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Five Endearing Lessons from the Egyptian Revolution Indispensable to a Cameroonian styled liberation – Part 1. By Lambert Mbom


Cameroon is not Egypt in so many ways. One of these ways is evident in the history of Egypt vs. Cameroon soccer debacle which shows a dominance of the pharaohs over the now “domitable” lions. In 2006, the pharaohs of Egypt prevented the lions of Cameroon from clinching a berth at the World Cup. Then in 2008 they beat Cameroon at the African Nations’ Cup finals; a feat they repeated in 2010. The Lions must now ride on the shoulders of the Pharaohs.

Egypt’s recent classical epic in political change provides lessons that political pundits will be busy with for a long time. One could point to five pillars from Egypt’s newly constructed political pyramid, which one could loosely recommend as a recipe for any meaningful political change such as the momentous one that unfolded before our eyes. Propitious timing, Youthful exuberance, social media tools, planning and the daredevil cum resilient spirit are the hinges around which the revolution rotated.

Opportune Moment:
My supervisors have often asked me whether it is better just to get the work done or to get the work done on time. The concept of selling after the market, which translates, to coming to the market when it is closed, captures the point.

The ingredients for the Egyptian uprising include a crippling unemployment rate especially among the youth and a suffocating economy with a few rich growing richer and the majority of the poor scavenging and scouring for their daily bread. As someone once remarked, Egyptians no longer prayed for their daily bread but in fact prayed: Give us today. Bread became a luxury.

Political frustration loomed large with a brutal dictatorship that for 360 months repressed Egyptians to depressive levels. With no plans afoot to effect meaningful change and the stage rather being set for a Mubarakian dynasty with the son as heir to the throne, the time had come for Egyptians to take back their lives. These souped up the necessity for change. Egyptians had been stretched to breaking point.

In a recent interview with Cameroonian Presidential wannabe, Dr Christopher Fomunyoh, he talked about the “tipping point” noting that many African countries often miss to take advantage of the tipping point.

Egypt had undoubtedly reached its tipping point. Egyptians had come to the point when they simply said enough is enough. It is the point that stokes love of change to levels of paroxysm. Their anger had morphed into rage. The engine had been gathering steam and like the space shuttle, countdown was already in session. The Tunisian revolt provided the example and requisite catalyst.

It is significantly revealing that Muslims with such huge doses of stoicism broke out of their cocoons and are making history with the revolutionary fervor.

Cameroon missed its opportunity in 1992 with the power to the people wave; again in 2008 with those strikes. Cameroon it would seem has another opportunity in 2011. Calls for “Biya must go” made the rounds online and failed to be translated into reality on the grounds. There are many reasons for this but one that I find compelling is in the following analysis a fellow alumnus made on one of our online fora:

Our families and friends back home are suffering but they are not yet desperate. They want political change but they can still eat, chase skirts at random, consume beer, whiskey, champagne and worst of all…Western Union and Moneygram transactions are helping to ease life back home. We all know that desperate situations call for desperate actions and to me, there is suffering in Cameroon but the people are not yet desperate because there are still too many distractions. If you take away some of those things that make them forget the “temporary” suffering, believe me they will react differently. In Cameroon it is all about instant gratification and people do NOT even want to think about the concrete stuff which will engender and perpetuate a better society.

Cameroon might share with Egypt hegemonic dictatorship of a ruthless despot 28 years and counting but with those bars, “circuits” still in business and thriving, change remains a pie in the sky. Anger, frustration and desperation have not reached boiling pots and the desired deluge is delusional at best.

Or could it rather be that Cameroonians are just simply peace mongers? I find it very hard to make this claim and would rather contend that we are bunch of cowards and toothless bull dogs ranting under our pillows and talking to ourselves.

Riding on the tidal waves of the Egyptian blitzkrieg is mandatory if meaningful change in Cameroon to cease being a dream Cameroonians only pay lip service to. The wind of change blowing from the North should not pass us by.

Should Cameroonians wait until elections when the seeds will be ripe or do we strike now with the raging tidal wave is a dilemma we need to consult the national witchdoctor to unravel. Cameroonians must read the signs of the times and join the train before it leaves the stations. Is this not the endearing lesson of the saying:let the dead bury the dead?

Youth in Transition:
That the Egyptian revolution was a skillful mastermind of the youth of Egypt is unquestionable. As to who a youth is, depends on whom you are talking to. I am reminded of my 59 years’ old friend who takes offence at me when I remind him, he will soon be a senior citizen at 60. “I’m young,” he charges back.

When in our teens, we often craved after the stentorian voice, hairy chin and chest as proof we are aging. We longed for the time we will be 30 and 40. Now in our “tees”, we do all in our power to look young from birth certificate mutations, through hair growing and hair darkening gels to name but these. Little wonder then that society constantly fights to push up the age of youthfulness. Some of us have aged and instead of leveraging childlikeness are painfully stuck on childish ways and so there is some truth to the fact that we have become a nation of “overgrown babies.”

No matter where you fall, one thing is clear: the bunch of old vanguards with the responsibility of managing state business have institutionalized lunacy and senility as the order of business. Fifty years post independence, Cameroonian politicians and leaders have successfully shut young people out. One will not be wrong to surmise there has been in place a systematic process of brainwashing.

Have we not heard that age is just a number and youthfulness is a quality of the mind? Ask any woman how old she is and if you get a straight answer then you are lucky.

From here, it became fashionable to hear eligible retirees shout that today’s youths are tomorrow’s leaders while at the same time maintaining that procrastination is the thief of time. How to reconcile this with the charge to “make hay while the sun shines” is just mind-boggling.

The third step in this massive fraud by fraudulent leaders is their of the magic formula of respect for elders. This culture so jealously guarded served as a smokescreen. Hence, any attempt to question the system is viewed as insubordination and such an individual tagged as disrespectful. It is an abomination for a young person to question the workings of the system given that the young are only to be seen and never heard.

Then the annoying issue of experience that has left many underemployed or unemployed. How often have we been told that what an old man can see seating down, a young man on top of the highest mountains cannot. Blindly, we have been led down one dark alley and today are on the cusp of a disaster.

Another sorry tale is in the “first come, first serve” principle which became standard practice at parties. One imagined that the old given their supposed measured appetites would think of those coming after them and eat with respect. This was not the case as they descended with rapacious and gluttonous appetites that by the time the young people get to the table, the waiters are already cleaning the dishes with no crumbs even.

Cameroonian youth rightfully respected their leaders keeping quiet and shying away from holding their feet to the fire. We have let them eat first and they have proven beyond any shadow of doubt that they are “chop broke pot.” Sworn to depleting the treasury, these diaper-wearing politicians marked out politics as the exclusive turf for the old “retired or retiring.” Cameroon like most African countries is under the spell of the “cult of the old” bent on robbing the young of any future.

Many cringe at drawing examples especially in politics from Western democracies that are at the source of most of the woes of the African system. Current US Vice President, Joe Biden became Senator at the age of 29. This was in 1972. Imagine the gerontocrats in Africa at the beck and call of 45 years’ old David Cameron of the UK, 46 years’ old Medvedev of Russia, 50 years’ old President Barack Obama of the US, and 56 years’ old Sarkozy of France. How old is the youngest minister in Cameroon and how young is the oldest Cameroonian minister? The average age of Cameroonian ministers is sadly above the retirement age in Cameroon.

The revolution in Egypt was micromanaged by an exuberant youthful population under the inspiration aegis of Wael Ghonim, 30 years old Google exec and father of two children. The self-immolation by the 27 year old Tunisian Bouazizi, the graduate vegetable seller set off the revolution. In Fareed Zakaria’s words, “The central, underlying feature of the Middle East’s crisis is a massive youth bulge.” The question in the Cameroonian setting is then who is our own Ghonim? At 30, I must personally confess that I was so strung to my parents’ apron strings with no signs of being weaned in sight. Given the preceding circumstances, it is difficult to say any would rise up.

Permit me highlight here two other problems with Cameroonian youth. We live under the spell of the “bush falling syndrome.” The grass looks greener outside the fence and I am guilty of this myself. The reigning philosophy is that change can and will only come from outside. This is why the lines at European and US embassies continue to be long. We have become a bunch of cowards who have surrendered our destiny to a bunch of monsters.

It has not always been this way. The heydays of the famous “Parlement” of then University of Yaounde most of whose leaders are today crying wolf from Europe and America; the students’ union of the university of Buea that has been anathematized and in its place God knows what, a bunch of timid hand clappers and praise singers enthroned. Well with the history of recriminations and deaths in the university community, a true culture of education has finally been imbibed where graduation at all cost is supreme even with the soaring rate of unemployment.

The time has come when like the biblical prodigal son we the youth must wake up and make a demand of our own share of the inheritance. We must take the lead or perish.

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