My first week in Cameroon will be spent in Yaoundé. I arrived on Saturday the 20th of May – which is an auspicious date in Cameroon called National Day. This date is the national date of unification between the Anglophone and Francophone regions, which took place on May 20th 1972.
I am staying in a district just outside the city center called “Etoudi.” This is a busy area with lots of markets and residential areas. I have been spending time with an Mbororo named Oumarou. He is a secretary in the organisation Mboscuda and a student. He has been profoundly generous, welcoming, and helpful.
So far, I have attended one meeting with members of Mboscuda (association info here: http://www.mboscuda.org/). We met at one of the national offices in Yaoundé. Six members of Mboscuda attended – representing various posts and offices. The meeting was highly informative and interesting, and I learned a lot about national laws and policies concerning land rights in Cameroon and their effect upon Mbororo. I also learned a lot about society and culture of Mbororo. One particularly insightful thing I learned was that national policies in Cameroon negatively effect Mbororo by neglecting herding/grazing as a criteria for land titling or occupation. Thus, the Mbororo, who are traditionally pastoralists who keep animals, do not acquire legal right to land where their animals graze. It is important to remember that about 10% of the African population is pastoralist or nomadic, yet remain fairly marginalised.
In a few days, I will venture to the East region – the most sparsely populated region and one of the poorest. I will be living in Mandjou, a small village outside the main city of Bertoua and with a local Mboscuda office. This region borders Central African Republic. There are two principal ethnic groups in this region – the Gbaya (commonly known as “pygmies”) and the Mbororo. The East region is one of the few regions where the Mbororo constitute a majority, so marginalisation of them is less pronounced. According to members of Mboscuda, ethnic relations in the East are pretty good, but there is occasional conflict and tension over land use. For example, there are two primary uses of land in the East – farming and herding/grazing. Occasionally cow herds kept by Mbororo will eat crops or grass on land used by farmers, and this leads to tension and conflict.
A map indicating Yaoundé (where I will be until 25th May) and Mandjou – which is just outside Bertoua, the main East region city – where I will be until July: