Saturday, October 8, 2016

Book Review: Understanding Confusion in Africa:The Politics of Multiculturalism and Nation-building in Cameroon

Understanding Confusion in Africa  , 
The Politics of Multiculturalism and Nation-building in Cameroon

 Peter Ateh-Afac Fossungu

This book argues essentially that Cameroon cannot competently champion African unity and progress until it can correctly pursue its own multicultural nation-building. Cameroon's success continental-wise would depend on its theory and practice of multiculturalism, as particularly reflected in  the rejoicing in its historical diversity and the harmonious co-existence of its Systems of Education which must, of necessity, be linked to effective federalization or decentralization of uniquely cultural matters.

Genuine multiculturalism requires the constitution capturing what Cameroonians, for instance, represent as a country and what they desire to become as a people. This is however not what is in place in the ‘Microcosm of Africa’. ‘Advanced multiculturalism’ in Cameroon is not cultural equality and diversity. Anyone interested in studying issues tied to multiculturalism must therefore forget about Cameroon and go elsewhere, preferably to Canada or Belgium. Multiculturalism has only one area in which to be comprehended in Cameroon – the advanced study of confusion. In other words, the only thing that any expert can validly go to Cameroon to study is advanced multiculturalism whose plain name is assimilation. With the curtain now pulled apart, gone therefore may be the days when people with dubious “special duties” at the country’s embassies or high commissions could have very easily sold ‘advanced’ multiculturalism to their targeted importers. These targeted people may now know that, until new and acceptable ground rules that duly emphasize separation of powers are firmly laid down and upheld by independent courts, doing business or living in Cameroon will continue to remain a very dangerous gamble. Federalism (combining with genuine multipartism) is obviously one of the effective modes of separating powers and dividing competence, both institutionally and territorially, so as to save the people and federating entities from autocracy. This is the state form that African states so badly need to be able to effectively tackle their ethnic and other conflict-management problems. An important human rights protecting instrument, federalism could be the real solution to most of the conflict-management problems and other threats of break ups (secession) that most of Africa’s new states are 240 confronted with. Lack of vision and commitment to popular rule apart, it is evident that this federal undertaking is something that will not be impossible in African and other developing states: absent confusion and manipulation. This sane solution to nation-building in diverse Africa has consequently often been regarded with suspicion by most of the official who pretend at the same time to be after the good and well-being of Africans. It is  important issue in another contribution on ‘federalism, separation of powers and constitutionalism in Africa’. This attitude of African leaders has not meant well, the disheartening human rights abuses that the continent is noted for being the proof; with most of them instead arguing that federalism poses a threat to their nation-building efforts and can only be considered after the attainment of what they call ‘national unity’. It has been shown in this particular study that the schizophrenic craving by nation-builders in Africa to assimilate national minorities does not augur well for human rights – the driving force behind development or nation-building. Such assimilation-driven ‘nationbuilders ’ (and those industrialized or First World nations assuring their brutalization of Third World peoples) have to be told certain basic facts. The first is that human rights are the catalysts for development or nation-building, not its end product; that respect for human rights cannot and should not be restricted to certain people, places or parts of the world. Human rights are human rights, irrespective of where on the globe one happens to be situated – a thesis that is buttressed by the plain fact that there is the well-known Universal Declaration of Human Rights (signed on 10 December 1948) and not a ‘First and Second World’ Declaration of Human Rights. Most, if not all, independent African States that are Members of the United Nations, have affirmed their attachment to that Universal Declaration. Second, the attainment of national unity (assuming that this is actually what is desired in Africa and the Third World generally) has to pass through democracy and not democracy passing through national unity.

Cameroon is often considered to be Africa’s legendary pathfinder.  Critically examining history and education as components of culture, and therefore, of multiculturalism, the book makes some bold recommendations while demonstrating how nation-building is meaningless without the people’s authentic history. It argues that Cameroon national culture cannot be a national culture without embodying the distinct culture of the English-speaking minority. Anything else is nothing but deliberate confusion of assimilation for multiculturalism, a confusion that is heavily tied to the country’s phoney independence. Hinging on education (and its associates of bilingualism and bijuralism), the book demonstrates that Cameroon’s over-sung cultural dualism is a charade, epitomized by the 1998 Education Law. Rather than reaffirm Cameroon’s biculturalism as it superficially avows, Cameroon’s purported cultural dualism is really out to efface any semblance of cultural or educational dualism that may still be resisting assimilation. The continuous and persistent employment of terms such as biculturalism, bilingualism and bijuralism in legal texts in Cameroon is only to confuse the international community, especially from seeing exactly the kind of ‘ethnic cleansing’ which is taking place in the country.

             Peter Ateh-Afac Fossungu

Peter Ateh-Afac Fossungu  is currently an independent researcher in Montréal, Canada, He has taught law in Cameroon at the Université de Yaoundé (1989-91) and University of Buea (1994-95). He holds a Docteur en Droit (Université de Montréal, 2000), and two Master of Laws (McGill University, 1997 ; University of Alberta, 1992). He has published extensively on various aspects of society and life in Cameroon and Africa.

No comments:

Post a Comment