New Female Cameroonian Ambassador Assumes Office in the Netherlands

Ambassador Melono at the Queens Palace

Ambassador Melono at the Queens Palace

By assuming office, Ambassador Odette Melono, made history as not only the first full fledge Cameroon Ambassador to the Kingdom of the Netherlands since the Cameroon Consulate in the Netherlands was upgraded to a full Embassy , but as well as the only female Ambassador representing Cameroon anywhere in the world at the moment. The last women that represented Cameroon diplomatically were Madame Simone Marie at the United Nations in 1982-1986 and Madame Isabelle Bassong as Cameroon’s Ambassador to the European Institutions in Brussels (1988 to 2006).At 10h35 a.m, the 48 year old mother of three was given a lift from the Cameroon Embassy at the Amaliastraat 14, in the Hague by a convoy of horse drawn Royal carriages led by the Chamberlain of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix. This gesture is a typical Dutch diplomatic tradition and Royal protocol full of pump and colour reserved only for the most important state occasions. On hand to support her was the charge d’affaires H.E Blaise Banoum riding in the second Royal carriage together with other senior Embassy staff.

After a short ride to the Noordeinde Palace, accompanied by a number of Dutch Royal guards who were all dressed in 19-century military outfits, Ambassador Melono disembarked and stood in position for the National Anthem of the Republic of Cameroon. She then, with full authority inspected the Guard of Honor mounted by the Royal Dutch Air Force.

At 11h10 a.m. she and her staff were received and ushered in by the Grand Master of the Royal House who introduced them to Her Royal Highness Queen Beatrix of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. During this meeting, Ambassador Melono presented her Credentials to the queen, then briefly outlined the Cameroon Government’s agenda as well as extended greetings from the Cameroon Head of State, President Paul Biya. The meeting took place in the Royal Chamber of the Queen away from the prying eyes of the press which unfortunately had no way of following the deliberations.

The New Ambassador then emerged from the Royal Chamber flanked by senior Embassy staff to the waiting Royal Horse drawn carriages guided by the queen’s Chamberlain. As was the case with her departure to the queen’s palace, at 11:45 am, she was again transported and escorted back to the Embassy.

At 5:00pm that evening, a toast was organized by the Cameroon Embassy in honor of Her Excellency Madame Odette Melono. Members of the diplomatic corps in the Netherlands were invited as well as a number of fellow Cameroonians and friends of the Embassy. The toast took place at the residence of the Cameroon Ambassador in Wassenaar.

It should be noted that Madame Odette Melono is a career Diplomat with the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary. She doesn’t replace anyone but fills in that post as the very first Cameroon Ambassador to the kingdom of the Netherlands since the consulate was upgraded to an Embassy.

After graduating from the International Relations Institute of Cameroon (IRIC) in 1990, she held several positions in the Cameroon Ministry of External Relations.

Before her appointment as Ambassador to the Netherlands, Madame Melono served at the Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon, where she worked since 1993. At the Presidency, the well experienced diplomat held the post of Chargé de Missions at the Diplomatic Division of the Presidency.

So far, she has been very warmly embraced by the Cameroonian community in the Netherlands, not only because Netherlands now hosts the only female Cameroonian Ambassador, but also because at 48, she is perceived as young, beautiful, humble and friendly.

Ambassador Melono comes at a time when Cameroonians in the Netherlands have a more favorable view of their Embassy following the arrival of H.E Blaise Banoum (Minister Plenipotentiary), about two years ago. Minister Banoum who ran the Embassy in the post of Charge d’affaires worked hard to change the widely negative image Cameroonians had generated about their Embassy and staff. Today, he stays on as the much liked and respected Charge d’affaires to assist his new boss to maintain that image and make it better.

During a chat with this reporter, H.E Odette Melono promised to continue “the good work and do more” to collaborate with Cameroonians towards very productive projects for Cameroon and Cameroonians in the Netherlands.

By Larry Bate Takang (Journalist and webmaster)

24-09-2008 (Wednesday)

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