By Boris Esono Nwenfor
Mbatcha Eric and Tatah Carine, all from the North West Region of Cameroon have both won the 24th edition of the Mount Cameroon race of Hope in the male and female category respectively which took place Saturday February 23 in Buea.
Athletes from the North West Region came first in all the major categories of the race.
It is the third time that Mbatcha Eric is wining the race after he won it in 2011 and 2014. His win in 4hrs, 40mins, 09sec saw him bagging home ten (10) million FCFA.
According to him, this year has not been an easy one taking into consideration the present unrest in the North West, which made him to train very far away in order to be ready for the race.
Mbatcha Eric said: “it was not easy. I was first up the summit but on descending I was overtaken at Hut 3. But due to my experience, I was able to pass the guy at the forest which made me to come first.
The second athletes was Ali Mohamadou from the North West who came in 4hrs, 44mins, 30sec and last year’s winner Godlove Gabsibum from the North West Region came in third in 4hrs, 46mins, 09sec.
The hope for the SW region Lyonga Essombe, who came in third two year’s back finished a disappointing 6th position. His facial expression was very telling, and showing disappointment and he was visibly “crying”. During the test race in Buea, Lyonga was second with him indicating a better performance during the main race.
For Tatah Carine, it is the second time consecutively that she is winning after she won in 2018. She did the race in 5hrs, 33mins, 41sec. She was closely followed by Ngalim Lissette who did the race in 5hrs, 37mins, 41sec and Ngwaya Yvonne in 5hrs, 51mins, 50sec, all North Westerners.
Speaking to the media, Tatah Carine indicated that it was a tough race and blames the present crisis which has made her not able to train properly and engage in school activities.
In the female veteran category, Nogeh Brigit claimed the top prize while Nkumbi Martina and Georges Jackai came in second and third respectively.
The veteran male category was won by Owona Ze Etienne. Caponfack Patrice came in second while Fotso Emile finished third.
The female junior category was won by Tumi Marina and Ngwaya Maika and Late Flora finished second and third.
Mentan Cornelius from the North West Region won the junior male category. He was followed by Periyaya Elyasu and winner of last year’s category Seidou Sulemanou, all from the North West.
Mayor of Buea, Ekema Patrick Esunge while invocking the gods of Mount Fako for the athletes to ascend the highest mountain in Central and West Africa said he was optimistic to have a safe and sound event which turned out to be so.
He further applauded the Minister for having braved the challenge to launch the event, whereas his colleagues have failed to beat fear in some circumstances, hence introducing electronic fear.
The mayor frowned at the situation where a meeting concerning the organization of the race which takes place in Buea is always held in Yaounde, making it difficult for the local organizing committee to carry out their functions smoothly.
This year’s mount Cameroon race comes at a time where security in the South West and North West Regions has been a challenge. This explains why even the Minister himself and his delegation could not be driven into Buea without the presence of heavy security.
A plethora of security forces were at the disposal of the Minister, from police, gendarmes, special branches of gendarmes, BIRS, and others escorted to minister in Buea.
For the past month, separatist forces have carried out sporadic attacks in other to institute ghost towns on some important days. Ahead of the race, there were calls for the population not to partake in the race. This might explain why the population that turned out for the launch was very minimal as opposed to previous years.
The situation was however different during the race as a few hundred people turned out to watch and applaud the athletes.