Two or three days per week I venture to the field with my trusty and helpful companion, Aliou (see photo below). He gives me access to meet with Mbororo, and I wouldn’t be able to conduct this research without him.
We visit small communities and villages (“chefferie”, “village,” or “commune” in French) with large Mbororo populations. We’ve visited four so far. On Wednesday the 7th of June, we visited a small village about 15 kilometers away called Adinkol.
When we visit, we usually take a motorbike or yellow taxi to drive there. These taxis are completely full. It is a pretty interesting system. They will pick up people in Mandjou or Bertoua and drive toward a destination, dropping people off and picking up others along the way. At the end of the day when we want to return, we have to just wait and hope that a vehicle passes. I’ve ended up taking all sorts of different vehicles – big large buses, vans, national bus lines, motorbikes, personal cars, yellow taxis.
During the interview on the 7th, only three Mbororo were present. Apparently the rest were out with the herds of cows. This was the smallest group I’ve interviewed. (The others have ranged from 15-60). I usually ask about 15-20 questions in French to Aliou, who translates into Fulfulde (indigenous lange of Fulbe, Mbororo, Fulani, etc.). I record the responses (translated back into French by Aliou). I also give them time to tell me anything they’d like me to know.
Today’s interview repeated a lot of the same information. I usually try to ask whether they feel that the Mbororo community in their village or commune feels any specific or unique issue different than other communities. One interesting thing happened though. While they were telling me about robbery and threats from non-Mbororo groups (including Gbaya; commonly and offensively known as “pygmy”), a Gbaya man walked by our hut with a shotgun, like some cosmic coincidence.
I’ve spent over a year in different parts of Africa and not once been attacked or robbed or had anything bad happen to me. I realize of course that bad things can happen, but for me Africa is quite safe. I see people walking around with machetes on a daily basis – it is because they live in rural Cameroon and use it for gardening, vegetables, housework, and so forth. This shotgun was actually the first time in over a year in Africa that I’ve seen somebody with a gun who wasn’t a police officer, soldier, or gendarmerie. It is extremely rare.
I wasn’t really scared, but it served the point they were trying to make very well. The “insecurity” issue is one of the principal issues for Mbororo. They endure quite direct and severe marginalisation on many fronts.