You know that saying, "Take the path less traveled?" Well, sometimes that path can be a tad bit treacherous. Well, that is kind of what we are thinking about Cameroon. While it is a tremendously beautiful country, it seemed in our best interest to keep on truckin', if you will. So, why, you ask?
First I will give you the facts (we wouldn't want to steer away from objectivity!)
475,500 sq. miles
Sounds harmless, right? Well, not so according to the US State Department:
"U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security
awareness at all times.
CRIME INFORMATION: Armed banditry is a serious problem throughout the country, including tourist areas in Cameroon's far north province and in all major cities. The risk of street and residential crime is high. Reports of carjackings and burglaries also remain high, particularly in Yaounde and Douala. Incidents of carjackings have been reported on rural highways. Travel after dark is extremely risky and should be avoided, if possible.
Medical facilities in Cameroon are limited. Sanitation levels are low, even in the best hospitals. Not all medicines are available.
Cameroon's road network, both paved and unpaved, is underdeveloped and unsafe. There are few road and traffic signs. Livestock and pedestrians create constant road hazards, and road safety rules are routinely ignored. Buses and logging trucks traveling at high speeds are a hazard.
Well, that doesn't sound like too much fun, does it? Anyway, let's not dwell on the negative. Let's accentuate the positive! Why don't we get to learn a little bit about this troubled country, and maybe just maybe it will turn on a lightbulb or two in our heads as to how we can help their plight, or learn from their experiences!
So, let's break it down. Before colonization, you had the Bantu people living in the South and Eastern parts of the country. In the northern part of the country, there was a mix of Negroid, Hamitic and Arab-related people, who then created empires of their own, known as the Bornu, Mandara, and finally, Sokoto. By the end of the 19th century the Northern part of the country was ruled by the Emir of Yola--no not Yoda--who was a Sokoto. Whew, those are some really interesting names!
So, these empires developed and traded goods native to their land and coastal people were influenced differently from those in the hills. So, who is responsible for Cameroon's colonization? The Portuguese made a quick stop in Cameroon in the 15th century. But, it wasn't until the 19th century that the other influences crept in. The British and the French had divided control after WWII. So, two halves don't make a whole, right?
Well, the French side of the country went through many struggles to gain its independence in 1960. And the British side followed shortly thereafter in 1961. Later that year they became one. Ahmandou Ahidjo became the leader of Cameroon. The country put on an image of "togetherness" but Amnesty International reported the government did not tolerate any dissidence and hundreds of people were thrown in jail without trial!
Ahidjo, a Muslim, hand picked Paul Biya, a Christian, to be his successor. Biya did not follow the ideals of Ahidjo. Tensions rose and in 1983 Ahidjo was accused of plotting a coup to overthrow the government. He went to France, thinking it would be safe. Well, he got the death sentence, "in absentia". Although Ahidjo was gone, his followers still rose up against Biya's government!
In the late 80's, the uprisings focused around desires for a multi-party democracy. Biya tried to silence these groups, but in the end the people won! In 1991 he was forced to legalize the opposition parties. In the first multi-party elections in 1992, Biya managed to retain power. But, some say the election was rigged. Biya is still in power today.
So, now that you've had Cameroon 101, we know you are yearning for more! Lucky for you we have found some links where you can learn tons more about Cameroon!
Although, we did not get to travel to Cameroon, we can go there via books, the internet, documentaries, etc. So,
grab your mouse and meet us in Cameroon!
Jasmine - A San Francisco Treat
Kavitha - Accra...or Brooklyn? The African Diaspora
Kevin - It's a Hard Day's Night
Monica - The People On the Bus Go Up and Down...To Ghana and Burkina Faso
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