The construction of the multi-purpose sports complex in the Olembe neighborhood in Cameroon’s political capital – Yaounde, has changed the face of the locality. The quarter is now known worldwide, but the people of Olembe are not satisfied. They feel that their main source of livelihood has been snatched away and replaced with an infrastructure that do not benefit them directly.
“The site chosen for the project was the breadbasket of the Olembe people,” says Mr. Alphonse Eyegue, notable of Olembe II village and focal point of the Olembe Sports Complex.
“It was the most fertile area in the village for farming, hunting and other activities,” he continued.
The ‘Olembes’ in Cameroon are predominantly farmers. It was not easy to convince them to give their farm lands for the construction of the football stadium. It took the intervention of officisko from the Presidency of the Republic. 52 families are said to have given their farm lands amounting to 34 hectares (83 acres) to the government.
“The government promised to relocate us and give each family the sum of 3 billion FCFA,” Bekolo Ernest, one of land owners said.
According to him, “the people of Olembe were also promised portable water points, and health facilities among others, but non of the promises have been respected”.
“It’s close to 10 years today, our people are still facing serious water crisis and the few health facilities here are privately owned who charge us heavily for services,” he pursued.
Before the coming of the stadium, life was not complicated.
“That particular area in the village was were our traditional doctors used to get herbs with which they use to cure us,” Mr. Eyegue recounts.
The people of Olembe feel that they were fooled and abandoned to fend for themselves.
When the idea of a sports complex was brought to Olembe, the youth knew that it was an opportunity for them.
“They promised our people jobs during the construction phase and even after, but we were shocked to see that most of the construction workers came in from elsewhere,” Mr. Eyegue said.
“The youths were stranded and idle as they had no more land for farming activities.” “Most of them are now useless as a result,” he said.
The ‘Olembes’ have waited in vain for the a relocation site.
According to the chief of Olembe II, the youths at one point threatened to revolt against the government but he advised them to exercise patience.
“We have tried our best for our people, we cannot use force against our government or whosoever, we don’t even have the force, we are a peace loving people,” Mr Eyegue said adding that “all we ask for is for the promises to be respected because most of us are dying and time waits for no one”.
The Sports Complex
Constructed on surface area of 34 hectared, the Olembe sports complex is almost complete. The football stadium is already completed. It was one of the stadia that hosted the 33rd edition of the Africa Cup Of Nations (AFCON) that was hosted in Cameroon.
During the competition, the stadium was very controversial. A disaster left eight people dead and 38 injured in an accident during one of the encounters of the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament.
The accident, occurred at an entry gate to the stadium ahead of a match between Cameroon and Comoros.
“I think the ‘gods’ of Olembe were not happy,” says Jean Romain, a football fan in Yaounde.
Just like Jean Romain, many are those who attributed the ordeal at the stadium to the treatment given to the Olembe people during the construction of the stadium.
Superstition is very much believed in Cameroon with people saying that the deeds of the past can affect the future.
That explains why during major sports events and encounters in the country, sports official usually performed certain rights believed to appease the ‘gods’ or ancestors of the locality where the match will be played.
For the Olembe stadium, it is alleged that the rights have not been performed accordingly. Most of the items for the practice are usually not provided in its entirety. And this again is another proof that the powers that be are sacrificing lives for sports.
“It’s a pity that people will not value human lives, to the point of not taking serious security measures,” Jean Romain said. To him, “how could 10 security people be placed to control over 2000 people at the entry gate when we know that the lions were playing a very decisive encounter”.
Even during the construction phase of the stadium, human life was not placed at the center as on many occasions, workers were staging protest moves decrying their working conditions.
The Olembe Sports Complex is one of the rare projects in the world constructed by two different companies, with one leaving and later coming back.
Olembe II village it should be noted is situated some 13 kms away from the city in Yaounde.
The sports complex had however brought some development to the village. Sine of the roads have been tarred. Electricity is now stable in the village.
“Our village is now known worldwide thanks to the stadium,” Mr. Alphonse Eyegue said.