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Enticing the Diaspora: What the Cameroon government should do

Aloysius AGENDIA

In the   months of April and May 2010, various teams from the Cameroon government were despatched to some countries in Europe and America with the hope of enticing Cameroonians in the diaspora return home and participate in the development of the nation. Though the visit coincided and was subsequently overshadowed by the death of a Cameroonian journalist, Bibi Ngota, on April 22, a close analysis of the strategy used by government seems to indicate the latter might have missed the point. There are certain things the government needs to consider before embarking on such a mission.

These things do not only include, and are not limited to improving  justice system, legalising dual nationality, revamping the health care system, reviewing its taxation policies, overhauling its democracy, carrying out road infrastructure etc. No.

The first contact of Cameroonians in the diaspora with their nation are the Cameroonian boarders. Be they airports, sea ports and other Cameroon boarder crossings. Cameroonians are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the way things work at the various ports. Thousands of Diasporans’ have abandoned their merchandises at various ports and boarders in Cameroon because of abundant corruption by customs, security officers and other workers operating in the sector. Some goods for setting up businesses or goods meant for the helping of underprivileged communities have as well been abandoned at the entries, to the happiness of customs and security officers working there. For example, if two diasporans purchase the same type of car or, ship the same size of a container  with the same products, they will likely end up paying different charges at the boarder crossings or seaports. The person with more connection pays less while, he with fewer connections pays more.  

Some diasporans are equally unscrupulous in their business dealings, but, without much ado, the first step towards convincing people in the diaspora to return home would be an overhauled of the situation in various port entries and ensure total transparency, eradicate or reduce theft of items at the port/boarder and ensure rapidity in the provision of services. In this case, many diasporans would engage in different kind of businesses which would eventually boom the economy.

A critical look at the team that toured Europe and America, brings a lot of mixed feelings. Unfortunately, the delegation  consisted of the same people who have publicly asked President Paul Biya, 78, to remain in power for life, despite the fact that he has already ruled the country for 28 years. Among these sycophants were Professor Ngolle Ngolle Elvis-Minister of Wildlife and Forestry,  Esimi Minye-Minister of Economy and Finance, Albert Mbida-Senior functionary at the Ministry of Communication, Emmanuel Wonyuh- senior functionary at the Presidency of the Republic and other members of the delegation who visited USA and Britain. How on earth does the government think diasporans can be convinced by people who have supported a regime generally considered by those in Diaspora as unwelcoming to positive political, social and economic change?

The government probably failed to understand that there 4 different types of Cameroon immigrants in the diaspora. There are those who left Cameroon in despair- This group falls under the category of asylum seekers, voluntary or imposed by the government.

 There are those who left Cameroon with hope- These are certainly those who for economic reasons or better job offers left Cameroon to fulfil their ambitions.

There are equally those who came to the diaspora on government scholarship but have since then never bothered to return and give back to the country.  May be it was this last group that the government wanted to cajoled because the first two groups are certainly not happy with the government.

The fourth category is those who are descendants of all the above groups.

It would have been wise for the Cameroon government to include even include in its delegations, in-house critics like Honourable Paul Ayah, Charles Ateba Eyene etc to come and speak of the positive changes back at home. This would have at least, cajoled a few diasporans.  Limiting the meeting to a forum where a few diasporans met and communed with the aristocrats from home was not the best option.

The government should have also included in its delegation some former members of the diaspora who have returned home, and have been successful in their projects. I do not mean former members of the diaspora who returned home and joined partisan politics in order to succeed.  Listening to the first group would have been rather more convincing than listening to the  rhetoric of government ministers on lucrative missions.

While in Europe and America, the members of the various delegations decided to continue with the government unnecessary extravagance. Renting a porch hotel in Birmingham (UK) and a luxurious hotel in Washington (USA) was really ridiculous. This was an opportunity for the delegations to use inns or other  avenues operated by Cameroonians or use other businesses managed by Cameroonians so as to invite the largest possible attendance.

The meeting took place as if it was a spy mission and shrouded in secrecy. There was very little communication about it. One of the attendants admitted jokingly in one of Cameroon forums that the ministers and their people met with those whom they wanted to meet. I personally thought the primordial reason for the USA mission was meeting members of the Bretton woods

What explains the fact only about 100 people were at the meeting hall in a country like USA with over 25.000 Cameroonians? What happened that despite all the noise made by supposedly angry Cameroonians in the diaspora only about 20 others were in front of the hotel protesting?   In the UK, less than 20 people attended the meeting. A handful people of people equally protested. All these show the docile attitude we Cameroonians both at home and abroad have adopted and the result we can only get is a dictatorial civilian regime.

Why was the mission limited to Europe and America? Does it mean to say there are no Cameroonian diasporans in other parts of Africa and Asia who can deliver? Or, is the Cameroon government still calculating on meeting them?

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