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Reunification Hotel Projects Will Be Ready In Time 

Interviewed By Ernest Sumelong

CameroonPostline.com — The Southwest population and Buea people, in particular, have been apprehensive that projects earmarked for Reunification celebration this year will not be realised in time for the event. However, the Southwest Delegate of Tourism and Leisure, Peter Elangwe, whose Delegation is central in overseeing their execution, expresses strong optimism about completion of the projects.

Mbottou Soulemanou (L) and Peter Elangwe at Mountain Hotel rehabilitation site

He, alongside the representative of the Minister of Tourism and Leisure, Mbohou Soulemanou, granted The Post this interview at the Buea Mountain Hotel reconstruction site on May 26. Among other things, they talked of the cost of the hotel projects, the companies involved and why the rehabilitation of Mountain Hotel.
Read on:

The Post: We are a few months to the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Cameroon’s reunification. Several projects were announced in this Region ahead of the celebration; can we know at what stage these projects are?

Peter Elangwe: Well, as concerns the lodging sub-commission, which is to be done by the Ministry of Tourism as far as hotels are concerned, the State hotels we have in Buea have to get a facelift, notably Mountain Hotel and Parliamentarian Flats Hotel. Even Atlantic Beach and Bay hotels may also have a face lift sometime later. Now, we want to concentrate on Mountain Hotel and Parliamentarian Flats Hotel.

Before the idea of rehabilitation of the two hotels I have mentioned, there was already a project to construct a new hotel for Buea, which people are calling Reunification Hotel. But we prefer to call it Coover Hotel for the significance of what Coover is to Buea. Terracing has been done and offices where people hold meetings for the site and where material is kept have been constructed and all of that are waiting to be received.

The project had been envisaged to be realised in the 2012 Public Investment Budget. If you look at the projects log book for 2012, you will realise that it is a project under the Ministry of Tourism and the amount for it is about FCFA 2.9 billion. When the Minister of Tourism came here in February, he inspected this site. Before his arrival here on March 3, I presented a paper on the lodging situation in the Southwest.

I made a paragraph at the end in which I stated that the Anglophone community and those of Buea in particular will not be happy if the reunification celebration takes place in Buea and the Mountain Hotel is not rehabilitated, for the sake of its historic importance; it is here on 30th September 1961 that the first Head of State of Cameroon, President Ahmadou Ahidjo, heralded the independence of West Cameroon and also pronounced Reunification. Several meetings before the reunification were also held here.

At the end of that session, the Secretary General in the Ministry of Tourism and the Assistant Director of Cabinet at the Presidency, Anderson Le, asked me if what I was saying was documented. I gave him the document and I believe it is on the strength of the document that he forwarded to hierarchy that prompted the Minister of Tourism to come here on the 27th of February. 

He brought a number of architects (about 12) who worked day and night for one week and presented a rehabilitation plan for this hotel and the Parliamentarian Flats Hotel. He went to Limbe and also saw what could be done for Atlantic Beach Hotel and Bay Hotel. After a series of meetings, the project was awarded following contracts awards procedures, even though in a shortened form.

What has been done to ensure that the work goes fast?

Presently, 10 companies have been awarded contracts and they have up to August 31 to finish their work. The companies have been given different tasks; one to ensure the overall rehabilitation of the entire building, including the chalets and an extension of the other building which is going to be one-story, construct a befitting conference hall, rehabilitate the swimming pool and build five new chalets.

They also have to reconstruct leisure infrastructure like lawn tennis and basketball courts. Some companies are for supply of electricity, and water. We want to have an autonomous source of water.

There is a company that will be in charge of green lawns and parking areas. There is a company that will be in charge of purchase and installation of heavy kitchen and laundry equipment and others that make a hotel function very well. There is a company that will provide communication and information technology material.

There is another company to do the fence. At the Parliamentarian Flats Hotel, there are two companies; one to rehabilitate and extend and another will install heavy laundry and kitchen equipment.

Which are some of the companies undertaking the project?

The main one is Top International Engineering Corporation Cameroon. We have SONDAGE Cameroon, BJ CERAMICA, we have MERDORF for the fence, SOCACAM, FOKOU COMFORT, GIMANCAM and Doh and Brothers.

Are these Cameroonian projects or they are coming from out of the country?

About 90 percent are Cameroonian companies. A Chinese company is among them. It is the main company doing the rehabilitation. It is the same company that built Palais des Congres in Yaounde and also the Buea Regional Hospital. But they are not using 100 percent Chinese labour. They are using local labour. As you can see, local labour has been employed.

How much of local labour is employed?

There is no problem with local labour. Anybody who has the skill presents himself here with his certificate and is employed, depending on the demand. Recruitment is going on at the project site. They will agree, according to the needs and according to the labour code.

From the way work is going, can you give assurance that you can meet the deadline given by Government?

That is our wish. But the speed at which it is going, I think we will deliver. Even if they may not deliver exactly on the 31st of August, they may deliver on the 1st, 2nd or 3rd of September.

While work is seen to be done here at Mountain Hotel and at the Parliamentarian Flats Hotel, nothing seems to be happening at the new hotel site, which many people are excited about?

Work is going on. There are people working on the fence and working on offices for the site. They need a place to stock cement and also a place to hold meetings. It is unlike this place where there are old buildings where material can be kept and meetings held. So, work is going on there.

Besides the hotels, what other areas is your Delegation handling?

We are taking care of lodging alone for now. We know that we will be extending a hand to the private sector because they have many hotels but the State should have its own hotels.

What are the other projects earmarked for this reunification celebration?

There is a committee for infrastructure to assess the number of roads that have to be rehabilitated; number of monuments that have to be refurbished and a number of commemorative monuments that have to be built for the celebration. Also, an arch monument has to be built at the entrance to the Southwest.

They have also earmarked other roads in the Southwest and not only in Buea that have to be taken care of. There are some urban roads and highways that will be considered, which are not necessarily in Buea. They have also earmarked the construction of the plaza, the grandstand where the ceremony will take place.

Where will the grandstand be constructed?

A site has been selected here in Buea. They finally agreed on the Independence Square.

Are you saying the present grandstand will be demolished?


The other projects have not been commenced and the rains are there…?

Well, it is best understood by those ministries in charge of that. We are made to understand that it is not like there is a huge chunk of money kept somewhere for the projects. It seems as if each ministry will try to look into its coffers and try to allocate some money to facilitate the construction of infrastructure that will ensure the smoothness of the celebration.

Many have blamed elites of the region for not doing much to push forward the realisation of the projects?

On the contrary, the elite have been very active as I know. They have created the Southwest Support Committee for the celebration. And that Southwest Support Committee has several sub-committees. They have committees which are almost similar to the National Committee set up by Government, which are headed in the Region by the Governor. They have been active; the other day they were in Kumba where they raised many millions. They have scheduled another meeting in Limbe where they will still raise money. I don’t think they are dormant, they are working.

You are the Minister’s representative and also an architect; is rehabilitating Mountain Hotel not more expensive than constructing a new one; why is Government focusing its attention at reconstructing this hotel?

It has a very important place in the Reunification history of Cameroon. As to rehabilitating Mountain Hotel or building a new one was concerned, the problem we had was that of time. Constructing a new hotel needs a very long time. After analysing the situation, knowing the Head of State announced the celebration for this year and imagining that the day of reunification was October 1, and by October we should be ready before the event.

And we knew that by October 1, we would not be ready with a new hotel. That is why the technical committee proposed to the Government a plan ‘B’ which was accepted to enable us be ready on D day. It doesn’t mean that the first project for a new hotel is stopped. It is still going on.

As an architect, what are some of the difficulties you are encountering in the project?

There are so many difficulties with a huge project like this. Unlike a new project, a rehabilitation project like this one has so many difficulties because while demolishing like we are doing, one encounters more problems. When we are done with Mountain Hotel, it will be a completely new hotel.

What would be some of the peculiarities with the new Mountain Hotel when you are through with the rehabilitation work?

There will be 24 new rooms with five new chalets offering 10 new suites. That means the lodging capacity will be improved to 84 rooms and suites. We will have a new conference hall which will be constructed behind. We have just dug the foundation of the new 24 rooms.

What is the cost of the project?

The estimated cost for the project, including the rehabilitation works and equipment, is FCFA 4 billion for both Mountain Hotel and the Parliamentarian Flats Hotel.