24, February 2019
The 24th edition of Mount Cameroon Race, Africa’s oldest international athletic competition, held early Saturday in Buea, chief town of Southwest, one of the two English-speaking regions of the country torn by an armed conflict.
Close to 250 athletes from Cameroon, Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Kenya, Nigeria, Niger and Zimbabwe took part in the race. The race was staged under tight security amidst threats from armed separatists to disrupt the event.
All sorts of activities in the town were not operational following an order from the Southern Cameroons Interim Government.
Since November 2017, government forces have been clashing with armed separatist forces who want the two Anglophone regions of in northwest and southwest to secede from the largely French-speaking nation and form a new country they called “Ambazonia”.
Officials said in spite of the prevailing situation, the race must take place to strengthen Cameroon’s unity and integrity.
“This edition of the race gives us the opportunity to further prove our desire of living together because in spite of linguistic and political diversity, the Cameroonian people are and must remain one and indivisible,” Cameroon’s Minister of Sports and Physical Education, Narcisse Mouelle Kombi told reporters at the start of the competition.
All safety measures were put in place by the Francophone dominated army for the successful unfolding of the race, the region’s governor, Bernard Okalia Bilai said.
The race dubbed Race of Hope is of a particularly difficult terrain with athletes going up and down the mountain which is over 4,100 metres above sea level.