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Fako Chiefs Retake Stool In SWECC 

By Isidore Abah

Traditional rulers of Fako Division in the Southwest Region have back-pedalled on their decision to breakaway from the mother organisation, the Southwest Chiefs’ Conference, SWECC.

The Chiefs took the decision on Monday, April 28, in Buea, during a reconciliation meeting between SWECC executive led by its interim President, Fon Kemtenji, and the disgruntled Chiefs who had assembled under the Fako Chiefs’ Conference, FCC.

Fon Kemtenji said the presence and contributions of Fako Chiefs within SWECC was indispensible, especially at a time when SWECC was trying to build a formidable Chiefs’ conference with the aim of restoring the respect and dignity of traditional rulers, and redeem their battered image in the face of their subjects.

The Fon of Bechati in Lebialem Division asserted that in order to build such an association of reputable custodians of cultures and traditions, it was imperative for all the traditional rulers to put hands on deck, fight a common cause and stop fighting among themselves.

Threat To Secede

It would be recalled that the threat by the faction of Fako Chiefs to break away from SWECC on February 26 was triggered by a plethora of factors amongst which was ‘greed for money’ being fallout from the 50th Anniversary Celebrations of Reunification in Buea, when President Biya and his wife reportedly ‘dashed’ the Southwest Chiefs and their wives cash amounting to FCFA 25 million.

While the Chiefs were to share FCFA 15 million, their wives had FCFA 10 million to ‘play’ with. However, the FCFA 15 million became the bone of contention that fuelled resentment in the traditional rulers. 

Rumours were rife that immediately the FCFA 25 million was handed to the SWECC executive, some of its members under the guise of the ‘College of Wise Men’ immediately “wisely” shared out FCFA 1 million among themselves. This reportedly angered the Fako Chiefs who saw it as unfair, given that the money was meant for all the Chiefs and not some select “wise” individuals. 

Another spice in the FCFA 25-million-yarn was some FCFA 3.5 million that went missing.

According to members of the FCC, FCFA 3.5 million of the FCFA 5 million which was doled out by the National Organising Committee of the 50th Anniversary of Reunification was meant to fete traditional rulers from all parts of Cameroon during the celebrations.

The FCFA 3.5 million is said to have been pilfered by the SWECC executive and only a meagre FCFA 1.5 million was given out to feed the over 200 traditional rulers who turned out for the anniversary. This too, was a disgrace to their traditional royalties, according to FCC members.

Another factor that pushed the FCC into ditching SWECC was embarrassment and humiliation. 

The Fako Chiefs said they were not only ignored and marginalised during the presentation of gifts to the Head of State during the 50th Anniversary Celebrations, but were equally humiliated by the executive members of SWECC.

“Being the host Division of the Reunification Celebrations, it was imperative that a Chief from Fako should have been part of the delegation that presented gifts to the Head of State,” Chief Samuel Epupa, President of the FCC, stated.

The Fako Chiefs said they were further infuriated when the SWECC executive members during the presentation of gifts referred to the Paramount Chief of Buea, SML Endeley, as an ailing chief who could not walk, as such, could not leave his seat to greet the President.

This, to Fako Chiefs, was gross disrespect and humiliation of a Reunification patriot and icon, who was being celebrated among the Reunification heroes on that February 20. 

As if to add salt to injury, the Chiefs said they were ridiculed by the executive of SWECC in front of their subjects, as they were openly described as porters.

Controversial Conference Centre

One other unresolved problem between SWECC and the FCC is the inability of the former to construct a Southwest Chiefs’ Conference Centre. 

Despite the fact that CDC ceded land for the purpose and the collection of over FCFA 150 million, the construction of the Centre has been abandoned since six years ago.

According to Chief Epupa Ekum, the project has not been realised because the President of the Committee, Nfor Tabentando, had wanted the Centre to be constructed in Meme, instead of Fako Division.

Another problem which orchestrated the Fako Chiefs’ breakaway from SWECC is the recent University of Buea upheavals under the stewardship of Dr. Nalova Lyonga.

According to the Fako Chiefs, SWECC was indifferent to the crisis despite pleas from FCC that SWECC should step in, calm the situation and preserve the position of one of theirs that was under threat. 

The Fako Chiefs believed that SWECC failed to act because Dr. Nolova is from Fako Division and SWECC wanted another person from a different Division or Region to take over her position.

From the aforementioned observations, and in what became known as the Fako Chiefs’ Conference Declaration of February 26, 2014, the aggrieved traditional rulers of Fako resolved to withdraw their membership from SWECC and all its related activities.

Meanwhile, after revisiting these grievances during the reconciliation meeting, one of the SWECC executive members, Chief Atem Ebako said their grievances were worthwhile but assured members of FCC that the project for the Southwest Chiefs’ Conference Centre is still on course, and that Buea remains the natural host of that centre.

For his part, FCC President, Chief Ekum said he was delighted that SWECC has acknowledged that their grievances were genuine and have decided to look into them. 

According to him, the traditional rulers of Fako were delighted to be back into the SWECC fold, a body which they have toiled over the years to put in place.

The decision of the Fako Chiefs to backtrack and join SWECC is not surprising to many, given that the initial decision to cut their ties with SWECC did not receive the blessings of all the chiefs. Chief Etina Monono of Great Soppo did not support the idea of disaffiliation.

Chief Monono had held at the time that breaking away from SWECC would not solve the problem because in an organisation like SWECC, there are bound to be problems. But that what makes the organisation credible is the ability of its stakeholders to dialogue. 

Monono thought that rather than quitting SWECC, if the Fako Chiefs had presented their problems at a General Assembly, most of their grievances would have been looked into.

 

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