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Team Dispatch

Let's go to Cameroon, NOT!

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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!)

Cameroon:

475,500 sq. miles
13.2 million People
Capital: Yaounde
Head of State: President Paul Biya
Official Languages: French, English, and several African Dialects
Religion: Islam is dominant in the North while in the center and south it is a mix of Islam and Christianity.
Currency: Central African CFA Franc
Exchange Rate: CFA 575-&=$1US
Per Capita GNP=US $790

Highlights:

  • Attending the open air Mass in Yaounde
  • Climbing Mt. Cameroon, West Africa's highest mountain
  • The elaborate end of Ramadan celebrations in Foumban
  • Exploring the villages and markets around Maroua

Sounds harmless, right? Well, not so according to the US State Department:

Pipelines in the Rainforests: What do YOU think?

You're a member of a Pygmy minority tribe that lives deep in one of the remote rainforests in Cameroon. You've lived here all your life, just as your ancestors did before you. Some funny looking strangers just dug a huge trench through your backyard. They're laying down something you've never seen before, what looks like a silver, shiny and hollow tree trunk. They bring with them large machines that make noise and scare the animals. They cut down trees to make roads for their trucks.

You're the on the board of executives for a big oil company like Exxon, Shell or the French Company, ELF. You've got this brilliant idea of building a 600 mile pipeline through the rainforest regions of Africa, through the countries of Chad and Cameroon. It will create thousands of jobs, improve the livelihoods of the people and offer chances for future development. You are doing your part in improving a third world nation, while at the same time enriching your own pocket book by making oil export for transnational companies more efficient.

You're on the World Bank's Board of Directors. The World Banks' stated mission is to alleviate poverty and promote sustainable development all over the world. Some big oil companies want you to help fund their development project. You have strong reservations about the project. You are afraid the oil project will divert scarce resources away from investments in health, education, environmental protection. To make matters worse, Exxon has sent a small army of lobbyists to Washington, DC to pressure the World Bank to commit to the project. You're expected to make a final decision about this project later this year, but the Bank is likely to give an informal go ahead in the next few weeks.

You're a concerned citizen worried about the ecologically fragile rainforest areas, and the people that live there because you've seen who USUALLY wins when an oil company wants something. You know what happens when an uncontrollable influx of people in search of work gather at the construction sites: deforestation, wildlife poaching, and the loss of farmland is inevitable. The pipeline itself, even with state-of-the art equipment, poses a danger of groundwater contamination and pollution of important regional river systems.

So, as promised, here's the "Why?" part:

"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!

Click here for News about Cameroon
Click here for Links on 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!

Team
 

Abeja - Next Stop Slavery - A Visit to an African Holding Pen
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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