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Cameroonian Youth, Source Of Social Problem – Barrister Tanyi-Mbianyor 

Interviewed By Azore Opio

Barrister Samuel Tanyi-Mbianyor Tabi in this exclusive interview he granted The Post recently at his Lex Lata Chambers in Buea, says to be a youth in Cameroon today is quite an undesirable thing.

Barrister Mbianyor

He argues that the youth are always the first either to sacrifice for a national cause or fall victim of a national crisis. Currently a research student at the University of Toronto, Canada, the advocate says the Cameroonian youth have been alienated from their society because of the absence of a concrete national philosophy that appreciates their contributions.

He argues that in such a situation, the youth invariably direct their energy at negative things since they operate in a wider society that see no need for an ideology and therefore have no focus. The lawyersaid the Cameroonian youth will continue to constitute a major source of social problem to whichever government is in power, if the status quo remains unchanged. Excerpts:

The Post: You are still in the youth bracket, going by Cameroon standards, what can you say about the Cameroonian youth?

Barrister Mbianyor: I would like to see the youth from a broader perspective. The crisis of the young people in this country has been approached from the angle of age group isolated from the prevailing general social situations. This subjective approach to the problems of the youth is mechanical. And the real issue of the youth has not been touched. In concrete terms, their aspirations have been thwarted by the older generation, which holds on and does not want to quit.

It is commonplace that someone retires but is called back to service either as the general manager of some Government parastatal or corporation, a minister and all the like. And he/she stays there for another 10 or 15 years. This is a huge contradiction! For example, more than half of the ministers serving presently in the Biya regime are more than 60 years old. Where are the youth? 

What are the possible consequences of this alienation?

Well, the youth are the first to bear the brunt of any major national crisis: they are the first to be denied jobs. They are always the first either to sacrifice for a national cause or fall victims to national crisis. Look at the university strike both in Yaounde in the 1990s and even today, the youth were the first to be shot dead by Government forces.

Angry youth shall continue to constitute a major source of social problem to whichever government is in power. The problem our youth face is that they have been marginalised in many things. Look at the population; at least 60 percent of the persons who are Cameroonians are between the ages of 15 and 35.

For example, there is a difference between an academic qualification and a professional qualification. Somebody graduating with a degree in Psychology is not a professional in Psychology. What we are saying is that Government should establish more professional schools so that as you are leaving university, you are coming out as a well trained person ready to be employed. 

You have been practising for 10 years now and you likely are aware of Government policies. Is there any law pertaining to the employment of Cameroonian youth; who gets employed when and how?

Well, since 1986, the Cameroon Government stopped employing directly. The only employment is through professional schools after writing what they call "concours" into ENAM, IRIC… you pass upon training and you are directly employed. It is just recently that Government decided to employ some 2,000 teachers, 25,000 youth and in other areas.

So there is no ideology of employment; anything is done any how. The day a minister wakes up in the morning and decides that this thing is going to happen, it will happen. Somebody says I need a secretary, the secretary is employed and two years after he/she is integrated. How was the position of that secretary advertised in the first place?

Do you see the problem of patronage where if you don’t belong to a certain tribe or clan, or your tribe is not in a lucrative position; your chances of getting employed are non-existent?

That is exactly what I have been trying to say. People who get employed in Cameroon get employed because they know somebody, somewhere. Take for example, a whole corporation is formed and the director of the company is appointed, he goes around picking people from his family or tribe; he’ll get a secretary from his tribe, a driver from his tribe; all his close collaborators from his tribe! What we are saying is that these positions need to be advertised so that anybody who is qualified can be employed.

Your brother, Clarkson Tanyi Mbianyor, was once a Government Minister. You must have enjoyed a lot of fallout being his brother?

Oh no! On the contrary, that has never been. It is known that all the years my brother was minister, I did not do a single case for the Government. He did not give me any case. Perhaps, I wouldn’t have even liked it because I didn’t have anything to do with the CPDM Government. I do not regret and I do not want to have anything to do with them. But my relation remained, and continues to remain normal with my brother.

These are three, four decades and the youth have been glamourised and glorified in political jingles as the leaders of tomorrow, but their highest station in life seems to be on the streets?

That is where I foresee a situation which is going to be very devastating to this country. The recent crises that have hit the country where we witnessed the general strikes in February 2008, the University strikes of 1990s, in 2005, 2006; the bendskin strikes…they were not unconnected with pent up fury.

And what Government does is that it gives cosmetic solutions. If the situation continues, one day the youth will stand up and say, it is our turn. Let national resources be nationally distributed; let the youth be given the opportunity to integrate into the society.

What is your take on the slogan Cameroon is a peaceful island in a turbulent sub-region?

Cameroon is not peaceful. The absence of war does not mean there is peace. We have our fair share of trouble in this country and we cannot deny that. We forget the terrorist activities (maquisard) that took place in the late 60s.

People were beheaded! We cannot deny that there were troubles in the early 90s following the restoration of multi-partyism. We cannot deny that there have been university strikes in this country where students were killed in cold blood. We can’t deny that bendskins and other transporters have been striking. We can’t deny that Cameroonians get hacked in their homes by armed robbers; that some of them get beheaded!

So what is the way forward?

We should not forget that the youth are the most energetic group of the population; their energies should be harnessed and put into good use. There is something that is always a constant and that is change. We need to avoid a situation whereby the pressures built up in the youth will have to find a violent vent. In order to avoid such a situation, we are suggesting that Government should give the youth fair opportunities. We need leaders with vision and goodwill.

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