Diasporans are Begining to Speak Out.......
“The Biya government stands to gain if it includes the Cameroon Diaspora in the economic and political life of the country,” says Joachim Arrey, Communications and Translation Expert with the African Development Bank Group. We caught up with him in Tunis, Tunisia, and he had a lot to say about Cameroon.
"Many back home are wasting away because of psychological problems. Thousands of them are in the West wasting their youthfulness and reducing their lives because of the soul-destroying jobs they are doing. Many just think they have disappointed their parents and cannot live with such a burden. Premature aging has become a reality in Cameroon..."
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Question: You have been writing about Cameroon for a long time. You want to see economic and political change in the country, but you prefer to live out of the country. Why this contradiction?
Answer: I did not leave Cameroon because I hated the country. I left because the system was collapsing and did not hold out any hope for me and my kids. I was a senior translator in the Ministry of National Education – I hear it has now been transformed into two or three ministries – and I was prepared to give my all to that country. Unfortunately, policy failure and bad politics told me I was in the wrong place. I saw my future at stake. As a senior translator in Cameroon, I was not receiving my education’s worth. I was disappointed. I felt I should legally migrate to any country that actually needed my services. Luckily, Canada was there and willing to take me in. Since my departure, I have been calling for a change in the way we do politics as we are hurting ourselves with old and outdated political methods. We are, indeed, shooting ourselves in the foot. I constantly encourage Cameroonians in the Diaspora to lend a hand if and when necessary. Cameroonians abroad are knowledgeable and experienced. They have a lot to offer to our country. Leaving them out in any political arrangement does not help the country. Personally, I don’t think I love staying abroad. I was compelled by circumstances to quit a country I dearly love. However, after many years in North America where I worked for huge corporations, I thought I could come back to serve Africa in general and Cameroon in particular. I am currently working for the African Development Bank Group and I am using the North American experience to serve my continent. I have always considered myself an ambassador of my country and I will do whatever it takes to protect the reputation of my fatherland. I am willing to put my experience and knowledge at the service of my country if given the opportunity. That is the feeling most Cameroonians living abroad carry with them on a daily basis. Of course, there is no place like home, but if we need to support ourselves and our families, we have to do ourselves the displeasure of going to live in cold and distant lands where stress and loneliness are constant.
Question: In your writings, you always emphasize the need to empower youths. Do you think Cameroonian youths are not sufficiently empowered?
Answer: Yes, I like underscoring youth empowerment in my writings. Without a well empowered youth, a country cannot lay claim to a promising future. Over the last twenty-five years, the Biya regime has virtually excluded the Cameroonian youth from the political life of the country. We have seen him resuscitate dying people for them to come and occupy ministerial positions. The old maybe experienced, but their knowledge and competence in a modern world is clearly questionable. Mr. Biya has, on many occasions, declared that the youth are the future of the country, but we see more and more of them belonging to cemeteries. Many back home are wasting away because of psychological problems. Thousands of them are in the West wasting their youthfulness and reducing their lives because of the soul-destroying jobs they are doing. Many just think they have disappointed their parents and cannot live with such a burden. Premature aging has become a reality in Cameroon, with millions of youths constantly looking outwards for opportunities. The country has failed them and they simply want to be out of sight. This doesn’t give the youth the impression that they are the future of the country. I think Mr. Biya and his men have been paying lip-service to the notion of youth empowerment. The government clearly needs a change of direction in this regard.
Question: You are part of the Cameroon Diaspora. You have lived in North America and you are now in North Africa where you work for the African Development Bank Group. Do you think the Cameroon Diaspora has anything to offer to this country?
Answer: The Diaspora has a great role to play in Cameroon. Its remittances make it a great source of revenue for many families back home. If our government had very good policies coupled with reliable resource mobilization mechanisms, Diaspora remittances could make a huge difference in the economic life of our country. The Biya government stands to gain if it includes the Cameroon Diaspora in the economic and political life of the country. There is a lot of evidence across the globe that the Diaspora can help change things in third world countries, not only through their remittances, but also through their skills, experience and savings. Mr. Biya and his collaborators should start thinking of extending a hand of friendship to the Cameroon Diaspora, especially as its numbers are increasing on a daily basis.
Question: You are one of the few Cameroonians that have been successful career-wise out there. But at the same time, you always say you would like to return to Cameroon. What is actually attracting you to this country in which young people are thinking of quitting?
Answer: The love of my country. Genuine patriotism knows no wealth. My career has been going on well, but this does not imply I have to forget about the land God has given all of us. God, in His infinite wisdom, could not have made a mistake to place me in Cameroon. When I see the country deteriorate economically and politically, my heart bleeds. I want to return to Cameroon to lend a hand to ongoing development efforts. I know that our country can only be developed by all those who consider themselves genuine patriots. We have to collectively develop our country. Nobody will do that for us if we don’t do it ourselves. If the young men are quitting, it is because the government has not given them the possibility to realize their dreams. Where homeland becomes a gangland, the young are bound to look outwards. Unemployment, insecurity, hunger, premature aging and even death are chasing these young men out of their homeland. The government needs these young people to achieve its economic objectives. To achieve this, the politics and policies of the country must change. Young men have to be hopeful. The government has to create great opportunities for Cameroonians. It has to provide security and must build the requisite infrastructure and economic environment that can enable these young man to see hope in the future. I have already seen the hope somewhere else and I think it is only fair for me to return home and share it with other Cameroonians. That is what is attracting me to Cameroon.
Question: Some people think your decision to return home is informed by your political ambitions. Do you really have any political ambitions?
Answer: I think every human being is a political animal and there is nothing wrong to have political ambitions. That is every Cameroonian’s right and I clearly respect that. But for now, I am happy where I am. I may some day think of partisan politics, but for now that is not on the table. I love Cameroon and I love seeing Cameroonians smile. I want to work for my country in any capacity. I would like to go to my village and share my experience and knowledge with my brothers and cousins on how to live out of poverty for ever. It is a lot easier to sink again into poverty if care is not taken. To ensure this does not happen many people have to be educated on long term wealth management. That’s one job I like doing and that is what I am focusing on for now. My return to Cameroon is very much informed by that and I think I owe the people of Cameroon something – sharing my experience and knowledge with them.
Question: Cameroon has recently held parliamentary and municipal elections, what is your view of these elections?
Answer: I was not in Cameroon at the time the elections took place. But reports reaching me have not been encouraging. Our leaders have to know that real legitimacy lies in the people’s recognition of their institutions and leaders. Rigging elections is not healthy for a country as it erodes the people’s confidence in the political process and calls into question, the ability of the leaders to effectively run the country. We have to walk away from this outdated way of winning power if we want the world to take us more seriously. Elections should never be a do-or-die affair and the winner should never take it all. We need to bring everybody to the table in order to strengthen our peace and democracy. Some people may argue that the holding of elections is a reflection of how democratic we are. But democracy goes well beyond elections. It is a way of life that needs to learned and shared. This way of life is under threat from people who are taking advantage of the system. They are sowing chaos and jeopardizing the lives of future generations. This has to be stopped, and only the people and government of this country can put an end to this disorder. Because of previous electoral fraud, many Cameroonians do not consider the electoral process as being credible. They prefer to be sorry spectators of events that have a huge impact on their lives. This is unfortunate. The people of Cameroon should have the opportunity to exercise their citizenship. They should have a say in the affairs of their country.
Question: Do you see any future for Cameroon’s political opposition and democracy?
Answer: The current political opposition has done its best. Let’s not forget that without the hardworking men and women of the opposition, we would not be talking about multiparty politics in our country today. Without them, free speech would not be a reality in Cameroon. I doff my hat to these people. However, they should be thinking of exiting the stage. If some of them have been the leaders of their parties for a long time, resisting internal opposition, what moral authority do they therefore have to call on Mr. Biya to leave office? I think we should be looking for leaders who can lead by examples. Cameroon needs principled and disciplined leaders who can put an end to the divisions that have ruined our country. We need leaders that can effectively root out corruption and tribalism that have hurt Cameroon. I sincerely think that current political leaders in the country have overstayed their welcome. They should rather be thinking of bringing young, smart and hard-working Cameroonians to the helm instead of seeking to perpetuate themselves in their current positions. This is not helping them and it is ruining the country. I think it is time to start talking about succession planning in Cameroon and the need for young people to take over.
Question: What is your view of the Biya government?
Answer: I sincerely think that the Biya administration has done its best, although some people hold that its best is not good enough. It has tried to hold the country together. However, there are still many areas for improvement. Mr. Biya, for his part, must understand that the world is a stage and each of us must exit one day. It is always glorious to exit when you are in the people’s good books. It is wrong for the people to force you out. If this were to happen, the people will forget about every little good thing that was achieved under you. History is littered with such experiences. Mobutu, Bokassa, Menguistu, and many others have given us food-for-thought and I think Mr. Biya should be reflecting on this. Cameroonians are frustrated. They are hungry and they need a change of personalities in that country. They want to see a purely different political landscape in Cameroon. Mr. Biya and his men stand to gain if they bow out honorably. They should not be deceived by the pseudo-peace in the country. Peace does not only imply the absence of armed conflict. Cameroonians are going through the toughest moments of their lives and the hardship they are going through is as a result of policy failure in the country.
Question: To which political party do you belong?
Answer: Cameroon is my political party. I am among the few Cameroonians who have never militated in any political party. I have placed myself above all political parties and I sincerely think that my focus should be my country and not a party. Partisan politics has divided our country and I think that staying away from all the political blocks is the best way to start talking of genuine unity. There is a lot of pain and anger in Cameroon. Besides the hardship, many Cameroonians still think that a piece of the puzzle - unity - is missing. When we keep on talking about political parties, we focus a lot on the small picture. I think the big picture is Cameroon and we should spend more time trying to figure out how we can heal the psychological and economic wounds. We should understand that before the advent of multiparty politics, we were already Cameroonians living in a geopolitical entity called Cameroon. I may one day join a political party, but for now, I am focusing on uniting Cameroonians.
Question: Manyu Division, where you come from, has many educated people. Unfortunately, these people have not really achieved much for their division. Why is this happening and do you think the people of your generation can make a difference if given the opportunity?
Answer: Manyu actually has many educated people and I praise the people for that. These educated resources are supposed to be an asset to the division when it comes to development. Despite the underdeveloped nature of the division, I would hesitate to indicate that not much has been done. Some things have been done over the years and we should learn to acknowledge the efforts of our predecessors. I have always admired the efforts of Manyu politicians, especially politicians like Michael Kima Tabong, Peter Agbortabi, Emmanuel Egbe Tabi of blessed memory, and Jerome Etta. Manyu politicians love the division and would do more if they had the opportunity. However, I would suggest that more young people be brought into all political and economic development initiatives that can help the division move out of its current state. By including the young people, the division will be sure that there will be continuity in the absence of the elders. I will also call on the young people to turn their backs on irresponsible behavior. For anybody to entrust anything to the young, they will certainly like to know that the young people are capable of doing a great job. I also hold that the people of my generation could make a huge difference if given the opportunity. Our leaders have to trust us and they must understand that things are changing and the best way forward is for them to empower and encourage the youths. Without such an approach, there will always be conflict among people of Manyu descent. The people of Manyu should also understand that unity is strength. They have to pool their resources to achieve a lot for themselves. There is power in numbers. No government in the world has ever met all the needs of its people. The people have to organize themselves in order to carry out certain development projects.
Question: When are you finally coming home to lend a hand to development efforts in the country?
Answer: I have been lending a hand to development efforts in Cameroon. I do not need to be physically present in Cameroon to help the country I dearly love. I have been calling on the Diaspora to assert itself and play a key role in Cameroon’s development. I have been encouraging debate on major political and economic issues in the country, although from a distance. I think as a Cameroonian, I can lend a hand anytime there is an opportunity. As I have always said, Cameroon is our country and it behooves us all to ensure that its citizens get a good life. We have to work together. We need to encourage a participatory approach to development. We need to empower our people by giving them a voice so that they can claim ownership of the development projects in the country. Without such thinking, our development efforts and achievements will not be sustainable. I however know that I will like to take an early retirement so as to work for my country. I would like to share my experience and knowledge with those who need it. I would like to influence development efforts in my village. As I have always said, I can serve my country from any position, even at the village level. For me, all that matters is the progress of humanity.
Question: How do you describe yourself?
Answer: I am a hardworking, disciplined, futuristic and detail-oriented person who honestly believes in the development of our country. Cameroon is the country God has given us all. Let us show appreciation to Him by developing this piece of land and ensuring that every citizen of this country gets a piece of the pie. I hold that our country must develop and our people should be prepared to roll up their sleeves in order to pull our country out of economic doldrums. We have the human and natural resources. All we need is the leadership and political will to turn things around for our people. But I am sure the people of my generation are willing and capable of providing the leadership that will make Cameroonians proud. They, however, need to be given a chance. //The Weekly Post
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