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Marafa Fires 6th Missive at Yaoundé Regime 

In his most recent open letter to the Yaoundé regime released this week, the former top aide to President Paul Biya criticises spending related to education and Cameroon’s hosting of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2019

 Basil Afoni

Jailed erstwhile Yaoundé regime grandee, Marafa Hamidou Yaya, this week released the sixth in his series of open letters directed at the government in which he criticised what he considers as outlandish spending by Cameroon to host the Africa Cup of Nations, AFCON, in 2019.

In the letter, the former Secretary General at the Presidency and former Minister of Territorial Administration and Decentralization advocates the reallocation of some of the money currently budgeted for the AFCON to the all-important education sector.

Noting government’s plan to allocate 13 per cent of the 2016 state budget (FCFA 550 billion) to finance football infrastructure to host the AFCON compared with only FCFA 499 billion for the entire education sector, Marafa argues that the government is misplacing its priorities.

With Cameroon currently devastated by extremism in the north of the country, and with extremism facilitated by illiteracy, poverty, and despair of the youth, Marafa avers that investing in education is a crucial tool in enabling young people fulfil their hopes and aspirations, and thereby eliminating the fertile grounds on which extremism grows and flourishes.

“Cameroonians, especially those young Cameroonians, who kill other Cameroonians, as in Maroua, in Mora, in Waza, in Dabanga, in Fotokol and elsewhere do not even hesitate to die to do so, also act in despair. Give them opportunities for personal fulfilment, dignity, control of their destiny…Our military can defeat Boko Haram, but only education and employment will triumph over lasting extremism,” Marafa writes in his letter.

He called on compulsory education to the age of 16 and urged the government to make significant investments in education, especially as the demand for education currently outweighs the supply in infrastructure, human and material resources, with the situation expected to get worse.

Unfortunately, rather than tackling the problem, the 2016 state budget proposed by the government only makes the situation “dramatically” worse, the ex-minister laments.

To solve the problem of funding of the organisation of the AFCON after the reallocation of resources to the education sector, Marafa proposes co-hosting with Chad and Nigeria, Cameroon’s brothers and sisters in arms in the fight against the terrorist group, Boko Haram. Such a move, he argued, would significantly reduce the resources Cameroon will have to deploy to organise the football tournament.

Despite Marafa’s criticisms, many Cameroonians are excited about the country’s successful bid to host the AFCON ion 2019 and the subsequent women’s championship. In a country where significant sections of the population are passionate about football, the hosting of such two important competitions in a generation is like a dream come true. Cameroon last hosted the AFCON in 1972.

Many equally question Marafa’s logic, arguing that Cameroon will enjoy a significant economic boost due to the hosting of the two competitions. The windfall could then be used to fund the education sector.