The rejection of February 11 celebration in Buea by many Anglophones is not likely to be the day’s only damaging revelation about diminishing admiration towards Youth Day in the Anglophone Regions.
It took just 34 minutes for the show to start and end.
Only a handful of schools partook in the march-past at the Independence Square, unlike in the past when the line-up of smartly dressed school children stretched over a kilometre.
Distinct from the previous editions of February 11, both grandstands were also scantily occupied.The conduct of the participants cast grim doubts as to their origins. This year, many strange and shabbily dressed persons were seen at the march-past in Buea.
Observers of the Buea February 11 event wondered whether the celebration had not been stage-managed by ferrying in trainees of the armed forces from nearby training schools.
Clean-shaven heads (krobo) of some of the participants including females deepened the suspicion that those who marched in Buea were recruits.
The doubts were further spread as military trucks and those belonging to a corporation were seen transporting loads of people before and after the march-past.
Youths, supposedly from the Southwest Region, marched in T-shirts inscribed with the message ‘One Cameroon’. However, reports said some of the youths in the various quarters were baited late the night preceding the Youth Day with promises of financial rewards.
What seemed to confirm the suspicion that officials, desperate to make believe that February 11 was successfully celebrated in Buea, had rented outsiders to march, was the unique hairstyle, body build, look and attitude.
The French-language which the marchers spoke mostly betrayed them all the more. They also walked in groups or pairs and refused to talk to the press. The suspicious youths turned down requests for interviews after the march-past, while it is well known that youths have always been eager to answer questions from the press and even hear their own voices over radio or see their faces on TV, or quoted in newspapers.
Prior to the march-past, only a few taxi cabs and motorcycle taxis had circulated. This left many people wondering how the “Southwest Youths For One Cameroon” could have moved from their homes to the Independence Square.
In any case, they had not been trekking to the venue of the march-past. They only appeared when the marching started and huddled around a few opened shops and bars at Clerks’ Quarters before moving towards the Gendarmerie Headquarters in Buea.
It was thus assumed, rightly or wrongly, that the ‘rented’ marchers boarded buses and trucks waiting to transport them back to their training centres.
Disagreement Over Bait
An interesting development that ensued after the march past was a scrimmage that erupted over the bait of FCFA 25000 for the hired recruits. The recruits supposedly received only FCFA 5000 each, instead of the FCFA 25000 that was promised. With tempers flaring, the hired marchers were overheard chiding the authorities for making them risk their lives for a paltry FCFA 5000.
Schools, Snack Vendors Boycott Celebration
The absence of most Government schools and the absolute nonappearance of private and mission schools was the crown of the February 11 drama in Buea. There was neither the famous Baptist High School band, nor the colourful uniforms of the various schools.
Only the Government Bilingual Grammar School of Molyko and Government Bilingual High School Muea marched with banners showing that they were those of the Francophone section.
The primary schools that took part in the march-past were Ecole Public Francophone I and II in Buea.
Some of the students participated several times as they turned around and dressed in T-shirts and marched under other banners. Afterwards, they could be seen wearing party and other T-shirts over their school uniforms.
Quite different from tradition, vendors of snacks and soft drinks who often thronged the February 11 celebration grounds were nowhere to be seen since their clients; pupils, students and their parents and guardians had boycotted the event.
At the end of the day, Southwest Governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai, expressed gratitude to those who showed up for the march-past and enjoined the rest to resume school activities.
In beer parlous in Buea, youths could be heard commenting that there is no school for them, and some who were curious about the purported Southwest Youths For One Cameroon saying that the rented youths should also be rented to go to school.