6 Things You Wanted to Know About Cameroon but Were Afraid to Ask (Global Voices)

October 29th, 2014 by bobebill

Written by Tjat Bass · Translated by Thalia Rahme On 29 October 2014

School children in Cameroon – Public Domain

This post is part of a series shedding some light on underreported or unusual topics in many African countries. Our first installment was about Madagascar. [2] In this post, Gaelle Tjat, based in Douala, tells Global Voices about six must-know issues in her country, Cameroon. This post is republished [3]and translated from her personal blog Amazing Tjat Bass with her permission.

1. Besides President Biya, who are Cameroon’s most influential or famous personalities today?

Cameroonian citizens often ask themselves the same question. So if you happen to know the answer, please kindly enlighten us. But if there is something people should know, it is that the Cameroonian political system was designed in such a way that only one person can be in the spotlight at all time (see photo below).

Paul Biya – Public Domain

In that context, it is quite a challenge to identify other influential figures. But in the long run, one can see that there are some potential “decision-makers” who are currently keeping a low profile. This is the best way to avoid being sent behind the bars by the ubiquitous “sparrowhawk”.

So let us talk about famous people rather than influential ones. For those like me born in the 1980s or later, footballer Samuel Eto’o, the most decorated African player of all time [5], is one of those hailed figures. DIPMAN, a Cameroonian communications and marketing agency, listed the top 10 Cameroonian personalities [6] who are most influential on Twitter and three football players top the list.

Well, at least those mentioned in the list (pop celebrities notwithstanding) are succeeding in changing and transforming attitudes in Cameroon. They also provide hope for a better future despite all difficulties we face here.

2. Is there any actual tension between English speakers and French speakers in Cameroon or is it others who are making too big a deal out of this issue?

In my humble opinion, Anglophones and Francophones coexist peacefully all across the national territory as citizens of the same planet. The problem arises when we start thinking in terms of integration and national unity.

One issue of importance is that of the marginalisation of southern Cameroonians. Because of this situation, political parties such as the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) [7] have been strongly seeking more autonomy and pushing for secession (The Southwest region is mostly anglophone). So if one day, you feel like wandering through both the “Francophone” and “Anglophone” sides, you cannot help but notice the stark contrast between the two. You will see that the Anglophone side will show favorably when it comes to infrastructure and orderly behavior.

Unfortunately, nothing is done to unite this differences at the national level. We can even count on one hand the number of southerners who share a part of the country’s “mangeoire” (wealth) [ed’s note: for more on this, see [8]Ladislas Nzessee definition of Mangeoire in his report on “Cameroonian French: Appropriation and Dialectisation,” page 121. [8] It is ”an organisation of individuals who consider ‘national wealth” as their private propriety. Nzessee also speaks of accredited ethnicities.”] Perhaps it is about time to restore some balance in Cameroon when it comes to wealth distribution. This article [9] and this one [10] provide additional excellent insight on this issue.

3. In everyday life, do you speak English? French? Both?

Cameroon is a bilingual nation. However, its citizens are either Francophones or Anglophones, but rarely both. In that manner, we would be only copying the example of our head of state who delivered the opening address of the Commonwealth Conference in French.

The only time where bilingualism is brought into limelight is in the use of pidjin [11], which is a mix of French, English, Portuguese and Spanish. Pidjin came to be as a mode of communication during the slave trade along the coast of the country in order to facilitate transactions between traders and buyers.

Bilingualism is also used within the context of “camfranglais [12],” slang language created by Cameroonians.

4. What were the happiest times or greatest moments of pride in the country? And the saddest?

Many young Cameroonian activists are fighting to keep the memories of the country’s forgotten heroes alive. So far, our proudest moments mostly include victories in sporting events. Most of those memories were created by the Cameroon National Football Team, aka the Lions Indomptables [13](the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon): [14]their qualification to the quarterfinals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy [15]; their back-to-back victory in the 2000 [16]and 2002 African Cup of Nations [17]; their triumph at the 2000 Olympic Summer Games in Sydney [18]; their runner-up status at the 2003 FIFA Confederation Cup [19].

Aside from football, there were also Françoise Mbango’s medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games [20]. But these happy moments were short-lived as no further action was carried out to ensure the sustainability of these successful stories. So we are left with the nostalgic memory while hoping for the best at the Africa Cup of Nations (CAN) 2016 and 2019.

As for moments of great sadness, I recall the 1,700 people killed because of toxic gas released from Lake Nyos on August 21, 1986. [21] [22]I also felt so sorry for those 250 Cameroonian citizens who lost their lives on February 14, 1998 during the Nsam train explosion [23]. There was also the tragedy of Cameroonian international footballer Marc Vivien Foé [24]‘s sudden death in 2003 on the football field during the FIFA Confederation Cup.

Lac Nyos by Peuple Sawa
Catastrophe Nsam [26]

Nsam Disaster

5. What should the rest of the world know about Boko Haram [27] in Cameroon ?

In the beginning, Boko Haram in Cameroon was composed of Nigerian rebels who would kidnap missionaries, Chinese people and young girls. Missionaries and Chinese people were set free [28] after a likely hefty ransom payment. However, the girls are still held hostage [29]somewhere in Nigeria.

On the other hand, the regime is carrying out a massive crackdown on those accused (rightfully or wrongly) of colluding with the enemy. These accusations result in arbitrary arrests and random raids of the homes of those alleged accomplices [30]. So it is hard in these circumstances to try to get a clear picture of the issue here, even though Boko Haram is clearly a major problem [31]in the region.

6. Why was Serena Williams wearing a Cameroon jersey while playing at the 2002 French Open?

During the finals of the 2002 French Open, the tennis champion was clad in a Cameroonian green, red and yellow [32] outfit. Those Mr. Know-it-Alls out there, or ”sabitou-sabi-all’ [33]‘ as we call them in Cameroon, insinuated that she was involved romantically with some members of the football national team. The national media were gleefully buzzing [34] about it all.

Serena Williams – Public Domain

But the real reason behind Serena’s outfit is a simple one: Back then in the early 2000s, Cameroon was indeed an Indomitable football team, just like Serena in tennis. They stood out from other football teams by wearing sleeveless jerseys (see photo) usually sported by tennis players.

Serena needed an outfit for the French tournament. So Puma, who was the sponsor for both the Cameroonian football team and Serena at the time, suggested that she wear their colors since she and the lions shared the same fighting spirit [37] and she agreed. — Cyprien TANKEU (@Cyprien_T) September 13, 2014 [40]

Because the Lions would tame everything in their way. #LionSpirit [38] RT@TjatBass [39]: Why did Serena W wear the green-red-yellow at one point?

I hope I have satisfied your curiosity and given you a taste of my homeland. I also hope that you will come visit to know more about my beautiful country, Cameroon.

Article printed from Global Voices:

URL to article:

URLs in this post:

[1] Image:,_center,_for_a_group_photo_near_Douala,_Cameroon,_March_19,_2014,_during_Central_Accord_14_140319-A-PP104-039.jpg

[2] Madagascar.:

[3] republished :

[4] Image:

[5] Samuel Eto’o, the most decorated African player of all time:

[6] top 10 Cameroonian personalities:

[7] Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC):

[8] :

[9] This article:

[10] one:

[11] pidjin:

[12] camfranglais:

[13] Lions Indomptables :

[14] :

[15] their qualification to the quarterfinals of the 1990 FIFA World Cup in Italy:

[16] 2000 :

[17] 2002 African Cup of Nations:

[18] Olympic Summer Games in Sydney:

[19] 2003 FIFA Confederation Cup:

[20] Françoise Mbango’s medals at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic Games:

[21] 1,700 people killed because of toxic gas released from Lake Nyos on August 21, 1986.:

[22] :

[23] February 14, 1998 during the Nsam train explosion:

[24] Marc Vivien Foé:

[25] Image:

[26] Image:

[27] Boko Haram:

[28] Missionaries and Chinese people were set free:

[29] the girls are still held hostage :

[30] random raids of the homes of those alleged accomplices:

[31] even though Boko Haram is clearly a major problem :—cameroun–enlevement-de-kolofata-des-ex-otages-de-boko-haram-parlent.html

[32] green, red and yellow:

[33] ”sabitou-sabi-all’:

[34] media were gleefully buzzing:,11736,@,roland-garros-serena-williams-la-camerounaise.html

[35] Image:

[36] Image:

[37] fighting spirit:–13-596628-18-lang2-index.html%20%20

[38] #LionSpirit:

[39] @TjatBass:

[40] September 13, 2014:

Experience the Cameroon diaspora and culture

September 30th, 2014 by bobebill


PANAFEST 2014 is almost here!

September 14th, 2014 by bobebill

Save September 27 and enjoy African culture in downtown Silver Spring, with special emphasis on Cameroon.

Panafest 2014

Vote for Anna in the Peace Corps Blog It Home Competition

August 5th, 2014 by admin

Hi! My name is Anna and I’m a current Peace Corps Cameroon Volunteer. I recently received the exciting news that my blog,, was selected as a finalist for the Peace Corps Blog It Home competition; the idea behind the contest is to
highlight blogs that exemplify the Third Goal. With annadoespangea, I try to be honest, respectful, positive, and entertaining in this

But I need your help!

Starting yesterday, August 4, Peace Corps posted a photo, blog description, and link to my blog in an album on The direct link to my page can be found here — voters just have to follow that link and “like” the picture:

The public can vote from now until August 10. The Office of Third Goal will use the public votes to help decide which Volunteers will win a trip to Washington, D.C. from Sept. 14-20.

Voting wraps up this Sunday, and I appreciate as many Cameroon enthusiasts as possible!

Thank you!

Anna Nathanson
Peace Corps Cameroon

War and peace in West Africa

July 17th, 2014 by bobebill

International relations alumna and Peace Corps volunteer Rebecca Braun covers a compelling corner of the world

I’m not a journalist, I’m not sitting in on high-level meetings and my Internet is not fast enough to allow me to do effective research, so I’m not an expert on the goings-on of Central Africa. But I do live in Cameroon, and I read late editions of The Economist, Time magazine and newspaper articles sent by my wonderful Grandma, and that counts for something. What I’m saying is — disclaimer — don’t take my word as gospel.

Fact is, Cameroon is surrounded by countries with problems. It has six neighboring countries: Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Congo (not Democratic Republic of), Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Five of these have State Department travel warnings attached, and I have heard that Equatorial Guinea refused to let several Peace Corps volunteers cross the border into their country.

I can testify that I feel safe, surrounded by Cameroonian neighbors and co-workers who care about me, but it remains a question on all of our minds.

Neighboring regions

Let’s take a closer look at these neighbors.

The Central African Republic (CAR), which borders Cameroon to the east, is host to an ongoing war between Muslims (primarily located in the northeast part of the country) and Christians. In a recent book review, The Economist compared the country to Congo as one of the world’s most ignored and obscure conflict-ridden countries.

Muslim rebels, called Séléka, toppled the CAR government last fall, then continued to perpetrate violence. The violence continued even after their leader, Michel Djotodia, formally disbanded them in September 2013. In response, a Christian militia called anti-balaka (anti-machete in a local language) has begun exacting revenge — not only against Séléka members, but against Muslims in general. More than a fifth of the population has been displaced — and many have crossed the border into Cameroon, especially in two regions: eastern Adamawa and the east.

Nigeria recently became the largest economy in Africa, overtaking South Africa by a significant leap — and this might be great for trade. However, it does not reflect the shoddy infrastructure, incredible difficulty of starting or running a business, or massive inequality which plague the country. Despite oil wealth, most of the population lives in absolute poverty.

Furthermore, the Nigerian government is plagued by Boko Haram, a primarily Muslim organization opposed to Western intervention — especially in education and religion. I personally suspect that the existence of Boko Haram is a testament to this massive inequality and dispossession felt by northern Muslims far from economic and government centers. And the Nigerian government has failed to deal with this, first on a military level. An Economist article criticized Nigeria’s army as “losing a brutal fight in the country’s north against Boko Haram … failing to stem oil thievery on a gargantuan scale in the south. And its foreign peacekeeping … has been lackluster.”

Secondly, the Nigerian government has failed to tackle the Boko Haram issue on a general public level — because how could the general public support an organization that shuts down their schools, kills their neighbors, kidnaps their children and threatens their daughters? The Nigerian government, or at least government forces, are also culpable in the people’s suffering. And in Cameroon, the general public blames the Cameroonian government for letting Boko Haram members stage attacks across the border. To be fair, said border between Cameroon and Nigeria is porous in the (West) Adamawa, north and extreme north regions; Boko Haram members do move into and act in Cameroon. There have been at least two incidents of Westerners being kidnapped since I arrived in September 2013.


Rebecca Braun had her hair weaved, which helps keep her cooler in the heat. (Photo/courtesy of Rebecca Braun)

Safe and secure?

Chad, Congo and Gabon have their own problems, but we Peace Corps volunteers are not allowed to travel there because of instability.

So what does all this mean for Cameroon and for Peace Corps volunteers here? I can testify that I feel safe, surrounded by Cameroonian neighbors and co-workers who care about me, but it remains a question on all of our minds.

Before my staging group arrived, the extreme north region was temporarily closed. This is unfortunate because it is the poorest and thus the Peace Corps could potentially accomplish the most good there; also because it’s home to the most impressive nature park in the country, Waza, where you can still see lions and awesome wildlife. But that’s where kidnappings have happened, so it’s a no-go.

Since my pre-service training, there have been increasing rumors of Boko Haram’s presence in the north and in West Adamawa. In addition, there were temporary problems in the east and the eastern Adamawa, due to refugees arriving from CAR. Volunteers no longer travel north of Ngaoundere (the capital of Adamawa, where one can find wonders like an ice cream parlor), except those posted north of the city.
Decisions loom ahead for volunteers

So all of us face a decision, especially those closest to areas touched by neighbors’ conflicts. Should we continue working, despite the knowledge that we may have to leave these co-workers and neighbors and half-baked projects? Should we go home or should we move to areas farther from conflict?

I am committed to my work as the peer educator at a girl’s camp, teaching about HIV and sexually transmitted infections prevention, and encouraging volunteerism to empower Cameroonian youth.

I keep working as if there are no problems, but I hate not knowing what will happen! How can I mentally prepare for the unknown? As my Dad pointed out to me, that’s life: uncertainty.
Awareness is vital

In the meantime, I wish reporting — and awareness — was better concerning African countries, both their conflicts and their successes. What can we do about that? We can become more aware.

The increasing awareness of Nigeria’s Boko Haram marks some improvement, notably with the #BringBackOurGirls movement joined by first lady Michelle Obama. But that is only one conflict among many, only one crime perpetrated by one group. Each “terrorist” organization, even Boko Haram, has legitimate grievances and causes underlying their actions. If we study the causes, rather than blasting the individual tragedies in the Twitter-sphere, perhaps we can prevent such future events.

If we know what is happening in the world, if we know that its impact does reach us across oceans in unexpected ways — only then can we instigate change, whether by donating time or money, by appealing to our government or any other means available to us. But first, as Professor of International Relations Steve Lamy would say, we must “have the courage to know.”

Fight on for peace!

Rebecca Braun, who in 2013 earned her bachelor’s in international relations from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, is currently a Peace Corps volunteer serving in Cameroon and working on youth development. After returning home at the end of 2015, she plans to pursue a master’s degree in international relations/security studies or work at an NGO or think tank in Washington D.C. Find more of her thoughts on and experiences in Cameroon on her blog: Life Uncaged.

(From USC News,

US Pilot Missing in Cameroon

July 11th, 2014 by admin

Bill Fitzpatrick, a US citizen and the resident pilot at Odzala-Kokoua National Park in Republic of Congo, went missing on 22 June after taking off from Kano, Nigeria, in the park’s Cessna 172 at 18h13. He was scheduled to arrive in Doula, Cameroon, later that evening, but failed to do so. Read more

The view from Cameroon: Sevastopol graduate writes about her work in Peace Corps

June 19th, 2014 by bobebill

PCV bilde
Sevastopol High School grad Clare MacMillen, right, with her friend Rose on Cameroon’s Independence Day.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Clare MacMillen is a 2009 graduate of Sevastopol High School who graduated in 2013 from Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. She entered the U.S. Peace Corps after graduating from college and has provided these insights into her everyday life in a little town called Pitoa.

Dusk is my favorite time of day in Pitoa, North Cameroon. The oppressive heat of the afternoon is shooed away by the evening breeze, neighbors greet one another as they return home from the onion and sorghum fields, and the steadily darkening sky is punctuated by the flickering lights of cooking fires.

This is the time of day when I feel the most relaxed and comfortable in my new community — less like a foreigner and Peace Corps Volunteer and more like a friend, neighbor, and peer. As I walk along the dusty road to my compound, I pause and greet the elderly men who rest beneath the lengthening shade of the neem trees. “Allah hoku djam.” “God give you strength.”

Although I do not know much of the local Fufulde language, they are quick to cheer my efforts. With my greeting they shift their flowing blue-and-white robes and make space for me on the plastic mat where they lounge, drink tea and gossip. Together we sit and watch people pass by.

Women clad in bright pagne carry their market purchases while their children laugh and play in tow. Young men linger at the local boutique and listen to the latest song from the Nigerian pop music group P-Square on their cellphones. Marauding goats scour the ground for a bit of greenery or dropped corn kernel. Gradually the men leave for home or for evening prayer at the mosque and I, too, say my goodbyes. “Djam wala sobajo am, sey jango.” “Sleep well, my friend, see you tomorrow.”

When I applied for the United States Peace Corps in my final semester of college, I could not imagine chatting amiably with wizened men in a second, let alone third language on the edge of the Sahel Desert. In fact, I could not predict much about my upcoming 27 months of service.

Established in 1960 by President John F. Kennedy, the Peace Corps is an organization that sends American citizens from diverse backgrounds to provide technical assistance to interested countries, teach volunteers about the cultures of other countries, and share American culture. These ideals resonated with me as a liberal arts student with an itch to travel and desire to work rather than vacation in another country, and in September 2013 I landed in my host country.

Cameroon is a small West African nation of only 21 million people. Despite its size, the country is diverse environmentally, culturally, linguistically and ethnically. The 10 regions include littoral forests, humid forests, marshes, aquatic systems and arid savannahs. The three regions that make up the Grand North are heavily influenced by the Muslim religion, while the Grand South is predominantly Christian.

Another level of diversity is the sheer number of languages spoken across the country. Officially Cameroon is bilingual. Two regions speak English while the other eight are Francophone. However, these languages are most widely spoken in official capacities while everyday conversations are spoken in one of hundreds of local patois. During my first 10 weeks in Cameroon, I learned this introductory information about Cameroon as well as practiced my French and navigated cultural differences with my host family. Then in November I was assigned to my village and home for the next two years: Pitoa.

Seven months later I have run the gamut of emotions: intrigued, surprised, fascinated, frustrated, bemused, enamored and exhausted. My first three months of service here were dedicated to integrating with my community and assessing the environmental needs of my fellow community members and work partners.

Each day I ventured outside my compound with my work partner/translator/cultural liaison/person-who-shows-me-where-to-buy-vegetables, Sadou, to meet local officials, professionals involved in agriculture or forestry, and motivated people in the community.

Compared to my structured work days in the United States, I initially felt lazy and my “work” seemed stagnant. How could I have spent three hours eating gumbo and shelling peanuts when I should be teaching people about planting trees? What do I do when I think a community garden would be a fantastic idea but people seem uninterested? In fact, what in the world am I doing here?

I now realize that questions like these are natural and are exactly why Peace Corps is a unique experience and provides invaluable experience in international development. Development is long, slow, and challenging. Too often foreign organizations enter a developing country with the intention of helping the nation improve its infrastructure and increase its standard of living but do not consider the cultural differences in the process.

True, learning how to speak, eat, sit, greet, dress, joke and avoid a barreling herd of cattle like the people of Pitoa does not resemble a typical American workday. However, investing in the integration process is how I showed and continue to prove how much I respect those with whom I work and live. More important, it is how I learn how Pitoans envision their improved community.

Since those painstaking changes in my mentality about development and my role as an agent of that change, my work has slowly taken shape here. I am also fortunate to have found incredible work partners, men and women who are motivated to try something new, invest some of their time and energy, and become strong local examples of the possibilities of education and innovation.

One of my main projects is with a women’s technical training center. The school provides education opportunities for young woman who lack school facilities in their small villages, dropped out early because of marriage or childbirth, or are considered too old for traditional high school.

One of our biggest accomplishments is the creation of a tree nursery with 400 trees, all of which will be planted on school grounds and at the local school for deaf and mute children. The women learned basic plant biology, nursery construction and maintenance, transplanting, and the economic possibilities of trees including selling the saplings themselves or transforming leaves, roots and bark into other products.

Each woman also received an instructions sheet, nursery bag and several seeds to bring to their homes in their different villages. As the rainy season approaches we will plant soy and talk about improved fallow practices and how to make tofu as well as create a comparison plot of corn looking at the productivity of seeds bought at a local market versus those adapted to the Sahel environment at Cameroon’s Agricultural Research Institute.

Other projects in the community include demonstrating improved cook stove construction, assisting with a high school environmental club, and helping other volunteers with projects that range from composting to education about malnutrition.

Each day here is varied and at the same time, each day is routine. Like anyone my life has developed a natural rhythm. I wake up to the cliched but blaring crow of a rooster, make tea for myself and milk for my 5-year-old neighbor Abdulazeez, sweep out the endless amounts of sand in my house, head to wherever my work requires me armed with sunscreen and a smile, swing by the market for vegetables for dinner, sip a cold orange soda with my friend Rose, prepare dinner, read, crawl into bed beneath my mosquito net, and repeat.

There are still little adventures, whether it’s dancing until midnight at a toddler’s birthday or trying to explain the Electoral College in French. Whether comfortably mundane or breathtakingly exciting these moments and the Cameroonians with whom I share them remind me why I joined the Peace Corps and why I love this strange, challenging and inspiring job.

And on the occasions I am struck by homesickness, I know that just around the corner there is a place on a mat for me and the kind words spoken there are words of friendship, no matter the language.

Written by
PCV Clare MacMillen
Special to the Advocate