The Cameroonian Pride — Of Rarity And Diversity

"Cameroon without her soldiers is synonymous to God without his angels"

At the mention of the name Cameroon on the international scene, many immediately refer to the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Roger Milla, Francis Ngannou, Rebecca Enonchong, and of course, its president, Paul Biya, to name a few.

These persons have been able to prove their mettle on the national and global scenes multiple times and have gained repute, thanks to their ability to remain disciplined, focused, innovative, and resilient even in the face of adversity.
These values they embody and radiate can be credited largely and rightly so, to their birth and upbringing as well as the experiences they have had, all unique to Cameroon, Africa in miniature. It is the pride of being Cameroonian.

Fondly referred to as Mboa, Cameroon remains the lone African state that belongs to both the Francophonie and Commonwealth, thanks to its bilingual status. But the pride of being Cameroonian supersedes just the ability to integrate and belong to two of the most prominent language zones on the planet.

It is also reflected in the country’s prowess on the global sports scene, with football being its forte. It is no doubt therefore, that it remains the first ever African country to make it to the quarter finals of the much coveted FIFA World Cup. The record set in 1990 by the legendary Roger Milla-led squad was only matched 20 years later by Ghana.

Africa over the ages past to date, remains unmatched in music and dance, and Cameroon is definitely a front runner in the domain. Makossa which remains one of Africa’s most influential genres of music over the past decades, finds its roots in Cameroon, originating from the Douala dance, Kossa It has been credited for the influence on multiple music genres now trending across the continent and the globe including Bikutsi, assiko and mangabolo.

Yet, the genre which was exported globally by the likes of Manu Dibango, Misse Ngoh and Eboa Lotin, it is just one of a myriad of music genres that represent the way of life of the Cameroonian people. Njang, bottle dance, bendskin, mangambeu Assiko … the list is endless.

The impact of these brands on the exportation of Cameroonian names too cannot go unnoticed. From the likes of Wes Madiko to Manu Dibango, Richard Bona, Francois Nkotti and today, the art has evolved for decades and continues to mould and market stars on the global stage.

Today, the likes of Mr Leo, PhillBil, Witty Minstrel, Vernyuy Tina, Mola Mongombe, Coco Argentee, K-Tino and Mani Bella are flag bearers of culture thanks to the originality accorded them by virtue of being Cameroonian by birth and upbringing.

New generation singer, Vernyuy Tina

This pride of being Cameroonian too is reflected in the country’s gastronomy, a variety as wide as its ethnic groups and representation. This too is attributed to its location, sitting strategically between the north, west and center points of the great African continent.

Still fresh on the minds of many a Cameroonian, is the participation of sisters, Kelly and Ashley Vola at Australian culinary contest, ‘plate of origin’ last year. Within their few appearances on the show, they were able to give judges a sample from the hundreds of meals Cameroon boasts of. Not only are the country’s meals a wonder on their own, but their ease of preparation, nutritional values and of course variety, make them an industry within the tourism industry.

While music and food are aspects meant to be tasted, listened to and lived, dressing takes a millisecond to notice, and a deep mind to comprehend patterns and make out meaning. Easily noticeable is the change in attire across the different cultural zones in the country.

The Toghu alone which originates from the grass field regions, has remained for many years today, the unofficial insignia of the country, donned by all and sundry. It has in many years past, been tipped among some of the most elegant and majestic fabrics worn at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

Every aspect of the hand stitched wear tells a story, unique to indigenous communities, villages, tribes and individuals that constitute the one and indivisible diverse nation of Cameroon.

Every aspect of the hand stitched wear tells a story

The simple but elegant Ganduras, the Sanja of the coastal peoples and the Ndop fabrics are other wears with inspiring and yet ingenious stories and themes that imbibe subtly but deeply in many a Cameroonian, the pride of belonging.

When the great Nelson Mandela said education is the great engine of personal development, one would have easily thought he was referring to Cameroonians. With a dual education system, Cameroon stands tall in the Central African region with an estimated adult literacy rate of 77%.

The influence and impacts of this blend of two of the world’s most prominent education systems, is evident in major institutions and corporations across the globe. From the United Nations to the world football governing body, FIFA and the African Union, Cameroonians abound in service, displaying intellectual know-how and moving the world forward. Really, it is safe to say the trails carved out by the likes of Prof Bernard Fonlon Nsokika, Prof Victor Anomah Nguh and Prof Judith Torimiro continue to he held high by Cameroonians in all sectors of academic life.

For over 60 years of independence reunification, the country’s national integrity has largely remained intact. This does not mean it has not been through hell and high waters. Rather, the national integrity’s maintenance is proof of the peoples’ resolve to raise high the values that bind them together.

For over 60 years of independence reunification, the country’s national integrity has largely remained intact

From the Bakassi conflict with Nigeria in 2006, to the Boko Haram conflict in the northern regions and now the elephant in the room – the armed conflict in the English-speaking regions, Cameroon has remained a state that leaves no inch of its soil behind. It has succeeded to do so through the use of diplomacy, as with the Green Tree accord.

In cases where diplomacy has proven futile, force has paved the way, as with the war against terrorism in the Far North. This is thanks to the gallant armed forces operating with mantra, honour and fidelity. To borrow from author, Claudia Pemberton, Cameroon without her soldiers is synonymous to God without his angels.

Notwithstanding, Cameroon like any other country or homestead has its woes. For over 60 years today, it has recorded joyous days, but sad ones too. Many of the latter have surfaced in the past five years during which the Anglophone crisis turned bloody, leaving thousands dead.

In cases where diplomacy has proven futile, force has paved the way

The country has also been immersed in multiple human rights violations indictments, with journalists and activists being the most affected victims. Many a Cameroonian to date, bow their heads in shame at the mention of the name Wazizi. Women especially, would cringe when they think of Antoinette Gohla, the nursing mother who remains behind bars.

Much remains desired to maintain the status quo and why not, adjustments to make it better.

Among these, many recommend the Anglophone crisis as a starting point. While the crisis remains rooted in political differences, it remains an avenue for the re-evaluation and valorisation of many other components that keep the very fabric of national being intact.

This entails more adequate cultural and sports representation at the national level, as well as the gentrification of communities such as the Bakassi peninsula, which continue to serve as testament of the country’s unity.

Patriotism truly, as James Bryce would say, should consist of not just waving the flag, but also in striving to make a country righteous and strong.

Giyo Ndzi

[This article was first published in The Guardian Post magazine for May 2022]

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