This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 16th of December 2003, on the occasion of the visit to Cameroon of a group of German parliamentarians. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
It is noteworthy that since the German parliamentarians, led by Dr. Klaus Lippold arrived on Saturday, they have been permanently with their Cameroonian colleagues, led by First National Assembly President Etong Hilarion, and occasionally by Louis Claude Nyassa, also a member of the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) and current chairman of the German-Cameroon friendship Parliamentary Group.
In every sense of the word, both groups are mixed and include parliamentarians from different political parties, with the Parliamentary leader of the main opposition Social Democratic Front (SDF) party, Joseph Mbah Ndam, being conspicuously present. Humour is another unmistakable characteristic of the composition of the assemblage with one CPDM parliamentarian cracking a joke during a working session at the National Assembly yesterday, when Joseph Mbah Ndam walked into the hall: “Vous suivez le RDPC partout!”, which when translated into English, means, “You are following the CPDM everywhere!” As it turned out, it was a joke which Mbah Ndam the supposed victim, dramatized even more, by joining in the hilarious laughter that ensued. For those who do not know Cameroon well, this alternate use of French and English in the country is nothing strange. It happens daily, because Cameron has the rare blessing (if at all it is not a curse) of being the only African country using French and English as official languages.
The same conviviality has been noticed in the equally broad-based German camp. For those keen on gender issues, it is perhaps noteworthy that the German side includes two women and the Cameroonian side, one. The lucky one is CPDM member, Fotso Josephine.
By every indication, both sides seem to be enjoying the visit. Yet it must be said that behind the jocular nature of the team, some serious work is going on behind the scenes. For one thing, relations between Cameroon and Germany go a long way back. In fact, although France and Britain are known to have greatly impacted Cameroon, it is Germany that can actually be said to be the country’s `colonial master`. The fact is that after Hitler’s Germany lost the Second World War to the Allies and the latter shared the spoils of war among themselves, the former German Cameroon was split into two parts with the French taking the lion’s share of four fifths as a trust territory and the British taking the remaining one fifth for the same purpose. During the period Germany ruled Cameroon, the great power put in place significant developmental landmarks which have to this day survived the test of time. Among the legacy one can cite the sumptuous lodge that served as the official residence of the Prime Minister of Anglophone West Cameroon when that part of the country later gained some form of autonomy. At the time of the Germans, it housed Very Important Personalities such as the Governor. Other German institutions in Cameroon include the fort in Bamenda and the massive plantations they set up for the cultivation of needy cash crops such as cocoa and rubber.
In 1997, Germany ranked ninth out of the first 15 countries importing Cameroonian goods. At that position, Germany came after Italy, Spain, France, Holland, China, America, South Korea and Belgium, in that order. Although that ranking may be said to be negative for Germany, it must be recalled that in terms of the exportation of goods to Cameroon, the country came fourth, after France, Nigeria and the USA. In 2002, bilateral trade between the two countries accounted for an estimated 190 million euros. The main products Germany sold to Cameroon were iron and steel pipes, lorries and special vehicles, cars, wheat as well as second hand clothing. Cameroonian exports to Germany included oil and natural gas, tropical fruits, timber, cotton as well as coffee. It is significant that German development cooperation towards Cameroon has been concentrated on basic health needs, sustainable management of resources and infrastructure, with the German international technical cooperation agency, GTZ, playing a key role. In the cultural domain, the Goethe Institute has, as usual, stood out stoutly.
Undoubtedly, the current visit enables both parliamentary groups and the Cameroon government officials receiving them, to cement those longstanding relations. Even so, Cameroonian Assembly members must know that they stand to benefit more if they stay in touch with their august visitors, long after they are gone. So, the onus is clearly on the Cameroonian side.