After what was becoming a long and very frightful period, the embattled people of the flooded areas of the Far-North and North Regions had some soothing moments with the visit of the presidential couple last Wednesday and yesterday Thursday.
Though brief, the stay was full of intensity as the nation's first couple did not only have the opportunity to appraise the gravity of the situation, but also all the efforts being carried out. Generally, these efforts, at the behest of President Paul Biya, have been to alleviate the suffering of the affected and afflicted people.
This moment was very much awaited indeed and it did provide many of the results the people had looked forward to. Many of these outcomes went far beyond the provision of material goods and services in the wake of the catastrophe. It is difficult to measure the satisfaction of many of the people at the mere presence of the Head of State. That of the First Lady, Chantal Biya, was similarly significant; if not more.
The President came to preach courage and did so by example, braving all the odds to personally watch, from a helicopter flying at low altitude, all the devastation caused by the overflowing waters on already hard-pressed and impoverished households. The aftermath has been massive destruction of homes, stored harvests, farms and even deaths! That was a rare show of courage. But the people too needed someone of his standing to console them. He did not merely condole; he admonished them to show proof of courage in such difficult circumstances.
For, how else, after losing loved ones and essential property could one really take life? "We can't really do much, but all what we can do is to show courage and I congratulate you for all the courage you have manifested so far," the President said after visiting the disaster areas in Garoua last Wednesday. Later in Lagdo, he said he had expected to meet people crying and totally devastated. "But I met many of you carrying smiling faces and looking proud... I want to congratulate you for that show of courage," he told the group that turned out to welcome him.
But can courage alone overcome all the difficulties the distressed people are going through? Obviously not! That is why President Paul Biya reassured the people of the solidarity of the entire nation, beginning with the government. Upon coming back from his recent stay abroad, the Head of State initiated a number of measures to address the immediate needs of the people as well as middle-term solutions to the recurrent floods. He announced the construction of a 330-kilometre road/dyke on the left bank of River Logone to check regular overflows of water. This is only the most visible part of the general government mobilisation and that of some political parties and civil society organisations which have been manifested since the floods took the turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago.
The President formalised this favourable government disposition and political will by announcing the creation of a Support Fund for Victims of Natural Cataclysms. It is generally expected that the new body will play a watchdog role and step in decisively and rapidly when such catastrophes occur in the future. Of course, the funds for this effort will be provided from the public treasury; meaning that it is part of national solidarity because citizens will have to forgo this money which would have served for other developmental needs.
This means the other flood-stricken areas in the national territory, although not privileged to receive a presidential visit, should expect to be taken care of within the framework of the new structure announced by the Head of State in Lagdo.
All along his stay in the two Regions, his message was around courage and solidarity.