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SWELA Scribe Berates ‘Foxy’ Politicians 

 Says SWELA Isn’t For Political Self-Aggrandisement

 Condemns Infighting, Witch-hunting Among SWELANS

 Maintains The Association’s Coffers Are Empty

 Decries Abandonment Of Limbe Deep Sea Port, Other Projects

The Secretary General of the Southwest Elite Association, SWELA, Joseph Moki Etukeni, says the association is a political and as such cannot overtly support any political party. He made the statement in an exclusive interview granted The Post in Buea recently. In the interview, the SWELA Scribe throws light on the misunderstanding between him and his Assistant Secretary General over a motion of support to Biya, the financial state of the association, why elites want to be begged to belong and more. Read on.

The Post: Mr. Secretary General, how is SWELA faring?

Joseph Moki Etukeni: I think SWELA is doing well at least for the period we have been in office (March 1, 2015 till date).

After one year, what would you say is your balance sheet?

When you talk of balance sheet, it depends on what we put out as the project for the people. We talked about revamping SWELA which many of us from the Southwest were of the opinion that it should be done right from the base. My assistants went to their various Divisions and did restructuring of the Associations. That was not all; I made sure that following the instructions of the General Secretariat, a Regional tour was done. I moved from Libialem to Ndian, Kupe-Muanenguba, Manyu, Meme to Fako.

Recently you organised a series of workshops under the umbrella of SWELA, what was the raison d’etre of these workshops?

The Ministry of the Economy, Planning and Regional Development and the German Corporation were launching the National Zooning and Planning for land use in Cameroon. I was opportune to be one of the participants of the workshop, which held at the Buea Council Hall. It was after the workshop that I thought it was necessary for SWELA to organise a workshop of deeper concern in the Region. With this, we decided to look for sponsors and GIZ opted to sponsor the workshop which held from April 18 to 22 in Buea. In fact, the workshop was engaging the Southwest people to its land use planning for sustainable development. During the workshop, some specific fields were taken care of and we looked for Southwest experts in agriculture, forestry, livestock, mining, urbanisation and infrastructure. The workshop was to come out with a blueprint of how far the Southwest has gone, the land that has been used and what can be done to better plan our cities. At least, we did some diagnosis as far as the Region is concerned.

Lest we forget Mr Secretary General, why was your National Identity card seized or better still why were you placed under house arrest?

I wouldn’t like to discuss this issue with the media because it is a personal and family issue. But to say that my ID was retained after some questioning is normal. People’s ID cards have been held back for some time. I even hear that people’s passports are taken, even Ministers.
But we learnt on good authority that the ID card issue is not unconnected with the recent motion of support tantrum, which some of your executives forwarded to President Paul Biya, praying him to seek re-election and you reacted by suspending them from the association…
The ID card issue was not connected to the motion of support incident. Just to brief you, when the peoples’ calls started coming up, my Assistant Secretary General, ASG, for Meme took advantage of the calls, went around, rallied a few persons and made a call on behalf of SWELA. It did not just end there, this group of individuals turned and was appealing to the Head of State to appoint him (ASG) as Government Delegate to the Kumba City Council. I received a number of calls questioning me if SWELLA has become partisan. But since I was on my Regional tour, I knew that I was going to get to Kumba, where I will say one or two words. Fortunately before I got to Kumba, I had gotten the letter which was prepared by my ASG and that which was also prepared by those who were disclaiming the letter. Unfortunately for my ASG, he used the official letterhead of the Association and that was quite a big crime. When I got to Kumba, I had to bring up the point and cited the constitution of SWELA because SWELA is a non-political association and I will continue to say we will not overtly support any party because that will be wrong. So the ASG had gone ahead to support the CPDM because the People’s Call was from the CPDM. But because he used the official letterhead, I did not need to wait for any general assembly because that was gross exaggeration and at the same time trying to engage a fight between SWELA and the current Government Delegate was too much for him, so, he had to be suspended.

But your ASG says you have no constitutional right to unilaterally suspend him from SWELA, since he was elected during a General Assembly

Firstly, people need to understand the constitution very well and how it functions. I want to believe that he is not conversant with the constitution because if he were, he will not go ahead and get involve into partisan politics.

Are you saying that you flouted the constitution just to assert your authority?

What we should understand is that the ASG was suspended till the General Assembly will be called. Where many people made the mistake is that, before his suspension, he had not put in place the Divisional Coordination team which other Divisions had done because of the infighting in Kumba. It was on that day that we put in place the Divisional Executive and many people misunderstood it as replacing the ASG with somebody, which was not true.

But your ASG says the bone of contention between both of you is not the motion of support to Biya, but that of finances. According to him, you have been performing the role of Secretary General and Treasurer in matters of finances, which he said you have never rendered a comprehensive account of the money collected from appeal letters. What’s your take on this?

First and foremost, there is no meeting we have had which I told people I have collected this amount or that, so for him to be saying that is out of place. Again, most of the letters of appeal that we sent out have not had any response from the people, and if a General Assembly is called and the issue of finance is raised and one is unable to give a resume of it, that will be different. But we have never met to talk about finances because the Association does not have any finances.

But the ASG whom you suspended has refused to quit

When a General Secretariat meeting is called and he comes in there, we will then know whether he is adamant to the decision that has been taken or not.

You recently made a statement that you will never beg anybody for help to run SWELA, what orchestrated this statement?

I did that in the capacity of the Association. One thing we should understand is that delegates of SWELA have realised that some people were trying to pocket SWELA and anybody who wants to help SWELA, comes in with his own ambition and vision. SWELANS told us in Limbe that we should revamp the association and I was of the opinion that we were going to do that. Now when I said we are not going to beg anybody, I meant that I will not go to the office of somebody and stay there for more than two hours waiting for the person. I am the leader of the Association and if I say we’ll not beg anybody, we’ll not crawl. If you are interested in SWELA and you invite us to your place, we will come. When I was to embark on my Regional tour, we met with Senator Nfon V.E. Mukete in Kumba and told him about the tour, he supported us to go on the tour to Lebialem. It was spontaneous. After that I called the Mayor of Buea and the General Manager of SOWEDA and they all assisted me and my team. So, when people don’t know these things and they think that they can sit and make statements, it’s wrong.

Opinions are rife that SWELA has drifted away from its initial vision of fighting for the development of the Southwest Region and has become a springboard for political self-aggrandisement, do you share these views?

That is exactly what I have been fighting against because I was there from the birth of the association in (1991). Then I was a senior lecturer in CCAS Kumba and SWELA was created at the Church Centre. To say we have completely drifted away from our vision is not true. I can say we have different dispensations. We had God the Father dispensation, God the Son and now we are in God the Holy Spirit dispensation.

But it is common knowledge, Mr Secretary General, for Southwest elites to group themselves and write motions of support to President Biya or contribute money to fund CPDM campaigns, but have more or less failed to come together to advocate for real development projects like the abandoned Limbe Deep Sea Port, the Kumba –Tombel-Ekondo Titi-Mundemba-Isangele-Akwa road among others. What in your opinion accounts for this lethargy?

I have been advocating for lobbying as far as the development of the Southwest Region is concerned. It is not true when you say the Southwest elites are not doing enough because the Government is responding to some of these projects because of the pressure. Pressure does not mean I need to shout, but doing the work behind the scene. In one of my press conferences I decried the fact that the Limbe Deep Sea Port hasn’t gone anywhere, while the Kribi Sea Port that started some few years ago is near completion.

What is SWELA doing about the rampant grabbing and selling of ancestral land by some administrators in the Southwest Region, most especially in Fako Division?

Complaints about land grabbing have never been brought to the General Secretariat of SWELA, so we are ignorant about it. I can only talk about the land problem in Mokonji where the Bafaws and the Balongs are fighting over, but it has become clear who owns the land. If you say some administrators are grabbing land, where? We have not received any official complaints.

But you reside in Fako, are you saying that you need a formal complaint before you can act as head of an association that is out to foster development and protect the patrimony of the Southwest Region?

If there is a scuffle between the Chiefs and the elites, the elites or Chiefs should be able to bring their complaint to the association. The problem is that they know the right channel but they don’t follow it. When I was informed about the compensation problem between Dangote and the people of Tombel, I followed it up and it was resolved.

There is this general resentment from all the strata of the English speaking part of Cameroon on the proposed harmonisation of school programmes, what do you make of this move?

In international parlance we say the university is a State within a State. In order words, Cameroon is different from Nigeria, Gabon or Equatorial Guinea. The University of Buea cannot be the same like the University of Bamenda or Yaounde. That is why a student can be proud to say he/she is from the London School of Law and Economics, another student will say he/she is from Cambridge or Oxford University because of their different disciplines and specificities. We can’t talk of harmonising programmes because it’s out of place. Education is a culture and Cameroon is bicultural and the legal system is bi-jural, so we cannot be talking about harmonising them. I repeatedly challenged Robert Mbella Mbappe (RIP) that harmonisation is impossible because Anglophones start the science subjects like Physics and Chemistry from form one, while the Francophones only begin doing these subjects in form five, so how do you harmonise the two? Let’s learn to keep our culture intact.

Interviewed By Isidore Abah & *Larissa Ngeniform (*NBP Student on Internship)
Moki Etukeni SWELA because SWELA is a non-political association and I will continue to say we will not overtly support any party because that will be wrong

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