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Cameroon Can Play A Major Role In The Sub-region – Canadian High Commissioner 

What prompted your recent visit to the Southwest Region of Cameroon?

We have an exchange programme between the Canadian armed forces and their Cameroonian counterparts in Buea. Over the years, we have had informal exchange between the two armies but this year we made it more organised, formal and an important event. For two weeks, we have had 55 cadets and regular members of the Canadian armed forces working with their Cameroonian counterparts on exercises, social activities such as building bridges, clearing dirt from trenches and rehabilitating some roads. So, we ended these activities with a football match.

You did visit Tiko also. Can we know more about your stay there?

I was there at the request of the Tiko Mayor, to appreciate the Tiko Strategic Development Plan put in place by the Tiko Council authorities and the Tiko Development Committee, thanks to the expertise of the Canadian NGO; Canadian Executive Service Organisation, CESO. The Tiko Municipal authorities took the opportunity to take me round the municipality, show me the challenges they are facing in the process of their development and to make me see the areas in which we can support them.

Let’s know more about Canadian Development Projects in Cameroon.

We are very active in three major fronts in Cameroon. We are working closely with other partners and the government of Cameroon in durable forest conservation and sustainable management. Canada has a long history on forest management. So, we are sharing experiences in that area.

We are supporting the government of Cameroon on managing public finance, accountability, transparency, especially in the area of internal auditing. We are also propping the civil society in Cameroon. The government of Cameroon has always recognised that there is a place for the civil society; that they have an important role to play. Therefore, we have to increase their strength and their capacity to operate as part of the democratisation process in Cameroon. However, we’re moving out of the educational area.

Fifteen years ago, we built a number of technical high schools across Cameroon with the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives. Even though that is staying, the main initiatives are coming to a close. We’re also renovating and extending the Edea Plant to triple the production of aluminium from 100,000 tons per year to 300,000. We also have a major project in the Kribi area, where we will build two aluminium plants and make room for a third one. That will increase Cameroon’s production of aluminium from 1.3 to 1.5 million tons.

How much success have you achieved in these efforts?

In the domain of forestry, the control put in place by the Minister of Forestry, Elvis Ngolle Ngolle, is yielding some good fruits. The government is in control of the exploitation of forest resources, the benefits for Cameroonians are accruing. It is not perfect but very encouraging. With the civil society, we have been supporting many projects, but the one challenge we have is the huge number of civil society organisations in Cameroon. We would have loved them to come under one major umbrella so that they will have a bigger impact. We are working on that and will soon make a public declaration in that light. We want to see a strong and bigger civil society organisation that can play their roles.

Is the government of Cameroon making reciprocal efforts to strengthen cooperation ties between Cameroon and Canada?

There is a commitment by the government of Cameroon to work with her friends like Canada. There is an open, honest, serene communication between the two especially in the area of forestry. The government of Cameroon wants us to stay together.

What’s the take of your government on ELECAM?

That’s a sensitive issue. It is a national issue. I don’t think I should comment on it. Canada has supported Cameroon indirectly through the Commonwealth. Canada provided the Commonwealth with huge funding to support Cameroon develop her legislation and conceive ELECAM. I can’t say more than what the Commonwealth has said already. "In order to work, ELECAM has to be seen to be independent and to have reasonable means to achieve its objectives." It is up to the Cameroonian government to make it that way.

What are some of the similarities between Cameroon and Canada?

The similarities go beyond the obvious; linguistic. Before Cameroon got independence, there were a lot of Canadians who contributed in the training of young Cameroonians then. Canadians have been around Cameroon for a while. Cameroon was our first mission in Sub-Saharan Africa. She is our oldest partner in Africa. We share a common membership in the Francophonie and at the Commonwealth. We are also the two bilingual countries in the world. We sit together side-by-side in most international gatherings because of the C-letter that both countries begin with.

There are a lot of Cameroonians studying in Canada, a lot of Cameroonian people living in Canada. We even have a Member of Parliament who is of Cameroonian origin. Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, has some similarities with Elections Canada. I remember that a Cameroon government mission went to many countries and Canada was one of them. Today, I can recognise some of the genes in both organisations.

How will you react to Cameroon’s Minister of External Relation’s comment that diplomats shouldn’t criticize ELECAM?

I was in Gabon when that meeting was going on. I didn’t participate. However, I read the declaration of the Minister. He is right to say that we shouldn’t interfere in the internal business of Cameroon but there were more positive comments made on the friendly relationship between Cameroon and her international friends. On principle, I share with the Minister that we shouldn’t interfere in the domestic policies of Cameroon as well as no body should also interfere in Canada’s internal business. I don’t think his declaration closed the door to the friendly relationship we have and what will obtain in the future.

Besides the similarities you have mentioned between the two countries, why will you consider Cameroon an important partner of Canada?

Cameroon has the potential to grow. She is at the centre of the Central African sub-region. Cameroon has a good infrastructure, good production potential for food. Cameroon has the second hydro-electric potential in Africa, first in Central Africa. So, she could play a very important role to help sustain the prosperity of the sub-region. Cameroon has a major role to play in peace and security, within the sub-region and the continent. We are working with Cameroon and propping them to become a leader in terms of peace and security issues.

Your last word…

You and other media houses are playing an important role in the democratisation process of Cameroon. Your role is a key one and The Post is playing it well. I encourage you to keep up with that good work.

                                                                    Interviewed by Walter Wilson Nana & Ernest Sumelong