THE MOUNT CAMEOON RACE OF HOPE
by Tangwing Pius
Mount Cameroon race of hope
Mount Cameroon Race of Hope
The Mount Cameroon Race of Hope ("La Course de l'Espoir") is an annual event that is broadcast on the national Television. It’s held partly along the main street and at Mount Cameroon in the Buea in the Southwest Region of Cameroon. It takes place either in the month of January or February each year. The first race on this mountain took place in 1973.
The event usually begins at the Buea Omnisport stadium and follows the main street up to Mount Cameroon and back to the stadium covering a distance of 38 kilometers. Both men and women take part in the race and are divided into the professional, youth, the old, casual runners and relay teams. The first Race of Hope was in 1995. Since then, participation has steadily increased; there were 214 participants in 2005, 390 in 2006, and 643 from nine countries in 2007.3
As of 2010, the winners since the race's inception had all been Cameroonians.
For many years, the race was organised and sponsored by the company, Guinness Cameroon under the name Guinness Mount Cameroon Race. For some unknown reasons the control and organization of the race was taken over in 2005 by some twelve (12) local committees in the South West Region, the representatives of the countrys’ Atletics Federation (CAF) and the Ministry of Sports and Physical Education as the main sponsor.
In 2005, the then Mayor of the Buea council, Charles Mbella Moki accused the organisers for mismanagement of funds and proposed that Guinness Cameroon should be given back full
control of the race. In the 2014 edition of the race, Guiness Cameroon took over sponsorship to the amazement of all Cameroonians.
The race serves also as a touristic attraction and about 5,000 visitors come to Buea each year for the event. Apart from the main event itself, cultural and sporting events also take place in Buea during this period including musical artists, choral groups, cultural groups, basketball, handball, and volleyball tournaments.
Sarah Etonge is the only woman in the history of the race that has won it three years consecutively in the female category. And for this reason she was named “Queen of the Mountain”. She was recognized and rewarded by the Cameroon government with a well constructed building to contain her family. Unfortunately, no male athlete has ever exceeded two consecutive wins so as to be named “King of the Mountain”.
In the 2014 edition of the race, those who came first both in the male and female category went home with a cash price of ten (10) million FCFA.
Each year, before the event takes place, local traditional authorities through the paramount chief of the Bakweri people, climb the Mountain to appease the gods “Epasa moto” and also inform it that some strangers will be running pass their territory. In the morning of the day of the race itself, the local authorities assemble at the centre of the molyko omnisport stadium to perform some traditional rites before the kick off of the race.
The first male to run up and down the mountain usually takes more than four hours.
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