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Race Of Hope Should Be Suspended – Buea Mayor 

Interviewed by Ernest Sumelong & Innocent Mbunwe

The Mayor of the Buea Municipality, Charles Mbella Moki, has said the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope should be suspended. He made the statement following popular outcry that the 14th edition of the race that took place February 21 was the worst organised in the history of the annual event. As a local authority and member of the local organising committee of the race, Mbella Moki, in this interview with The Post, insists that the event is now threatening peace and national unity and that the local people no longer need the race. Read on:


Mbella Moki talking to the press

The 14th edition of the Mount Cameroon Race of Hope just wrapped up. As Mayor of the Municipality, were you satisfied with the organisation of the event?

Let me say I did everything at the beginning to have a very successful race; I put in extra resources from our council and mobilised our population to ensure that this race attains maximum success. Unfortunately, at the end of the day, I am a very disappointed Mayor. With where Mount Cameroon is situated, I think it was a deliberate effort of the organisers to undermine and disregard the very essence of peace and national unity as far as this race is concerned. I would like to say that this race is threatening peace and national unity. I am saying that the race be suspended and it is time for all actors to come together to chart a way forward.

The general view around town is that this is the worst organised race in the history of the event. What went wrong?

Well, the organisers are to blame and their inability to listen to advice and accept contributions from other quarters. You will notice that the local resources, in terms of human resources, were sidelined and the opinions of those who could make meaningful contributions towards the success of the race were set aside. I think that it was improper for any reasonable person to take the people of Buea for a ride. We thought that this race could serve as a bridge to be put on troubled waters for everyone to use and sail through, but, unfortunately, it is abused by people who are only interested to make financial capital out of it. Even the catering services that were hired to feed the organisers were imported from Yaounde to Buea.

It is an abuse targeted at all the competent catering services we have in this community. You noticed the number of imported officials from Yaounde, whereas we have competent services here. I noticed that even the local organisers of the race were most of the time undermined. That cannot be accepted. It was a slap on our faces. If something has to be put in place to effect correction, that has to come with the suspension of this race. We don’t need this race any longer.

One important aspect for the successful holding of the race is the traditional rites. But we noticed that on the eve of the race all the traditional rulers around Buea were absent during the traditional rites ceremony. Is it not your place to bring the organisers of the race to reason with the aspect of the traditional rites?

When we did not see the traditional rulers, we did make amends to ensure that the race goes ahead. I went out of my way to make sure that the traditional part is implemented. But with all the disappointments I have now and which I continue to register from the community, I think it will be wrong for me to think that we did the right thing.

The chiefs came up with a request and I believe they had a good intention, if that was true, that there was a corpse that was unacceptable for rituals to be undertaken for the success of the race. They put the request to the appropriate quarters and the discussions on how to manage the situation did not go through. But I think that it was not for them to boycott the traditional rites at the eleventh hour. But we brought in some of our elite to ensure the success of the event. But, having done that, the organisers should not take us for a ride.

They should not think that we are fools. The people of Buea have taken note of what happened and it is for them to start comparing what used to take place before and what is taking place now. The comparison would range from when Guinness used to organise the race to when other authorities of the Athletics Federation used to organise it and what happened today. Putting all of this together, I want to insist that the race has become a serious threat to peace and national unity and I think we should suspend it and see how we can move forward.

We noticed that over a hundred athletes were frustrated; some did not get T-shirts while others were simply stopped from participating after they were duly registered. What happened?

I was also surprised that these were people who had their receipts and registration cards, who passed all the stages that qualified them for the race, at the end of the day they could not participate. Unfortunately, most of them were locals who were very competent and whom I thought could produce the desired result, but they were rejected. We did everything to get them involved in the race but it never worked.

You would have noticed the disorganised manner in which the race took off, it showed that there were a lot of lapses. I went to the stadium at about 6:30 but unfortunately most of the organisers who were supposed to ensure the proper beginning of the race were not even there. I met Americans who did not know who to talk to. We were looking for people who were supposed to attend to them but we never found them. It was an embarrassment to them. We cannot do things that are going to dent the image of the country. Cameroon is a very precious country; it is significant and strategic to the life of every Cameroonian. It is not the private property of an individual or a category of people.

You are calling for the suspension of the race; but what can be done so that next year the locals are not snubbed, so that people don’t come from Yaounde and abuse the hospitality of the people in Buea?

I think that as a way forward, we need to bring all the stakeholders of this race on one table and negotiate the way forward. It is going to be the contributions of the various actors to arrive at common grounds for the common good. It is an important event and it is one of the most interesting races that we have around the world. Why are we, because of the Cameroonian notion, always feeding fat wherever money passes that we would damage the good intention of government on a day like this? This is not a good way of portraying the image of our country.

We understand that about FCFA 140 million was budgeted for this race but we did not see any sign of any money spent. As part of the local authority and local organisation, could you say something on that?

This race starts from 7:00 am and there are a lot of people who go up the mountain to contribute in one way or the other to ensure its success. Most of these people usually come back at very late hours and at the end of the day, it is the council that comes to the rescue of such situations because those people from Yaounde have no mechanism to take care of those people when they have declared the occasion closed.

These are the burdens they leave with us. There is the environmental pollution of the place and several other problems that are left behind. But, the so-called budget that is usually announced is hardly executed overtly and to the finish. You heard of sponsors; who knows what sponsors gave. Even if they gave a franc they should let us know. The local council is supposed to pick up some of the taxes that they are supposed to pick from the event and what is displayed on the field but we are all blocked. Are we going to become prisoners because of our hospitality?

We understand that the local organisational committee is supposed to play a part but now you are throwing the blame to the organisers from Yaounde. Are you saying that Yaounde hijacked the event?

The local organising committee did what it could do. I was part of that committee and I saw how much effort was put in by members to ensure that the race succeeds. But immediately Yaounde stepped in, problems began. And these are the consequences.