Cameroon marked 50th Youth Day or the 11 February Holiday on Thursday. Across the country, young people marched and sang patriotic songs in celebration. But what is behind the Youth Day and how has it helped the cause of young people over the years.
Historian Dr. Lazarus A Wanki is a political historian and senior lecturer at the University of Bamenda.
Q Why does Cameroon celebrate 11 February?
A The 11th of February marked the plebiscite in Cameroon. After the German era, Cameroon was divided the British and the French. They became trust territories under the UN after 1945, which meant that they were to be prepared for independence. French Cameroon gained independence in 1960 but British Southern Cameroons waited until 1961. British Cameroons were given two options. The first was to achieve independence by joining la Repubique du Cameroun and the second by joining the Federal Republic of Nigeria. British Northern Cameroon voted to join Nigeria meanwhile the British Southern Cameroons voted to join La Republique du Cameroun. The voting was done on the 11th of February. The youth day is in memory of that particular day.
Q What role did young people play in the plebiscite?
At that time, only youths from 18 years where allowed to vote. So it’s called youth day not just because the youths voted but it made the country unified.
A Has 11 February made any difference for the youth?
It has always brought youths together, which is a good thing because it makes them know that their country recognizes them. Now after that day nothing tangible or a follow up is carried for the benefit of young people. After the dancing, marching, and celebration, it all ends there for that year. We don’t see anything being done for the youths.
Q It is 50 years gone into the youth day celebrations; can you say the Cameroonian youths have been inspired by this day?
A I don’t see how they have been inspired by anyway because like I said, the youth day comes up, you have a few days activity and then it all goes away. So I don’t see how it has inspired them because some of them do not even know why they celebrate the youth day.
Q How bright is the future of the Cameroonian youths?
A There is a lot for the Cameroonian youth if our resources were developed. Cameroon is one of the richest countries in Africa but unfortunately our resources are not developed to provide employment. There are many economic activities which could be developed to employ many youths but with this numerous setbacks, I don’t see any bright future for the Cameroonian youth.
Q What would you change, if you had the chance?
A I would design projects that will create employment for the youths. I will call on technicians to work on new projects to employ the youths en masse. When Hitler came to power, over 6 million Germans were unemployed but after four years, unemployment became history in Germany. Develop the agriculture service. Bring compulsory military training to the youths and send the military men who don’t have what to do to farms to cultivate. All we need is employment. There is no amount of money you will give to somebody without a job that will keep him satisfied.