By Francis Tim Mbom
Despite the fact that Cameroon enjoys considerable peace in a land blessed with enormous resources, an able manpower and other enabling factors, the will to develop is painfully lacking, Augustine Federick Kodock has said.
Kodock, Minister of State of the Ministry of Planning, Programming and Regional Development, was speaking in Limbe on Friday, September 1, at the opening of a conference on peaceful co-existence in a multi-cultural Cameroon organised by a Limbe-based NGO, BROFDEHRIN.
"We are importing a lot of things from other countries, whereas we have a lot of resources, man power and other things we could produce and sell to other countries and possibly boost our development," Kodock said.
Kodock said his mission in Limbe was, on one hand, to launch what he called a national campaign aimed at making Cameroonians feel and live as one. He said it is only in this atmosphere of a peaceful co-existence of all the various tribal groupings in Cameroon, over 250 of them, that there can be that real zeal to move forward as one, think forward as one and striving as one to build a better future for all.
The Minister who doubles as the Secretary General of the UPC party recalled that when his party was born in the 50s, it had three missions: to let Cameroon gain independence by fighting off the French colonialists from Cameroon; ensure the unity of all Cameroonians and lastly, build a Cameroon where everyone, without recourse to whether one is Bassa, Graffi, Beti or Nordist, is able to enjoy a considerable high standard of living.
According to Kodock, their first two goals: independence and unity have already been met, but the third, development, is still a long way.
Marvelled By Seoul's Growth
Kodock told an audience of over 1000 in Limbe how during a visit he paid to South Korea, marvelled by the scintillating beauty and the rapid way, the capital city of that country, Seoul has grown in just a few years.
"Today, there is no difference between Paris and Seoul," Kodock said. His bewilderment rested on the fact that Cameroon and South Korea in the 1960s, had, comparatively, the same GDPs. But the Cameroonian economy, today, is nothing near any comparison to the South Asian country.
One is a "Heavily Indebted Poor Country" and the latter, a swaggering economic giant.
"I am calling on us all to develop a new spirit to build this country," Kodock said. He added that our ideological differences should not be a deterrent to us but that Cameroonians should strive to overcome these barriers with his new call for co-existence and be ready to work together.
To him, the withdrawal of the Nigerian troops from Bakassi offers an enormous opportunity, today, for Cameroonians to peak up. Meantime, Mrs. Awasum Nee Susan said women should not be forgotten in any drive to better co-exist.
Chief Mbella Sonne Dipoko from Tiko said chiefs need not be high-handed over their subjects if they would have to contribute positively to the advancement of co-existence and development.
The Director of BROFDEHRIN, George Ndeh, during his welcome address, said this was the very first conference to be organised by their NGO in their drive towards building a Cameroon where everyone can live peacefully with one another.
"When we get real peace, we need to nurture it like a plant that grows on the banks of the River Mungo," which will stay on alive, be it in the dry or rainy season.
Dr. Geraldine Graber, a resident Canadian educationist, said in order for Cameroonians to succeed, they need, first, a spiritual development before any possible co-existence.
Graber said for her time in Cameroon, she has already witnessed that Cameroonians have those veritable ingredients for a better togetherness: patience, tolerance, brotherly kindness, religiosity and lots more.
But she regretted that she has also noticed what could make co-existence in Cameroon a near impossibility - prejudice. She explained that though Cameroonians were very God-fearing, there was a remarkable level of prejudice or intolerance existing among the various religious faiths.
"Unity does not mean uniformity, what we want is unity in diversity," she said.
One other speaker during the conference said what Cameroonians want is the kind of unity where everyone or region has a right to enjoy an equitable provision by the government of public utilities in quality and quantity, like roads, hospitals and so on.
CRTV's Muemar Muembo, in an anecdote, recalled that when the late US President, Ronald Wilson Reagan was shot and wounded in 1981, he was rushed to the nearest hospital, the George Washington University Hospital, where military doctors successfully had Reagan treated.
Muemar said if that hospital was not well equipped to handle any medical cases, Reagan would have died. According to Muemar, if Cameroon has to be truly united, the provision of public goods anywhere in the country should of necessity be the same and of comfortable standards.
For many Cameroonians have died, maybe en route to Douala, Yaounde or Paris simply because the 'nearest' hospital(s) available was not near anything one could call 'a life saving hospital.'