West Africa Time Zone UTC+01:00
Capital City Yaoundé
Currency Central African CFA franc
National Day 20 May
As a child growing up in Cameroon, His Excellency Mr Nkwelle Ekaney was fascinated by international events, avidly listening to BBC radio. Each morning he would relate to his father what was happening in the world. Mr Ekaney’s father encouraged his son’s interest, buying him his own radio and giving him extra money to buy newspapers. As Mr Ekaney explains, ‘I think it was inevitable I would become a diplomat.’
Mr Ekaney is thrilled to be in London because it is ‘the world international economic capital’, and also due to Cameroon’s long-standing links with the UK, in place since 1960. He arrived with his wife on 3 October, 2008 and recalls that, ‘The minutes I had with the Queen, were some of the happiest moments in my life.’
After school, a chance event led the High Commissioner to study in Canada. While accompanying a friend who was registering for an exam to study abroad, he also decided to apply. Mr Ekaney was accepted to study journalism at Carleton University in Ottawa, which he followed with a BA in Political Science and an MA in International Affairs, staying for five years. Janet Mejane Nzounkwelle joined him in Canada in 1973 and they were married a year later. Today they have three daughters living in Cameroon and the US.
The High Commissioner’s first diplomatic posting was in the Permanent Mission to the UN in New York, where he worked his way through the ranks from 1977 to 1986. He explains that ‘my training gave me the opportunity to operate in the disarmament commission and undertake numerous negotiations.’
In the early 1990s Mr Ekaney worked as Director of Intergovernmental Political Organisations in the Ministry of External Relations in Cameroon. He monitored and reported on the activity of intergovernmental political organisations, including the Organisation of African Unity, the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the Commonwealth meetings of the UN General Assembly and attended ministerial meetings and summits of heads of state and government. Mr Ekaney’s role as Consul-General of Cameroon in Paris from 1997 to 2006 was also valuable experience. He discloses that the official figure of Cameroon nationals in France at that time was 18,000, adding that the number was actually closer to 50,000. The job of their protection and assistance was no small task.
Mr Ekaney received the awards of Knight and then Officer of the Cameroon Order of Valour in 1996 and 2002 respectively. He pragmatically explains that his decorations are acknowledgements of his years of service, which Cameroon has recognised as essential for its relations with other countries and international organisations. Mr Ekaney participated in the OAU meetings convened to resolve the long-running dispute with Nigeria over the oil-rich Bakassi Peninsula. The resolution of the conflict was widely heralded as a model for Africa and the rest of the world.
These experiences have set the precedent for Mr Ekaney’s priorities during his time in the UK. He explains that he wants to promote and consolidate relations with neighbours, stating that, ‘a country cannot be secure without secure boundaries. Resolution of the problem with Nigeria has given us hope.’ He is also keen to reinforce sub-regional and African integration because ‘with the world financial crisis going on, we have to help ourselves.’ What is Cameroon’s greatest diplomatic challenge? ‘We must affirm our presence in the international arena to work for the peaceful resolution of conflicts,’ he explains. With His Excellency at the helm, Cameroon surely has the best possible advocate.
Photography by Roland Kemp
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