March 14, 2013 § 1 Comment
In Cameroon, the topic of homosexuality is no longer taboo. Both in Yaoundé and Douala, on the street, in taxis, restaurants, bars, offices and markets, on the radio and on television, it is difficult to spend a day or even an hour without the conversation reverting to this topic.
Opposition to homosexuality has become the focus of increasingly frequent conferences, panel discussions, sermons, religious campaigns, and interviews with politicians, bishops and other religious leaders in Cameroon, especially in the Cameroon Tribune, the government’s bilingual daily newspaper.
President Paul Biya suggests that people in Cameroon may be changing their minds about homosexuality, but the most obvious change is the frequency of discussions of the issue.
Increasingly, the issue of homosexuality comes up in day-to-day conversations. Most people agree: “With as much energy has we can muster, in the harshest terms possible, we must condemn this behavior, which is so harmful for Cameroon and its youth.”
Almost everyone “firmly” rejects the practice of homosexuality and its supposed corollaries, pederasty and prostitution, which together are called “deviance,” “moral decadence,” “true aberrations,” “amoral,” “unacceptable,” “satanic,” etc.
Conversations are fueled by the topic of homosexuality at home, in churches and in the press.
Consider how the Cameroon Tribune responded to the Amnesty International’s Jan. 24 report on human rights in Cameroon, which urged the repeal of Cameroonian laws against homosexuality and the release of LGBT prisoners.
For Amnesty International, those actions are a matter of human rights. But many in Cameroon see the issue differently.
Yves Atanga, the Tribune’s editor-in-chief, wrote a front-page article titled “Human rights in Cameroon: Amnesty’s false accusations. (Droits de l’homme au Cameroun: Le faux procès d’Amnesty).”
Editorial writer Makon ma Pondi wrote a column titled “Diversion: An anthem for homosexuals.” They took a stand against Amnesty International, calling it “an advocate of homosexuality” and a “finger-wagger,” and especially against homosexuality, “forbidden by Cameroonian laws.”
In his article, Atanga suggested that “in all honesty,” Amnesty should have entitled its report “Cameroon, leave the gays alone!” Pondi’s column complained about an “insidious and relentless campaign orchestrated for months through the media, seeking the repeal of the law [prohibiting sexual relations between persons of the same sex], to be achieved by any means necessary, including diplomatic pressure or withholding foreign aid.” The column asks, “Are we to believe that if we allow homosexuality and same-sex marriage we will achieve the economic growth we seek?”
Bishops say no, no, no!
Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church united in their opposition to homosexuality on Jan. 12 at the 36th annual gathering in Sangmelima of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon. In a statement published in its entirety on Feb. 7 in the Cameroon Tribune and later in other newspapers, they denounced homosexuality in strong terms.
They opposed “the multifaceted claims of human rights made by promoters of homosexuality — the right to marriage, to adopt children. to establish a family, to procreation with medical assistance, etc. — claims that are based on several concepts whose main ideology of gender … is opposed to classical ideas of family, gender and reproductive health.”
The bishops ignored examples of traditional African acceptance of same-sex relations. (See, for example, the article “What traditional African homosexuality learned from the West.”)
The bishops unanimously declared that homosexuality “falsifies human anthropology and trivializes sexuality, marriage and family as the foundation of society. In African culture, it is not part of the family and social values. It is a flagrant violation of the legacy left to use by our ancestors, who were faithful to heterosexuality and the family. In human history, homosexual practices have never led to societal evolution but have always been clear signs of civilization’s decay. In fact, homosexuality opposes humanity and destroys it.”
They urged “all believers and people of good will to reject homosexuality and so-called ‘gay marriage’ to pray for homosexuals and those who are inclined toward homosexuality, watching over them and seeking compassionately to convert them.”
Even before their statement was published, Mgr. Victor Tonye Bakot, the archbishop of Yaoundé and a fervent fighter against homosexuality, said in a Jan. 28 interview: “We do not want” homosexuality in Africa.
“The West has its culture and Africans have ours,” he said. “Since we must respect the parallels between the two cultures, and since we are in dialogue with each other, let us propose polygamy to the West just as they propose homosexuality to us. Otherwise, let each of us remain set in their own culture.”
“I reject this new attempt at colonialization. They’re going too far,” he said.
On Feb. 24, the Association of Catholic Jurists of Cameroon condemned homosexuality during a meeting in Douala with Samuel Kléda, archbishop of Douala.
Although homosexual behavior has been observed in hundreds of species of animals, many people in Cameroon believe otherwise.
For example, in Archbishop Bakot’s sermons in the cathedral in Yaoundé and elsewhere, he condemned homosexuality as an “unnatural practice.”
In addition, attorney Pierre Robert Fojou told journalist Armand Essogo “not only is homosexuality punishable under Article 347 of the Cameroonian Penal Code, but it is also rejected by Cameroonians in general who, as good Africans, consider sexual relations between persons of the same sex against nature. “
Nico Halle preaching to the governor
“This is not negotiable,” stated the Christian Men’s Fellowship of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon, as it launched a February campaign against homosexuality in the southwestern part of the country. “God made man and woman; animals, he made male and female. It is unacceptable that a man fall in love with another man, which is worse than animals, because animals only make love with the opposite sex. I’ve never seen a hen have sex with another hen, or two female dogs, or two male dogs. The rooster goes with the chicken, and so on. So, if the man will do what even the animal does not, then man becomes worse than an animal. … It is satanic,” reported the newspaper La Nouvelle Expression in an article on Feb. 27 headlined “Southwest: Crusade against homosexuality.”
Tumfor Nico Halle, a lawyer who is president of the Christian Men’s Fellowship of Cameroon, argued that “not only does our penal code condemn homosexuality with Article 347 providing for imprisonment of up to five years, but the Bible is also even harder on it. Leviticus 20 verse 13 says that if a man lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination. They shall surely be put to death: their blood will be on them.”
Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of the Southwest region, agreed with those statements, adding that “as a practicing Christian, he would not allow homosexuality in his region by any means.”
He accused human rights attorney Alice Nkom not only of repeatedly supporting the “homosexual cause” but also of being corrupt. He claimed that, when he was a prefect in Wouri, she urged him to release a homosexual defendant, saying that “a lot of euros are at stake.” Nkom has not yet responded to a request for comment on this accusation.
Rejection of ‘anus-ocracy’
Similar discussions fill the air waves. All day long the radio hosts of FM Yaoundé and their listeners decry the “immorality” of homosexuality. Cameroon Radio and Television (CRTV), the national public television channel, focuses on the subject through debates, documentaries, short films (sometimes made by Cameroonians and other Africans who “reject this practice from the West”) and even in entertainment programs.
The best known of these programs is undoubtedly the show “Delire,” in which the now-graying master of ceremonies, Foly Dirane (the stage name of Adrian Tafen Veyreton), has not let a single show go by in over 20 years without warning youths aged 10 to 25 to watch out for homosexuals.
He boasts that in his 2001 song “Les Mouches,” he became the first singer to denounce homosexuality.
Although many LGBT people in Cameroon live in poverty — fired from their jobs and rejected by their families when their sexual preference becomes known — a widespread belief persists in Cameroon that homosexuals are rich, powerful and evil, even practicing black magic.
Foly Dirane claims that homosexuals are “sectarian pederasts who use money and employment as a bait to lure youths into their traps. By sodomizing their victims, they steal the youths’ power and good fortune,” he says.
“Homosexuality in Cameroon is not like homosexuality in Europe,” he says.
In Cameroon, homosexuals seek to impose an “anus-ocracy,” he says. “Homosexuality is a cult of pederasts who feed on youth.”
This cult’s sorcerers demand homosexuality as a condition sine qua non for young people to succeed in society, he says.
“The cult has chosen homosexuality as a means of domination,” he says. “This sect has money and power and wants to force all young Cameroonians to join them.”
“People without power are propelled into positions of great responsibility through their anus,” he claims.
With statements like those, it’s clear that the “debate” about homosexuality in Cameroon is far from over.
- Amnesty International wants Cameroon to grant Gay Rights. (lebs295.wordpress.com)
- Another 3 men in Cameroon jail for homosexuality (lebs295.wordpress.com)
- Cameroon Gay Rights Lawyer Michel Togue Seeks Refuge In United States (ontopmag.com)
- Anti-LGBT Remarks in Malawi and Cameroon a Warning Sign as Conclave Approaches (newwaysministryblog.wordpress.com)
March 5, 2013 § Leave a comment
Gendarmes February 26, at Rond Point Deido, Douala, broke up a peaceful demonstration by the UPC Mack-Kit against ELECAM and arrested its President and Secretary General.
The gendarmes, who claimed that the protest demonstration was illegal, arrested the President of UPC Mack-Kit, Alexis Same Ndema. But the leadership of the UPC faction insisted that the protest demonstration was not illegal. They explained that the party duly deposited a declaration to organise the peaceful demonstration with the DO of Douala I, Jean-Marie Mbarga Ekoa.
They presented a copy of the declaration to the gendarmes. They also quoted the DO to have cautioned them to ensure that the demonstration took place peacefully. But the gendarmes would not let go the two senior officials of the party and whisked them off into detention at the Bonanjo Gendarmerie Brigade, which is now located in the former office of the defunct REGIFERCAM at the entrance to Bonanjo.
When The Post contacted the National Secretary for Communication of UPC Mack-Kit, Hilaire Ham Ekoue, at 8.30 am on February 27, he said the National President and Secretary General were still in detention. UPC Mack-Kit staged the protest demonstration close to a stand that had been set up by ELECAM at Rond Point Deido to facilitate voter registration. Some of the militants carried placards, while some were busy distributing tracts containing a six-point demand by the party.
The demonstrators denounced ELECAM for not being an independent body. They said that ELECAM is at the service of the ruling CPDM, insisting that Cameroon needs an Independent Electoral Commission to be able to conduct transparent, free and fair elections. The UPC Mack-Kit militants also strongly criticised ELECAM for not having as yet distributed voters’ cards to Cameroonians who had since registered. They saw the long delay as another manipulation by ELECAM to rig the up-coming Legislative and Municipal Elections in favour of the CPDM.
The UPC militants asserted that with biometric registration, cards are normally supposed to be issued to voters immediately they register. The party militants also insisted that considering the population of Cameroon, ELECAM is supposed to target some 12 million Cameroonians for voter registration, and not the low figure of seven million currently set by the institution as the target.
The six points contained in the tracts which the UPC militants distributed were some of the demands or proposals that the party has been putting out for some two years now, for the reform of the Electoral Law. UPC Mack-Kit, among other things, wants the voting age to be reduced to 18 years as well as a two-round presidential election.
- Biya Takes Nation By Storm: Announces Senatorial Elections For April 14 (lebs295.wordpress.com)
- Elecam Board Member decries Delinquency among staff, Quarter Heads (maxfokwen.wordpress.com)
February 2, 2013 § 6 Comments
Amnesty International, AI, has stigmatized Cameroon as a country with a bloody record of human right abuses. This is the byword of the 2012 report the organisation published in January 24.
“People in Cameroon are being subjected to a raft of abuses including unlawful killing and torture as the authorities seek to use the criminal justice system to clamp down on political opponents, human right defenders and journalists and as a weapon to attack lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people,” partly reads the report of the global human rights organisation.
The report documents a series of cases where fear, intimidation and imprisonment have been used to clamp down on political opposition to President Biya. “For example, the case of Titus Edzoa, the former Health Minister who quit government to stand as a Presidential candidate on April 20, 1997. He was later arrested on charges of corruption and he is currently serving a 20-year jail sentence after completing a 15-year prison term,” says the report.
It quotes a melancholy-stricken Edzoa telling AI officials during a visit to his cell in Yaounde that, “I am living in virtual isolation and frightened people will forget me.” AI equally indicts the Cameroon for harassing and threatening human rights defenders and members of their families for doing work and failing to offer them protection.
“Over the years, dozens of prisoners attempting to escape have been shot, injured or killed by guards. Numerous prisoners are held in shackles and many have been detained for more than 20 months without trial,” the report points out. Going by the AI report, its officials visited Kondengui Prison in Yaounde and the Douala New Bell Prison and were appalled by the conditions and ill-treatment. At the time of their latest visit in December 2012, there were more than 7,000 prisoners in two prisons with a capacity of 1500.
“It’s close to a miracle,” the organisation observes, “that people actually survive their stay in prison. I was frightened when I visited. How worse can it be for the thousands of detainees who are abused and forgotten or ignored by the authorities?” one of the officials quipped.
“Inmates in Kondengui Prison,” says the report, “only eat one meal a day and malnutrition is rife.” Prison authorities informed AI that most of the detainees in one wing are mentally ill and researchers saw male inmates who were completely naked amidst a crowd of fellow prisoners.
Rights Of Homosexuals
The report also observes that “engaging in same sex relations is a criminal offence in Cameroon.”
It, however, gainsaid that the authorities for routine arrest, detention and torture of individual inmates because of their real or perceived sexual orientation. Such violations, it claims, have increased since the mid-2000s. It holds that same sex people in custody are also forced to undergo anal examination in mistaken belief by the authorities that the examinations can prove whether or not people are engaging in same-sex relations.
It says there is no justification, whatsoever, for this illegal, degrading treatment. To them, it represents a severe breach of medical ethics and has to end immediately. The report reveals that defence lawyers for same sex people have recently received death threats against themselves and their children for defending homosexuals.
“Amnesty International submitted a comprehensive memorandum on human right abuses to the Cameroonian Government in September 2012, along with recommendations. When delegates visited the country in December 2012, they concluded that human rights violation has continued unabated since their previous visit in August 2010,” the report narrates.
“It is time to put an end to such blatant violation of human rights. The Government needs to make it clear to security forces that human right violations will not be tolerated; that perpetrators will be brought to justice and reparation paid to victims,” says Godfrey Byaruhanga, AI Central Africa researcher, who visited Cameroon recently.
He further says in the report that, “the Government is adamant that it enforces the rule of law but has little to show for it on the ground. It has to prove it means what it claims.” In reaction, a recent edition of the Government-run bilingual daily, Cameroon Tribune, dismissed the report as false. The paper equally published write-ups that seek to “white-wash” Cameroon’s human rights image.
- Jonas and Franky, freed but now in hiding (76crimes.com)
- Another 3 men in Cameroon jail for homosexuality (lebs295.wordpress.com)
January 29, 2013 § 1 Comment
Officials of Elections Cameroon, ELECAM, have decried the low turnout of potential voters in the ongoing biometric registration exercise.
This was the highlight of a meeting the Littoral ELECAM Board member, Thomas Ejake Mbonda, and his collaborators, held in Douala on January 17, with local political party officials, civil society leaders and elite of the Wouri Division.
Ejake Mbonda as well as the Wouri ELECAM Divisional Coordinator, Emmanuel Kouadiba, said the low turnout is disturbing.
The officials said the targeted number of potential voters in the Littoral is over 800.000, with over half of the number found in Douala (Wouri Division).
They, however, disclosed that as of that January 17, more than three months into the exercise, only 289.000 potential voters have been registered in the Region.
As for Wouri Division, it was disclosed that barely 180.400 potential voters, who constitute 32 percent of the target number, have been registered.
Despite the disappointing statistics, Ejake Mbonda insisted that the registration exercise in the Littoral cannot be considered a failure.
According to him, if all the other actors join forces with ELECAM to mobilise the population before the February ending deadline, the Region will attain the target number of potential voters.
The meeting degenerated into tirade of accusations between ELECAM and local party officials when it got to the point of diagnosing the causes of the apathy.
ELECAM was accused of poor communication of the institution’s field trips and non-respect of their calendar of activities.
The election management body was also accused of making inadequate field trips and of being biased in the registration process, in favour of the ruling CPDM.
On their part, ELECAM officials accused some local opposition party officials and civil society leaders for campaigning against the exercise, by calling on the population to boycott the exercise.
Opposition parties were also accused of doing little to mobilise their militants to register.
ELECAM officials said some local party officials continue to collect the national identity cards of militants and bring for registration. They thus, denounced those who do this, accusing them of creating confusion as well as slowing the exercise.
Nonetheless, some opposition party leaders like Barrister Jean De Dieu Momo of PADDEC blamed the situation on voter apathy.
Momo, a candidate at the 2011 Presidential election, argued that voter apathy is the main cause of low turnout in the country.
He attributed the apathy to Cameroonians’ loss of confidence in the electoral system, because, according to him, it cannot guarantee credible elections.
Momo said the key strategy to boost registration as well as participation in elections is reform of the electoral system.
Many other complaints were raised by representatives of political parties and civil society groups. Some faulted the slow pace of issuing of national identity cards.
The Mayor of Manoka (Douala VI), Ernest Edimo, complained that his sub-division, which comprises a number of islands (fishing villages), is enclaved, as access to all the villages is only by water.
He noted that it is very difficult to carry out voter registration in the sub-division.
It was observed that the number of biometric kits at ELECAM’s disposal in Wouri Division is quite inadequate.
Proposals made at the meeting included a call on political parties to sensitise their militants to register.
ELECAM was urged to use the local media to regularly sensitise the population on their activities.
While closing the meeting, Ejake Mbonda assured that ELECAM will do everything possible to ensure that a maximum number of Cameroonians of voting age are registered before the end of February.
He urged political parties and civil society groups to collaborate with ELECAM, to mobilise the population to take part in the registration exercise.
He announced that ELECAM is to multiply registration posts across Douala, as part of the strategy to boost registration.
Ejake said as part of the strategy, on Monday, January 14, 2013, the Wouri Divisional Coordinator of ELECAM and his collaborators took the registration exercise to the Douala Central Market where they installed biometric kits to register traders who live in the five different sub-divisions that constitute Douala.
Ejake Mbonda also disclosed that the institution will in the coming days reach out to all major markets across Douala, church premises and mosques.
- Another 3 men in Cameroon jail for homosexuality (76crimes.com)
July 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
A new mobile phone network, Set’ mobile, went operational on Saturday, July 21. Set’ mobile, a product of Eto’o Telecom, will, from July 21 to August 5, give priority to those customers who gave their confidence to the company when the idea was initially launched last December.
Explaining why the company did not go operational six months ago, as earlier announced, the General Manager, Charles Gueret, said, “The reasons for the subsequent postponements were solely due to strategical reasons and, due this, the business model has undergone certain modifications to permit a better placement of the brand as the very first Mobile Virtual Network Operator in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
In addition to 60 direct jobs, Set’ mobile hopes to create about 500 indirect employment opportunities before the end of this year. The company believes that, by doing this, they will help in “encouraging our people of the Diaspora not to relent in the development of our beloved Cameroon.” Eto’o Telecom, according to the authorities, was created on August 11, 2011 as the first virtual operator of mobile phones in Sub-Saharan Africa “which should be a subject of national pride.”
The company is the brainchild of Samuel Eto’o, “a young Cameroonian, son of the soil, who saw the light of day at Nkon in the Sanaga-Maritime Division, grew up in the New Bell neighbourhood in Douala and then went on to conquer the world.” According to Mr. Gueret, the legendary footballer, Samuel Eto’o, who is also Board Chair of Eto’o Telecom, “has had it all”.
Being on top of the world, he has, over the years, become a role model not only to Cameroonian youths but an incarnation of a present full of glory and a future full of hope for an entire African generation. But despite this external monumental quest, this young Cameroonian has decided to come back HERE, back to his roots where he is originally from.”
The network has the ambition “to create and develop a profitable and sustainable African enterprise of mobile phone services. Some of the values Set’ mobile boasts of include: “generosity, optimism, audacity, anchorage and imagination.” Set’ mobile will operate in partnership with ORANGE and will provide its services nationwide. All Set’ mobile numbers will begin with 92.
- Kenya dominating global mobile payments industry, posing monopolistic threat … – Financial Post (business.financialpost.com)
- Is Zim ready for a 4th mobile network (techzim.co.zw)
- Anzhi ease past Honved (rt.com)
May 11, 2011 § 1 Comment
By Dr. Peter Wuteh Vakunta
The ailing polity code-named Cameroon seems to be afflicted with a medley of ailments that have earned it a myriad of sobriquets:Clando Republic, Mimboland, Animal Farm, Gaullist Africa, Ghost Nation, and more. The purport of this write-up is to diagnose the illnesses with which our nation is afflicted. The end game is to be able to prescribe some dependable medicaments efficacious enough to resuscitate a nation from its death throes.
Alcohol is the opium of the Cameroonian people. In other climes, people drink alcohol on very special occasions, if at all. In Cameroon, booze is our national drug of choice. A meeting without itemeleven[i] is considered an abortive meeting. Little wonder, some of the talk shops [ii]that pass for meetings in Mimboland often result in drunken revelries. I was brainstorming the fate of Cameroon with a friend lately and here is what he said: “Try to get two or three Cameroonians at a round table to brainstorm about some matter of substance and you will come away disappointed, but get them to put on their traditional regalia and come for alcohol or to dance ndombolo and you will be humbled by their vibrancy!” [iii] With this irresistible penchant for alcohol, does it surprise anyone that we have become numbskulls, bereft of cognitive ability? The brain that is filled with bubbles of alcohol cannot think. Bacchus[iv] must be rubbing his hands in mock glee wherever he is lurking in Cameroon. Come to think of it, what are we really celebrating? The uncertain fate of thousands of University graduates who have been driven byChomencan[v] to become sauveteurs[vi], taxi drivers,bendskinneurs[vii] and wolowoss[viii]? Or is it our once beautiful roads that have degenerated into death traps that we are celebrating? The question begs to be asked again: what are Cameroonians actually celebrating on a daily basis in circuits[ix]and off-licenses? The sale of our fatherland to foreigners? When Longue Longue oralizes the auctioning of our natural resources, including crude-oil and forest products to the French, we simply scoff at him and scurry back to our booze as promptly as possible. Some sagacious man once observed that Paul Biya is governing a nation of nineteen million drunkards! Is there a dissenting voice? I urge my fellow countrymen and women to stay sober at all times. You snooze you lose, an expression which insinuates that we will miss out on a great many opportunities if we don’t remain aware or open to the goings-on in our country. How can we afford to numb our brains with alcohol when this nation is on the brink of an abyss? There is a vendetta around the corner. We cannot afford to snooze or booze!
Fear has crippled Cameroonians. Behind the semblance of bravado that punctuates our daily discourse, Cameroonians are inwardly compulsive cowards. Despite all the brouhaha: catcham! beat’am! catcham! killam! If Mr. Paul Biya were to walk down the streets of any Cameroonian city today without a bodyguard, you would be surprised to see how many people would simply take to their heels after identifying the nation’s ennemi numéro 1[x] This explains why the man is unfazed by the raving and ranting of his many detractors. Internally, he knows Cameroonians are a bunch of paranoid big babies. Who would have believed that Mr. Biya would go to Bamenda in 2011 and be hailed as Fon of Fons after all the trauma to which he has subjected the people of Abakwa? Our Ntarikon landlord even granted him audience! The legendary Bamenda man known for his tenacity and alacrity to chop fire has suddenly became melo. What is the genesis of this paralysis? Or dare I say hypnotizing fear? What become of the likes of Fon Mbinglo of Nso who, we are told, once declined to shake the hand of the Queen of England because in Nsoland, women do not shake hands with men. As we brace ourselves for the pending battle ahead, it is critical that we kill fear, like the Egyptians who buried their fear at Tahrir Square.[xi]We must bury own fear here and now. The 32nd president of the United States of America, Franklin D. Roosevelt, is reputed to have said: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”[xii] We cannot subject ourselves to slow death each day on account of fear. That is what William Shakespeare meant when he observed that “Cowards die many times before their deaths.”(Julius Caesar, Act 1, Sc1). This quote suggests rationally that man should not fear death but instead confront it boldly. To fear death is to die already.
One of the cankers eating deep into the Cameroonian social fabric is ethnocentrism, alternatively labeled tribalism. Tribalism engenders corruption, influence peddling, self-interest, abuse of power and dereliction of duty. This hydra has killed meritocracy in our country! Our nation has been reduced to ethnocentric concaves locked in lethal battles. The Beti want to fend for the Beti; the Bamileke attend to the needs of the Bamileke; the Bassa would do everything necessary to look after the Bassa, even if this means flouting the laws of the land and hurting other tribes. Politics has been given an ethnic bent across the board. And that is why nothing seems to work in Cameroon. Until we begin to see ourselves as Cameroonians first this quagmire will persist for a very long time. Ethnocentrism permeates all the nooks and crannies of Cameroon, including academic circles. William Ndi fictionalizes this predicament in his play Gods in the Ivory Tower (2009). Gods in the Ivory Towerdepicts the University of Ngoa as a glorified secondary school where the credo of ethnicity determines who succeeds and who drops out as evident in the caustic remarks of Professor Guignol: “This is a place for smart civilized people! Not primitive non-natives like you!”(44) Clearly, ethnophobia and xenophobia are cankerworms that eat deep into the very fabric of what the protagonist christens “the village college” (2) where meritocracy has been put on the back burner. Professor Guignol does not veil his preference for students from his own ethnic group as his question illustrates: “Did I not ask you from the very first day whether he was from your neighborhood, Mvog-Akum? Again, whether his parents were friends of some kind?”(40) Professor Guignol is openly spiteful of Anglophone students: “These English speakers…! Do you think it is for nothing that we label them in our tongue, I mean French as ‘les gauchers?’”(40) As it were, Ndi barely scratches the surface of the now well-known Anglophone question in Cameroon. The cohabitation between Anglos andFrogs[xiii] is depicted in Gods in the Ivory Tower as a marriage of convenience. This play is a lampoon on the notorious Francophone-Anglophone animosity in Cameroon.
The Anglophone Question
You may remember Animal Farm, the 1945 classic written by George Orwell. Many in my generation had to read this book in order to pass the London General Certificate of Education (GCE) ordinary level examination. Over the years I have come to see the relevance of the message contained in this novel even more as I ponder the Cameroon Anglophone Question. The plot of Orwell’s book is centered on the dissatisfaction of farm animals who felt they’re being mistreated by Farmer Jones. Led by the pigs, the animals revolted against their oppressive master, and after their victory, they decided to run the farm themselves on egalitarian principles. However, the pigs became corrupted by power and a new tyranny took root. The famous line: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (92) still rings true to date. The novel is a replica of what has come to be branded the Cameroon Anglophone Problem.
After fighting together to decolonize Cameroon, French-speaking Cameroonians now tend to lord it over their English-speaking compatriots. There exists a generation of English-speaking Cameroonians who now find themselves at a crossroads and would like to know where they really belong. Many Anglophone Cameroonians are now asking themselves why they are condemned to play second fiddle in the land of their birth. The unfair treatment meted out to English-speaking Cameroonians by cocky, condescending Francophone compatriots in positions of power is a time bomb that needs to be defused before it explodes to do irreparable damage. As Alfred Matumamboh puts it, “Anglophone Cameroonians still feel themselves a colonized people trapped in the clutches of horizontal colonization. Francophone Cameroonians keep on reminding them by their political word and deed that they are the masters while the deprived Anglophone is the trapped helpless servant to be maltreated and molested”(Online article). Unfair discrimination against Anglophones sows seeds of discord. The cohabitation between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians has been likened to a marriage of convenience by scholars and students of post-colonial Africa. In fact, some critics have compared the uneasy co-existence between these two distinct linguistic communities in Cameroon to the attitude of two travelers who met by chance in a roadside shelter and are merely waiting for the rain to cease before they continue their separate journeys in different directions. No other metaphor better depicts the frictional coexistence between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians.
More often than not, the perpetrators of this macabre game of divide and rule are French-speaking political leaders who take delight in fishing in troubled waters. In doing so, Francophone leaders indulge in stoking the flames of animosity and whipping up sentiments of mutual suspicion on both sides of the Mungo River at the expense of nation-building. Many of them have been heard making abrasive statements intended not only to cow Anglophones into submission but also to make them feel unwanted at home. Yet these self-styled leaders would mount the podium to chant to the entire world that there is no Anglophone Problem in Cameroon. This is utter hogwash, it seems to me. The plain truth is that there is a palpable feeling of discontent and unease among Anglophone Cameroonians. Questions that remain unanswered are numerous: Are Anglophone Cameroonians enjoying equal treatment with their Francophone counterparts in the workplace? Are Anglophone Cameroonians having their fair share of the national cake? Do they feel at home in Cameroon? These and many other unanswered questions constitute what has been dubbed the Cameroon Anglophone Question.
The Cameroon Anglophone Problem manifests itself in the form of complaints from English-speaking Cameroonians about the absence of transparency and accountability in matters relating to appointments in the civil service, the military, the police force, thegendarmerie[xiv][i] and the judiciary. In short, the AnglophoneQuestion raises interrogations about participation in decision-making and power-sharing in the country. This is not a figment of anyone’s imagination! It is real and tangible. The Anglophone Problem is the cry of an oppressed people, lamenting over the ultra-centralization of political power in the hands of a rapacious oligarchy based in Yaoundé, the nation’s capital, where Anglophones with limited proficiency in the French language are made to go through all kinds of odds in the hands of gloating Francophone bureaucrats who see English-speakers as anathema. The Anglophone Problem stems from the obnoxious attitude of French-speaking Cameroonians who believe that their Anglophone compatriots are unpatriotic, and therefore, should be asked to seek refuge in another country. This bigotry compounded by conceit has given rise to the rampant use of derogatory slurs such as “les Anglophones sont gauches” [xv][ii], “c’est des ennemis dans la maison” [xvi][iii], “ce sont les biafrais [xvii][iv] and so on.
The consequence of this anti-Anglophone sentiment is the birth of the misconception that Anglophone Cameroonians are unreliable, untrustworthy, and therefore, undeserving of positions of leadership in the country. This explains why key ministerial positions in Cameroon are the exclusive preserve of French-speaking Cameroonians. Anglophobia has also led to the appointment of Francophones with no working knowledge of the English language to ambassadorial positions in strategic countries like the United States of America, Great Britain, Germany, Nigeria and South Africa where they wind up making a complete fool of themselves linguistically and culturally speaking.
The corollary of this frictional co-existence is mutual distrust, a phenomenon that has been exploited maximally by Cameroonian politicians, including the Head of State himself. One only needs to ponder the manner in which the president has used the position of Prime Minister as an effective tool to play North-westerners against South-westerners beginning from Simon Achidi Achu to date. Who says nurturing ethnocentrism is not politically expedient? Undoubtedly, avaricious self-interest is at the root of all this rigmarole. We are not asking anyone to repudiate his ethnic origin. We can choose our friends; we cannot choose our parents. At the same time, Cameroonians must guard against balkanizing the nation along tribal lines.
In this essay, I have attempted to lay bare the anatomy of a malignant Nation-State. Cameroon is sick, very sick indeed. In 29 years we have gone from the posture of a buoyant Africa in miniature to that of a skeletal nation in decrepitude. Yet, our leaders continue to wine, dine and tango at the expense of the proverbial man in the street. The call is ours to halt this dementia by all means necessary. This task is ours. No outsider can do it on our behalf.
© Vakunta 2011
[i] Drinks served at the end of a meeting
[ii] Meetings characterized by futile deliberations that engender no action plan
[iii] John Dinga, email communication, May 6, 2011.
[iv] Bacchus was the Roman god of partying and wine.
[v] Chronic employment in Cameroon
[vii] Bendskin drivers
[ix] Beer parlors
[x] Number one enemy
[xi] Liberation Square) is a major public town square in Downtown Cairo.
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