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Meet Creator of Yaounde Municipal Lake, Georges Kyrikides 

By Yerima Kini Nsom — The creator of the Yaounde Municipal Lake and producer of Cameroon’s gramophone record is today among the country’s most decorated people. Yet, he is not Cameroonian. He is Greek. For 87-year-old Georges Kyriakides, Cameroon, especially the city of Yaounde, has been more of home than any other place. After living continuously in the Cameroonian capital since 1947, the former businessman now turned philanthropist, can be said to be Cameroonian at heart.

At one point, he seriously considered taking Cameroonian nationality, but later dropped the idea after former President Ahmadou Ahidjo asked what difference it would make for someone who had lived in the country for so long already. Born in Edessa, Greece, in 1926, Kyriakides, the first of three children, is today one of the longest European inhabitants of Cameroon, after spending 66 years in the country.

Following in the footsteps of his aunt, Anne Polydore, who was already in Cameroon, Kyriakides left Greece by ship, arriving in Bonaberi, Douala, on January 1, 1947. He finally settled in Yaounde on February 2, 1947. From his memorable life in the country, Kyriakides has left a legacy that is difficult to forget.

Creator in 1952 of the Yaounde Municipal Lake that is located in front of the Prime Minister’s residence in the central part of the city, Kyriakides says he intends, in the course of 2013, to bring the lake back to life, but, must first discuss his plans with the authorities. He remembers, with nostalgia, when the lake used to be full of activity, with his boats available for rides. Today, the former attraction site is a shadow of its old self, in spite of efforts by Yaounde City Council authorities to rehabilitate it and clear the refuse dumped in it over the years.

Kyriakides, on February 2, 1994, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Government for the creation of Yaounde’s first amusement park. The idea of the Kyriakides Park, today known as Kyriakides Park Market, was then born. First, he had to backfill the former marshland located just below the African Intellectual Property Organisation, OAPI, in the Djoungolo neighbourhood, to a depth of about four metres.

The park now hosts two swimming pools, a little lake with canoes for pleasure rides, an ecumenical church building, playgrounds for children and horses for riding – either for free or for a token fee. To realise all this, Kyriakides took loans of almost FCFA 2 billion to, among others, build fully-equipped wedding and entertainment halls and shops.

Ironically, traders in shops constructed by him are yet to start paying rents! The philanthropist has even taken upon himself to reconstruct some of the shops built by the City Council that are too narrow; and have, consequently, not been occupied by traders. Today, the market that boasts of a restaurant and fish/meat roasting section has 450 traders.

So much is Kyriakides’ love for Yaounde that he has asked to be buried near his wife, Dorothy Hellen Cassapoglou, in the family mausoleum at Kyriakides Park. A self-made man who learnt French, English, Italian, German and Chinese on his own, Kyriakides organised Cameroon’s first beauty contest in 1967.  Earlier in 1953, his company, Polydore, produced Cameroon’s first gramophone record.

Musicians from the then Leopoldville (now Kinshasa) in the Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, were brought in to do the recording. A father of three children, Kyriakides was Honorary Consul of Greece for about eight years soon after Cameroon’s independence in 1960. He has also been honorary member of various football clubs such as Bafia Club, Foudre of Akonolinga, Tonnerre Yaounde, Scorpion of Mbe and Canon Yaounde.

As well as being honorary president of sports federations such as weight lifting, swimming, basketball, dance and cycling, Kyriakides has received several international and national awards, including traditional chieftaincy titles from Batoufam and Bansoa villages in the West Region.
For a man who arrived in Cameroon at the young age of 21, soon after bagging his High School

Certificate, his stay in the country will also be remembered for the period in the 1960s and early 1970s when he was representative for Central Africa of the famous New York Times newspaper. He used his position to help project the image of Cameroon. In appreciation for all of Kyriakides’ humanitarian and philanthropic services, the Yaounde City Council, in 1997, made him an Honorary Citizen, accompanied by a gold key.

First published in The Post print edition no 01409

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