Members of the Civil Society of Northwest Associations (CISONWA) based in the Southwest Region of Cameroon, defied the heavy downpour of August 22, 2009 to attend their coveted second meeting at the Molyko Catholic Church Hall in Buea. They came from all the nooks and crannies of the region to deliberate on a draft message of congratulation to the Premier, Philemon Yang, a vote of thanks to President Paul Biya and a memorandum to the Head of State, before onward transmission.
Unlike the previous meeting that saw the attendance of only 70 members at the Buea Town Catholic Hall, the Molyko meeting was a crowd-puller, occasioning kudos to be awarded its general co-ordinator and eventually pioneer President of CISONWA, Deputy Registrar of the GCE Board in charge of Technical Services, Akoko Mathew, for his mobilising spirit. Interestingly, only delegates from the various associations were expected at the meeting, yet the number in attendance was so overwhelming.
In his opening remark, Akoko lauded the efforts of all participants for having braved the near storm to attend the momentous meeting. Later, he observed that this was testimony to the fact that they understand the essence of the civil society which, he said, has often been mistaken otherwise by some circles.
Akoko defined the civil society as the arena of voluntary collective action around shared interests, purposes and values and is often populated by organisations. He said a civil society has the necessary features of separation from the state and the market, formed by people who have common needs, interests and values like tolerance, inclusion, co-operation and equality; and development through an endogenous and autonomous process which can easily be controlled from outside. For him, a civil society serves for poverty alleviation, participatory democracy, conflict management, and as a channel for service delivery. The academic said the challenges of the civil society lie on its legitimacy, partnership with the state, sustainability and accountability.
According to the chairperson of the memorandum committee, Azong Wara Andrew, the fact that the people of the Southwest Region have always been very hospitable to their brothers from the grass-fields called for incorporation of their worries in the memo to be forwarded to the President of the Republic.
CISONWA came up with a 5-dimensional memorandum on education, infrastructure, agroforestry, health and issues of national dimension.
On education, they urged President Biya to create a full-fledged university in the Northwest Region on the basis that there is very high demand for the lone Anglo-Saxon University of Buea. They observed that 21381 candidates passed in the 2009 GCE A/L, yet the University of Buea can admit only one-fifth of this number of candidates. “What happens to the other over 17.000?” they wondered aloud. Besides, they noted that in the University of Dschang, Northwest students constituted 21% of the overall students’ population in the 2008/2009 academic session; a very significant figure.
The English-French bilingualism concept in Cameroon having been abandoned for the concept of the two separate subsystems operating in the same institution, CISONWA called for the creation of two bilingualism secondary schools in every division in the country. Besides calling for the recruitment of more teachers, they decried the recruitment of Francophone teachers in Anglophone technical schools who end up teaching in pidgin, recommending the creation of a technical teachers’ training college in the region. There was also the call for the creation of a Faculty of Engineering at the University of Buea.
On infrastructure, CISONWA enjoined Biya to facilitate the construction of the Kumba-Mamfe-Bamenda Road, the Bamenda Ring Road and a decent football stadium in Bamenda. Otherwise, they pleaded with President Biya to create an enabling environment for the creation of an agroindustrial zone and a referral hospital in the Northwest Region.
On National issues, CISONWA urged the government to release the results of the 2005 general and housing census, implement the follow-up of files at the level of the regions, check global warming, as well as brain-drain in the country. It should be noted that at the end of the session, a full team headed by Akoko Mathew as President was put in place to man the affairs of CISONWA henceforth. The executive bureau is expected to form branches of CISONWA in every Subdivision of the Southwest region.
By Mua Paul Kum