Diplomatic Circles

Christina Leadlay
Published: Wednesday, 01/12/2005 12:00 am EST

"Leaving is like being dead, you know," says Emmanuel Makanda, assistant to the high commissioner of Cameroon, "because you leave a shadow behind, and actually that is okay." Mr. Makanda is referring to the recent departure of one of Ottawa's longest serving heads of mission. On Dec. 17, Philemon Yang, High Commissioner for Cameroon, departed from Ottawa after completing an impressive 20 year term. Mr. Yang studied law at the University of Yaoundé in the capital city of Cameroon. He later went on to complete his Master's degree in the same field at the University of Ottawa and is also a Master of Business Administration, which he studied at Century University in New Mexico, U.S.A. His career began in January 1975 when he joined the civil service, working as a State Counsel/Prosecutor in the town of Buea, Cameroon. After six months, Mr. Yang was appointed as his country's Vice Minister for Internal Affairs. He remained in this position until November 1979 when he made the move to the Mines and Energy Ministry, serving as Minister. He wrapped up his duties in early 1984, and eight months later arrived in Canada to take over as Cameroon's High Commissioner. His children Nene and Eric accompanied him, and have since pursued their own academic careers at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. In Ottawa, Mr. Yang served as Dean of Ottawa Diplomatic Corps. In fact, he had been Dean for so long, that his assistant, Mr. Makanda, can't recall when he first took over the role: "Oh, that was a long, long time ago," he said, "he's been Dean for at least more than 10 years." The role of Dean is a position of seniority, going to the head of mission who has been in town the longest. Carlos Miranda, Ambassador of Costa Rica, will now take over as Dean. He presented his credentials on August 15, 1990. Mr. Makanda, who has worked under Mr. Yang for 18 years, recalls some of the other activities that the former High Commissioner was involved in while in Ottawa: "He was the Chair of intergovernmental affairs on biosafety," explains Mr. Makanda. "That was a really new field under the United Nations that was covering transgenic foods, and he was lucky to be the first one to preside over it." Mr. Yang held this position from 2000 until February of last year. According to Mr. Makanda, Mr. Yang was asked by Cameroon's President Paul Biya to fill the role of Minister Secretary-General Assistant to the President in his new cabinet. Mr. Biya was given a third consecutive seven-year mandate by voters in October 2004. When asked about when a new high commissioner to Canada is expected, Mr. Makanda remains vague: "They haven't appointed one yet," he said. "But you know, Canada is a big country for us, so it won't stay vacant for long. I bet maybe in the next three months somebody will be appointed, that is my best bet." In the meantime, Deputy High Commissioner Martin Mpana, who has been in Ottawa for seven years, is managing as Chargé d'Affairs, a.i. "So far things have been working quite well," said Mr. Makanda of Mr. Mpana.

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