Relations between Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea, seen from the sole angle of repeated border incidents and closures as well as regular expulsions, leave a feeling of unfriendliness but the high-level talks at State House on Friday between Presidents Paul Biya and Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo leave no doubt that cooperation and friendship are far deeper than the image these incidents reveal.
The setting at State House last Friday was in itself indicative of the importance of this visit. Hours before arrival, the decorative setting with water works in full bloom and the well laid out flowers and a thick red carpet pulled out running from the Perron to the lift entrance, left little doubt that it was going to be a hefty feast indeed.
The Equatorial Guinea President and Mrs Constancia Mangue de Obiang arrived at State House at about 13.45 pm with the Cameroonian Head of State warmly welcoming them. While Mrs Obiang was taken to the Oriental wing of the Presidential facility for talks with her Cameroon's First Lady Chantal Biya, Presidents Obiang and Biya headed for the latter's third-floor office for talks which went largely beyond the 30 minutes initially scheduled.
A diplomatic source told Cameroon Tribune that a convergence of views and a common understanding of issues raised for discussion must have warranted a longer period for discussion.
As the two Presidents continued their discussion, guests invited to a luncheon offered by President Biya steadily trooped in, "burning" time with drinks and other cookies at the first-floor Ambassadors' Hall of State House. Moments before 4 pm, the arrival of a few members of President Biya's party in the first-floor gave an indication that talks had ended... but the two Presidents took some added time waiting for the First Ladies who arrived shortly after; opening the way for the luncheon.
"It is always with pleasure that one receives a friend, a brother... or somebody you find easy to do business with"... were President Biya's opening words in a toast at the beginning of the luncheon. The President suggested that relations between the two countries be saddled on two principles. : brotherliness and solidarity. Broterliness, certainly because the peoples of the two countries share a lot in common. Solidarity, because of the geography and the complementary nature of the economies of the two countries, meaning that the two countries stand to gain by working together and espousing common stances during international economic negotiations. President Biya hinted that this new-found solidarity will be tested at the forthcoming African Caribbean and Pacific summit to be hosted by Malabo. Returning the toast, President Nguema highlighted the virtues of dialogue and concertation especially between neighbours sharing so much in common as Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea. He said it was in the furtherance of this principle that he had sought and obtained the okay of President Biya to come to Yaounde to check the state of relations.
In apparent reference to repeated border incidents and a number of other frustrations experienced by Cameroonian nationals in his country, President Obiang observed that governments go, but the people always remain. "The personal behaviour of individuals should not be used in determining our relations and such behaviour should not affect relations", he said. He insisted that the convergence of views between him and President Biya on a wide range of issues affecting their two countries ought to be replicated by lower-level authorities.
The Equatorial Guinea leader was full of praises for President Biya who, in his opinion, has exercised statesmanship each time and opportunity was offered to soil relations between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.