Losing Life in Bringing a Life (The Untold story of Vaginal Fistula)

Che Glory is Cameroonian nurse/advocate  with a deep passion on non communicable diseases such as  mental and reproductive health for people in underprivileged communities. She has a wide experience on issues like access to health care, running a  mobile clinic and home care assistance. She is the programs Coordinator of Home of Pearls Foundation.

 Losing Life in Bringing a Life (The Untold story of Vaginal Fistula)

By Che Glory

Cameroon has had some major challenges over the years and with this comes poor access to health care. The evidence concerning this access problem stems largely on government`s inability to invest in health care sector, secondly many rural communities don’t have trained medical staff and equipment’s by this exacerbating an already complicated issue.  There are two sides to the access problem. One is of the supply side, good quality, effective health care may not be offered. On the demand side people may not utilize services from which they could benefit. Women largely bear the brunt of this problem because of their inability to be provided good and affordable health care during child birth. This problem is very evident in child birth. In Cameroon It is estimated that each year more than 2000 women die during child birth or related issues and pregnancy complications and childbirth are among the leading causes of death and disability for these women.

To women who survive child birth more of them are left with a more complicated issue to deal with –Fistula .Fistula is an opening or hole created between two organs or an organ and the skin. Fistula formed at the wall of the vagina is called a Vaginal Fistula. This comes about by the forceful pushing of a fully developed baby through a birth canal that doesn’t fit its size. Vaginal fistula is an opening between the urinary tract and the vaginal. Rectovaginal fistula being a vaginal fistula that opens into the rectum. These fistulas are usually as a result of damages of some skin tissues which may last several months or years, Common causes of vaginal fistula;

–           A tear at the premium during child birth;

–           A hysterectomy done that linked to a vaginal tract fistula;

–           Also be gotten after a radiation treatment of cancer; and

–           An infected episiotomy after child birth.

Among the aforementioned causes, cultural practices tend to exacerbate an already complicated conditions, hence exposing these women to more danger .In a culture where a woman’s status and dignity is decided by her ability to provide a husband with multiple children, it can be a fate worse than death. Hence having children in precarious conditions without proper access to health care exposes them. Harmful traditional practice like child brides puts at risk these young girls to vaginal fistula .Girls as young as 7 in some cultures of Cameroon are given off to marriage .This is either as debt repayment or to cement / seal an already long relationship between two families. As a result during child birth because their pelvic bones are too small for a natural birth, it increases their risk of vaginal fistula.

 Furtherance the political instability that has led to violence with so many cases of rape recorded tends to make bad situations worst for women as well as poor road infrastructures discourages them from visiting hospitals. More so without quality health care ,complications during pregnancy for these women endanger the lives of the mother and even the child. So through my partnerships with local NGOs like Home of Pearls Foundation we provide primary and secondary health care, and support to these women .Through the mobile clinics which we run, we have been able to travel to more than 10 remote villages to provide medical consultation to pregnant women who can be at risk and  some cases  severe cases are  referred to Government hospitals.

Psychologically the effects of vaginal fistula  on the women is usually overwhelming, they perpetually leak urine and sometimes feces added on this in most cases most  rejected by their husbands and shunned by the village. “People think fistula patients are witches and just have bad luck, “with this “strange “or unknown illness.

My passion in working on this is the poor knowledge and research on vagina fistula and limited resources in aiding women with the illness. According to reports more women suffer from this and not even aware victims are left to cope by themselves. Working with them means the difference between life and death or lifelong suffering .Without proper knowledge most victims don’t know what vaginal fistula is or that it’s treatable with surgery. And even when they do they are far from any hospital and can’t even afford it. To most of these women to  be cured from fistula is to regain their dignity and hope of having children again .For some who have been shunned by their communities and ostracized in their homes ,they hope that one day everything will be alright.

Raising awareness on this is major; enacting more stringent laws against practices like child brides is of utmost importance. Investing in health care systems where women don’t have to either lose their lives in bringing forth a life is a priority!!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Your Silence is Deafening

The past one year Cameroon has witnessed one of its worst government clamps down on peaceful demonstrations .Incidences of systematic violence, rape, arrests, and killings continue to be recorded in Southern Cameroon, (English Minority).

 Yet I cannot help but wonder at the silence emanating from the “majority”. At those exercising their superiority and supremacy through either not acknowledging there is a problem or are silent.

The problem in Southern Cameroon crisis  not only about secessionist/federalist but also has as root causes  bad governance and the inability or bad faith of the regime in handling issues affecting the people.The entire country has serious issues   from  bad infrastructures, youth unemployment ,  little or no Power and water  supply, bad roads ,absence of  good and affordable  health care , and to topple this a militarised system of governance . It is no secret that Paul Biya is a dictator whose regime has been meted with accusations of heavy corruption, nepotism, embezzlement, and  the absence of total lack of accountability.Yes to me this  is at the helm of the on going crisis, next year the  84-year-old leader who has been in power since 1982 is expected to run yet again for another term and  has managed to maintain his grip by according positions  of responsibility to a selected few.

So does the rest of the country  suffer the effects of bad governance? Of course they do  ,but is there an  an anglophone /southern cameroon  problems? YES!

With the poor management  of affairs in the country the anglophones feel a different kind of marginalisation because they are not only a minority in a badly governed country ,but  is host to majority of the country`s natural  resources.

For the sake of this essay the term Anglophone in Cameroon means (geophraphical description of Southern-Cameroons parts that were colonized by British) and the term Francophone means  those from East Cameroon ( that were colonized by France).

For decades now  Southern Cameroonians have clamoured for more recongnition in the country .My bone of contention is the silence of the “majority” .Here the Majority includes all those who stand aloof to the systematic human rights abuses Biya and his cohorts have perpetuated over 36 years in the country.

It is tough living as a minority in an already poor governed country. I know from personal experiences how challenging it is being a woman and then an anglophone in Cameroon.It is like having two strikes to my name because that is how I am identified. Albeit  opportunities are dwindling in the country,yet as Southern Cameroonian  I have to work 10 times harder than my Francophone counterpart.

Personally I studied in the University of Yaoundé and though I managed to graduate I understood firsthand what it meant to be a minority in an already corrupt and dysfunctional system .Many at times; derogatory words were thrown at me like”Biafra, le gens de fru ndi” “graffie”, etc .I was walked out of many government offices because I could not express myself fluently in French and the officer was not expected to understand  or obliged to speak English. It was a constant and taunting struggle. In school we were shunned by lecturers and required to either speak French or be quiet .I know so many Anglophones who dropped out of Yaoundé University because it was so difficult maneuvering the system. Yes I had low self-esteem living in Yaoundé that is  supposed to be the Capital city.Even though  I tried to hide my “graffi nature” it often betrayed me and made me more ashamed for being born in Southern Cameroon, because being “graffi” meant you were backward, primitive and a second class citizen.

So when Southern Cameroons demanded peacefully for equal treatment ,some  understood this but I was appalled at the silence emanating from most of the country.It is no secret that we all in Cameroon have been unfairly treated but others feel this injustice more  .

The demand  might have moved from federalism to secession ,but its because of how un fair the government has handled the crisis  ,they forget that for one Southern Cameroon Youth that is killed more than 500 are radicalised .

Even amongst the minority there is a lot of  blame game and finger pointing  but unfortunately Southern Cameroon Intellectuals and elites who are supposed to project the facts, majority of them because of political positions or to seek for new ones are thwarting the truths and maintaining sealed lips.They fall under the majority and their silence is defeaning.

 No one is asking the majority to be part of a secessionist/federalist ideology but at least this will be the time to come together and fight a common enemy .At least use your power to speak against a ruthless and rougue regime .Like the German Martin Niemöller wrote; When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out. I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out “

 You may choose to be silent and not say anything but never say you did not know. Because your silence in the midst of injustice is deafening .So I tell you now to Exercise your “majority privilege “. Although the conflict in Cameroon has mainly affected the English-speaking minority, the government’s heavy-handedness suggests that worse may lie ahead for  the rest of the country.

The rhetoric should not be about who speaks English or French .But about equality and equity ,about fairness, accountability and good governance .So if you cants identify inequality when you see one then maybe you are just as bad as the oppressor. We cants afford to stay neutral in such matters and dwell on trivial issues like who is francophone or Anglophone. Let us not forget the greater evil because if you ask me injustice to one is injustice for all.

 I will end with a  quote from American pop star Lady Gaga “The really fantastic thing about kindness is that  its free and it can’t hurt you or anybody else and  brings us all together …In times of chaos and crisis what we all tend to do is  to point fingers at where we think the bad guy and evil is .We all start arguing and we have different opinions but don’t forget that hatred /evil no matter how you want to call it, is intelligent ,smart  and invisible .it does not have color ,language ,religion ,politics and it’s an invisible snake that connives and says “I am going to divide my enemy into smaller ,less strong groups and will make them hate each other to make it easier to take them down”. And as we all are yelling at each other which group it is that is causing the problem evil is winning all around us .We need to shift the perspective and build a kinder and better environment .Get rid of the labels and different factions … we are unified in our humanity and the only thing we all know and appreciate in one another is kindness. ”   ……….

          Because what is good for the goose is good for the gander!

Posted in Anglophone Crisis, Good governance, Paul Biya, peace, Southern Cameroon, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Incorporating Human Security in Regional Integration:The Case of CEMAC

Continue reading

Posted in Good governance, Migrants, peace, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behind the Black Curtains


 It was no surprise when at about 11p.m I got a call from Beri (not real name) ,she had been going through a very tough time and I knew for a fact she needed someone to  have a heart to heart conversation with .But as I answered the phone, the conversation was  totally different . She was whimpering, crying   and very bitter about our mutual friend “Hannah .Beri had been going through a series of challenges .”and had ,confided in (us) her two best friends . But according to Beri for Hannah to take it to a fourth and fifth party was violating that confidentiality and in her words “ Ethel ,how could she do this to me  ?.I feel so terrible now that everyone knows what I am going through, “

Her words hit me like a muck trunk. YESSSSSSSSS!!!!!. I screamed inwardly and throughout the conversation I could not help but chronicled my friendship with Hannah wondering if she had lost a chunk of memory about her own secrets I had kept just to protect her ego.

Experts say, people’s greatest fear is not of suffering but of humiliation and judgment. Sometimes once a secret is shared amongst two people it is believed  one of them wouldn’t judge each other .People get bonded in mutual discomfort because they  separate themselves from the rest of the judgmental world. We fear judgment so much that we allow it to take our power, authencity and our freedom.

After that phone call, I engaged my mind in a heartfelt conversation in hope ,yet having no idea what to expect out of it. One thing is as humans we have a tendency to shield our mess . I know this  because I have learnt to deal with two personalities, the one I want people to see and the one that I actually see, (you know the part you see when lying on your bed, in a dark room ,or catch a glimpse of  yourself in the mirror). Hence it is annoying when I have uninvited people to my “pity party “  because if you have lived long enough and  experienced some of my challenges  you will know that  life can hit you  in places you did not even know existed .And you will feel pain in portions of your frame  you never thought were part of your body. The last thing you need is people judging you based on their perception of life.

 So does my public persona capture my life? Yes and No…No because majority of the time folks can see my smile but not hear my screams. But let me say this now I am fuckin tired of being on duty call ,being in a state of conscious  awareness and right now I don’t have  anymore  emotional resources . I have made so many emotional withdrawals from my  crypted self  that right now its an  overdraft .In my world am I being haunted by “Ghosts, ” ,of course yes! Do I have an expectation of who /where I am expected to be? ,Yes ..Can I have the freedom to really talk about my fears /mistakes without being judged? ,of course yes ..its my fundamental right !!

Yet I have to keep sealed lips and deal with this myself .Its not pride or acting tough ,but  I grew up in a time when I was taught  “ what  happens in a house stays in a house” .Exposing challenges in your personal life may even turn your own mom into a serial killer …She will storm into the house  knife in between her teeth , bombs strapped around her waist screaming the roof down.” How dare you let so, so and so know  your business ,do you know how that makes us look ?because you know  once you go public with your stuff you caste your pearls infront of swines?”!!

 Yet sometimes I wish I could quit acting -up and scream how bad things are. Because like Beri  I need confidante(s)  I can genuinely let in and tell how hard life is ,explain the burden of both the seen and unseen  struggles .But right now I wear my heels, feign  the  everything is fine smile and bounce off. They’re my little secrets and they help me keep my sanity because the moment everyone knows my worries then those secrets aren’t safe .I die from thinking the  ifs -not and what- nots.  I remember a friend telling me once ” I’m going to tell you something but please don’t tell anyone”  ,I replied “  no ,please don’t  tell me “, because I knew the mental torture that I would surely endure once their secret was deposited into my mind. For I am also guilty of judging people based on my  understanding of their problems.(double standards right?)

I know I have basement issues, a place Where I hide everything that does not make sense,  stashed away pieces of furniture that doesnot fit or  have space . But I have also   learnt that once in while its important to go down that basements and clean it out. Because if I don’t  ,the screams from the basement will  one day be heard upstairs .

I am a devoted  believer with Jesus in my heart but also  pains  in my bones and once in a while those pain-issues show their heads like venomous snakes.

The house I call my mind need amazing repairs. Because I don’t want to implode from all the pain and struggles that might crippled me from the knowledge of who I really am. Because when I  get  submerged by the waves of struggles and pressure I forget  that I don’t have to be  sighted to be loved by God. Yet I  have a heart that hurts ,and  each day I hope He wraps his  arms around my  imperfect body and  keep working on me!

My mom once said “True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic , .If words control you that means everyone else controls you “I understand this now because We live in a society where everyone has got an opionion on where and what your life should be and we wonder why there are mad men walking around in suits and well groomed facial hair, women with weaves and beautifully adorned faces  yet Unstable and  Broken .People whose smile does not reach their eyes .They live several different lives to please different situations. Most times they truly mean well. But they can’t help but destroy what they touch. Not because they are bad people, they convince themselves that the reason they lie is not out of malice, but because they are terrified of what might happen, if  the truth of their “basement issues “is actually known. The fear of being ridiculed, humiliated by the very  people they love .

I am not perfect ,I have  self inflicted pain and imposed struggles .Do I need any person judging me based on that HELL NO !!! Because everyday of my life I have to deal with being a better person . I cant  practice compassion with others if I  don’t have the capacity to be  kind to myself.(inclusive with my flaws and struggles).What makes me vulnerable also  makes me  beautiful( inclusive the willingness to trust people)  ,The tenancity  to move on after a major set back ,for at the end I will just try to be my own hero because everyone is busy trying to save themselves …

In my conversation with Beri I would have normally dug deep within my analytical  person and tell  her it did not matter if Hannah had betrayed her ,…..explain to her that she did not need their opinion because we all have “basement issues “,that she was a successful young educated woman  -and just because  she didn’t  know the struggles of others does not mean they don’t have demons they’re fighting…..I would add, I  understand struggles could be in her car but she should not allow the opinion of others be in her drivers seat… But on this particularly  day I choose to be silent and just listen to her …

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The “Dead” have found their Voices — achoethel

Recently, I watched a documentary on Sierra Leone post- Ebola recovery, the short film centered around thieves pillaging through the graves of the dead stealing valuables such as ornaments, watches, gold etc .Call what these miscreants did an abomination ,sacrilege but its only in Africa where even in death you don’t rest in peace. Unlike […]

via The “Dead” have found their Voices — achoethel

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The “Dead” have found their Voices

Recently, I watched a documentary on Sierra Leone post- Ebola recovery, the short film centered around thieves pillaging through the graves of the dead stealing valuables such as ornaments, watches, gold etc .Call what these miscreants did an abomination ,sacrilege but  its only in Africa where even in death you don’t rest in peace.

Unlike the case of  Sierra Leone in Cameroon, you can be alive but “dead”. Because I think as a people we have been dead for 35 years .A number of reasons account for this ,we have a citizenry that is completely oblivious to the socio-politico economic situation of the country .ALIVE AND DEAD  because Dead people cant TALK, in Cameroon no matter what happens, we  “let sleeping dogs lie, never questioning or speaking up against the government .Maybe so,because there has never been a peaceful demonstration in Cameroon without the military being called to clamp down on  protesters..

Fortuitously recentcameroon2ly Cameroon has been making headlines for so many reasons. Since the current crisis started last year with a strike by lawyers demanding the application of “Common law” Anglo-Saxon judicial system and the use of English in courts. It was followed by a teachers’ strike over the same language issue. Ever since demonstrations by mainly young people have turned increasingly political and violent with so many young people imprisoned and deaths recorded.

 Paul Biya, who has ruled the country since 1982, is not ready to make any concessions.

I am glad the once passive country known only for sports, corruption, and its long serving authoritarian ruler is beginning to receive the spotlight on some activism and protests. Unfortunately a lot of evil has been perpetuated by the draconian regime, yet to me I regard this activism, protest as dead  finding their voices .

But then Paul Biya in a typical draconian fashion handled the issue heavy handed. He put a muzzle on the press ,arrested and killed civilians,  cut internet access to the regions in question,   with dire results for the local economy. Heavy Police brutality against demonstrators, which only stoked  anger .But  this instead amplified the voices of the people to speak against a government that has lost touch with reality .

Thus far there is hope in the new generation of young people who have risen to challenge the status quo. Like social media impelled the Arab Spring, so was  the Coffin revolution in  Southern Cameroon (English Speaking Cameroon).To us this coffin signifies resurrection of the once docile and inactive youth ,and the death of old manipulative  repressive policy of governance.

 Until now the once submissive young people seemed ever ready to die in what they believe and stand for, justice for those incarcerated, and total restoration of the rights and dignity of Southern Cameroons . There is an increase discussion on topics that typically was of no interest to them. An upsurge  within young people from the minority forging together in a stronger bond and demanding a revisits of  the country’s political and historical events that has not benefitted a portion of the people. Yes they call it an end to the unholy matrimony that has bore nothing but pain,frustration ,disillusionment and hardship on them. With those in the diaspora working endlessly in making their once passive voices heard through numerous protest around the world all of this with one mission, to speak against marginalization of  Southern Cameroon and calling for total political reforms .

 The ethno-political composition of Cameroon is complex and the question of minority status, especially in terms of the non-dominance of particular groups, is complicated by the way in which political elites have exploited ethnic, regional or religious differences for political ends.

As an individual, I am content at the fact that even if we (Southern Cameroonians, or Abazonians) never get our demands like federation or much anticipated Independence from La Republique yet as young people we have defiled the status quo, question the unquestionable and diverted from the old generation of hand-clapping and bootlicking . Young people now understand they are part of the governance structure and have the duty to demand for good governance. More so ,the attention of the draconian government of Cameroon has been drawn toward this regions and the international community is aware of the plights of Southern Cameroonians. There is optimism in the horizon and surely these dry bones Shall live Again!!, Because a united minority is stronger than a divided majority.

We are aware of the fact that the road in achieving this, is /could be another battle zone .Yet “we are winning” WE , because when there is a wounded warrior there is also a wounded family ,because the death are not the only casualties of war .So those of us who can still use our(resources) voices ,pen, money ,talents will never stop talking because the DEAD HAVE FOUND THEIR VOICES!!!.

Posted in Good governance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Migrant Crisis the Blessings & Burden

In recent months the world has watched various events splashed on screens like the war in Ukraine, insurgencies and terrorist conflicts in Africa and Middle East, the FIFA saga, pictures of stricken boats jammed with desperate asylum seekers pleading to be allowed to land anywhere, and the sight of Africans being rescued by Italian coast guards from the waves off Rhodes.
The movement of Africans to Europe through the Libyan Desert via the wobbly Mediterranean Sea has caught world leaders napping. With an estimated of more than 1500 migrant bodies washed ashore, the unending determination of the search for greener pastures elucidates the fact that whatever reason that is pushing these migrants in risking their lives at sea most be worst that death itself. The United Nation has describe boats carrying these migrants as “floating coffins”

  •  Migrant BoatsHowever before this came to light the taunting task in obtaining foreign visa continuous to push more Africans in seeking alternative travel methods. It is common place to witness scenes of desperate people queue outside foreign embassies, sweaty and pushing against each other just to get in line, security guards screaming at them for order. To those who finally make it in, prior to interviews most of them offer prayers and sacrifices in churches or visit fetish priest depending on which power is considered more effective .This to them is to deter any bad luck. The experience at the American embassy quadruples that of other foreign embassies. Evidence of people sitting on sidewalks or standing and enduring the brunt of the humid African heat just to get an interview is pathetic. Those who are granted visas give testimonies in church brandishing their international passports praising God for the miracle and break -through.
    So as images of boats carrying scores of migrants across the Mediterranean continuous to make headlines, what Africans see back home are not bodies washed ashore the coast of Italy, what they see is; a family whose living condition improves because one of them traveled abroad or a Slim looking African who traveled overseas and in a few months sends pictures with chubby cheeks posing in front sleek cars and a beautiful house .They admire how returnees are treated with respect in communities especially when the speak with most often fake foreign accents. Worst Still those who have to endure the challenges of studying in Local universities look with approbation/and irritation when persons with foreign degrees are given the best jobs upon presentation of these certificates.
    Most migrants come from countries like Ghana, Nigeria, Eritrea, Cameroon, Mali, Gambia, Somalia, and Sudan. Countries like Ghana and Nigeria are both experiencing an upsurge in its middle class. Even though Ghana has often been described as “Africa`s model of democracy” and Nigeria Africa`s largest economy .Yet majority of  people living in both countries  find it hard to cope with the increasing cost of living. So in this fight of illegal migration it does not just begin at rescuing desperate people at sea, but it is in convincing a mother who has a 35 year old dependent graduate at home to sit back and “build his country”, it’s in convincing a Sudanese, Somalia or an Eritrean that things will get better when he just wants to survive and escape war and an oppressive government. In all this they see traveling as a better chance in improving their lives and that of an entire family .Call it an illusion ,but it is a phenomenon of get rich or die trying.
    Countries such as Spain, Italy and, Greece have been contemplating firmer measures on how to curb the influx of these migrants as they also have to deal with their own internal economic challenges. The European Union leaders have been forced to convene several meetings over what is now termed the “migrant crisis”. Whilst the West struggles with the migrant crisis, African leaders are blamed for tackling the issue like a repulsive disease and not doing much to stop the trend. This concurrence emphasizes the fact that the issue of illegal migration is not a European problem or a south-east Asian one. It doesn’t belong to poor countries, or to rich. It is a global issue .And if the underlying factors of this crisis are not addressed then we shall continue to see countless bodies washed ashore various islands in Spain and Italy.
    The people making these journeys are often coming from war zones, or situations of persecution or just seeking a better life. The voices least heard in the debate around migration are often the migrants themselves. The insecurities faced by Africans cannot be masked, if these dangerous journeys have to be stopped African leaders and policy makers are supposed to adopt robust systems  that take greater responsibility that address the needs of its populace:
  • There should be concrete political will in establishing a more trans-formative economic growth.
  • An economy that produces jobs to develop and enhance individuals to live beyond desperate conditions. People who are humanely developed will migrant less, marginalized people see making such difficult journeys like their only hope.
  • African leaders should seek economic empowerment instead of trying so hard to maintain political positions. This will prevent the issue of poorer countries making difficult choices of investing in weapons instead of infrastructural /agricultural, and skill based education systems.
  • Engage in a people centered development, by negotiating trade and economy with the West not in the light of exporting raw materials but in light of industrialisation. With raw materials there are basic jobs but with industrialization come more high earned jobs.
  • Africa leaders should understand the intricacies of policies in political economy distinguish the interplay and balance between economics, laws and politics and how these influence the development of a country. Engage policies that focus on developing the environment, people and natural resources.

There are no quick fixes young people who are jobless, poor, and desperate become daring and are bound to walk through the desert and take difficult trips based on a shared glimpse of enthusiasm and hope that things will get better . It should not take a tragedy like the deaths of hundreds drowned in the Mediterranean, or a standoff involving boatloads of starving asylum seekers looking for any port that will let them land to inspire African leaders to find a long-term solution that might reduce the chances of these things happening again, but find safer, more ordered ways of enabling people to live in less desperate situations at home. The world is too interconnected for bad governance to go unnoticed or else we shall continue to see young people move to countries that are poorer than African countries or watched more bodies washed ashore the island of Lampedusa.

Posted in Good governance, Migrants | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A message from the Guns

The news about Mali’s conflict can be confusing from far away because different vocabularies are used to describe the multi -faceted conflict occuring there. When the Tuareg rebellion occurred in early 2012, led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) for the independence of Northern Mali it was against the Malian government . There were also Islamic groups such as the Ansar Dine and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) who originally helped the MNLA. Eventually both Islamist groups turned on the MNLA forcing them out and creating a Sharia based Northern Mali. The government of Mali requested foreign assistance to re-take the north and France answered the call. France restored Mali’s government back to power.When I met “Ibrahim” a Tuareg from Northen Mali I could not help but see him as a representation of rebellion. Yet Ibrahim was a level headed, charismatic person who spoke with so much intelligence. So I asked him about the conflict in Mali his response was simple “before man added his own catastrophe life in Northern Mali was already a natural disaster living on the poor arid soil of the Sahel with the constant struggle for food, water and shelter was a great challenge then to be excluded from the central governance in Mali was making bad matters worst”

So I wondered  has bad governance in Africa over the decades breast fed these  “monsters”?.To explain my  thoughts I realised in the advent of independence and later globalisation there was hope that the citizenry will benefit from and enjoy a robust economic growth driven by strong investment in infrastructure and productive capacity, but the growing gap between the haves and haves- not strikes at the heart of bad governance. Good governance is supposed to be the tide that lifts all boats. But millions of these boats seem to be not merely missing the tide, but sitting on the bottom of a different ocean. If we take for a minute that Ibrahim is right about the conflict in Mali than political exclusion in Sub-Saharan Africa countries could account for the countless conflicts the continent has witnessed in recent years.

This is not to condone the advent of extremist terrorist groups like ISIS, Al Qaeda ,Al- Shabab, Boko haram etc these groups are more or less revolutionary terrorist movements ,with evil and ruthless ideas of wanting to overturn the entire political order than just political recognition.The argument here is good governance can prevent the upsurge of militant groups in Subsahara Africa .Some of these groups  such as MEND(movement for the emancipation of Niger delta) could have been prevented.MEND  a youth armed group that fought for many years in the Niger Delta,modus operandi  was attacking oil pipelines and kidnapped foreign workers. The underlying causes of these actions included extreme poverty, high unemployment and exclusion from the political process. Despite billions of dollars in revenue from decades of oil production, very little money had trickled down to the people. More recently, events in South Sudan show how an attempt to exclude some Nuer elite leaders from power has resulted in a violent challenge to the fragile post-conflict political settlement. The list will be incomplete without Congo`s rebel group “M23” a rebellion which began in March 2012 when 300 soldiers decided to mutiny from the Congolese Army, or FARDC. The rebels argue that the Congolese government failed to deliver on the promises it made in an earlier peace agreement concluded on March 23, 2009.

 While resorting to violence is hardly justifiable under any circumstances, the lack of economic opportunities, bad governance and political repression that characterise many African states has led to the disenfranchisement of the young and tended to fuel extremism. To state a fact if a group feels excluded from political processes all of the security, political or economic logics that will drive them to violence/extremism will occur.

The threat of terrorism is real in Africa and consistent with its contemporary political and security discourse, this threat is located on the fault lines of the continent`s fractured security and socio-political architecture.While existing counter-terrorism efforts are to an extent focused on addressing the capacity gaps within the security sector in Africa, I recommend an increase in inclusive governance systems. Because this is not rocket science if the people are neglected then the balance of society is upset and they are bound to revolt.If Africa`s problems of socio economic equality are left to fester, revolution may indeed be unavoidable.

As my friend Ibrahim puts in” there is no point putting lipstick on this ,this is crisis ,where is equality in Mali?  We are very practical. And don’t want to make trouble for the government .We just want to live dignified lives and not worry about food, water and malaria .But things have become so bad, this is about survival” 


Quote | Posted on by | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ebola in Sierra Leone – the joy of survivors

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“National Stability” in the Absence of Human Security

cameroon flagDue to Cameroon`s political “stability” the country is fondly referred to as a haven of peace in a sub-region undermined by a multiplicity of violent conflicts. It is for achieving this that the country is regarded in certain quarters as Africa`s success story in matters of stability, security and development.

For quite a long time the concept of security was interpreted to mean absence of threats from external aggression, protection of national interest or as global security from the threat of a nuclear holocaust. In 1994, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) pioneered a new concept of human security which is universal and people- centered. This concept is concerned more with the satisfaction of human needs and dependent on the role of the state and the degree to which its institutions and managers are responsive to human needs. The two essential components of human security are freedom from fear and freedom from want but it also includes freedom from any form of oppression.

The Paradoxes Cameroon has one of the most diversified economy in the Central Africa sub-region .If oil production is excluded, then the country accounts for close to 60% of goods produced by the 6 CEMAC countries. Its central and geo-strategic position within the sub-region makes Cameroon the principal gateway for landlocked countries such as chad and C.A.R (Central African Republic). With its rich tropical climate, beaches, rain forests to deserts and mountains the country is often referred to as Africa in Miniature.  Cameroon is remarkably diverse in its cultural mixture although French and English are the official languages , there are over 250 linguistic groups in the country .Agricultural products of coffee, cocoa, cotton, rubber, bananas, grains, root starches; livestock; timber and natural resources such as petroleum, bauxite, iron ore, timber, hydro power, deposits of diamonds and gold, characterises the resources of the  rich  country. In spite of these, Cameroon continues to be found wanting in matters of human security .Though declared food sufficient since 1985, price hikes especially food and fuel is almost a daily occurrence which has led to social dislocation and overall deterioration in living standards. In The meantime, the rich and abundant natural resources of  the country have been poorly managed and have benefited a small portion of the population .

Although there has been economic growth for close to a decade now, economic take-off  has  been undermined by wide spread  corruption, embezzlement of state funds by government ministers and directors of state-owned companies. The bad situation has further been compounded by institutionalised nepotism. Consequently, the relative economic growth has not been translated to concrete realities as the citizenry have not realised any significant changes.

Unemployment rate in Cameroon stands at 9.3 per cent. In the same vein, underemployment rate is 68.8 per cent. Youths of between 20 to 29 years old are the most affected. Other affected groups include women and university graduates. Violence caused by inter-tribal wars has been a major threat to human security in Cameroon. With many (Internally Displaces Persons) IDPs and deaths recorded in the North West and Northern Region.

In the Northern and Grass fields regions of Cameroon where traditional hierarchies have strong sway on the people some traditional leaders operate like absolute despots .They maintain dreadful prisons in which they incarcerate all those who opposed them, while others have been associated with trafficking and proliferation of small and light weapons used in perpetrating violence.

The government has survived popular uprising thanks to security officers (the police and army) who often apply brute force and unscrupulous tactics to intimidate and break protesting crowd. This has even extended to university campuses. Hardly has there been a confrontation between striking students and the forces of law and order without heavy casualties being recorded on the part of the students.

Manifestation of the Anglophone/ Francophone dichotomy. The main frustration of the Anglophones minority is generated by the fact that the Francophones dominate the state in the Executive and the judiciary with an increased monopolisation of key government positions. Albeit 70% of the country`s resources comes from the former, yet there is a sense of neglect outside central government`s care and attention.

How then can a country that seems to enjoy such stability be so corrupt, poor and have such a dismal human security record?

  • Government should prioritise infrastructural/agricultural development encourage and ensure that a portion of financing for development flows directly to all projects that will improve on the living standards of all.
  • In addressing the Anglophone/Francophone differences national dialogue  be encouraged by promoting integration and social cohesion of all Cameroonians by ensuring an equitable access to socio-economic institutions and economic opportunities by all .
  • To curb corruption, checks and balances need to be strengthened, and  most importantly there is need to establish an Independent Commission against Corruption.

There is no one size fits puzzle solution to the problem , but a willing and committed leadership can just turn these lemons to lemonades. With an already  security threats to the country by extremist militant group Boko Haram, the ongoing civil war in Central Africa Republic (CAR) and with incidences of existing maritime piracy and transnational crime in the Gulf of Guinea this external factors might trigger the already fragile situation in Cameroon.

Though the country does not fall among the African states described as failed, weak or collapsed, many of the characteristics /of such states are present. It has been argued that Cameroon`s stability is largely founded on a faulty foundation or “negative peace”. Cameroon can soar above this if it can effectively ensure its people are secured and implement effective prevention strategies. With the advent of intra-state conflicts or ‘new wars’ in Africa that has brought, countries such as Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea- Bissau to the brink of collapse. A sober observer of Cameroon`s political stage can see that, like most of African nations Cameroon is at the cross-road.

Questions such as will Cameroon be able to avoid the violent transitions of these countries if current President Paul Biya, age 79 and in power since 1982, dies in office?

Biya will not be termed a good leader just because he stepped out of office without a coup or through force, but he will be a good leader because he made a change and influenced positively the lives of Cameroonians.

Posted in peace | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments