. In their desperation, embassy staff would refer enquirers to the nearby Cameroon Airlines office, whose leaflets concerned mainly tourist sites, or the London-based publications covering Cameroon whose libraries only contained photographs, many of which were outdated for tourist purposes.
In addition to responding to enquiries, Centre Chiefs and Attaches will have to go out of their way and initiate information packages. These would include general information on Cameroon in domains such as geographical location, peace and stability, the political system, communication, the educational system, business opportunities, tourist sites and sports, notably football and Roger Milla, the man who warmed the hearts of many worldwide with his talent at the World Cup some years ago. To achieve this, the appointees will have to cut out the typically Cameroonian bureaucratic and half-hearted Cameroonian way of doing things and adopt the immediate and no-strings-attached Western approach.
By the look of things, the appointed officials are professionals in their own right, which is a welcome shot in the arm for the government of Cameroon which made the appointments and the Cameroonian nation at large. It is interesting that the Chief of Centre for the United States is Akwanka Joe Ndifor, a well known pioneer journalist of Cameroon television. One of his unspecified but key tasks will consist of educating the colleagues of his who left their jobs here in Cameroon and are today in the USA. He will have to tell them that the nation has evolved; it has moved on and things are changing.
He will have to inform them that the image they carry with them of their country
is outdated. For Mokwo John Mbame going to London, Keye Ndongo going to Paris and Nkwelle Emmanuel Lamartin going to Belgium, the stakes are equally high.
With the said appointments have come other placements with officials being appointed to various posts in the parent ministry, the Ministry of Communication. Mbida Mvondo , a longstanding journalist was made Inspector General in the ministry. Another innovation was the appointment of a Director for Private Communication, and another for Public Communication. Previous measures taken to boos the standing of journalists in the country was the allowance that anyone with a graduate qualification who had spent two years in full time journalistic practice could be issued the Press Card, and thereby become a member of the recognized group of media practitioners.
Liberalization of media ownership by the government some ten years ago has really opened the floodgates to a flurry of private newspapers, magazines, radio stations and television channels. In fact, never before has the media landscape in Cameroon been so wide, so encompassing, so rich and so full. Much awaited now is the creation of fully fledged communication divisional delegations, a dossier on which the quietly efficient communication minister Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo is working. His own experience in communication is no doubt a big asset.
Decidedly, communication policy in Cameroon has taken a turn for the better.