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The Ambivalent Page To A Fairy Tale 

By Fr. Joseph Tangka

Last year Cameroon celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of her independence and looks up to commemorate the reunification in this. Celebrations are centred on our pet concept of national unity: the one-nation-state/one-state-nation concept (ONS/OSN) or on the interchangeable concepts of national unity and integration, oneness and indivisibility unfolding through historic acts.

The ONS/OSN idea is assumed to be seen what our founding fathers had in mind as the necessary conclusion to the reunification. All media arsenal is employed to evaluate how far we have come as far as living the ideology is concerned. Within the spirit of the celebration of unity, we recall the celebrated hymn to national unity of the CNU party state of yesteryears.

Weeeeeee were one
And the White man came with the big sense
And divided Cameroon
They came in numbers,
The Portuguese, the Germans, the English and the French
CEEEN U has brought true peace to Cameroon, etc. etc.

Now the patriotic vigour and frequency with which the song was sang and blasted from divers state media of communication, was such that it dwarfed and nearly replaced the national anthem itself. The propagators of this hymn appeared to suggest that there was a nation state called Cameroon, from God’s own creation itself, before the white man came with the big sense to dismember it.

They hold that division and strife marked the white man’s Cameroons till the CNU party stitched the pieces together and peace once again reigned. Our present Minister for Communication lately over Canal 2 TV, in near impeccable cockney, uttered the same ideas in an interview as he attacked separatist currents in the country. He declared that Cameroon had always been one nation state before it was divided.

How may we understand these assertions? Is it in the light of myth very much present in our African understanding of history, myth craving for space in the way we read our modern? The erudite professor K. Kale in discussing unification and national unity in Cameroon in his African Experiment in Nation Building: The Bilingual Cameroon Republic since Reunification attempts to appreciate the place of myth in this history.

Myth is not, as popularly held, about idle fables, old wives tales or covert attempts to deceive or manipulate persons or public opinion but, about attempts to rally people(s) under an idea. The Bamoun legend of the snake with two heads for example is not about pulling the wool over the eyes of the young of that land but, a rallying call to them to appreciate her history and inculcate the virtue of valour necessary to defend it.

Are we to look at our history of national unity in the light of what F. M. Stanford, in his "A Companion to the Study of History, in AWAKE, What should we learn from History? March 8, 2001, says about history? He says:  "Any history told by the wielders of power; or by seekers after power, or by their friends, must be regarded with the utmost suspicion." The same author goes on to say that there is questionable motive when works of history betray a subtle or even bold appeal to nationalism and patriotism.

The hymn above is no more sung today for the obvious reason that the CNU has gone into the archives of history. If the ideas expressed in the hymn then were not myths to rally us around an idea could they be revisionist habits on our history to serve particular programs?

In the real world, we who today constitute the nation called Cameroon were a myriad of kingdoms or chiefdoms sometimes at peace with one another and at other times at each other’s throat: or sometimes striking tribal diplomatic alliances for security and mutual coexistence or breaking them before the white man appeared on the scene.

The very idea of Cameroon itself therefore came with this man. There was never before any collective German Kamerun nationalist consciousness. We resisted the colonial master to our own subjugation as individual tribes at different times in history. To affirm this is not to say that nationalism built on the idea of once belonging as one colony was not possible. If the white man’s adventures in our land simply divided peoples no one could possibly float the idea of reincarnating German Kamerun and presume to receive a hearing from the various peoples in this triangle.   

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