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Politics of Friday, 31 January 2014

Source: Cameroon Tribune

"People Rejoiced Coming Together Again"

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Honourable Enow Tanjong, pioneer Governor of the then South West Province and now one of the Members of Parliament for Manyu Constituency.

Where were you during the Reunification period?

I came back to Cameroon in August 1961. Previously I was in the University of Ibadan and I finished in June 1961 with a BSc. Honours Degree in Economics from that University which was affiliated to London University. So I actually came out with a BSc. Honours Degree in Economics from the University of London. As soon as I arrived in Cameroon, I was employed in the public service of the former West Cameroon as an assistant secretary.

I served first in the public service then later on I went to the Secretariat of State for Finance as it was known from 1969 onward. But before then, we called it the Ministry of Finance of the State of West Cameroon. It was an epoch of great interest, great events because I came in just when the colonial masters; the British at the time were leaving West Cameroon. Reunification took place on 1st of October 1961 and I was present when the British flag was brought down in favour of the Cameroonian flag.

This took place actually at the Buea Mountain Hotel where everything was done to bring about the great event of a united Cameroon. My action really was to make sure that the vacant places left by the departure of both Nigerians and the British in the public service were filled by Cameroonians. At the time we had recruitment of secondary school leavers. It was not actually recruitment because, as soon as they came out, we posted them to vacant posts in the ministries.

So it was as if it was a posting and not really recruitment, as such, because we just needed them. As far as senior posts were concerned, these were also vacant and as soon as a Cameroonian returned, he found the post in the public service.

What was your contribution in the Reunification Process?

The contribution really came as I settled down in the public service. In 1969, we had the harmonization of services of the former West Cameroon to those of the republic as a whole. So it was in 1969 that we drew up the common taxation code. Taxes were different before 1969.

I was actually a member of the national commission and the harmonization of tax code. In public service we had to participate in commissions which enabled the status of former West Cameroon civil servants to be brought together in the same line like those of the other State that is the East Cameroon State. I want to note here that it was in 1969 that the post of Permanent Secretary which was in former West Cameroon which later became Secretary General was brought to the other state.

So it was from 1969 that we had Secretary General of a Ministry. Previously in East Cameroun they had Director of Cabinet and these are positions which disappeared as soon as the minister went away. It was in 1969 that this was abolished. The position that existed in West Cameroon, we called them Permanent Secretaries who remained permanent whether a minister left the service or not. We then got a general definition of that permanent secretary as Secretary General of the Ministry. This was a great contribution to what exist now in the country.

How were Cameroonians working in the Nigerian civil service before reunification integrated them in the Cameroonian civil service?

This happened actually as I came back. We got Cameroonians back from the public service of Nigeria to the public service of West Cameroon. I was in the commission that visited Lagos in 1964 to make sure we had these civil servants. Most of them who decided to come back were integrated. I remember in particular our public works store department was lacking in personnel and we had to encourage Cameroonians to come back and all of them who came were integrated in the stores department of the then public service.

How did you live the Reunification event?

The Reunification was a wonderful event that depicted the coming together of our people who were separated in West Cameroon and East Cameroon. This was a period of rejoicing. People rejoiced that they had once more come together though we had difficulties. I remember that we had specially to go to Kumba, near Loum, to make sure that we had to drive on the right side of the road because it was always the left side.

Then we had to convert the currency into Franc CFA. This was difficult but the event went on well. I took part in it, I was then in the Secretariat of State for Finance. The conversion was done, we had some difficulties, I would say, but things went on alright. We drove on the right lane and then used the CFA. So I think on the whole, things went on alright.

How can you evaluate the road covered so far in the Reunification of West and East Cameroon 50 years after?

50 years after, I think the feeling is that we have achieved something as far as the continent of Africa is concerned. We have achieved reunification of one country which was divided by colonial administration for some time. It has been a wonderful achievement. There have been difficulties or so, difficulties which were inherent in this system that operated in the two sectors of the country.

Those difficulties continue, but they should not be over emphasized because the question of people coming together, trying to learn to live together and trying to do things which they were not used to before, that question is usually not resolved in one day. It's a question which will be resolved during a considerable period. I think that is what we need.

Fifty years constitute a period, but we wouldn't say that it is long enough to bring about smooth transition between peoples who have lived so far separate and were doing things separately. We are coming together and these difficulties are being resolved.

You talked of some difficulties, what are they concretely?

Yes, that is the feeling particularly with young people who are coming from the universities. That is, the difficulty of employment. They have feelings that the unemployment situation is more pronounced in the two Anglophone regions than you will find in Francophone regions. That is the feeling around and it is felt that perhaps opportunities are not equal.

That the opportunities for getting employment are more in the other regions than in the two Anglophone sections of the country. There are feelings that opportunities for social and economic development of the country are not the same. The feeling is that more should be done so that the national cake is consumed by everyone. I think that is the main difficulty and we should do everything to ensure that every one has an equal position and equal opportunity to enjoy the fruits of development.

What do you suggest as the way forward?

The way forward first of all, is to have faith in our institutions and to keep on exercising patience and do everything to participate in the structures which have been laid. I think that is the way forward. It is not a question of seeking refuge in another structure which has been laid somewhere, but improving on the structures which are already in place and doing everything to make sure we participate in those structures. I think that is the way forward.

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