The 47th edition of the National Day of Cameroon has been celebrated today May 20th on a low key in the restive South West region of Cameroon amid calls for boycott, threats, traditional Monday ghost town and gun shots heard this morning at 3:00 am in some parts of Buea.
At the Independence square popularly called Bongo square in Buea, Chiefs who have in previous years participated in the event were conspicuously absent. Their sitting space at the stand was virtually empty except for the presence of the Paramount ruler of Buea, H.M Dr. Robert Esuka Endeley and members of his traditional council. Chief Atem Ebako of Talangaye in Ekondo Titi sub division was also present at the event.
In April, during a preparatory meeting for the national day, the Governor of the South West region, Bernard Okalia Bilai instructed the mayor of Buea to produce placards for the Chiefs of the over 100 villages in Buea. He said the chiefs were either going to march past the grandstand with the said placards or face severe consequences. He also threatened to dethrone all chiefs who are “on exile” in the French speaking cities of Yaounde and Douala if they failed to come back home and participated in the march past.
The governor’s utterances were however not accepted by the chiefs of Buea who in a communiqué few weeks later disassociated themselves from such utterances. According to them, they have over the years participated in national events and needed no one to remind them to do that.
They added that they were not going to march with placards because the customs and traditions of the South West people prohibit them from doing such. Other chiefs on their part called for a total boycott of the event as a way to show disapproval to the derogatory statements of the governor.
The Paramount ruler of Buea in another communiqué called on his subjects not to heed to any calls for boycott and turnout en mass to celebrate the event. This is probably why he was the only Buea Chief at the grandstand.
In a second preparatory meeting, the Governor through his secretary general backpedaled and said his utterances were taken out of context. He said he didn’t ask the traditional rulers to march with placards and did not threaten to dethrone any chief. He said he only called on the chiefs to mobilize their subjects to turn en mass and celebrate the event.
Since the governor later backpedaled from his initial utterances, one would have expected the traditional rulers to come out today and participate in the event by taking their seats at the Bongo Square but that didn’t happen. Their stand was virtually empty but for the presence of the Paramount ruler of Buea and the Chief of Talangaye.
Many are of the opinion that the chiefs boycotted the event because they didn’t only expect the Governor to backpedal on his statement but offer them an apology for ordering them to march with placards; something they consider an insult to their thrones.
HRH Ewome John AKA Moja Moja I of Fako, Chief of Bwassa in early May led a protest in Buea and questioned if the governor could make the same utterances to his Chief from the Centre region.
He also called on the Governor to withdraw his statement and apologize to the chiefs and the entire people of Buea. Unfortunately, that apology never came or is yet to come.