Color Skins

Interview with the President of the North West Regional Assembly for 4th Edition of The North-Westerner

By Charles Tembei

How did you receive the news of the release of the President of the House of Chiefs and how does this augur for work at the North West Regional Assembly?
  • Great relief! We thank God and all who contributed in one way or the other for his release. The Regional Assembly is also pleading for the return from captivity of Hon. Ujambeng,  Representative from Ngie, Momo. When all members of the Assembly are present and participating, we are certain of region-wide representation. This is important for the voice of the entire region and our democracy.
How is the NW Regional Assembly faring midway into the term of office of the pioneer team of NWRA council executives?
  • The NW Regional Assembly is waxing strong. We expect the populations of the region to continue support for the Peace and Development initiative programs, an overture to citizen participation and community ownership of development. Ultimately participation of all stakeholders in planning, programming, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation will strengthen and sustain social and economic growth.

We do have an impression that, so far, the different organs of the North West Regional Assembly do not yet have a perfect mastery of their roles. What’s your take on this?
  • An impression, it’s possible. The North-West Regional Assembly hit the ground running with pre-session training seminars for its members at inception. Experts in administration, budget, management and planning from the ministries and universities are invited for these lectures/seminars during every session. We have also learned from several training programs designed and operated by the National School of Local Administration in Buea. There have been bench marking study trips within and without the country to build capacity. This is in an effort to anchor our Assembly, indeed the region in a performance result- based system.

Close to 30 months since you and your team took the oath of office, what do you think have been your major achievements?
  • Validation of our 5 year Regional Development plan. Support to internally displaced persons in need: the orphaned, sick, aged, special support to students and inclusive education. Financial support to over 3400 persons for birth certificates and distribution of medical supplies and hospital equipment to all health districts. Prompt responses to natural disasters: floods in Widikum, land slides at the Fundong regional road, victims of the Fundong market fire, and wind destruction in Nkor and Nwa.The PDI brings all stakeholders together around common concerns fostering dialogue and bolstering harmonious development. Community driven cash for work schemes and projects recruit vulnerable and disadvantaged youth. Social and economic inclusiveness through the high intensity labor community designed projects foster cohesion and translate in deed our slogan “U na Mi, Mi na U, Wi bi Wi”

Do you understand the impatience of the people with the pace at which you are going? Some say you have nothing concrete to show, apart from studies!
  • A diversity of expectations, attitudes and even impatience are to be entertained in public life. Through the media in its various forms we try to inform, explain and give an account of our stewardship. A diversity of opinion especially opposing thoughts make for a healthy institution. I have been told the vox populi section of this journal is quite popular!

You have just had the NW Regional Development Plan 2022-2027 validated. So, what next after this approval?
  • The RDP [Regional Development Plan] is a road map, a dynamic guide for the extraction of three year medium term budgetary and expenditure frameworks further broken down to annual action plans. These annual plans are finalized after the budget orientation debate usually in the June session of the preceding year, where citizen participation is solicited. So citizen participation is systematic from elaboration of the RDP, budgeting, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.

Where are we with the NW Development Fund whose inception you announced a long time ago?
  • The legal, finance and administrative framework of the NOWEDIF have been elaborated. The studies on food and animal value chains and an investment scheme are ready. These instruments will be presented in the June session for validation.  The next steps are adoption prior to approval by the Representative of State. Only then can we seek the assistance of government for implementation.

Q. What do you have off your sleeves in the second segment of your term?
  • Consolidate actions in the six areas where powers have been devolved. Strengthen the dialogue and harmonious development community projects as we engage Regional tours by the Assembly to all divisions. Continue our drive to diversity our partnerships through inter-regional agreements. Strengthen decentralized cooperation and engage the private sector in product transformation and industry as projected in our investment (NOWEDIF) plan.

“Q. There are plans to construct a permanent seat for the North Regional Assembly worth about 7 billion cfa francs and already some people are jittery about the colossal sum of money to be spent on this project. They consider this a misplaced priority! What do you have say about this?
  • On the contrary! Again we have a challenge to inform and educate. We are going to hire a minimum of a hundred staff in the next several years. Where will they work. Already we are renting to accommodate the twenty or so staff which is largely insufficient for the work load. It is actually more economical and cost efficient to build the headquarters. Ultimately money saved in the long run can be disbursed for social action. I can assure you that if our projects were not bankable, (justifiable) FEICOM would not fund them.

“Q. Do you have a specific message you would want to address to the people of this region who are looking up to you for a turn-around in their livelihood?
  • I am happy of the interest possibly concern by some on the Assembly delivering the goods. I am glad they are holding us to account. Through communication we will understand all sides of the concerns and truth will prevail. Truth breeds trust, trust the social currency for sustained development. Having said so, Rome was not built in a day. We urge one and all to join us in decreasing the gaps in information,  communication, wealth and fortunes albeit in patience. We are on course to improving our livelihoods with the methodic devolution of competences and accompanying instruments: technical, material and Financial resources!

Interview With the President of the Regional Executive Council on Sizing Up the Mid term Mandate of the North-West Regional Assembly.

As year two of the mandate of the North-West Regional Executive Council wraps up, Choves Loh and Gwain Colbert caught up with the President of the Regional Executive Council, who fielded questions on the road covered so far for "The North-Westerner Magazine." Excerpts below.

Could you size up your performance as the pioneer President of the North-West Regional Executive Council?
  • President: Your question probably should be addressed to my constituents. I do believe that auto-evaluation is a critical element in performance-based management; but it has its limits. Some think it can be subjective. That is why in that managerial scheme, there are both internal and external audits, and an institutional provision for oversight. Personally, I am happy with the ground covered, notwithstanding the very challenging social and security adversities. As we increase our contacts and communication streams with the wider community, this will become more evident.

How appropriate could the Regional Assembly be in playing the frontline role to fast-track the return to peace and normalcy within North-West Region?
  • President: Fast-tracking peace and normalcy to the North-West Region is an imperative, and equally one of the three-pronged visions of the Regional Executive Council of January 2021, as you can recall. Through that vision, we engaged the community in a Regional Peace Pact, so to speak. Our ambition was not to be at the forefront; for, we are all about team work, where together (T) everyone (E) achieves (A) more (M). Quite frankly, the quest for peace is not about a political gimmick but an existential, survival issue. Further, our politics is not about us as individuals or a group; it is about everyone in the community. Non sebi sed omnibus! The dedication of the second edition of The North-Westerner Magazine seeks not only to address the primordial imperative for peace, but also sets guidelines on the Peace and Development Initiative of the Regional Assembly.

How much of a blessing was the Regional Assembly conceived to be a frontline institution to fast-track the return to peace and normalcy in the North-West?
  • President: As already mentioned above, the advent of the North-West Regional Assembly was not only timely and necessary, but also a huge blessing to the branding the North-West Region in the ¹wake of the socio-economic crisis. You can bear with me that, since its incipience, and through its peace-building and development missions or actions, normalcy is steadily returning to many parts of the Region. So, through our vision, we have constantly been engaging the communities in a Regional Peace Pact, so to speak.

The 8th session of the Regional Assembly featured as theme, the path covered in peace and development efforts. What were the major conclusions of the session?
  • President: The eighth session of the Regional Assembly followed the standard format, although it was dense in capacity building. You, of course, know that we initiated the information, education and communication (training) format as pre-session activities in our maiden session of June 2021. This was appropriate, as training is an important and compulsory activity, in line with the General Code of Local and Regional Authorities. The session took the character of a seminar on Conciliation, Mediation and Peace-Building. For three full days, Members of the Regional House of Assembly were drilled on these topics within the context of the present crisis, its drivers and the way forward. The experts in conflict resolution during this interactive seminar, gave concrete ideas on the pathway to peace in our Region through peace-makers, peace ambassadors, etc. These activities will continue through the Peace and Development Committees in all Divisions, Sub-Divisions and villages of the Region as we move on. This action should bring all stakeholders on board to address issues of common interest, of the commonwealth of the community! Peace and development have been identified as being our common goal, unifying all shades of opinion and likely to democratize dialogue at the base. The sourcing of projects from community stakeholders to be funded by the Regional Assembly underscores our conviction that the bottom-up approach not only ensures citizen participation, growth and sustained development but also brings peace! 

How far have the North-West Fons gone with their resolve to cleanse communities as a peace-building measure?
  • President: Our fathers, the Fons, have in our various villages and with varying degrees of success contributed to the peace-building effort. Apart from the standard information, education and communication for behavioural change, they have spiced the project with what you call cleansing! Cleansing means many things to many people; but from what I have seen, libations accompanied by incantations invoking the spirits of our ancestors have been carried out here and there. Some of these have been in the quiet, far from the prying eye of journalists; some, like in Wum, with Honorable Royal Majesty, the Fon of Aghem, and in Mendankwe, by HRH the Fon of Mendankwe recently during the laying of the foundation stone for the Regional gas plant, have been publicized. The royal courts  of Mankon and Nkwen  have done same. The disappearance of ANGWAFO III of Mankon has rekindled a region- wide, rather nation- wide traditional cultural awareness; bringing people of all horizons and ethnicities to cherish inter- community cohesion through cultural festivals and jamborees in an unprecedented communion since 2016.

What inspired the concept of peace and development committees? What is their composition and are they already functional?
  • President: There are truths from time immemorial, captured in the following quotes that impressed us over time, and founded our sensitivity to the fellow human, fully aware that we cannot take pride in or rejoice in the suffering or affliction of fellow human beings:

    “War does not determine who is right, only who is left,” Bertrand Russell.

    “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time,” Leo Tolstoy.

    “There is no hunting like hunting of men, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything thereafter,” Ernest Hemingway.

    “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war,” Norman Schwarzkopf.

    The Peace and Development Initiative was, therefore, born from the existential imperative to stop the conflict in our Region; the promise to develop a Region-wide Peace Pact, and call out to the humanity of our fellow citizens. Through Peace and Development Committees, we hope the proverbial African paradigm of community life will prosper, thereby sustaining peace through community actions, community projects, community theatre, revival of national languages, cultures as opposed to community conflicts and all. The guidelines for peace building missions, published in this edition, give us the detailed composition and functions of the peace and development committees. This is an operational scheme to enact the Special Status of the General Code of Local and Regional Authorities for the North-West Region. That is why all stakeholders are part and parcel of the Peace and Development Committees.

Which are some of the peace and development committee projects initiated by communities and how soon will their implementation start?
  • President: Through the Peace and Development Initiatives (PDI) and Peace and Development Committees (PDCs), the NWRA engages youth in community labour, social education to fight the scourges of ignorance, dogma, drugs, crime, abject poverty and other drivers of conflict and war. This programmatic approach to peace through high labour intensity projects and behavioral change entails five managerial actions: coordination; partnerships; political and regulatory advocacy; community engagement (all stakeholders); information, education and communication for adaptability; interpersonal and mass communication.

    The committees are functional to varying degrees, depending mostly on the level of commitment of the actors, relative also to the level of security and especially to the level of understanding and ownership by stakeholders. Where the projects have been approved, the Region has committed the means.

What else has the Regional Executive Council achieved since inception?
  • President:  It should be recalled that, on pages 7-8 of the first edition of this magazine,  in our special report, we elaborated PREC’s Annual Performance Report, wherein we published the state of execution of Deliberations of the NWRA for June, September and December 2021 sessions, factoring in on the NWRA and citizen participation (a premium Non Sibi Sed Aliis – not for self, but for others).

    Further into 2022, the NWRA has carried out actions and activities in the domains of the Economy, Health, Education, Sports, Culture, etc. The NWRA’s performance dashboard for 2022 is published on page … of this edition of The North-Westerner Magazine.

How does the Regional Assembly intend to deal with the security challenges to deliver peace and development projects?
  • President: The security challenges come from a complex mix of psycho-social, socio-economic and socio-political disparities that have led to isolation, a sense of despair, loss of self-confidence, self-esteem, value and not the least driven by a permissive culture where drugs and delinquency are exploiting ignorance. This is a social burden that calls for a multifaceted approach that puts man at the center of the PDI concern. The committees are called to work with the administration and the forces of law and order, who are a necessary part of the community I must add. The process of involving the individual (intrapersonal, the family (interpersonal) and the community (collective) should promote not only dialogue but also diminish conflict, foster harmony (living together) and diminish insecurity. The Regional annual end of year festivals and sharing lives with needy, cultural jamborees in our villages assuage conflict situations and foster social cohesion and subsequently peace. We are committed with our partner UNDP to decentralizing these annual events to divisional level. In so doing more vulnerable persons will be  uplifted!

As far as peace-building and local development are concerned, what is your message to the very expectant population, whose endeavours have been frustrated by the on-going, socio-political and security crises?
  • President: Fundamentally, the Peace and Development Initiative is a clarion call to one and all, to one and sundry, to shun collective suicide, ruin and self-annihilation. No reason can justify the loss of our dignity, our identity, let alone our lives! In the first sixty years of our nation, the English-speaking community of our nation has been burdened by discrimination and an attempt at assimilation. This has been recognized by the State and the process of reparation through structured legislation and many concrete actions is on course. It is an evolving process and we are called to be less passive onlookers and more proactive undertakers in its positive evolution. The Regional Assembly is a window of opportunity with its Peace and Development Initiative to correct structural social and economic disparities. The leave-no-one-behind, move-ahead-together policy is a powerful transcription of “U na Mi, Mi na U, Wi bi Wi” slogan, which translates our values of Peace, Justice, Unity, Hard work and Solidarity!

    Indeed, no force is strong enough to shield and obstruct the rays of the sun from reaching us all! Non sebi sed omnibus!