CAMEROON MARKS 42ND NATIONAL DAY


President Biya and First Lady, Chantal Biya

President Biya and First Lady, Chantal Biya

May 20, 2014, marks exactly 42 years since May 20, 1972, the day when Cameron became a unitary state. Cameroonians the nation over today celebrate the 42nd edition of their national unity. Celebrated under the theme “the army and the nation, in synergy for the preservation of peace and security, purveyor of integration, stability and economic development”, the grand event, presided over by the Head of State, President Paul Barthelemy Biya Bi Mvondo, was marked by a grand match past at the May 20 Boulevard in Yaounde. Special guests this year, as is tradition, was a contingent of the Ivory Coast army, led by Commandant Charles Yake.

Commemorative activities

Activities had been launched in Kye-Ossi in the South region, Kumba in the South West region, and Manoka in the Littoral region by the minister of Youth Affairs and Civic Education, Ismael Bidoung Mkpatt.

On Saturday May 17, 2014, a unity march took place all over the nation, in the ten regional capitals. However, Yaounde’s was spectacular with ten starting points, symbolic of the ten regions of Cameroon, all converging in four meeting points, symbolic of the four ethnicities of Cameroon: the Sawa, the Beti-Fang, the Grassfield and the Northern wings of the country. Animated by a mass choir, a mixture of Christian, Muslim and otherwise religious leaders implored the hand of God upon the unity of Cameroon.

On Sunday May 18, 2014, it was a colourful display of the Cameroon air force that graced the esplanade of the air force base in Yaounde. The parachutists, including three females, were applauded by a host of government officials, in the presence of Martin Mbarga Nguele, director general for national security.

A beauty pageant to determine Miss Unity 2014 was carried out involving ten contestants drawn form the ten regions of Cameroon. The young contestants had to elaborate on the theme of the year’s celebration, and showcase the beauty of their region, whilst bringing out the unity in diversity of the nation. At the end of the contest, Clementine Pita Rabbit was elected Miss Unity 2014.

At the May 20 Boulevard in Yaounde, a grand match past, presided over by President Biya, was attended by a host of top government officials, members of the diplomatic corps, and a crowd of local on-lookers amongst others. The military match past; civilian match past comprising over 30 political parties as well as schools featured as highlights.

In the evening, a gala will take place at the unity palace to celebrate national unity and integration, attended by a host of national and international invitees.

Revisiting history: May 20, 1972

After the British Southern Cameroons decided to gain independence by joining the already independent ‘La Republique Du Cameroun’ following the 11 February 1961 plebiscite, the move was officialised on October 1, 1961, and the Federal Republic of Cameroon was thus born.

Despite debated reasons, a new vision was sought by then president, Ahmadou Ahidjo, to remove barriers to national unity and integration. This, according to President Ahidjo, was to be fulfilled with the elimination of the two federated states of West and East Cameroon, and the birth of a united Cameroon. And so it was, that on May 20, 1972, Cameroonians on both sides of the Moungo took part in a referendum where they decided to be a unitary state.

The country thus gained the appellation “United Republic of Cameroon” and subsequently, “Republic of Cameroon”. Since then, May 20 was chosen as a national day for the Cameroonian people, and much reverence thenceforth bestowed upon it.

 The national anthem

The first words of the national anthem are said to have been originally written in 1928 by Rene Djam Ajame and a student group. However, due to Cameroon’s bilingual nature, the French words as we know them today were written by Moise Nyatte Nko’o and the English version by Bernard Nsosika Fonlon. The music was composed by Nyatte and Samuel Miniko Bamba, and it was finally adopted when Cameroon became an official or autonomous region.

Lyrics – English version

O Cameroon thou cradle of our fathers,

Holy shrine where in our midst they now repose,

Their tears and blood, and sweat thy soil did water,

On thy hills and valleys once their tillage rose.

Dear fatherland, thy worth no tongue can tell!

How can we ever pay thy due?

Thy welfare we will win in toil and love and peace,

Will be to thy name ever true!

Chorus

Land of promise, land of glory!

Thou of life and joy our only store!

Thine be honour, thine devotion,

And deep endearment for ever more!

Verse 2

From Shari, from where the Moungo meanders,

From along the banks of lowly Boumba stream,

Muster thy sons in union close around thee,

Mighty as the Buea Mountain be their team.

Instil in them the love of gentle ways,

Regret for errors of the past,

Foster for mother Africa a loyalty,

That true shall remain to the last.

Chorus

Land of promise, land of glory!

Thou of life and joy our only store!

Thine be honour, thine devotion,

And deep endearment for ever more!

 

The grand debate: national unity, myth or reality

Even though the country celebrates its national day, there is growing debate on whether integration and national unity is possible or plausible, legal or illegal, or if it is a myth or a reality.

Clamours are rife with the popularized “Anglophone problem” where Cameroonians of the English speaking side decry alleged discrimination in official appointments, little or no development and unfulfilled promises amongst others. One that stands out in this light is the construction of the much clamoured-for Kumba-Mamfe stretch of road. After long promises, the road is yet to be tarred. The latest of such promises ensued during the celebrations marking Cameroon’s fiftieth anniversaries of independence and reunification in Buea, last February, where those present were reassured that construction works on the road will debut on May 5, 2014. However, this has still gone down the anal of unfulfilled promises.

Whether the unity celebration as that displayed today is a farce or not, whether the national integration of Cameroon be a myth or reality, truth remains that a single nation is now recognised in Cameron; the people governed as one and the present vision aimed at preserving Cameroon united, one and indivisible, till proven otherwise.

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