Hundreds of students in Buea, headquarters of Cameroon’s embattled South West Region, turned out at the city’s reunification square on February 11 to celebrate Youth Day, and in so doing defied a separatist lockdown.
This was amid a heart-throbbing ghost town that paralysed transportation and business services in the town that day.
The lockdown, which spanned February 10 to February 12, was earlier imposed by separatists who are fighting to create a breakaway state, Ambazonia.
The separatists have opposed all official celebrations in Cameroon since 2017, when an industrial strike by lawyers and teachers turned into an armed conflict.
The celebration in Buea was chaired by the South West Regional Governor Bernard Okalia Bilai, and was attended by dozens of state dignitaries, youth leaders, civil society leaders and students.
Hundreds of students and pupils from primary, secondary and higher learning institutions took part in the parade that lasted over one hour.
Youth groups, including the Cameroon National Youth Council, and the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement Party also turned out in their numbers for the celebration.
Some observers say the turnout exceeded that of last year, which was also marred by separatists’ calls for a lockdown.
This year’s Youth Day was themed, “Youth, Import Substitution and Economic Patriotism for Cameroon’s Development.”
In a speech to the youths on February 10, President Paul Biya decried a surge in moral decadence in the Cameroonian society and called on youths to shun vices such as violence, drug abuse, alcohol, deviant behaviors among others.
He also dissuaded them from clamoring to travel abroad, a phenomenon that has become very rampant among young Cameroonians due to unemployment, insecurity and bad governance.
While some celebrated the Youth Day in Buea, several other youths defied the celebrations preparing their safety amid the separatist threats of attacks.
Others did not simply join in the celebrations because they are “fed up” with the way things are going on in the country.
Apart from the insecurity plaguing the North West, South West and Far North Regions, where youths are the highest actors, the country is also battling with inflation, high cost of living, poor road network, corruption and bad governance.
In the South West, Governor Okalia Bilai reiterated the President’s message during Youth Day celebrations and called on youths to properly utilize the natural potentials of the South West through entrepreneurship.