Drinking Spots Within UB Vicinity Must Be Completely Wiped Out – Buea Mayor
September 30, 2012 § 2 Comments
Criticisms abound against the demolition of drinking spots in the University of Buea vicinity and structured encroaching on the walkways, by the Council led by Mayor Charles Mbella Moki. But the Mayor says his action is justified and within the ambits of the duty he undertook to be manager of the affairs in the city of Buea. In this interview, Mbella Moki tells his challengers that he was born to peasantry “but peasantry is not my portion.”
There are complaints that during the demolition campaign, not only the buildings are demolished, furniture too is vandalised. Why?
Well, they should understand that we have authorised demolition. We have also authorised the closing of off-licences and bars within a certain distance from the University of Buea. Some owners of bars and off-licences have become recalcitrant and mercenary as well. We decided to smash anything that was making it possible for them to operate at all, in order that we eliminate the off-licences and bars completely. That was, to say, we are to do away with those so called benches and tables that were facilitating the operation of the off-licences and bars. The rest of it is done under strict control and supervision.
Molyko residents have challenged your claim that pathways have been blocked even for handicapped people, meanwhile there are open culverts in which citizens fall and are thus rendered handicapped. They think you should have started by covering the culverts?
We have a project that has been submitted to the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing and another to the Ministry of Public Works. I must say that, within this process, the gutters along the Boulevard are going to be covered.
By the council or you are waiting for these Ministries?
It is not a council project. You should know that the owner of the Boulevard is the Ministry of Urban Development and Housing; you cannot interfere in their domain. We have made a request and that request has been considered by the Minister. It is understood that, within a couple of weeks from now, effective work will begin on the covering of those gutters.
It is said that the demolition exercise is orchestrated by pressure on you by hierarchy. How much of it is coming from Yaoundé?
We have the responsibility of giving Buea a facelift. It is part of our duty as council authorities to streamline our programme and our approach to urban development. This phase of the demolition exercise is just within the scope of our work programme in the council. No matter how people want to colour it, I want to say that it is within the programme calendar of our council.
And not for the Reunification ceremony?
Well if it has to do with the reunification, what is wrong with that? Again, I want to say that the Reunification celebration warrants us to even go beyond what we would have had on the table and in our hands as activities and responsibilities to undertake. So, therefore, you cannot distant this exercise from preparing our town for the great event of the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of our Reunification.
Giving the volcanic nature of our town, people were authorised to put up only structures that could withstand tremors. How is it now that five-storey buildings are sprouting in Buea everyday?
I told you that the population, to a certain degree, becomes very delinquent when it comes to constructions. That is why government has very strict regulations on the supervision and approval of such constructions. But they keep on dodging from the control measures that are in place. Sometimes, when the error has been made, it will require greater effort and higher authorities as well to intervene for corrections to be made.
It is not at the level of the council any longer. But I must tell you that we are working tirelessly to see that control measures are followed up by the relevant council services, but, again, I must tell you that we cannot do it all alone. It will require inputs.
But those five or six-storey buildings are authorised by the Council?
There is a process that requires that owners of these buildings go through a list of Government services and the council’s duty is to validate what is done by these various ministerial departments. Sometimes people go to the field and alter the diagrams they presented to the Council in the form of a plan.
When this is done, the Council hasn’t got a technical policeman to be everywhere. We only realise it, maybe when the owner has undertaken the project to a certain level, and we leave a warning for him to take responsibility for whatever happens. For instance, today we are demolishing structures we found that went out of the normal dimensions that were presented at the level of the council. Such structures suffer demolition without compensation.
Some of the structures have building permits issued by the council?
There are rules and regulations that have been clearly spelt out by the Council. There is no where that the council has demolished a building that was duly and appropriately approved. We have to inform the world and whoever cares to listen.
But if a house was approved for living and you transform it into a beer palour, a bar or an off-licence and it is affecting the quiet settlement of other citizens of the community, wherein people are drinking and they have no toilets to relieve themselves, when they are hard pressed, we have to consult all our services, health, hygiene, sanitation, and the rest that are connected to the control procedure and the only option we are going to have is to ensure that the place is sealed.
And if it is sealed and the seals are broken or cut off by owners of such facilities, then, the tendency for us will be to take hard draconian measures to arrest the particular situation.
There is a practice taking place in towns like Bafoussam or Bamenda, called two-party, where poor landlords enter agreements for two structures to be set up and they own one. Can’t you encourage that?
The Council has been preaching partnership in development. But this is an aspect which you cannot force on those concerned. You may have to preach it; you may have to educate the population on that. As I keep saying, leadership is not pursuing people with a whip in hand. That is assault, not leadership. We have to convince the people, and that measure of preaching is undertaken at the level of our Council.
We are waiting for the appropriate moment when the people themselves will yield to this request for such partnership to flourish in our community. But I think that, so far, they are doing well and we have not gotten to the need where there are dare needs for people to sacrifice what is their matrimony to conform to what development standard we want to set for them in the town of Buea. We shall go gradually and we shall attain the desired results.
You are relocating garages to far off places and that will further distress citizens whose vehicles might have a breakdown. But in other countries, mechanics who own land by the road are allowed to build the frontage so well and offer it for shops and then, behind, they operate their garages. Will that be accepted here?
We are not restricting people from developing their particular environment. We are giving approvals for all of that. We have just given approvals for two garages in Bondoma where the owners have accepted to erect giant walls facing the road, while the garages operate within a given setup.
So, all is possible, provided he allows us to achieve a well organised and clean environment. That will also take care of the environmental concerns of our citizens, of-course, we are talking about sustainable development, Green Economy and urban development as a whole. And I think that all of those aspects that go with achieving this kind of a sustainable management of our local community have to be highlighted and respected.
Some of these students and lecturers who feel deprived by your demolition of drinking spots say you have never been to the university and should not impose social life style on them. What is your take on that?
Well, for those of us who have grown up in Buea and know what Buea is, the culture of setting up off-licences littered along our pathways and the highway was becoming uncontrollable. We are not building a town of drunkards. Neither are we trying to colour our streets with off-licences and bars. There must be an image which reflects the true Buea – a Buea, which is orderly, one which the commonwealth of every individual is associated with their behaviour.
I think that there are a lot of people who face a lot of problems because the bars and off-licenses along the road extended to the major road and the pathways were completely blocked. Those who walked and handicapped persons were forced to get into the drive way and sometimes accidents occurred.
We have also had reports or complaints from University authorities, requesting us to do something about the proliferation of off-licences and bars around the University vicinity. It is not an intrusion into the University milieu, or the University environment. It is a dire need that has been expressed by the University, for us to intervene. And we are not getting on campus; we are on the area which is strictly under our control.
And I have no apologies to anybody for that. We shall do it repeatedly to ensure that the off-licences and bars within that vicinity are completely wiped out. Someone sent a message to my phone that it is because I have risen from grass to grace that I don’t want to look at those who are suffering. I want to use your medium to tell them that Mbella Moki has never belonged to grass.
God made me in a very special way and I had to conform to what God had for me as an agenda and plan for my life. And so I was made of peasant stock and that is where I emerged from. You know Martin Luther Kings said, “I was born in the slums but the slums were not born in me”. I was born in peasantry but that wasn’t my potion. I have certainly by the Grace of God gone out of that.
It is a duty for me to get any other person from where I left, to be where I am. It is my responsibility, and no amount of gossips, blackmail or back-stabbing will alter my plan in life. Because I pray and pray to a Living God. He’s the only One that can tell me when I am wrong and when I am right. He can use people to do that, but for now, God has not told me that I am wrong.
What are some of the challenges you face in this campaign?
The challenges are enormous. When the economic nerve centre of any individual is tampered with, the reaction is always negative and when you are dealing with people who are negative in their responses to the kinds of activities you are carrying out, you take pains, you exhaust yourself to explain and effect corrections and bring satisfaction and happiness to the people you are called upon to serve.
I want to say that I am not used to living with people who get up in the morning with dull faces, with tears in their eyes, with anger in their hearts and with pains in their minds. This is exactly the kind of picture that I find in front of me everyday in this town and they waste me out.
I was elected to bring happiness and satisfaction to the people of Buea, but, unfortunately, the exigencies of the job we are called upon to do at certain moments allow for extended activities that have to do with the sentiments and the psychology of the individuals we are dealing with. Why not the physiognomy? And because of all of that, today, a segment of the community is grumbling, and is very critical of what we are trying to do.
I wan to say that it is by the grace of God and the wishes of the good right-thinking people of Buea that we are relying on now. And I am sure after all of that, people will see meaning in what we are doing. I’m certain of sharing in the fall-out of the exercise that we are taking and by that I mean that out of the ashes and ruins of what we are demolishing, we are going to have a better city, well organised and structured city and a beautiful city. That wouldn’t be too long from now.
Are you confident and comfortable with what you are doing?
When Ronald Regan asked Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall, those who had constructed the wall saw it as a myth in the negative manner; why something on which the Germans had invested energy and resources to construct as a barrier dividing two nations could be pulled down just by words of mouth.
But today, the tendency is that the demolition of the Berlin Wall brought development, and extended harmony, peace, love, unity and a new image in the family of the average German. And that is what we want to imagine in Buea, as I keep saying that they may be weeping in the morning, but joy should come in the evening.
You know also, we are convinced of what we are doing because it has taken us a long time to plan and realise what we are doing. The scriptures say we should not be weary. We shall reap if we faint not. We do not intend to faint. We shall not fail, we shall succeed. The tendency is that we are doing all of these with the consideration of every citizen of our community.
That is, I am saying that there is a human touch to every of our action and we believe that we are touching on the lives of individuals and trying to prepare tomorrow for our children, and our children’s children. It is that tomorrow that is very significant at this time, but very strategic for a very strategic moment and for strategic reasons.
That is why you have to put everything together to understand what we are doing. And I think that we are explaining, we are talking and acting. We are not just going to the field to destroy. We are trying to have exchanges with the population and all those who are concerned. We are trying to educate them and explain our actions.
We are not also ruling out the fact that there are some “mind poisoners”, perusing the entire municipality, trying to create dissenting voices and uphold the culture of negative and senseless blackmail, back-stabbing, witch hunting and they try to exploit every aspect of our activity to give it a bad name.
I will like to say it is the tendency of giving a dog a bad name, so as to hang it. But we have never been associated to the kind of dogs they are looking for. And we shall not make ourselves available for hanging. We are going to cross the Rubicon.