11 February 2013

Cameroon: Showing Concern for all

President Biya's message to the youth on the occasion of the 47th National Youth Day had several indications of his resolve to break away from past traditions.

Besides the fact that the Africa Cup of Nations final in South Africa between Burkina Faso and Nigeria, which the Green Eagles won, made the speech to be broadcast at 6:30 pm instead of the usual 8 pm, Cameroonians in general and the youth in particular had occasion to discover, a Head of State who not only had a mastery of all that is going on in the country, but showed concern for all.

Pupils, school children, school graduates, young hawkers, bike riders, parents, religious and other opinion leaders were all invited by President Paul Biya to contribute to mould Cameroon's youth. Rather than make an appraisal of what government has done for youth in the past year and future plans as has often been the case, the Head of State settled on a pedagogic approach, calling on youth not to give in to the current hardship that they face. "Those who have a job, be they handcart pushers, loaders, jobbers, motorcycle taxi riders, etc., may bear a grudge against society. I can also understand if they are tempted to be rebellious. But that would not be the right course to follow, for experience shows that this worsens problems without providing any solution." he said.

Recalling the theme of the event: "Youth: Civic Responsibility and Participation in the Development Process," Mister Biya tied his message to the theme by bringing out most, if not all the sectors where the youth have been greatly involved such as informal businesses. Commercial motor-bike riding has occupied most of the younger generation in the country with the good, the bad, and the ugly having been witnessed by Cameroonians. Some have even called for a complete review or ban of the activities of motor-bike riders in the country. Without assuming any extremist posture, President Biya identified the challenges that the youth undergo and even proposed solutions in most of the cases, noting that the motor-bike sector, for example, is simply a victim of "black sheep."

Instead of looking low on certain sectors of society for doing what some see as menial jobs, the President argued that such jobs are not just important, but can be reorganised to enable the young people involved to make a decent living for the general improvement of their families and the entire country. "To avoid unbecoming conduct, there is clearly a need to organize the profession and consider providing training courses covering both the Highway Code, especially the wearing of helmets, and two-wheeler riding techniques," President Biya pointed out in his message.

Even events in areas across the country considered as remote from Yaounde, caught the attention of the Head of State. Thus, the death of Kouokam Géraldine, a pupil of the Mbanga Evangelical School in Moungo Division of the Littoral Region who died a few days ago during the launch of the Youth Week, was cited by President Biya with the due reverence that her situation merited. Like many other kids of her age, little Géraldine came out to perform her civic duty, but unfortunately the cold hands of death caught her. Were it in the military, she would have been described as dying arms-in-hand or on the battle field. Consequently, the Head of State could not miss out on such an incident, given that he set out to talk to all Cameroonian youth, irrespective of their level, social class, age or location.

By deciding to address all Cameroonians on such a day, President Biya certainly wants to underline the need for all citizens to take active part in youth education, thereby departing from the preconception that it is the sole responsibility of the State to provide for such a critical segment of the population.

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