skin-bleaching 1

Cosmetic allegiance is an issue of sovereign rights. The way a people decide to adorn themselves constitute a territory where foreign office holds no legitimacy.

However, when the application of cosmetics involves the elimination of an individual’s phenotypical characteristics like that of his color, then it ceases to be an aesthetic practice.  Instead, it becomes racial denial and a hysterical allegiance to mythical archetypes.

This is precisely what the practice of skin bleaching is. Common sense demands serous scrutiny of this problem which has become global. Why don’t modifications of one’s hair, height, or weight and even cosmetic surgery align with this same practice?

Skin bleaching – elicits three facts. First, the negation of self that is, secondly, coupled with the veneration of the imitated other. And thirdly, the ‘imitated other’ which is posed as most exquisite.  Even more, the cosmeticized person becomes a canvas on which is constructed the image of the subjugator who invalidates the basic premise of human equality. The latter – cosmetic surgery – is rooted in a desire to uplift corporal features in order to meet certain standards without necessarily subjugating those who may be lacking in them.

In The Clash of civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, Samuel Huntington’s analysis is keen except for a solid thesis which nails down how race and color have played an important role in shaping, most of the time, these clashes of civilizations. W.E.B. Dubois corroborates this point when he stated in The soul of black folks, p.9.: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, – the relation of the darker to the light races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.”

Although skin bleaching is self-denial do to its negation of essential body features, these practices beg the question whether or not the practice has existential value for the one cosmeticized. While existence is primarily a matter of the mind according to modern thinkers: “I think, therefore I am”, contemporary philosophical thought holds that understanding how perception works is the key to understanding just how one assigns value to existence.

What is meant here is that the inter-subjective reality or dialectical nature of man is what constitute his primary mode of existence. Merleu-Ponty calls it the primacy of perception.  In his Phenomenology of Perception, p.169., he writes: “The body is our general medium for having a world.” This claim pregnant with questions both philosophical and practical especially in a world where how you look determines who you are. It is therefore not an exaggeration to say that the clash of civilizations (cultures, religions, etc) is more so a clash of perceptions which embody not only the antagonism between different spheres of existence called cultures but also peoples and their colors. By perceiving the world, we get an image of ourselves by which we define and value [our] existence.

Having established the conceptual basis which defines existence – at least phenomenologically under the banner of perception (for in all interactions, interpretation, and quest for meaning or sense of self, it is always indispensable) I will outline how one of these aspects of perception has been instrumental in the practice of skin bleaching. Skin bleaching by black people is a practice designed primarily to modify their own perception and ‘imitate other’s’ perception since it determines the valuation of their existence.

The Social distance scale of Emory Bogardus – 1930, brings to light the idea of the agreeableness of being white and the liability of being its opposite or black. For black on the scale is non-desirable. It is a phenomenon rooted in diverse myriad conceptions that have lasted over centuries and survives to the present day.

On the line between white and black which incarnates in the world a divide between rich and poor, good and bad, intelligent and dull, opportunity and despair, happiness and sadness, light and darkness or again norm and abnormal, skin bleaching appears as a palliative option and recourse that would admittedly bridge the gap at best or at least reduce it. In any case, for the practitioner something should be done to their black skin since the divide which caused them grueling anxiety is based on it.

Whether the bleaching is done or not, the perception of a black person’s skin color shapes his or her identity. It shapes his or her existence which in most cases is in suspended animation due to its devaluation.

The argument for skin bleaching follows seven main lines of thought which do not pretend to be exhaustive but is meant to showcase the general character of the practice and how it affects a whole organ. As such, these shall be articulated around the following: mythos, thymos, ploutos, ethos, eros, pathos and logos. Can we proceed?

Mythos: Veneration of Illusion and the Creation of Rites for Dead Gods

In this photo taken Feb. 15, 2011, a woman applies skin lightening cream to her legs as she sits on a curb in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. People around the world often try to alter their skin color, using tanning salons or dyes to darken it or other chemicals to lighten it. In the slums of Jamaica, doctors say the skin lightening phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions. (AP Photo/Caterina Werner)

In this photo taken Feb. 15, 2011, a woman applies skin lightening cream to her legs as she sits on a curb in downtown Kingston, Jamaica. People around the world often try to alter their skin color, using tanning salons or dyes to darken it or other chemicals to lighten it. In the slums of Jamaica, doctors say the skin lightening phenomenon has reached dangerous proportions. (AP Photo/Caterina Werner)

A myth is simply a lie; it is told skillfully over and over to make people believe and behave in a given way. Plato had such an idea when he said in The Republic: “How then do we devise one of those needful falsehoods, if that be possible, and at any rate the rest of the City.” And among the lies he told, was his conception on intelligence which emanated from the divine and associated with self-discipline the color white while the opposite of these are associated with black. Once the lie is believed, lives would be changed.

“Emeka is a very beautiful girl like no other from the Eastern part of Nigeria. Dark in complexion and sober in composure. After secondary school at the age of 18, she went to the State University of Anambra. Everyone knows her for her outstanding beauty, soothed dark skin and corpulence of proportion. She was not of the richest families but had never been lacking in complements or suitors from the most modest handyman to the haughty politicians and tycoon business owners of the City.

While waiting to make a decision on marriage, she had decided to first focus on her education in accordance with the exigency of modern times and the wish of her parents. After a few years in the University, one could notice that she is becoming lighter and lighter while her soothing darkness is steadily disappearing. At 25, after her Master’s degree in Mass Communication, she had become a light girl, and had a position in a local broadcasting company reporting on issues related to sports and women’s affairs. For onlookers who never knew her, she looks like a natural light skin girl. Light in complexion she is now engaged to a medical doctor and hoping to get married soon. She is happy, her family too, and the millions of girls in Nigeria dream to be like her. They envy not only her academic accomplishments and devotedness but also her love life, family life as well as her beauty, more precisely her color. Case closed, it’s time to settle and take care of children.

This is a typical pattern for most young girls in Nigeria. A country wherein about 77% of skin bleaching products are used by Nigerians according to the World Health Organization. The remaining 23% are those who cannot use the skin bleaching products because they live in remote areas where cosmetic products are not easily accessible.

In fact, there is a myth now becoming a religion which holds that being whitish is better and has been absorbed in the minds of young Africans who dream of nothing else but being like white ladies. For, how could a young lady Emeka, who has never questioned her beauty still believe that she needed to tone out her blackness to look better? This illustrates not only the power of media, especially Nollywood which usually gives star roles to beautiful light skin girls while reserving the ‘mean’ or abrasive roles for girls and women of dark features, but it is also the influence of myths which have played an important role of propagandizing a false conception of beauty and aesthetics.

Thymos: The Foundation of Aesthetical Quest

Skin bleaching is a symptom which reveals a psychological problem of low self-esteem, low self-importance, and low self-worth or desire for recognition. The combination of all these concepts fit into a more general term antithymos meaning ‘low spiritedness’. The definition characterizes all of these and is more explicit in setting out that inner desire of humans to be seen as good, important and of value. Francis Fukuyama in his book: The End of History, p. xix., acknowledges that the desire for recognition is the motor of history. The word self-esteem does no justice to this deep sentiment in humans to be recognized by their peers and the broader population. For women, and now in the post-modern West what is viewed as the feminization of man, it is manifested by exhibiting corporal features in the most striking and ‘acceptable’ way that would attract the most attention.

Skin bleaching is an apology though expressed in a naïve way. It is generally admitted that beauty brings self-confidence and greater self-esteem. What happens when beauty is associated with whiteness? Those who are white, or have a light complexion turn out to have a light self-esteem compared to their black counterparts. Researchers Verna Keith and Maxine Thompson through their article The Blacker the Berry: Gender, Skin Tone, Self-Esteem, and Self-Efficacy in Gender and Society, pointed out clearly that among African American descendants of slaves there is a strong correlation between self-esteem and skin-tone which indicates an internalization of colorism. This correlation, they admitted, is even more exhibited among low income women. In Africa, skin-tone boost the self-esteem of women who believe they are more beautiful being light skinned.  But such practice is more common among those with affordable incomes than those in the villages and outskirts. So, in the future there may be class overtones in Nigeria which are skin color based as well.

These researchers went as far as demonstrating that it has an impact on educational achievement, prison sentencing, and even the likelihood of being elected into congress.

But self-esteem and self-confidence are not the embodiment of what defines thymos, i.e., the desire for recognition. Perhaps, it should be said that that is the fast-track towards ‘ideals’ of recognition. And like other fast-track options, their sustainability is easily put to trial and easily challenged.

It may be a no-brainer to remind anyone that skin bleaching is not appropriate but perpetrators will willingly admit that it helps them to achieve what they want. Skin bleaching therefore becomes a mode of survival in a complex world of limited opportunities and possibilities.       

Ploutos: “Just Being White You’ll Win”

 Vera-Sidika skin bleaching 2

Recently, an ad in Thailand dated January 08, 2016 claimed that “Just being white you’ll win.” Although the outcry of viewers obliged the barons to make a weak apology by stating that they never intended to hurt anyone, the message was already passed and the marketing scheme was achieved: put brazen attention on the subject while selling its products. In fact, it is a general protocol of those with biased views to say the most outrageous things, then apologize a few days later, then continue to say the same thing, then apologize again. Before they get tired, another person takes up the same vicious circle with similar outrageous comments, then apologizes and so on. The pattern, which is clear enough, leaves no room to doubt that there is no willingness to apologize as a way of changing an act or as a sign of contrition. In modern times, making an apology, especially in racial colloquial mischief, is a matter of social and marketing etiquette than it is a heartfelt willingness to change.

Few people are skilled enough to read the unconscious mind of others, but when skin bleaching becomes so pervasive in Africa one can only guess that it is related to the survival of some of those who practice it. Users might not necessarily know – explicitly, when they become addicted to it. If you ask them if they want to be white, a timid shrug follows because they know they are rooted to diverse practices from food to language very different from the person s/he wants to imitate. But don’t make the assumption that looking black[ish] is good. So, if the unconscious mind can’t be seen, its symptoms can. These symptoms appear in words and actions which manifest the nausea that being white[ish] increases your chances of succeeding in society.

Despite the outrage from the commercial which said “just being white you’ll win,” it appears that it extracts its axioms from the general hysteria of the public whose amnesia on the nature of man becomes more vivid than ever. But how do you win being white?

Ploutos is the Greek word for wealth which has been used here in opposition to money which is chrimata. Ploutos refers to the various vertical acquisitions which distinguishes a person from being poor irrespective of monetary equivalence: education, business, appointment, jobs, social capital etc. The skin lightening/bleaching industry is expected to reach about 10 billion by 2015, according to Skin Inc. June 23, 2009. While it is a source of wealth for the industries and their retailers, it is equally a means by which users believe they may increase their chances of vertical mobility in society: landing a good job, sports, or associating with those of the higher orbit.

By using various schools of thought, myths and laws (Plato’s Metaphor of two lovers, the myths of the metals, a sliding scale of justice by Aristotle, and even the USA Constitution) which classified humans from their whitest to their darkest using various approaches, Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed proves in A Particular Line of reasoning, 2015, that economic consequences follow such a thought pattern.

But there is more into skin bleaching than simply the desire to improve one’s wealth and feel better. There is also the question of love, sex, and marriage. 

Eros: Sex, Love, Marriage and Color

Eros, the embodiment of emotional energy, sometimes related to sex, is a force that controls humans lives in ways unimaginable from the minute aspects of clothing to the greatest like the wish to be a billionaire or a CEO of a fortune 500 hundred company.

As mentioned earlier, most African women with lighter skin have a higher self-esteem than women with darker skin. But it must be said that such self-esteem comes not necessarily from the conviction of self-proclaimed beauty but from the belief that she would possibly get a better lover or spouse along the way. Being light-skinned becomes a strategic front design to attract a spouse of one’s choice – usually the one with a higher purchasing power. It is no surprise that in Nigeria, some Igbo charge higher bride price for light women and lesser for the darker ones. This instrumentalization of beauty to the detriment of common sense only increases the problem.

Perhaps the problem lies with black men for their preference for light-skinned women as Ntambwe (2002) writes: “The majority of black men prefer light-skinned women as partners, girlfriends or wives. Several authors have stated that these light-skinned women are perceived as attractive, intelligent, moral, sexually more desirable, even chaste; whereas dark-skinned are regarded as mean, evil, stupid, even not as trust-worthy.” But whether men should be held responsible for this misplaced perception is a matter ethical/moral writ which shall be considered in the next section on ethos.

 From women’s perspective, issues of love and marriage are comparably of value only to that of life and death. Because they’re of utmost importance to them they’ll do all it takes to reach their state of self-accomplishment – fulfill existence. Since they stand on the passive side waiting for their desired spouse to make a move it follows that their best recourse for attracting attention and be competitive depends on possessing those striking features which would prompt men to action.

All means are good so long as they reach their goal and skin bleaching is one of them. In this light, it is no doubt that lecturing African women on how to maintain natural beauty is usually a vain exercise for the most part. Their whole existence is tuned primarily to being beautiful, to be seen as such, always complimented as such, and when she notices that such compliments or suitors are reducing or remain constant she will then increase the dose of her concoctions. Facebook, Instagram, Nollywood, Hollywood and the entire media all participate in this social drama. The advent of social media has given the opportunity for African women to display the triumph of their cosmetic metamorphosis by successes easily measured by the amount of likes she receives as well as comments. Is this appropriate? This appears to be the right question here because “if it works, don’t fix it” as the popular saying goes. 

Ethos: Ethical Concerns

 Besides feeling the need to feel important, recognized or to be beautiful – as it is claimed, is it of ethical stance to erode the melanin of one’s skin using corrosive substances for the end of looking light? While beauty is believed to be in the eyes of the beholder, ethics on the contrary lies in the minds of the one who withstands the test of rationality and reasonability.

The ethical consideration shall be comprised of four arguments: who is responsible for the acts, is it admissible morally to tone one’s skin, should it be regulated socially/institutionally, and should we question if we have failed/betrayed dark-skinned women by choosing light ones or by deciding to bleach and be apart from them? On the last note, the ethical question enlarges more to a legal and community problem which enters into the heart of social justice and the defense of common welfare in an era of individualism and capitalism whose remnants, as can be seen, appear visibly in skin bleaching.

Milly Mira is a Cameroonian US based blogger who believes that African men created skin bleaching. Here is her argument on 1st of December 2015: “Many African men are hypocrites because they are the first to mock girls and women with lighten skins but are the first to pick a fair skinned girl as their idea skin tone.” She continued her argument: “I have had discussions with many single male friends who are purportedly ‘ready to settle’ and need a hook up. When I ask what attributes they find attractive or are looking for in a girl the first thing ‘one that looks like you.’ What percentage of Africans (Cameroonians) are naturally light-skinned? … if there is demand we will supply okay.” This is not just an economic anecdote but also an attempt to remain credible.

Since morality is based on responsibility, on personal acts, how an individual reacts to personal, social, and structural pressures impounding on his conscience and freewill, then it will be admitted that those imputed are primarily the users.

Furthermore, is it moral to bleach one’s skin? Skin bleaching comes with peculiar traits. In principle, morality takes root in the conscience [nature], grows through the mind [nurture] develops through society [law] and ends in the will [love], (K. Emilton, p.122.). This synopsis on morality puts us in a fragmented diagnosis where blame becomes difficult to establish. While the conscience may timidly admit that it is wrong to willingly change one’s skin color, the mind – which is built through society – has developed arguments to accept and accommodate it as normal in a society which has not yet define it as a punishable act. But does this end in love? Considering the fact that the basis of bleaching was hate (in a soft sense), it would only be a surprise to imagine that it leads to love – characterized by respect of self and others. In fact, denying one’s own blackness makes us guilty of disrespect in the face of blackness in the other.

Concerning its regulation, in May 2015, the Ivory Coast is known to have imposed a ban on skin-bleaching products which have caused great damage to the minds of its young people. Most African countries remain indifferent and the individual is left to his fate. But the banning of these corrosive products doesn’t stop the Ivorian media from choosing light-skinned women as program hostess or giving them lead roles in movies, or choosing them as wives/girlfriends thereby perpetuating the same malaise that the legislation intended to curb. Gambia and South Africa have equally issued bans but there is no evidence that the public has stopped using them.

Finally, the role of the law comes in as a recognition that there is a communal responsibility of helping each member of a community to live to their fullest potentials, to be themselves and above all to be respected for who they are – humans. But this communal responsibility, a type of social ethos, falls only on a few who believe that they must protect each other. In fact, in modern society, it is difficult to be indifferent. One can’t have an uncontrollable desire for light-skinned women while being fair to dark-skin women in the same way. And if and only if society assumes the stance that skin bleaching goes beyond an individual’s decision then change would be far from possible. “if the arm is sick, the whole body gets affected.”

Pathos: Pathology of Skin Bleaching

Black Woman's Pain Lead Pic

To understand the pathological state in which most blacks live there is no better description than the lucid work of psychiatrist Franz Fanon’s book: Black Skin White Mask: The experiences of a black man in a white world. He admits in his premise that the juxtaposition of the white and black races has created a massive psycho-existential complex. Using various examples from real life experiences including his own, he affirms that only a psychoanalytical interpretation of the black problem can lay bare the anomalies of affect that are responsible for the structure of the complex.

Two pathological patterns shall be examined from his analysis. The first narrates the way the woman of color behaves with the white man which he finds incomprehensible. Referring particularly to the Antilles woman of color, he explains that her main dream is to meet a white man with whom she’ll get married. Despite having suitors who are educated, responsible and ready to love them wholeheartedly, she still despises them just because they are black, low class while waiting for the day the white man will knock on her door.

Chris Rock, the American comedian and actor made reference to this when he joked about black women saying: there’s never a perfect match; you’re a black woman, he’s a black man. Contrary to common sense which holds that man is a motion towards the world and towards his like (Franz Fanon), with the black woman, being with his like sounds like a taboo. The opposite of this holds true. The black man dreams of being with a white woman who most of the time repudiates him. Drawing from his personal experience, he concludes that the black person’s mind has been completely destroyed and needs liberation through psychoanalysis.

While psychoanalysis intends to explore the unconscious to uncover unrecognized symptoms which produce unhappiness in most people, its application to color hysteria is not only legitimate and audacious but also daring.

However, this analytical undertaking enlightens more in its theoretical coherence than in its practical realization. In fact, it is a question of operation a social-therapy, or applying psychoanalysis to a group of people in a way that challenges even history and the processes that align with it. Like events in spatiotemporal dynamics, it must be believed that with the strength of the mind or reason (logos) change can be initiated and balance restored.    

Logos: The Redefining of Self or Saving Man from Self through Reason

Back to the basis and basics of existence, the recourse to the resource of the mind remains indispensable in understanding how man should proceed in his complex life. Phenomenology provides an admirable point of view according to Merleau-Ponty: “Our view of man will remain superficial so long as we fail to go back to that origin [of silence], so long as we fail to find, beneath the chatter of words, the primordial silence, and as long as we do not describe the action which breaks this silence. The spoken gesture, and its meaning, a world.”

Rightfully, phenomenology triumphs because it is the only exercise that restores originality and authenticity. All other sciences, hard to soft, have been excellent in one way or another to open the sore in the stigmata of color, leaving man open to himself. Even if a socio-therapy should succeed, a phenomenological approach to this discipline shall be indispensable in making sense. This is the indisputable base from which to start after which other arguments may be built unto this foundation.

 Skin bleaching, though it refers to a single act of modifying one’s color, reveals a cry for a whole existence; one that has lost its center of gravity, and until this center is reached the periphery continues to revolve endlessly is wandering confusion.

The fall of communist socialism had made most people to undermine the ideas of Karl Marx while academic institutions are known to perpetuate to young learners, mainly the poor, ideas that never got accomplished. In fact, one of the key principles of Marx is his recognition of the fact the material processes – through the labor of man, contribute considerably in defining the mental structure of his existence. Man, estranged through capital becomes alienated from himself and from his own humanity. Without reigniting a fight against capital[ism], the black man, after all his discourse and awareness, shall be obliged to answer the ultimate question of his existence and means of survival through his work, creativity and the development of those instruments that have participated in his non-existence.

The ‘narrative has changed’ but only when that narrative takes charge of a social structural ‘narration’ whose final end is productive infrastructures that define and guide ongoing social narration will reason overcome the pathos of skin bleaching. 







Social Identity is a conceptual framework designed to create meaning, distinction and with the goal of strengthening the sense of belonging while promoting – mutual – growth. In this case, a tribe, a race or a nation gives a generic identity to an individual in which he defines himself.

Identity, it follows, is founded ironically on a simple principle: the identical. That is, he looks like me, thinks like me, has the same origin as me, understands me, can assist me [unconditionally?], he won’t hurt me, he looks familiar and would likely know why I act/think this way or that way without judging etc. What an individual sees in his race/tribe, he sees – most of the time, the opposite in others’. As such, identity becomes a comfort zone, crafted by society [structural] and individuals [psychological] to maintain those agreeable feelings of safety and belonging.

The socio-genesis of race and tribe is built on the same basis of primary emotions which connect a person to other members of the family. Between the structural and the psychological, there is a biological link which connects the two thereby making such bonds not only strong but sometimes – if not most of the times – irrational.

Three concepts come into play when the issue of tribe and race are concerned: culture (structural), (personal) psychological, and (blood) biological.

Culture imposes a set of values upon individuals in a given community. These values include but are not limited to the following: food, drinks, dance, language, dressing, etc. Being born into particular culture or race is not a choice. How an individual integrates those values that are set on him comes from his personal decision. However, because there is a belief that members who share a given identity are connected as a family – blood, the choices made usually turn in favor of sentiments rather than objective reasoning.

The concept of tribe is related to two others which share the same characteristics: clan and ethnic group. The first refers to a subgroup within a given tribe, generally smaller with closer connections while the second refers to an agglomeration of tribes that share common characteristics (language, food, dances etc.) and origin. Any case against tribalism applies to ethnic groupings as well as clans. The understanding of racism and tribalism appears to be at the heart of most of the major crisis that humanity has ever known. According to Niall Ferguson, renowned Harvard history professor, argued in Wars of the World, that the WWI and II were motivated by the expansion of empires and ethnic proclivity. It happened that such ethnic expansion coincided with race boundaries. Another heinous evil known to humanity is slavery which was linked to race.

Unraveling the problems related to tribalism and racism constitute a general approach in understanding what lies at the core of discrimination between groups of people which evidently is the cause of so many injustices and violence.

Social Identity: An Attribute or An Essence?

An attribute means to ascribe from its Latin derivative “ad tribuere” to ascribe. Because ascribe refers to certain characteristics that are assigned to an individual either by himself, society, or law are for the most part external, it constitute a transient phase with regard to its contingent nature and peripheral phase with regard to its superficiality.

Essence, on the contrary, is an intrinsic property that defines something/someone and without which it ceases to be what it is. An essence is also a substance or necessity and without this at thing or someone loses its identity.

James Watson is a Nobel Prize winner in biology for his contribution in the development of DNA and is one among thousands of intellectuals who believe that there is some essence in the issue of race when he stated that he was “inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa” because “all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours—whereas all the testing says not really.” It is a common belief that there is an intrinsic value unequally distributed among races which is the primary cause of poverty and riches, greatness or misery in a given people. But a close elucidation unveils a more intricate reality than public opinion would possibly admit.

If intelligence is an essence designating a value in the genes of individuals whose corollary characteristic is skin color, then it must be concluded that there is no human genus but many human genera. And because these genera differ in their intelligence, concepts of democracy, human rights, and justice they cannot be held to be universal. That leads ultimately to this premise: Universal Declarations of human rights become null. It cannot be expected for humans to practice universal values fundamental to humans when their essence and capacity of grasping these values do not match.

Admittedly, in an enjoyable assertion, it is said that the Kikuyus of Kenya are good business people while the Luo are book people [intelligent, lawyers, doctors etc.]. In Nigeria, the Igbo are associated with business and money, the Yoruba with education while the Hausas are seen as lousy, love power. In Cameroon, the Bamileke are stereotyped with money, northerners with low skilled jobs, Sawa as beautiful but lazy. Almost every tribe has a stereotype in Africa and they play an important role in shaping interactions and defining the patterns of cohabitation of peace or conflict. But it is not uncommon to find out that these are often based on isolated cases, poorly generalized, massively marketed at a discounted rate of coherence and truth since they ignore social trajectories that each group grow through in defining its self-preservation agenda.

For example, the Bamileke are associated with business and money but the richest man in Cameroon is an Anglophone from the north west province, Muslim, Aladji Danpollo [Cf. Jeune Afrique]; the Northerners in Nigeria are linked with power but most of the investments are done in the south [Lagos, Abudja] thereby benefiting most people of the south. The Igbos in Nigeria are mainly associated with business but the most acclaimed African writer who brought Africa to light was Chinua Achebe who is an Igbo. Even when it is believed in Nigeria that Fulani/Hausa are born to rule, the same tribe which constitute about 10% of the Cameroonian population doesn’t have those beliefs.

In fact, tribal stereotypes appear to be at the heart of most of the conflicts that are faced in African nations, breaks the bridge of trust while installing a hardware of misunderstanding and suspicion. But very little is done about it. Generally, it is believed that that is what those people are.

Racism comes with its own stereotypes and most people believe that some races are naturally made to have certain potentials: either intelligent or foolish, hard working or lazy, organized or disorganized, etc.

If the complex relations of tribalism and instinct cannot be conquered, then that of racism still has a long way to go. Such beliefs lead, naturally to the classification of races/tribes into a hierarchy.

Hierarchy? Structural Identity And Symbolic Violence

Each time a tribe/race is considered superior to another, symbolic violence is being normalized. Specific groups are known for attributing to themselves all the good qualities, while conferring to others all the negative ones thereby strengthening their position of feeling superior.

Tribal hierarchy, less discussed and admitted, is an ensuing argument of those who hold social identities as an essence. There is a common expression in Nigeria used by the Funali which corroborates this position: Fulani are “born to rule”, described by  Anyichiet Ochukwu in the Daily Trust as the born to rule syndrome in the Nigerian governing class, which according to him, is at the core of the governance problem in Nigeria. Of the thirteen presidents that have ruled Nigeria, it is no surprise that nine of them are from the greater North including the central belt. Taking into account the fact that Muhammadu Buhari has been president twice, this should actually sum up to ten against three for the southerners. It should be pointed that Nigeria officially become a democratic nation in 1999 under the fourth republic and since many northerners – perhaps due to less interest in education, entered the military, they consolidated their position under the long military dictatorship by taking turns in power. So, born to rule appears to be a forged concept acquired through might rather than right. It was a contingent reality, and does not designate a tribal substance inherent in the Fulani people or the northerners.

In Cameroon, the Douala and Sawa people usually feel superior to other tribes. This explains why most of them never liked to work in the plantations created by the whites in the early 1900s. For this reason, Bamilekes, from the South West migrated to this littoral region to work in these plantations where through careful savings and investments many of them finally became wealthy thereby developing their own superiority complex.

In Rwanda, the Belgians had propagated a myth of tribal/ethnic superiority of the Tutsis because they had a lighter skin color, are tall, had greater social order and were more like Europeans compared to the Hutsi counterparts. Although there had existed a social order which classified the Tutsis as superior because they were of divine origin and the natural elite who brought civilization to Rwanda, the Germans who first colonized the territory never emphasized on it nor enforced it.

From the 1950s, the racial identities – which is actually ethnic, were institutionalized. This led to the progressive subjugation of the Hutsi whose revolt culminated in the 1994 genocide that resulted in close to a million Tutsis deaths thereby reducing the percentage of the group from 24% to 14%: an epic attempt of ethnic cleansing built on the edifice of crafted illusion. The ramification of this war includes the Burundian genocide [1972-1993] and the first [1996-1997] and second [1998-2003] Congo Wars.

What makes a tribe/ethnic group superior? In most cases, it is through the acquisition of things of power like arms, wealth, intelligence, organized systems, and success in all its forms. But also skin color as in the case of Rwanda. Because a lighter skin is believed to be superior, myths are created to conform to such realities in order to consolidate these comfort zones.

These arguments on hierarchy among tribes illustrate that contingent realities always influence the way a group of people see themselves and the way they expect others to see them. Do these differences really matter in the lives of people?

When millions of people are killed with impunity under the pretext of tribe/ethnic group, it becomes evident that even more would lose jobs, suffer corruption, and other unfair treatment because they do not belong to the same tribe/ethnic group as the other person. This explains why intertribal marriages have always been seen with suspicion by most African tribes.

Racial hierarchy remains a credo that has lasted for centuries and holds a privileged place in the subconscious minds of many people. In an – almost – exhaustive account of race/racism and hierarchy, Dr. Steven Nur Ahmed points out in A particular Line of reasoning: How Plato and Aristotle fashioned our concept of race, that it is a “2,400 year old downward spiral in relation to the quality of human reasoning…” Racial hierarchy, based on skin color placed the white race at the top, blacks at the bottom and all the others in the midway.

The consequences of such classifications are far-reaching that even the organization of modern societies find it too complex and nearly impossible to do away with it.

Old Primitive Emotions In A New Rationality: Modern States

It is an old psychological joke that all children believe that their dad is the most handsome, hardworking and greatest man alive. Even when bullied by the a mighty soldier, he rushes to his dad who, most of the time, is as helpless as other people but thanks to his old age has learnt to beg for his survival through tolerance and dialogue – values which would restores the child’s confidence in him.

Family attachments are based on such sentiments and by blood even when the values claimed to be practiced therein may not really be there. This connection outreaches to extended members of the family which finally becomes a clan, a tribe, or an ethnic group. These closed societies hold to their illusion of self and social identity and are almost autonomous in most cases with regards to legislation, territory, and administration. This is the old order which can also be called the primitive order.

The emergence of modern states brought in another reality that would shake tribal logic to its core – citizenry. Being a citizen of a country means you must accept all others not as members of other tribes, clans or ethnic groups but simply because they are citizens. It is a new rationality because tribe must never come before the nation. National identity through respect of the law must outshine traditional attachment.

In practice, this new rationality often carries with it relics of its old self thereby threatening the wellbeing of the State and that of all its citizens. In Cameroon, there are about 250 tribes, in Nigeria about 300 and over 100 tribes in Angola. As a result, most African states are constituted of multiple tribes and government workers are called to relate to everyone as equal without prejudice to origin or tribe. Regrettably, the old enemy reappears in a new form in these institutions. Public administration is used by those to power to further defend the interests of a particular tribe.

In the West, most nations were formed along tribal lines, or almost so. Coupled with a long history of nation building, they’ve learned to live with others’ differences but the biological aspect of race has never disappeared. That is what led to the racial and ethnic tension of the early 1900s which later became the world wars.

There is nothing as self-evident as the equality of man and there is nothing as frustrating as his desire to distinguish/classify himself as a special being within the same species. The Declaration of Independence, 4th of July 1776, made it clear: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” After 168 years, the same formulation appeared in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.” Both texts pioneered by the United States of America, whose constitution upholds racial superiority, perhaps never considered blacks as humans since they were officially segregated till 1963. In fact, they never stopped slavery, segregation, and modern day discrimination.

Racity/Tribality Against Racism/Tribalism: When Nominal Coherence Meets the Frontiers of Practical Unpredictability

In principle, it is only normal for people who share common threads to live together. It is good for a Muslim to be happy to be around other Muslims and for Indians to love Indian restaurants; Bulu people to love cassava and peanut butter; Hausa to love those who look like them and Hispanics to love Hispanic music. It is normal also for whites to love their own people and normal for blacks to love blacks. This is raciality/trability.

While it is normal to like the things from your tribe and the people from your race, it becomes extremely difficult to draw the line where one must stop from conferring undeserved privileges to those who look like us while refusing from others who truly deserve our attention. Here, good judgement and law are jeopardized while emotions are being instrumentalized.

But living within one’s comfort zone and establishing the limits where it becomes a crime seems complex in daily life. When discrimination is committed against a member of another community, it is easy to justify it because they are no emotional attachments involved. On the contrary, there are always laws and public support in favor of the actions of some against others. Such exploitation of circumstances occur especially when a dominant tribe control power (Bulu in Cameroon) or when a given race assumes the rule of autochthony (Whites in the United States of America).

During civil unrests in Cameroon, the military is usually deployed from the Northern Province, who are usually the Hausas and Fulani. And because they have no emotional connection with people from the south, their oppression of any civil unrest is usually cruel and effective. The same strategy is used in the deployment of troops around the country. From an individual perspective, a Nigerian soldier had confessed how she killed rebels in South Sudan without any sympathy but her heart melts when she hears the victim mourn in a language familiar to her.

Does such reactions make sense when we compare the way in which Whites kill Blacks in the USA? Actually, there is usually no compassion because it is the pain is in others.

What the West finds inadmissible about World War I and II is the fact the white man administered to those who looked like them acts which were reserved for others. It only makes sense that the UNO, NATO and related bodies were created after that with the primary reason to prevent war from occurring among these nations. And what about nations in Africa, South America, Middle East and Asia? “They should take care of themselves…”

The Veneration of Illusion Versus Disgust of Reality: Redefining Identity

Social identity, racial or tribal, when put on the crucible of pure reason – objectivity, shreds all frontiers and pulls downs permanently without appeal all curtains behind which all humans hide. The final verdict is that humans are one. But why is this self-evident reality accepted with disgust and often rejected in daily life? The reason is simple: humans venerate illusion, because in it, they find their comfort zone. When such comforts zones don’t suffice others are immediately created: rites, gods, myths, etc. Fear is the god-father of illusions while incertitude is the mother delusion.

The Banso people from the grass field North West region of Cameroon love their tribe, their culture and tradition particularly their food and dance. Fufu and vegetables constitute their staple. But they often forget that Fufu is made of corn which was brought by the whites and replaced the local cereal. The same goes for Kabah, a gown worn by most women in Cameroon including the Banso which they believe is part of their culture. However, these dress styles came in as a reaction of astonished whites who, in front of naked ladies, decided to give them pieces of cloths to wrap around their breasts and down the thighs. It becomes clear that behind every culture is just an illusion which people venerate, a contingent aspect which happened at a given time and possibly will disappear.

Race is just a color, but regrettably happens to play one of the most important roles in peoples’ lives at times more than intelligence and hard work would.

On the one hand people claim everyone is the same, but on other hand each individual wants to remain in his/her own comfort zone.

Breaking barriers: Between Tension and Peace.

Social identity, as mentioned earlier, is an “artificial fortress”, comfort zone, crafted by a people as a means to promote their self-preservation, deter others from their influence – which they assume is mostly negative while integrating – reluctantly the positive ones. As such, these identity barriers become almost rigid over decades thereby becoming very difficult to break or cross. When a people integrate into another society there is usually the fear that they’ll lose their identity. It is due to the belief that social identity constitutes an essence which must not be diluted with another. However, these barriers get broken sometimes and there are ways to do so. During times of peace, the most prominent way is through marriage, trade or through politics (imposing laws on integration on racial and tribal diversity). In times of tension, barriers are broken through war [domination] or through consensus [mutual respect].

Marriage is one of the main ways in which barriers are broken between tribes and races. It is no doubt that it was forbidden from blacks to get married to white women before 1969. Even till today, it is still considered a taboo. Most Indians don’t marry out of their tribe. In Africa, most tribes prefer to marry within the same tribe or closer ones, although recent mobility of people and means of survival have put these convictions in check.

Trade between people or communities is another means through which a people increase their respectability and interact with others easily. With the increase in purchasing power of the Chinese, many whites find it great to marry a Chinese girl. And unless the purchasing power, defined by trade, of the black community increases considerably, their interaction with other established communities will be seen as a liability.

Many governments interfere to enforce integration of tribes and races. In Cameroon, there is a particular percentage from each major ethnic group to enter into public administration [regional integration quota, presidential decree n° 75/496 of a3th July 1975, decree n° 82/407 of 7th September 1982 and decree n°2000/696/PM of 13 septembre 2000].

In the USA, Executive Order 13583, 18th of August 2011, was signed and aimed at establishing a coordinated government-wide diversity and inclusion in the federal goverment. These regulations might meet challenges in their application but nevertheless illustrate the desire to cross barriers that seem so difficult to break.

Failure to break these barriers could lead to either a stalemate or conflict. That is, two communities which refuse to interact, or which are at war with each other. The multiple conflicts around Africa always have a tribal link and mentioned above.

Identity-Effect Versus Effects of Identity

Identity-effect is a reductionist analysis where every aspect of a person’s life is interpreted either only or mainly in relation to the identity s/he incarnates. It is a position characteristic of those who have reduced their rational faculties to be as narrow as such identity permits.

When Kenyans win in long distance running – like they usually do, arguments are quickly fabricated to show how race and genes are related to their success. No one attributes hard work and perseverance. Admittedly, if whites had won such titles, it could have been said that it is because they are disciplined and hard working. Jon Entine went as far as stating that “runners of west Africa are the fastest humans on earth.” He also referred to Bengt Saltin, the director of the Copenhagen Muscle Institute who said: “an athlete’s environment accounts for no more than 20-25% of athletic ability. The rest comes down to the roll of the genetic dice – with each population group having distinct advantages. In other words, running success is ‘in the genes.’

Here are the facts, athletic achievements, like success of all kind, is a bio-cultural phenomenon.”[cf. The DNA Olympics – Jamaicans win sprinting ‘genetic lottery’ – and why we should all care]. It is the same pattern of arguments that claimed that blacks have low IQ, that they don’t have sufficient intellectual capabilities as others. Conversely, this assertion in 2012 only shows that all the success of the white person is due to some inherent value, an essence which defines his existence. Therefore, only justifiable.

It follows that the identity-effect is not only reductionist but also a symbolic crime because it lays down the conceptual framework upon which injustice and discrimination would be built.

These arguments hold true for tribes as well. When a Luo in Kenya is excellent in medicine or law, he believes it is because they are made to be intelligent, to be scholars contrary to their tribal counterparts, the kikuyus who are business people. Such claims are truer when it comes to the white race who are believed to be intelligent, smart and orderly. When a white person discovers something new, it is seen as a normal achievement but if a person of color does the same it becomes strange. Niel deGrasse Tyson, the renowned New York astrophysicist had explained several times how he was discouraged by his teachers from doing the sciences but to focus on sports like all other black kids. Today, he is known as a great astrophysicist accredited in demoting Plato from the list of nine stars.

The identity-effect creates an enemy in society which then becomes the list of stereotypes lived as the effects of identity. In other words, the effects of identity are resultant acts from assumptions constantly made on people because they look in a particular way or because they are from a given tribe. Consequently, identity-effect and effects of identity are two sides of the same evil.

Humanity, plurality and respectability: At what cost?

With about 3000 tribes in Africa and about four races in the world, it is more evident than ever that plurality is not only the destiny of man but his nature. About 20 million Africans underwent slave trade due to skin color and tribal division, WW I and II lost the lives of about 100 million people. The Jewish genocide and Jewish pogroms cost the lives of at least 10 million Jews before they were finally accepted and respected – to some extent. Given all the division in the world, mostly related to tribe/ethnic group and race, how many more people must be sacrificed in order for humanity to come to the understanding that there is need to be one, and to live in peace, respectfully loving one another?

The contemporary world is vertical and there is more into play than race and tribe notably economy, diplomacy, environment etc. Luckily, humans live in an age where through intelligence and creativity, appropriate measures can be taken to solve the world’s most difficult enigma – division. Regrettably, division appears to be the factor the fuels the pride, happiness and riches of some people.

With all the good laws that have been made, man is left to himself and to his community to design patterns of sustainability that will ensure his survival and respectability in the modern context. The globalization of problems, the mutualization of competences, necessary interdependence of societies and the ultimate democratization of technology shall expose man to himself and to the world on the altar of a new fraternity called civility whose stronghold is the state. And this is not a project of a society, it is a project of humanity; it is its history and destiny.

Has man ever been friendly to fellow man?

When he claims his freedom, the other becomes a subject.

When he canonizes himself as just, the other is demonized as a suspect.

When he assumes he is cultured, the other is marketed as barbarian.

When he decides to believe, the other is stigmatized as a pagan.

When he proclaims himself as civilized, the other is diagnosed as primitive.

When he defines truth, the other is advertised as an imposture, heretic.

When he chooses the vocabulary, the other is decreed as ignorant.

When he defines value, the other is asked to accept existential bankruptcy.

When he defines law, the other is damned as a lawless law breaker.

When he defines beauty, the other’s is mocked as a caricature of aesthetic jargon.

When he defines culture, the other’s is slammed as a useless fabric of no value.

When he defines the exclusive we, the other is marked as the exclusive they.

Has man ever been friendly to fellow man?

[Ultimate wisdom Code I, p. 232]




Two important edifices exist in Cameroon which define, to a great extent, the whole sociological architecture of the country – the cathedral and the presidency. The first is found at the center and like the force of gravity pulls all other things around it as a God and keeper of the nation. While the second, found about three miles away, constitutes the concentration of all the political forces that supposedly hold the nation together. But there are not two centers of gravity. In reality, despite the fact that the two operate in theory as separate entities, they constitute a continuum of harmonized inter-dependency linked together by a slippery tangent called control – or in its popular usage, power.

Head of the Black Church

The cathedral, epicenter of the Catholic Church in Cameroon under the Archbishop on Yaounde, sets the tone for religious policy with regards to its relation to the State as well as the population. The presidency, on the other hand, is the heart of politics, residence of the president where he dictates the political climate. By understanding how both structures function, it is possible to know how the country operates. When Yaounde is breathing, Cameroon is alive remains a popular expression demonstrating the paramount role of the nation’s capital.

However, despite the fact that these are important institutions, it should be mentioned that the most important part is what lies between the presidency and the cathedral – the people. Their fate remains suspended and trapped in a system where rules have been displaced from the traditional settings in favor of dubious practices.   So, by illustrating the constitutive nature of power in these structures 1.) It shall be possible to elaborate on how they enhance the exclusion of the people and 2.) It shall be possible to elaborate on how they thereby produce a strange outcome of exchange of competences to the detriment of the public.

  1. Mutually exclusive poles in a mutually constitutive power anatomy

In the preamble of the Constitution of Cameroon 2008, it is specified that “the State shall be circular. The neutrality of the State in respect to all religions shall be guaranteed.” This proviso has become a characteristic of most modern States since their origin of 16th Century divorce from medieval monolithic religious societies, kingdoms and monarchies. With the exception of a few States which are defined essentially by religion [Vatican, Saudi Arabia and to some extent Israel], most modern States, in order to fulfil this post medieval ideal usually define themselves as secular, even when in practice things may not be as simple.

Islam and Christianity are the main monotheistic religions of Cameroon. Nominally, approximately 70% of Cameroonians are Christians, of which about 38% are Catholics, while about 20% are Muslims. Because the Catholic Church is the main centralized religious body in Cameroon, semantically and technically, it is the main body that appears to have some direct and continuous ties with government authorities, at all levels. It should be added that the president, Paul Barthelemy Biya Bi Mvondo, who has been in power for 33 years, is also a catholic. He had been in the Catholic seminary before being dismissed in the early years, of his studies. His father, Etienne Mvondo Assam, was a catechist by profession for the same institution.

Given that the president is a Catholic, it is easy for him to maintain close ties with the main centralized religious organ in Cameroon which would serve him both politically and religiously

But why talk about the religion of the president? Eric Mathias Owona describes the presidential regime as pontifical and in some cases as a principality. In a presidential republic and pontificate State, where the president rules ad vitam, his personal choices resonates a vertical influence over his government as well as a collegial complicity with leaders of the religion of his choice.

The collegial complicity with leaders of religion enables him to exert institutional control over the people through indirect religious hypnosis thereby consolidating the authoritarian democracy. Or, should this be called an authoritarian dictatorship? In principle, the success of assembling, in a deconstructive way, judicial-legislative resources to conform to executive wishes may give the understanding that it is an authoritarian democracy. In practice, however, by taking into consideration that the president governs by decree and exerts tremendous control over all governmental institutions, the regime is more of an authoritarian dictatorship perhaps of a modern style.

As a result, we end up with just the belief that State and religion are separate as stipulated by the constitution. But in practice, they constitute a simple continuum of influence over the population where triggers can be generated either at political or religious levels to produce the same effect.

Divide and rule is a common strategy of control but in an authoritarian system unifying power structures can  be just as effective. But the worst part is when these structures don’t benefit the population they are constitutionally bound to serve.


  1. Dynamics of concerted exclusion of a frustrated populace

Three miles separate from the cathedral is the presidency in the metropolitan city of Yaounde. The cathedral where the archbishop presides his religious ceremonies is technically open but semantically closed. That is, it has just a few physical barriers to deter wanderers but everyone is welcome to enter and pray. One door of the cathedral is usually open, and in most hours of the morning and evening most of the doors are open for other religious services and those who wish to pray to their God: “let the children come to me, for unto these belong the kingdom of heaven” (Mat 19:14).

With a poverty level of almost 40% (2007), most of those who come to Church are around the poverty line. The Church welcomes them with phrases like “blessed are the poor…” and “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35). In practice, those who go to Church always hope to please God while thinking that their temporal situation will be made better here on earth. And rightfully so, they pray, offer tithes, and pay dues – which in the archdiocese of Yaoundé was recently increased in order to meet charges that were not properly defined.

Regrettably, a considerable amount of monetary contributions that are made to the Church do not serve the purpose for which it has given. In July 2013, amidst the greatest corruption scandal in recent Cameroon Church history, the Archbishop was forced by the Vatican to resign in the hope of restoring the hope of the people in its failing hierarchy.

In such a complex situation where Christians do not feel that the Church is advancing their welfare, most turn to the State for comfort. It should be mentioned that most of those who come to church have already been discouraged by the strong presidential regime and weak government.  Again, with another disappointment from the Church, they turn to the State and one of the closest structures is the presidency of the Republic.

However, access to the presidency is virtually impossible. Despite its closeness, it is heavily guarded by the GP (Guard Presidentielle) including a big fence. In this case, it is technically closed but semantically open. That is, in theory, the public is made to believe that the authorities of the nation are there for the public, to listen to them and to address their difficulties. But this is far from reality. The president is almost absent from all national life, with only sporadic appearances on national Television to read a speech to a public he doesn’t know. There is a real disconnection between the people and its authorities.

As a result, the little distance which separates the presidency and the Cathedral appears, evidently, to be the nature of what separates the Cameroonian populace from the power structures which need to promote their welfare. Consequently, like rebounds of a non-reward psychological mechanism, the people turn back unto themselves, frustrated, without trust in themselves, nor in the church or in the government. This is evident by the life of duplicity in which most people become attuned: going to church without any intention to be a better person or living in a nation without a desire to serve it honestly. Corruption, as an endemic crisis in Cameroon can be deduced from the mechanism of suspended misery: neither in “God” [Church] nor in the government do they find solace [position 136 on 174 countries, with a score of 27 on 100]. This gets even deeper – citizens grow to lose trust in one another thereby threatening social cohesion and growth. All these are visible in the lane separating the cathedral from the presidency. Despite the fact that both poles concentrate wealth and comfort, this lane is full of jobless people who wander along the streets; others standing on the road side with their tools while hoping to get hired by someone to do a temporary job or those illegally subcontracting government services to citizens who duly deserve them. It is also a lane of insecurity, vulnerability and despair – just the symbol of the country as a whole.

The perpetual rule of the centralized government of Cameroon which is the cause of this social disequilibrium has created another system which has not been sufficiently explored. It is the fact that political power governs with religious authority while religious power rules with political power. It is a strange power structure not before seen in many countries and where the citizens end up – as always – in suspended misery.

  • Sociopolitical exchange of roles: the intercourse between religious and political power

At the heart of social despair is an economic problem rooted in misappropriation of roles both in the religious milieu as well as in the political sector. The classical roles generally attributed to the State do not necessarily hold true for the State of Cameroon nor  for the Church. Below is a table which summarizes how the State governs with religious principles while the Church has been ruling using political strategy.

Religion [epicenter –  cathedral] Politics [epicenter – the presidency]
1. Theology of the present [joy and happiness are hear] 1. Politics of the future [perpetual wait for change in the future]
2. Power is politically charged, elected 2. Power is religious and mystical: “Power comes from above”
3. Faults, errors are sanctioned 3. Corruptions, crimes are pardoned
4. The divine becomes man incarnate 4. Man becomes the divine [perpetual rule]
5. Power decentralized [independent management of dioceses] 5. Power centralized [authoritarian dictatorship]
6. Uses reason, rationality 6. Applies more and more faith, belief and blind truth
7. Motion of disagreement [encourage the good ones to stay and the bad ones to go] 7. Motion of support [support the perpetual ruler to rule even longer]
8. People play the role of citizens, and practice boycott 8. People play the role of ‘faithful’ and in most cases forbidden to strike
9. People learn to claim their rights 9. Political practice is ruled by rites
10. God more and more absent 10. God more and more present
11. Money more and more present 11. Money more and more absent
12. Policy analysts and strategists consulted 12. Prophets, kings and mystiques involved
13. Defined mandates well respected 13. Perpetual mandate
14. Governs by dogma (just belief) 14. Governs by decree (just listen and apply)
15. Leaders forced to resign 15. Leaders made to stay in power ad vitam [gerontocracy]


As illustrated in the above, the population has been made to accept inadmissible political practices where the executive leader is vested with an unlimited mandate for the presidency. Like a pontiff, he rules unilaterally over all other institutions which he has crafted to conform to his personal standards. This happens in a context where the archbishop resigned due to accusations of mismanagement of funds or the case of Pope Benedict XVI who resigned from an office which is supposedly made to be held for life. It is not uncommon to find corrupt leaders who get promoted and get rewarded with better appointments in the Biya regime.

Can this scenario explain the social and economic inertia of the country? Certainly, to a great extent. When political mobility is uncertain and religious credibility overthrown, it follows that the economic fluidity experienced by the public under the State of law would be jeopardized and at worst remain in misery.

Unlocking the infinite potentials of a nation cannot be done in a locked governmental system. A system that knows no variability. Neither can it grow in a religious context that has learned to survive with ruse, using political strategies while relegating religious protocols strictly to altar services. If change is the essence of society, then the government is criminal while the Church is complicit in its practice as they exploit a population that is ignorant of its own misery.


Camaroon 1

In 1884 I was colonized by the Germans who, with a reign of brutality, created plantations that served the citizens of their homeland. This was part of a sharing deal of Africa by the European countries.

During the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, France along with its allies won and I was again colonized by the French whose rule was characterized by duplicity and exploitation.

About 10% of my territory [north, west, south, and west] was under the British rule that, through indirect administration, showed little interest in the region.

From 1914-1960, French rule dominated my territory. The France made French the official language while English was made the official language of the portion it controlled.

For half a century, those two nations, skilled in the art of exploitation, taught a small group of my people how to manage an administration using the skills taught to them by the west while expanding the cocoa, banana, and coffee plantations left by the Germany.

The selected few who assisted the colonizers had a fragmented education and had never been the real rulers of my people. The colonizers worked in collaboration with their missionaries whose primary tool was the Christian religion. They indoctrinated my people in the art of submission, and blind faith in the absence of reasoning. Parallel to that the colonizers defined new rules while criminalizing most traditional values.                                    

While wondering why my people had been so vulnerable, I took delight in those who had the courage to fight for independence so that my name could be restored to its honorable state. As such, in 1960, I got my independence and my people were joyful to be liberated from the masters whose rule had demonstrated with clarity that it served primarily the interests of the colonizer.

camaroon 4

My first president Ahmadou Ahidjo, a young man known for his courage and ambitious moves, instituted a one party system: the Cameroon National Party, a practice which was common among my fellow states.

With the objective to unify a territory with almost 250 ethnic groups, one party seemed to be the best way to harmonize a heterogeneous social landscape, and the public administration played a great role in this integration. 

By 1982, Ahmadou Ahidjo resigned and assigned Paul Biya as the successor. A decade later, a wave of democratization was sweeping across many nations and I was not excluded. But despite many constitutional reforms designed to conform to democratic principles, Paul Biya is still in power, thereby making me, Cameroon, a new pontificate State, or more correctly a democratic caliphate where power is being concentrated disproportionately at the top and uprooted at the bottom.

The result of this is the destruction of the dream that my people had. Freeing themselves from their former colonial masters has led them into the snares of new masters who continue not only to neglect their own welfare but remain loyal to those former patrons who continue to exploit them using the present leaders – the comprador bureaucracy.

It is this system of bureaucracy that has led to the corruption of the idea of independence. Allegiance is still paid to the former colonial master who takes pride in the misery of my people to create a good name through dependence on charity, international aide, an activity already criminalized in its conception, execution, and evaluation.

Although I have been patient and in pain waiting for my people to grow in maturity, I have realized that I am running out of time and out of patience. I had said to myself that they had to make errors and learn from their mistakes but, regrettably, these mistakes seem to be normalized, internalized, and even institutionalized in some cases.

For example, the modification of the constitution in 2008 removed limitation to presidential mandates thereby giving the present caliph, who is already 81 years of age, the possibility to run for office again in 2018. That modification despite that fact he has a record of unmatched mediocrity in the domain of governance and economy.

To sustain such unconventional norms, intellectuals have been bought off or skillfully eliminated in order to limit critics. While journalists have been killed, and others driven into exile, the opposition has been carefully weakened thus leaving only the president to appear to be the most capable political man under the circumstances.

This patrimonial rule, rooted in a tradition of uncontested authority, pride, non discursive deliberations and inevitable corruption, puts me in a situation of paralysis where I remain immobile, angry, sad, frustrated, morose, and jealous. I feel that way especially when I see my brothers of the same age making progress: Indonesia, China, Dubai, Thailand, Brazil etc.

But then, I have always held that society always corrects itself. In fact, many other societies have corrected their past errors and have made progress and left their bad ways aside. With time and patience running against me, I have found this situation a little different and slow. When I question the fundamental nature of man, I see that it is one, and such a premise leads me to the conclusion that the processes shall be certainly different but the result shall be the same: change in favor of fellow man and society.

Camaroon 3

Before being optimistic, I have always reminded myself that it is still dark, and that the situation remains scary especially with regard to the urgency of the situation. For example; when agriculture flourished in the 70s, I remember officials from South Korea who came to visit my leaders to learn how they could make similar triumphs. But in a few years, South Korea had made progress in all domains of life while my own people languish under the ambush a deceitful rule. I feel betrayed.

While the per capita GDP of a South Korean is about $30.000.00 a year, that of my citizens is barely $1,300.00. But I have been generous enough. Although I have a vast territory with about 13% arable land of which just 2% is in active exploitation, my people still import almost 400,000 tons of rice at the cost of about $200 million.

Camaroon 2


My kindness has been boundless to my people, besides tolerance, I have given them gold, diamond, cobalt, aluminum, oil, bauxite, nickel, retile just to name a few. What my brothers and sisters in Japan have only up to 10%, I have them all in abundance. But it is not serving the best interest of my people. So, I have decided to keep my promise. These resources shall remain in my good earth, but if leaders don’t change their ways, they shall remain in servitude due to their own ignorance, greed, and injustice.

I am Cameroon, presently in a paradox;

A big nation with small realizations;

Many resources but little to show for it;

Too many intellectuals but few productions;

Fertile fields but hungry citizens;

Consume what I don’t produce but produce what I don’t consume;

Good laws but unjust application;