Although there was NO school all week (meaning no YAN classes) yet it was quite eventful!
Classes were cancelled due to a visit from the President of the Republic of Cameroon.

For the last year or so, the government has installed a “Keep Buea Clean” day which is every Wednesday morning. On this morning, until noon, all businesses and shops are closed so that they can clean. Clean their shops, clean the area around their business and even the road in front of their shops. There are people hired by the city that walk up and down the roads sweeping and putting trash into large trash bins. It’s something you have to prepare for – if you have no food in your house, you will go hungry until things open up.

This last Monday morning I woke up to see that it was “Keep Buea Clean” day as opposed to just a regular day. I had never seen this before; I knew something was up. I asked around to the shop owners and everyone had the general consensus that the President was actually coming this week so everyone was preparing and making sure things looked good. For the remainder of the day, until late afternoon, all businesses, shops, restaurants, etc remained closed. I didn’t know how serious the rumor was or how much it would effect YAN classes. According to everyone, he was to give a speech on Thursday for the 50th anniversary of the reunification of Cameroon. I knew for sure there would be no classes that day but didn’t realize the magnitude of the situation until the following day.

Throughout Monday, there were huge military trucks carrying 20-60 officers zipping up and down the main road. There were military helicopters flying around and the overall presence of police and military had increased five fold. That night, there was also a curfew set to 8pm which became less and less strict as the week went on.

Tuesday was the first day of the ‘state of emergency’ that was placed in Buea which was lifted Saturday when he left. Tuesday morning everything was closed down and the streets were literally flooded with people. Not a single taxi or privately owned vehicle was allowed on the roads; only military and police vehicles were allowed. As I walked along the streets looking for some sliced fruit for breakfast I inquired about the lack of taxis and why everyone was just standing around. The President had announced he would fly into Tiko airport (Tiko is about 20-25min away from Buea when driving normal speed with normal traffic) and he would then be driving to Buea so everyone was waiting to welcome him and the First Lady, Chantal. Then I looked around and noticed several women were wearing the Paul Biya fabric and other were wearing “Welcome Paul Biya” shirts. The  military helicopters were still flying around and fully armed military were posted every 20-30meters on the streets and high up on the rooftops of the story buildings that lined the main road. I walked up to Lycee to collect the curriculum booklets for marking but the gate was locked and the school was deserted. The guard was around but he said that no one was around to open the doors of the computer lab so I just went home to work on what booklets I did have at the house (Buea Town).

In the early afternoon I could hear sirens approaching and crowds of people shouting and cheering – the President had arrived!!! After he drove by, the swarms of people waiting for his arrival began walking up towards Clarks Quarters where he was headed.

Military and police presence was seriously felt everywhere in Buea – tension was high all week.

Above are military officers on the streets of Buea

Thursday February 20th 2014 marked the 50th anniversary of the Reunification of the Republic of Cameroon. The President himself, Paul Biya, came to Buea to give a speech and unveil the Reunification Monument which he gave to the City of Buea. As Buea anticipated his arrival for the last 2 years, things in Buea have been being renovated, demolished, repainted, updated and even built from scratch.

In my observations and in my opinion, there has been good and bad that has come with all of these changes.

They built a new GCE board office (a massive building where they produce, correct, distribute the GCE exams). It's a beautiful building no doubt. But... I've been told that there was money to build it in the budget years ago, but someone chopped (literally meaning ate in Pidgin but in this context meaning spent) the money and now they needed to have something to show for the money given for that building. Peoples' businesses and livelihoods were demolished so that the main streets look "presentable" for Paul Biya's arrival. A friend, Mami Biggie, used to sell puff-puff and beans and other breakfast foods; her small restaurant was demolished by the city council last year. She has been forced to move deeper into the 'dirty south' where she has been the victim of theft and even to this day isn't able to work and thrive like she used to. Last I checked she wasn’t even working. They forced already poor business owners to re-paint their buildings out of their own pocket money. If they didn't paint, their business would not be allowed to operate. For maybe 6-7 months now they have removed the middle median in the road which had two safety purposes and was functioning perfectly well. Firstly, it gave those who were crossing the street some sort of 'half way' point where they could wait safely to continue crossing. Secondly, it forbid any vehicle from overtaking (which is something Africans love to do especially when they cant see and have been drinking and driving). This has lead to so countless car accidents in the last 6 months. The reason why they took out the median is because the President drives in a V (or so I was told). He has people on every side of him while he is in his vehicle. To make up for this, they painted lines on the road which has given several cross walks (making it easier to cross the street) and a painted median which is better than nothing. Just one day before the Presidents actual arrival, they removed all speed bumps in the road from Tiko (the closest airport which is where he landed) to Buea so that he could speed to Buea with his convoy. Someone who has not been to Buea in the last year would hardly recognize the city now. It has changed THAT much. If I knew the changes were going to happen so drastically and rapidly I myself would have kept better record via photos. But on the good side, Buea is looking very developed and the people of the city are very proud.

A bit more about the President:

Paul was born as Paul Barthélemy Biya'a bi Mvondo on February 13th 1933. That makes him 81 years old! He got into politics in the early 1960s and took office as the President on November 6th, 1982. ...*calculating*... That means he has been President for nearly thirty two years. That means that more than 65% of Cameroonians have only known ONE president. He first married Jeanne-Irène Biya who suddenly and unexpectedly died in 1992 of 'unknown' causes. Just two years later he married Chantal Biya who is 38 years his junior.

The first multi-party election wasn’t held until 1992 and since then in every election there has been accusations of fraud and misconduct. After his re-election in 2004, Biya realized he would be barred by a two-term limit in the Constitution from running for President again in 2011. To fix this he  began expressing support for revising the Constitution, saying that it was "undemocratic to limit the people's choice." There were major violent protests yet the Assembly voted to change the Constitution to remove term limits. The change also provided for the President to enjoy immunity from prosecution for his actions as President after leaving office.