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Spyglass: Mais, Monsieur, Cameroun Ce n’est Pas Ca! Pas du Tout! 

By Azore Opio

Cameroon is a country blessed with everything that goes into making a man, and a woman happy. The classic Cameroon landscape is a tableau of breezy and green contours and valleys. Up on the hills and down in the valleys, are all that man could desire; water, green grass, fruits, game and unbeatable climate.

Everybody here walks and talks as if they were already beyond the Gates of Eden where the streets are paved with gold, the walls studded with diamonds and the rivers flowing with milk and honey; and life is peaceful and wonderful and pretty. There seems to be no need to get excited and be in a hurry for whatsoever.

When you arrive in Cameroon, an invisible hand considerably slows your motor down. Something here surely slows you down. No matter where you go, you go slowly. No matter who you are going to see, you go slowly. There is a Cameroonian rhythm you fall in with immediately, whether you are going to buy vegetables or to see his Highness the Paramount Chief; you go slowly.  

It is preferable to try to explain this our beloved country in terms of food, drink and sex. Infinitely frequent, almost ritualistic and more than formal is our wining and dining party. There is pepper and food flasks in Cameroon as there is sand in the Sahara and snow in Alaska. And pepper soup is one of the favourite dishes that we like to savour at parties, if we are not devouring fowls and vegetables.

Drink, shak, mimbo, one-man – all mean one and the same thing – beer. If you can’t buy beer for people, you are considered less than humane. Drinking and buying beer for yourself and others is the measurement for hospitality and kindness. Sex is ago go for the asking. One of the things that make you know that you are in Cameroon is the women.

They are so many that they are sometimes found to make immodest overtures. The women of this genre are so many one could make sausages out of them for breakfast. And sometimes it seems to the casual eye that the relationships are smooth and peaceful and totally without friction or resentment from either side. And there is so much booze and food asking to be consumed.

We must grant ourselves this; we are very kind when we see you are lost. We don’t hesitate to accompany you right up to the point where we get lost with you. But when it comes to saying anything straight, we are perhaps not the crookedest fellows, for the Italian, the Arab, the Nigerian and the Zambian are probably champions in the league of intrigue and cunning.

Death may not be a pleasant prospect, not even in Cameroon, but it is so much better presented here. Although it has a bleak outlook, in Cameroon the ritualisation of death climaxes in a faintly sacramental aura; it has a rosy hue underneath it since everyone knows that it occasions wining and dining. And new courtships. And when you are dead, there are three camps that alight on your compound, if you have one – admirers who have fond memories for you; revellers and mediocres.

Our mentality is moulded by the syntax of happiness and mass publicity. Cameroon is a paradise in which your car must have not only the million-dollar look, even if it is the commonplace Nissan Sunny or "Mademoiselle" (Corolla E 90), often reserved for the Yellow Cab enterprise, it must also appear to be the only one in town, whose replacement parts are hard to find.

The history of Cameroon really started on the day some Pork Chop sailors first sighted giant prawns along the coast of the Central African country. Since the coastal waters were filled with prawns, the Portuguese naturally gave the land the name Cameroes. Then Adolf’s boys took hold of the country and christened it Kamerun. Thereafter, the French and their British cousins took over; messed it up a bit and split it between themselves. The French conveniently distorted Kamerun into Cameroun and the British gave it a little twist to make it Cameroon.

Although it is cut off from the north by a pitiless desert; to the west by thick humid tropical forest, to the southwest partially by creeks and a huge live volcano, it is, however, open to a coastline. But this land sleeps while in the other world; men and women move forward, sometimes in hunger and general misery.

In Cameroon, we are goaded by faiths and loves, hatred and fears and rivalry. And here, you put a seed in the ground and while you laze or drink and dance and laugh, the sun, together with the yearly deluge and fertile soils, swell your crop to abundance. And when you have used up one bit of land, you merely move on to another horizon. No need for painful struggle and toil and progress. It is all too easy.

All around lies the world in misery, but here in the middle, completely secluded, is our Island of Bliss – a medley of bliss and misery. The hours pass slowly, conserving our happiness – nothing bad or pleasant ever happens suddenly in this country. The signs keep showing one after the other, without adversely affecting anyone. But, bit by bit, they permeate the community. Then bang! It explodes. And everyone exclaims; didn’t I tell you?

Cameroonian life is a masquerade ball in which we continue to hide from our true feelings, our sorrows, but we are anxious to tell you about our achievements, our talents and even our other names whether paid for or canvassed. It doesn’t really matter.

At the same time, we will by all means try to find out as much about your own sorrows and failures, as possible, so as to discuss you in secret at a later date. It is almost impossible to know just who to trust; sometimes one has to sleep with one’s eyes open. Mais, monsieur, Cameroun ce n’est pas ca! Pas du tout!

It is in this country where the women are glamorous, nightclubs are packed with charm, all meals are sumptuous and everything else leads to perpetual happiness. Nevertheless, the average mentality is still silted with debris from colonial times, and stale platitudes. Leaders engage in endless parades of trivia, pursuing them as a pulsating boil nags a man.

For now, no change is possible in the country, and for sometime to come, nothing new will happen, for politicians often start as good-looking strangers, then rapidly degenerate into wicked grouches, and the stream of consciousness has been clogged with a stuckness only God can unplug.

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