Olembe Cameroon and UBA Sports Complex

Olembe sports complex: can't wait for Magil's return


All the elements come together to create the state scandal: a showcase infrastructure project with continental dimensions, a Western service provider and colossal sums committed by the government.

The media offensive of the Minister of Sports, Narcisse Mouelle Kombi, against the Canadian group Magil in the context of the now too famous Olembe scandal deserves, however, that we take the necessary distance to understand a complex affair as well as possible.

What is it about ?

On January 10, the press loudly announced Magil's decision not to continue with the project and the unilateral termination of the contract. Worse, the Canadian manufacturer would leave with 42 billion in pocket. This date undoubtedly marks the acme of tensions between Magil and MINSEP. However, on January 16, the same press pointed out that work was resuming and that common ground had been found with MINSEP and the Etoudi palace. In the meantime, emotion has logically taken hold of the country and the opposition, taking advantage of fertile ground, hastened to claim the head of the manufacturer. In this case, emotion has too often prevailed over reason. Because this reversal demonstrates two things: firstly that the Presidency has surely raised its voice to force the protagonists to an arrangement. Which is welcome. After that Magil never really wanted to leave. Which is equally so.

Good news: we have, to affirm it, all the necessary documentation - and authenticated. A large part of the letters exchanged and accounting documents have thus leaked on social networks. Reading them, one cannot blame Magil for having sought, by all means, a conciliation.

In a letter dated January 9 from Franck Mathière, executive vice-president of the group, addressed to the Secretary General of the Prime Minister's services, are mentioned in particular " 50 matches "Ignored by the Minister of Sports throughout the year 2022, an attempt to" amicable settlement on April 12, 2022, followed by a Conciliation Committee on August 23, 2022 ". None of these assertions has been dismantled by the MINSEP, which suggests, until proven otherwise, that they are perfectly proven. The thesis of the unilateral breach of contract mentioned by Narcisse Mouelle Kombi can also be easily questioned. Magil thus evokes having taken the decision on December 5, 2022 to give formal notice to MINSEP to regularize its obligations within 30 days to avoid the termination of the main contract and its referral to international arbitration ". A warning shot which, on the side of MINSEP, did not lead to any response!

Should we fear a Piccini scenario?

The thesis of the inclination of a “new piccini” doesn't make sense. All the major international groups, whether American, Asian or European, are fighting to meet African needs for public and private infrastructure. A hasty departure from Magil would be the equivalent of a bullet in the foot and would undoubtedly have the effect of weakening the African presence of the manufacturer for whom the continental market is particularly strategic. And would have made him undesirable in Cameroon, his point of entry into Africa. The Canadian's African ambitions logically prohibit him from rushing such a valuable project for his reputation. Who would entrust a major project to a company that packs its bags at the first difficulty?

All criticisms of the group's amateurism also appear unfounded. One cannot attribute to Magil any ignorance of Cameroonian realities. Or sports complexes. Again, the facts are stubborn. He is thus behind the rehabilitation of the Douala stadium, completed in March 2020, with a capacity of 40 seats. The group's teams are also working on the rehabilitation of national road 060, the eastern entrance to Douala, the delivery of which is scheduled for January 3. It should also be remembered that after the departure of the former contractor, the Piccini group, Magil acquitted of its task of completing the Olembe stadium in a short time to host the CAN. Despite an environment that is not always favorable.

We would like to see the Olembe complex… finally!

The smooth running of the site should be based on keeping mutual commitments. We demand that the Magil group continue on the path of transparency and compliance with its obligations. We demand from MINSEP a constant follow-up of its teams for this strategic and ambitious project and from the State of Cameroon the provision of the necessary funds and contractually provided for to allow the continuation of the work. These elements taken together should doubtless reassure public opinion on the accusations of illicit enrichment.

Because no political fight is more legitimate than the fight against corruption, nepotism and the waste of public money. Let us hope that it is not sacrificed on the altar of special interests, clan wars and that any judicialization of a case is only the consequence of a neutral and thorough investigation and not a politician's revenge. We also hope that the Olembe complex will finally find its original ambitions in a framework of peaceful work and exchanges: to be the showcase of Cameroonian sport; meet the continental and international ambitions of our Indomitable Lions; demonstrate our country's ability to organize major events with, in sight, the Islamic Solidarity Games in 2025.

This will undoubtedly happen if the two parties manage to work in good intelligence, in transparency and in respect of their reciprocal commitments. In this context, the establishment of“a platform to iron out all disputes” going in the right direction. The reconciliation displayed last Friday between Franck Mathière and Narcisse Mouelle Kombi too. Let's hope so.

Jean Bruno Tagne is a Cameroonian journalist, writer and essayist. Former head of the political desk of the daily Le Jour.

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