This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 15th of November 2004, on the occasion of the celebration of the feast of the ram by Moslems in Cameroon. This was of course, a worldwide event of which the Cameroonian community was only a part. 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.
One recurrent theme heard in the sermons delivered by imams throughout the country as the nation celebrated the feast of the ram yesterday was that of peace. The feast of the ram, it will be recalled, depicts the biblical incident in which Abraham proceeded to offer his son as a sacrifice to God as ordered by the Almighty before God, discerning the obedience of Abraham, asked him to let go his son and instead use a nearby ram he had provided for the circumstance. As such, peace was made to reign not just between God and Abraham, but also between Abraham and his own son.
That was why yesterday, imams throughout the country showered praises on Allah for the peace that has reigned in Cameroon for long decades, thus turning the country into an island of peace in the middle of a sea of repeated turbulence. The Moslem spiritual leaders also glorified Allah for enabling Cameroonians to prepare for the holding of presidential elections on the 11th of October in absolute peace and harmony. Incidentally, the Moslem feast week coincided with the celebration of the 47th anniversary of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon (PCC), an occasion which the leader of the church in Cameroon, the Moderator Nyansako-Ni Nku also used to thank the Almighty for the peace and tranquility prevailing in the country.
Despite these acknowledgements of peace, some observers argue that peace does not necessarily mean the absence of war. According to holders of that thesis, Cameroon is therefore arguably not in peace. However, the fact is that whereas war and all the ravages associated with it have for a long time been a reality in most neighbouring countries, Cameroon has stood out of all of that like a lone white chicken among hundreds of red ones. Anyone who has been to war torn countries like this commentator who has been to Chad, Angola and Mozambique, can not help blessing the Lord after returning to the safe haven of Cameroon.
Curiously enough, the tendency is for Cameroonians not to understand to what an extent they are so blessed. Instead, often, it takes a foreigner to come and point it out to them. No wonder, when the American ambassador spoke on another occasion, at the inauguration of the newly-built American embassy, he said the fact that his country had moved out of rented property into its own purpose built compound was an indication that America was “here to stay.” Another eloquent example is that of the words spoken by the Gabonese Minister of Communication when he received this commentator in his office in Libreville some years ago. The minister was full of praise for Cameroon, for as he put it, Gabon’s top journalists, military officers, diplomats, doctors, engineers and other professionals, were trained in Cameroonian professional schools. Again, only a few days before the Moslem feast, when Jacques Isnard, President of the International Union of Bailiffs spoke at a seminar in Yaounde, he referred to Cameroon as a leader in the region. He alluded to the country as one whose jurists are of a special breed on account of the country’s dual legal system that is the product of both the French and English systems. It is to be remembered that after Germany, Cameroon’s real colonial master, lost the Second World War to the allies, Cameroon was split into twos and placed under French and British protectorship respectively. Each Great Power then developed its own territory according to its own culture, hence the inheritance of the French and English languages. Looking at the larger picture, one notices that Cameroon has also earned itself the reputation of being the only country in Africa using both French and English as official languages.
Obviously, a combination of factors can explain Cameroon’s vantage position, one of which is, of course, religious tolerance, for the degree of religious integration in the country is clearly one of the highest in Africa. Not only do religions cohabit peacefully in our country, but they also work in close collaboration with each other frequently. For instance, when some Cameroonians were burnt to death in the Nsam locality of Yaounde some ten years ago as they attempted to take advantage of a fallen petrol tanker and recuperate some of the spilled fuel for their personal use, the three main religious denominations in the country – Catholics, Protestants and Moslems - jointly offered a church session in Yaounde, for the repose of the souls of the departed.
Surely, all of that does not mean that Cameroon has overnight become a bed of roses without a single thorn, or that it is armed with a magic wand with which it has wished away all its problems. Far from it! Nonetheless, the meaning is that although the country has its fair share of shortcomings, the elimination of problems must start with a careful balance sheet being drawn up, indicating what has been achieved and what remains to be done. It is only then that a solid foundation that will stand the test of time can be put in place. Only then can we sons and daughters of the fatherland build a strong, viable, vibrant and enduring country for ourselves and for posterity.