Profile – Laying a solid foundation for the Cameroonian community

2010-05-22 15:08

The towering figure of Cameroonian community leader Flavien Gagoum Nteumagne is a common sight among his people. We talk to him about unity, soccer and political ambitions.

You speak often of unity and the need for unity. What are your thoughts about unity and development in Cameroon?
In Cameroon our history as a state governed between the French and the British (still) separates us as people.

Despite the federal agreement accord of May 20, 1972, when Cameroon was officially unified as a federation, there is still a huge gap between the Anglophone (English-speaking) and Francophone (French-speaking) communities.

2010 marks 50 years of independence for Cameroon. How have 50 years of independence affected issues of unity?

Unity is important for Africa’s development. We should use this occasion to reflect on what unity really means and why we should unify.

As a community in Joburg, we believe the best way to bring people together is through soccer.

The Indomitable Lions of Cameroon are the only thing that brings all of Cameroon together.

The Lions will play in the World Cup for the first time on African soil. How is the Cameroonian community preparing to welcome them?
We have big dreams and plans to support our national team.

There is a team which is creating a special dance and chants to make sure our team feel the big support that they will have on the ground.

We will follow them across the country. We are also organising events, taking care of their health, food, security and other needs.
Most importantly, we are mobilising the community to come out in force and showcase our culture. This is our opportunity to grow even stronger.

What hopes do you have for the legacy of the World Cup in Africa?
This is the time that all the African communities will unite and show solidarity.

People are coming from far and wide. I have lots of friends coming from Europe and Cameroon.

After the World Cup I hope that people will see that there is hope for Africa and those who are abroad will come home to make some contribution.

We need the synergy between those at home and those in the diaspora to ensure Africa’s sustained development.

You are known as a strong community leader. Despite strong support, you recently stepped down as head of ARGMAS, one of the Cameroonian regional associations in South Africa. Why?
Yes, I was president for two terms. However, I don’t believe one person should hold such a position for too long. So I stepped down to give someone else a chance to lead.

I am now working to revive the defunct Federation of Cameroonian Regional Associations in South Africa, which has not been operating for the past three years.

How unified is the Cameroonian community in South Africa?

All foreign communities need to think about a strategy to achieve unity. We need to live side by side and make an input in society.
This is especially important among poor communities.

We may be here (as foreigners) paying tax, but the man on the street doesn’t know that. We need to engage.

We realise that there is little trust between communities and authorities.

Through our various programmes we aim to deal with that issue.

How does ARGMAS work to build community relations between Cameroon and South Africa?
In March this year we launched the Pens for All campaign.

Members of the community buy pens and we take them to schools across South Africa to show our support.

We also run education and information campaigns on health, business and the like. Our key aim is to stimulate integration between the Cameroonian community and South Africans.

Some have called you a politician in the making. Do you have political ambitions?
As I see it, politicians are not doing the right thing for Africa. This is because they are copying European-style politics.

I want to do tangible things for people. I am not looking for positions.

To me, a good politician brings development.

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