It sounded like a joke of poor taste when it was first announced: 102 billion francs to young people over three years. At best, it was an empty promise from President Paul Biya to cover up a bagful of problems facing young people. A hundred and two billion francs is a paltry three billion francs for each region annually through the duration of the “special” youth initiative. And Biya has a reputation of not keeping his promises. He took no concrete commitment. How will the money be spent? Would they be loans? Would they be grant? Who and what will qualify?
Yet, the National Youth Council was all praise. Four days after Biya’s announcement on 10 February, the president of the National Youth Council urged Cameroonian youths to come out ‘massively’ to say ‘thank you to President Biya for the structures he’s put in place so far for the full emancipation of young people, but most especially the golden jubilee gift, the special triennial plan backed by and envelope of 102 billion francs”. If he ended there, Jean Marc Mbafor’s outing could easily pass for political gamesmanship. But he marched through the streets of Yaounde and endorsed Biya’s candidacy for the next presidential election.
What a shock! What disrespect for the youth! In his actions, he reduced Cameroonian youth to cheap beggars contented with bones tossed at them when they deserve fresh meat?
For started, Biya’s has tons of unfulfilled promises in his bag. Secondly, three billion francs per region annually won’t make a dent in youth problems. For proper perspective, young people make up more than 70% of the country’s population. Some 77% of them of working age are underemployed.
The National Youth Council was foolish in its rushed display of affection. What they did was endorse a man who occupied important functions in government at 28, but has filled top positions in his administration with retirees. Mbafor assumed erroneously that he represents the youth voice in this country. He ignored the freedom to disagree of millions of young people who will never sing ‘Biyalelluyah’ or ask their grandfather to run for another mandate when he deserves bed rest.
Here are the facts Mbafor overlooked. Less than 10% of the population has steady Internet. The “android generation” is unconnected? They face daily blackouts and can barely find drinking water. Young women find justification for selling their bodies. Young men feel compelled to engage in all kinds of scams to earn a living. Every now and then, a young woman is slaughtered and no one raises a finger. Those are causes to put on marching shoes for, not a foolish motion of support drowned in a sea of others just as ridiculous.