By Mbenju Mafany
Yaounde, Cameroon (The Cameroonian.com) – Buea is a city! Any shot at ridding it of this status, overtly or covertly, will be vile and deceptive. Of course, the Buea-based Centre for Research on Democracy and Development in Africa, CEREDDA, has published an illustrative, revolutionary and visionary book to expatiate this point.
Churchill Ewumbue-Monono’s Buea, Capital of the Cameroons: Symbol of the Nation and of Reunification rubs out what tinges of doubt there may be on the might of the 120-year-old multi-dimensional capital, which has been pilloried with a string of mean but futile “ruralisation” campaigns.
He states his case for Buea in three parts: the city’s administrative evolution; important events and dates; and a photo gallery of pre-colonial and post-colonial structures.
With instructive stats and facts, the 305-page landmark publication weaves Cameroon’s contemporary history, beginning with an overview of Buea, which served as the first religious, educational, and administrative capital of Cameroon.
However, the kernel of this thoroughly researched piece is the outright debunking of the perception that Buea was a village and only witnessed pockets of urbanisation when it hosted the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Cameroon in February 2014.
According to the author, Buea already enjoyed the status of an urban area in the colonial and post colonial epochs. For example, Buea was destined to be the capital of not only Kamerun, but also of the entire German West Africa, which stretched to Togoland under Governor Otto von Puttkamer (1895-1906). In addition, Buea was ranked in the same category with Douala, Edea, and Yaounde when the town’s urban character was confirmed in Decree No.68/DF/272 of 15 July 1968 that zoned the towns of the Federal Republic of Cameroon based on urban indicators and standards of living.
One cannot undermine the official visits of Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, President Leopold Sedar Senghor of Senegal, and President Albert Bernard Bongo of Gabon to Buea in 1959, 1966 and 1969 respectively.
Nonetheless, these glamourous narratives were tainted along the line. There was a structural and administrative neglect of the mountain station. Even the visionary schemes of Dr. E.M.L Endeley and Solomon Tandeng Muna were quashed. “The former German capital of Kamerun was even downgraded to a rural council area in 1977 although an urban master plan for the town existed since November 1926”. Ewumbue-Monono argues that Buea has faced an important challenge in managing its urbanisation, de-urbanisation and re-urbanisation. Consequently, he has meticulously examined this systematic, and maybe systemic, “ruralisation” of the town especially during the Unitary State.
Yet the ongoing rebirth or re-urbanisation of Buea has been highly attributed to President Paul Biya’s New Deal regime. Most importantly, the book solidly propagates the ever-increasing contributions of the post 1982 government, through the revival of abandoned infrastructural projects and the establishment of never-imagined “gifts” to the population of Buea.
It took the eagle eyes of a geo-strategist fused with an enviable career in diplomacy and a profound mastery of his hometown to produce this fact checker. In fact, this is authentic testimony for Buea’s burly roots and its habitants’ clarion call to reposition it on the real map of unforgettable cities.
This justifiable appeal has hit unapologetic minds and deaf ears in the past decades, but Ewumbue-Monono has rekindled it with a persuasive, gentlemanly and credible voice laced with a royal and feathered pen.
N.B. Buea, Capital of the Cameroons: Symbol of the Nation and of Reunification will be launched on March 1, 2016 (6:00 p.m.) at the Solomon Tandeng Muna Foundation in Yaounde.(First published on The Cameroonian.com on February 25, 2016)