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Spygalss:Cry, The Beloved Cameroon 

By Azore Opio

If you are thinking of travelling and heading for Cameroon, you have hit the right mark on the map. There are several attractions that will whet your interest. But what will arrest your attention the most are the administrative bottlenecks, heavy taxes, the unpredictable vagaries of the business landscape, the dreary drinking and eating houses; all these that help to kill the expected splendour and keeps tourists out while sending investors packing.

Nothing is happening. It is a meaningless moment in the history of Cameroon. The excitement of touring the country has little to do with the land which has been rendered dull; the people rendered drab and the forces of law and order; the judiciary, awful. There is a singular lack of commercial activity to associate with tourism. Travelling in Cameroon, the police roadblocks suggest a country under military occupation rather than a country run by the rule of the law. But once you step out of the country, through the gizmo that passes for an airport, you realize, with shock, that the world extends far beyond its parochial horizons of fufu-corn and beer.

While some African nations are making concerted efforts to take forward steps, Cameroon seems only to be cutting the Bafia caper; one step forward, two steps backwards. A recent trip to Ghana showed that the people there seem to be surer of their common destiny and identity, although, still, there are drawbacks. The news in Ghana often now has a positive spin to it. Although 70 percent of Ghana’s urban population is reported to live in slums, the successive governments seem to have put forward their best feet and dug in their heels to improve the general welfare of the good people of Ghana.

You will hear that government has done this or done that; that it is constructing, for example, a 20-acre bus terminal in Achimota to decongest the town of traffic and mobilize revenue at the same time; or that government has signed an irrigation contract to help farmers increase agricultural production; or tomato farmers will soon have a larger factory to handle their produce…

The media is not fettered; there is freedom of speech and expression and free-thinking agogo; there is due process of the law; constituents expect to be heard by their MPs as much as the people’s representatives are expected to account for their actions, otherwise… But in Cameroon, one can now safely imagine why the autocrats are faced with increasingly strident calls for change, yet the regime is doing its best to ignore these calls in a tyrannically stable police state. A majority of the population feels economically boxed in by the regime. And there is a social group that benefits from the general chaos perpetuated intentionally to facilitate "eating". The members are patriarchs who have grown fat on the cream the regime skims off the public milk jug.

They are organized, heartless, bold and sophisticated thieves who have a knack for beating tracking systems. There is a national sense of desperation and exasperation. Although Cameroonians have never come face to face with the horror of ethnic hostility stoked by unscrupulous politicians, their patience is overstretched and could snap at short notice because they are beginning to realize that, through their passivity, they have contributed, in no small measure, to their misery.

In an age when the young are protesting and threatening to take over, the head of state survives as a national phenomenon. He is the champion who always makes a big comeback, even from "death"; the man who lets nothing stand in his way. He doesn’t feel old; he makes old men feel young. He has the money to burn, the energy to strut and stomp the world and no apparent guilt to haunt him.

He dresses, as usual, immaculately in dark suits. His shoes seem to be shone even on the bottom of the soles. He is a cool guy; very Yaounde-cool, probably one of the coolest head of states ever. Praises and motions of support heaped on the head of state are a kind of airy aphrodisiac words that warm and woo the unsuspecting citizen and gratify the egos of ungrateful quislings. Two generations of patriarchs have been the beneficiaries of such ballads for which they are extremely in Biya’s debt.

I am telling you all this so that you know it is a nightmare dealing with leaders and bureaucrats who are out of step with the times and are past their creative peak; leaders weltering in a political and moral miasma; overtaken by events. Cameroon needs change; fundamental change.

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