Thursday, February 26, 2009

Final thoughts




My final workshop took place on Tuesday, on the topic of coaching and mentoring. There was a good take up, and every seat was full. People here have not become jaded as we are about events such as this. Indeed, people from the councils and the Civil Society Organisations took part with enthusiasm.

On Wednesday I was visited by a delegation from Bafut representing the epilepsy organisation CODEF. They were very kind, had bought a calabash of palm wine with them –and, most unexpectedly, a number of Cameroonian gifts. I really don’t think that I deserve them.

What conclusions can I draw about this vast, intriguing country after some eight weeks? I ought to say that I am fairly optimistic. This is a relatively peaceful country. Despite some disturbances a year ago, this is no powder keg ready to explode.

8 comments:

ourman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ourman said...

I'm not sure I agree with your rather sweeping statement:

"What conclusions can I draw about this vast, intriguing country after some eight weeks? I ought to say that I am fairly optimistic. This is a relatively peaceful country. Despite some disturbances a year ago, this is no powder keg ready to explode."

Maybe not "about to" explode but none the less it will explode if drastic change isn't made.

People have been getting poorer and poorer for too long. And, in particular, the Anglophone section has suffered through lack of investment.

Some links for you to read:

http://is.gd/kWFy

http://is.gd/kWHp

http://is.gd/kWJ0

http://is.gd/kWKa

http://is.gd/kWKS

I think this country is an absolute powder keg - and it will explode. You cannot continue to erode people's human rights, and their wealth and expect to hang on to power through crooked means.

What I will say is that Cameroonian's are peace loving and patient and that is the reason why there has been no worse bloodshed to date than those riots you mentioned ( though not all were rioting - 100 people were killed who observers said were demonstrating peacefully).

It's too easy to visit here, for all of us, and to look around our neighbourhoods and declare everything peaceful. The problems though are largely hidden but they run deep.

The good news is that the Cameroonian gift for patience, and the relative age of its leader, means there is a window for change. If that change isn't made then I really fear for the future of this country.

I'll leave you with a section from one of the links above:

"The reason for Biya's irrational hatred and marginalisation of Anglophones is hard to find. The President erroneously believes Anglophones are responsible for all the political troubles in Cameroon.

"They say those whom the gods want to destroy, they first make politically mad. When students riot in Buea, a special battalion of soldiers trained to combat urban terrorism is deployed to do selective killings. Not even one of the President's fake commissions of enquiries has ever investigated the killings. Legitimate aspirations are always met with denigration and death.

"The last days of the Biya era are much nearer. Biya and his acolytes are yet to be history staring them in the face. If African History is anything to go by, it is clear the last chapter of the Biya regime is being written and if care is not taken, the pen will drip blood. "

Bill Chapman said...

Many thanks for that, Steve. You're probably in a better position than I am to judge. Of course I have seen the depth of the poverty, having visited some homes off the beaten track,and even witnessed petty corruption. You're certainly right about the lack of investment in the Anglophone part, but although I can see the tinder, there's no sign (to me) of the spark. The abjectly poor people I have visited said that life is hard, but were not calling for regime change.

Change will come - and peacefully I hope.

And thanks for the links!

ourman said...

They weren't calling for regime change? Really?

Wow.

I'm yet to meet anyone who isn't.

Whatever the change I hope it will peaceful too. As I said - there is time to right the wrongs before things get worse.

Bill Chapman said...

Hi, Steve

I'm afraid that's exactly what is missing - a popular movement for change. I've just had a meeting about consumers' very limited rights in Cameroon. There is simply no clamour to improve things. There are very few petitions, no packed protest meetings.The fiercest criticism I've heard about the government is a shrugging of the shoulders.

I do agree with your last comment.

ourman said...

Bill,

You said:

"There is simply no clamour to improve things. There are very few petitions, no packed protest meetings."

From the Human Rights report from the US Despartment of State - released just this week (I think the last paragraph is the most pertinent):

"The law requires organizers of public meetings, demonstrations, or processions to notify officials in advance but does not require prior government approval of public assemblies and does not authorize the government to suppress public assemblies that it has not approved in advance. However, officials routinely asserted that the law implicitly authorizes the government to grant or deny permission for public assembly. Consequently, the government often did not grant permits for assemblies organized by persons or groups critical of the government and used force to suppress public assemblies for which it had not issued permits.

"Authorities refused to grant the SCNC permission to hold rallies and meetings, and security forces arrested and detained some activists.

"Security forces forcibly disrupted the demonstrations, meetings, and rallies of citizens, trade unions, and groups of political activists throughout the year; demonstrators were injured, arrested, and killed."

You can find the full document here:

http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/af/118990.htm

Brian Barker said...

Wot a fantastic experience Bill!

Safe journey home!

Brian & Francis.

PS Have you had a haircut or have you lost weight?

lucy said...

I think your personal conclusion of your experiences in Cameroon was well written and succint! Looking forward to speaking to you proparly when you're home!