jeudi 18 février 2010

We came, we thought, we built!

We did it! 

Friday the 29th and Saturday the 30th of January 2010, over 200 Cameroonians from all walks of life spent 2 days examining their past, in order to define their future.

They came from Bafoussam, Dschang, Buea, Limbe and a large contingent from Yaounde to join the Douala group.  Women, men, many young, but some quite old, they converged to “Dare to Invent the Future of Cameroon”. 

Day 1 - Looking Back

First item on the agenda, looking back over 50 years.  We examined our economy, our politics, the role women have played, our struggle to unite English-speaking and French-speaking Cameroon. 

So what did we learn? 
·         Our economic strategy after 50 years is still focused on selling commodities with little added-value to the international market.  The same strategy designed by our colonizers to serve themselves is the one we implement for ourselves today.
·         In addition to the fact that the very first elections in Cameroon at independence were fraudulent, a retrospective on elections in Cameroon shows that the key actors, both government and opposition have been reproducing the same behavior over at least 20 years of multi-party elections. Cameroon Ô’Bosso’s 11 Demands for Electoral Reform were as relevant 20 years ago as they are today.
·         Women have played key roles throughout Cameroon’s political history.  1931 – the first Cameroonians to stand up against the colonizer as a group were women.  They protested against taxes and obtained a reduction.  During the fight for independence, Cameroonian women wrote over 1,000 petitions to the UN Trusteeship Council in New York, demanding economic, social and humanitarian rights.  The only woman to address the All African People’s Congress in Accra in 1958, was a Cameroonian, Marthe Moumie. 
·         Uniting English and French-speaking Cameroon was a vision of nationalists on both sides of the Moungo at independence.  Anglophones and Francophones fighting for independence from their respective colonizers worked together, used their respective strengths to combat the colonizer and had as an objective one united Cameroon.  The complete mismanagement of the unification process which is at the origin of today’s divisions is in no way a part of the original nationalist vision. 

To top it all off we literally took a walk down history lane…

Over 100 of us carried out a symbolic march through the streets of Douala.  1st stop – The headquarters of UPC – Cameroon’s first political party.  In a very emotional moment, we stopped at this place that had been burned down by the French Army in order to bring the nationalist movement down. 

The next stop was at the most modest of houses.  Non-descript, in one of Douala’s poorer neighborhoods, we came upon the home of Ruben Um Nyobe.  The visionary of the independence movement lived in a small house in Nkonmondo.  His in-laws still live there, the entire neighborhood knows the significance of that house, but there is no sign, no tour guide could take you to this small common house from whence a hero dreamed dreams large enough for a nation.

And so we continued, making 5 stops, each of them a significant part of our history as fighters, as a people who loved liberty more than life and who all too often paid the price of life for that liberty, which we are yet to attain. 
Tears, smiles, hugs, speeches, songs and the national anthem.  Heavy with emotion, we closed Day 1 knowing ourselves a little better as Cameroonians, feeling in our guts that completely illogical and profound emotion that comes from having your umbilical cord buried in a particular place.

Day 2 – Looking forward

Having anchored ourselves firmly within the history of this nation of ours, it was time to look forward to the Cameroon we wish to build. 

We started off with Cameroon Ô’Bosso presenting its alternative vision of our country.  

Cameroonians empower themselves to complete the transfer of power begun at independence, building for themselves new principle-centered definitions of power, leadership and governance. They institute, develop and maintain a system of governance in Cameroon that:
        Guarantees democracy, civil liberties and rule of law,
        Ensures the equitable provision of basic services (water, shelter, security {person, property}, food, communication, healthcare, transportation….)
        Provides a free, fair and enabling economic environment thus promoting employment and economic welfare for all Cameroonians
        Is completely accountable to the citizens of Cameroon for the use of the resources of the nation
This vision is anchored on key building blocks:
·         A Cameroon that is unified in its diversity (over 250 mini-states, 2 federated states…)
·         A Cameroon whose citizens are organized to define power for themselves, influence power relationships, monitor governance and ensure  democratic change at all levels of government
·         A Cameroon which is equitable, openly confronting the injustices and discriminations of the past and seeking sustainable solutions for them
·         A Cameroon which is a leader in Africa and in the world, defending African causes, seeking African solutions and promoting African excellence

The vision will be implemented using key strategies:
·         At the Center: Redefining and taking ownership of ourselves – our history, our culture our identity
·         As a framework: A truly decentralized state
o   At the Central  level - focus on strategic interests, international relations, national quality standards, monitoring and evaluation of service delivery to the population
o   At the local level – diversity is acknowledged.  Delivery of social services is ensured, information on the population is collected and used to shape national policy and allocate resources.
·         An economy: Focused on national entrepreneurship and employment, transforming the energy and potential of the informal sector into wealth and taking full advantage of our geostrategic position in Africa.
·         Social services: Accessible to all (delivered at the local level), of the highest available quality, provided sustainably.
·         Infrastructure: Delivered for the most part at local level, respecting national quality standards, using the innovative technology adapted to our local context, used as a key instrument for job creation and acquisition of skills.

A lively discussion followed this presentation with participants enriching the strategies.  Six thematic workshops allowed market women, taxi drivers, parliamentarians, students, professors, politicians and housewives to discuss together on the key issues facing Cameroon:

·         The Organization of the State
·         The Economy
·         Social Services
·         The Justice System
·         Culture and National Identity
·         Infrastructure  

We came, we thought, we built.  Cameroon Ô’Bosso !

We also  had a whole lot of fun.  A few memorable moments….

·         The bendskinneur who quoted Frantz Fannon before he went on to describe his conception of how his profession should be organized.

·         The student who believes all we need to set things straight in Cameroon is….a sidewalk project (yes Sona, believe it or not!).  After all the majority of the population walks.  Sidewalks are the key to development.

·         The history professor who screamed and yelled about us identifying ourselves as Anglophone and Francophone.  “How in 2010 can an African be identifying himself by his colonial master?” He wondered.  How indeed.

·         The sub-divisional officer who came with a few of his “boys” to put a stop to our march.  Unfortunately for him we had a signed authorization, by none other than…..himself!

·         The crowd throughout the market who looked at our enlarged portraits of Um Nyobe, Felix Moumie, et al and wondered when the funeral of these men was to be held and how did they all come to die together?  How indeed. 

·         The secret service guy disguised (just barely) as a journalist.  Yes all Cameroonians were a part of this…

So yes we came, we thought, we built and we are certain to have taken that key first step to Inventing our Future. 

Ô’Bosso to you !

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