By Ernest L. Molua (Editor-in-Chief),
On May 20, 2010, Cameroon crowned celebrations of its independence from France, Great Britain and Germany. Millions of Cameroonians marched in unison to drum beats to put behind them the travails of Berlin 1884, Versailles 1919 and drawnout negotiations of the late 1950s that gave the territory independence in 1960. Cameroon, Africa's unbridled land of peace and tranquility, where mountains and seas, hills and lakes reminds anyone with an open mind, on nature's appeasement with itself in the creation of the landmass. Throughout the ten regions, all divisional and sub-divisional headquarters and districts in the country, school children, adults and militants of over 250 political parties marched, sang and danced to the ideals of the liberation heroes of 1960 and the nation's founding fathers: Free at last, free at last, free at last...
Yaounde - the city at the geographical heart of the nation - was the lieu fatal for the big occasion. In attendance to the grandeur of the colourful ceremony were nine Heads of State, most of them with their spouses. Theodoro Obiang Nguema Mbazogo of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea, Joseph Kabila of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Francoise Mbozize of the Central African Republic, Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo, Ali Ben Mbongo of the Republic of Gabon, Laurent Gbagbo of Côte d’Ivoire, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Fradique De Menezes of Soa Tome and Principe and Idriss Deby Itno of Tchad. Two former Nigerian Heads of State: Retired General Olusegun Obasanjo and Retired General Yakubu Gowon. Gracing the occassion where two Noble Peace Laureats His Excellency Dr Koffi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations and Dr Mohammed El Baradei former chairman of United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency.
The enthusiasm in Paris and in Yaounde was exhibited by the attendance of two former French Prime Ministers, Monsieur Michel Rocard and Monsieur Alain Jupe. The French Minister of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and Town and Country Planning (Regional Development), Monsieur Jean-Louis Borloo was on hand to remind the people of Cameroon how far they have come from the tutelage of France. The Chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping and the Secretary General of Commonwealth, Kamalesh Sharma, marked themselves present in the land of glory. The Vice Secretary General of the United Nations Dr Asha Rose Migiro and the Executive Director of United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS Dr Michel Sidibe personally came to the land of peace to witness the occassion. A special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI, President of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace, Monsignor Peter Apia was on hand to bless the nation in its glorious journey. Apart from these, there are also countless delegations from different countries of the globe and diplomatic missions represented.
Cameroon which has adopted May 20 as its National Day, marking 38 years ago, precisely on May 20, 1972 when it became a unitary state consolidating a national union and a rebirth of the Cameroon pre-1918, decided to have a date with history on a day that reminds the world of its singular determination and strength to overcome the historic machinations of 1884 and 1919 on its destiny. The festivities marking 50 years of independence and reunification where eloquently held under the theme “Defence forces and the Nation: Together to consolidate the achievements of 50 years of independence”, to aptly highlight the peace and tranquility the country has enjoyed to the envy of other nations thousands of nautical miles beyond its shores. Even the United States of America is not free of a history void of civil strife which Cameroon proudly upholds in the anals of human communion.
The colourful event, which true to tradition, was punctuated by a military parade and a civilian march past, started with the arrival of Cameroon’s Head of State and Commander in Chief of the armed forces, President Paul Biya at the Yaounde May 20 Boulevard. After a review of the troops, President Paul Biya, a man who espouses communal liberalism to the letter, greeted the nine African Heads of State and other dignitaries present at the ceremony.
In true military celebrations, the alpha jet of the Air Force gave the kicker to the military parade which was placed under the command of General Sali Mohamadou. It all started with the Presidential Guard, followed by the Gendarmerie, a unit that was created in 1960. And in true national unity, the Rapid Intervention Battalions with units in Tiko, Douala and Koutaba demonstrated Cameroon' security excellence. The National Police Force that have fast been gaining prestige with student police officers participating for the first time. The Marine and the Custom departments; forces that are instrumental in raising revenue for the state answered present. As if to highlight his endurance and strength at the helm of state, for close to 30 minutes of the parade President Paul Biya, Commander in Chief of the Defence forces stood up in reciprocation to greetings from his men of the different corps. The parade was a display of strength and loyalty to national values. The military display ended with the motorised forces. Horses, Jeep, trucks, tankers and other military artillery drove past the Presidential tribune in a show of prestige and military prowess; all under the close watch of the nine Heads of State and top personalities.
Celebrations in the previous weeks have been characterized by prayer sessions, church services, sports competitions, academic tournaments and quizes and a national conference to re-define Cameroon and Africa's trajectory of development. The Africa 21 International conference was the highlight of intellectual discourse and political intercourse.
The Heads of State and Government, heads of international organizations, experts, business leaders, civil society representatives, Africans and non-Africans who participated on 18 and 19 May 2010, in the Africa 21 Yaounde International Conference on New Challenges for Africa were in collective optimism on Africa's stake in the 21st century. Whilst thanking His Excellency President Paul BIYA for having taken the initiative to organize this reflection, which enabled the participants to review the ground covered by Africa over the past 50 years and chart the way forward for the continent; the participants unanimously declared by mutual agreement: their conviction that the 21st century already marks Africa’s return to stronger growth, the limitation of its indebtedness and a wider audience in the international community; their faith in Africa’s ability to generate innovation and progress based on its human values, the strength of its youth, its rich environment and the abundant resources of its soil and subsoil; their refusal of an Africa marginalized and underrepresented in international forums; and their desire to see Africa rather take its rightful place in the search for solutions to the problems besetting the world today.
About thirty other African countries will similarly be celebrating their independence from the yoke of colonialism and their liberation from the shackles of caucasian diktats. For Cameroon, the future is brightest with a youthful population, a growing workforce and diversified economy. Achieving the vision for the years ahead will hinge on President Biya's dictum of rigour and moralization - the eternal pillars of great civilizations, and on which the people of Cameroon must build a viable state to the success and enjoyment of its citizens and to the envy of its competitors and detractors. A community that rises from society's communal liberal ethos and founded on a new deal of rigour where the needs of its youths is at the heart of progressive public policy, shall without doubt be the water that nurture the dreams of the founding fathers and liberation heroes.