As a senior at his high school in the South West Province of Cameroon, Karl Ngoye faced a difficult decision. It was up to him to establish penalties for breaking serious school rules, and on one afternoon, the culprit was the son of an important official in the government. As the senior prefect over fourteen sub-prefects and 10,000 students, Karl had accepted the burden of enforcement of the school’s code of conduct. He had faced similar difficult situations when the daughter of a senior statesman came before his council, as well as when a friend of a good friend and even a girlfriend sat waiting to hear the consequences of a misdeed. These disciplinary measures involved an emotional aspect of leadership for Karl, but the official’s son received the same benefit of Karl’s experience as anyone else would. The delicate act of diplomacy required the distinction between punishing the offense and not the individual—a vital tactic that enabled Karl to quietly settle a situation that could have led to hostility, recriminations backed by higher-ups, and drama.
As Karl’s advisors attest, leadership and problem-solving come naturally to him. Seeking a career in government and international relations, he entered the University of Buea, where he is majoring in political science and public administration. “International observers see Cameroon as a peaceful country amid conflict-prone nations like Nigeria, Chad, and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Karl says, “but the truth is that internal conflicts exist that, if not properly handled, would have a spillover effect into other countries.” He describes the three most troubling concerns as ethnic biases, inequalities stemming from English versus French colonial issues, and separatist movements. Complicating it all is government corruption and the repression of legitimate protests. “Corruption speaks of conflicts caused by inequality, power of the nouveau riche, unspeakable wealth, and extreme poverty,” Karl says. He hopes to become a part of the solution.
At the university, he became the president of the Department of Political Science and Student Union Vice-President in charge of Academic Affairs and Chief of the Administrative Bench. With his determination to understand the process of governance, Karl organized various leaders of university associations into a field trip to the British Embassy of Cameroon and then headed a 150 student delegation to the Institute for International Relations of Cameroon to gain firsthand knowledge about Cameroon’s foreign policy.
With these successes behind him, he initiated an exchange program with Nigerian students involving a hundred individuals interested in studying effective government policies at home and abroad. Additionally, Karl joined the volunteer administrative staff of the International Governance Institute of Cameroon, managing youth development projects and programs under the department of public education.
Karl believes that HSI has strengthened his approach to conflict resolution by de-emphasizing patriotic pride and nationalistic fears in favor of tolerance and the rejection of stereotypes; by the curtailment of “speeches that invite violence and discrimination” in favor of positive communication; and by prioritizing needs over wants in order to find common interests that enable win-win strategies. “Participatory leadership and sound international cooperation are critical in fostering harmony between peoples and countries today,” Karl says. He hopes to be part of “the contribution of youngsters all around the world,” a generation that promotes peace, and “yearns for a world which allows us to contribute with dreams rather than weapons.”
Update: Karl has served as a popular administrative assistant to the HSI program for several years since his first visit.