Troubles in Cameroon

I recently took Uber home to Alexandria from Washington DC.  During the ride, I spoke with my driver Mairama (not real name) about political instability in Cameroon. A summary of the conversation follows:

Bryan: Hi, how are you doing?

Mairama: Good, thanks. Heading home?

Bryan: Yes, just had a rotary meeting and going back. From your name, I guess you are from West Africa originally but I’m not sure which country…

Mairama: Cameroon. Do you know about anything about Cameroon?

Bryan: I’ve not been there but have friends who worked there. I’ve tried Cameroonian food before and thought it was good.

Mairama: The food is delicious plus it is mostly organic. It can also be spicy. You know most people have probably never eaten a normal chicken before, the way it is supposed to be. Chickens here are very big but there is little flavor.

Bryan: I’ve been reading that there are some serious disagreements between the French and English speaking portions of the country.

Mairama: It has been very bad. We English speakers are the minority and are treated badly even though where we live where most of the natural resources are. The infrastructure is bad and the government sends French speakers to manage everything. English speakers have been striking for eight months now.

Bryan: What has the government done in response?

Mairama: Not very much. The president, Paul Biya, has been in office since 1982. Can you believe that?

Bryan: I don’t understand why old men want to be President forever – Biya, Mugabe, Museveni – so many of them. They could have a nice retirement and enjoy growing older without all the stress. Maybe they are concerned the following government will persecute them because of the things they did to stay in power?

Mairama: That could be it but it is probably more about money. Cameroon has many resources but it is also very corrupt. Government officials keep hiding their money in Switzerland instead of spending it on the people – this is why we remain poor. It doesn’t have to be like that.

Bryan: For some people, money can be like a sickness. No amount is enough. One billion, two billion….

Mairama: I am not rich. At least not yet. But we are not put on this Earth just to live for ourselves. I have to help other people when I am able to. If my family and friends are struggling in Cameroon, then it hurts me too. I will always send something back if I am able to.

Bryan: Is that hard when people ask for more then you are able to afford?

Mairama: It is hard – but I always try to help. Before I came here my uncle gave me money that he had earned from farming to help me get established. Now I am in a position to give money. Yes, I need money – but to take care of myself and other people. We all have responsibilities to others.  I wish our politicians in Cameroon felt this way.

Bryan:  Same here.  A world where we only cared for ourselves and our immediate families would be a a harsh place.  We can only make our communities and countries better by working together.

Mairama: Ah, this traffic is bad. I was hoping to have more passengers tonight than I have so far.

Bryan: Almost there – that’s my stop. Have a great night!
Note: More information about the tension between English and French speakers can be found at the links below