Life, Africa

Cameroonian observers urge tolerance to combat tribalism

Despite law against tribalism, Cameroonians still looking to purge scourge and replace it with tolerance

Aurore Bonny   | 17.11.2021
Cameroonian observers urge tolerance to combat tribalism file photo

DOUALA, Cameroon 

Cameroonians outlined their views on tolerance to fight tribalism on the eve of International Day of Tolerance that is observed Nov. 17.

"The revival and expansion of identity-based withdrawal carries the risk of genocide or civil war, which could paralyze the dynamics of national unity, the development of the population, and the harmonious development of Cameroon," strategic planning analyst Dieudonne Mbarga warned in a 2020 scientific report.

In this Central African country, composed of more than two hundred tribes, a law on tribalism and hate speech adopted in 2019 commits the government to develop regulations against such actions and rhetoric in public.

Despite the denunciations, however, some observers report tolerance toward tribalism in the absence of real sanctions.

"I'm surprised today because tribalism occupies an important place in various sectors of our country," said Didier Ndengue, a journalist and blogger, noting that tribalist comments are common, even in the media.

"Panelists invited to television programs claim this tribalism and put forward their own tribes while denigrating others. However, we must recognize that in various tribes there are skills that complement each other for our country, regardless of tribal affiliation," he said.

Tolerance vs. tribalism

For Ndengue, tolerance lies not in applauding or encouraging such "negative ways" but in "allowing others to express themselves and undertake freely and especially not to always have negative words."

He told Anadolu Agency that tolerance is contrary to counter values and radicalism.

To counter tribalism, which he said he did not engage in during his childhood due to his upbringing, Ndengue uses his platform to advocate tolerance among fellow Cameroonians, seeking to promote peace, patriotism, nationalism, and protectionism.

He lamented the employment of tribalism by national and international non-governmental organizations, politicians, and civil society for material interests.

This scourge "should not exist," he said.

Jimmy Kamtcheu, a logistician, considers tolerance to be an asset of acceptance that every Cameroonian should enjoy.

"It must be implemented in the acceptance of the tribes of others in our country," he told Anadolu Agency. "We all have values inspired by our multiple tribes. This diversity must be learned, accepted and claimed."

To counter tribalism, he said tolerance encourages him to learn about other ethnicities.

"It's fundamental. You can't afford to hate something you don't know or understand. I learn about the ethnicities in my country and it helps me develop tolerance for others and not judge them based on their tribal affiliation," said Kamtcheu.

Injustices and frustrations at the base

Jeff Ibock a Cameroonian financier believes that tribalism claims the values of peace and humanism. He believes that tribalism in Cameroon is born out of inequities and injustices that generate frustration.

Nevertheless, tolerance to him is "a virtue by which man is able to accept the differences of his alter ego, would be difficult to put in practice within the framework of tribalism because of the injustices in society."

He believes it is difficult to be tolerant when one feels his condition depends on another person, let alone when one feels oppressed by others.

"Life's multifaceted inequalities in this country generate frustrations that fuel or revive tribalism. In my opinion, tolerance can only be applied in a context of tribalism if it is used within the limits of equity between people," he told Anadolu Agency.

In Cameroon, "living together" is a concept and a perpetual quest by its people, national and religious authorities, and other groups and actors in civil society.

The different cultures and traditions of the country should be "factors of social cohesion" as well as "vectors of development," according to Christian bishops in the country.

"Ideally, this group cohesion should reach its highest degree in openness to other groups and to the whole nation. This openness makes it possible to capitalize," they recommended in a 2019 public message.

On May 20, during a special national mass celebrated for Cameroon's annual Unity Day, Bishop Jean Mbarga prayed for "the spirit of tolerance" to reign in the country "at the expense of hatred and tribalism."

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