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5 Feb

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

I wish Cameroonians were as united and had solidarity for their fellow citizens the way they do when the national football team is playing. If we can share the joys of sports together, so then must we also share in the pain of our fellow citizens whose rights and freedoms are being abused with impunity.Now that the trophy has been won, I hope our dire political crisis wouldn’t be relegated to the shadows of victory celebrations. An intelligent leadership will seize this opportunity to grant clemency to political prisoners and announce national reconciliation and lasting reforms to our national identity and constitutional crisis.

The Struggle Continues



Meet the Cameroonian Afropeans and their Disappearing Acts at London 2012

8 Aug

NWANATIFU is a social critic and researcher on African politics and migration.

My national pride has been mortally hurt!

The false promise of Europe as an El-dorado mentally enslaves Africans and perpetuates the desire to migrate. Intensifying migrant control sends out the message that there is something there that is worth keeping out others. After centuries of exploiting Human and natural resources without making the lives of the exploited better, Europe now sees these abandoned Africans as threats to its economic survival and the cultural values of Europe. Africa is rising but are Africans rising along with it?
Until Europe as the core begins to allow its African periphery to determine the political and economic destiny of their human and economic resources, the talk of reducing migration into the EU fortress is an excellent fable!! Watching the London 2012 Olympic Games one notices that there are many more African diaspora athletes defending foreign colours than homeland athletes.  almost negligible investment on sports infrastructure, pre and post event training personnel or facility for athletes, absconding becomes an easy way out for those who succeed to breach national frontiers.
The French sports ministry like an industry is draining Africa of sports people, or how does one explain how a two-time Olympic long jump gold medalist from Cameroon suddenly became a French citizen on the eve of the games? How can one explain the issue of seeing Cameroonians run the track and play handball in French colours? Multiculturalism only applies to the few Africans who make up more than half of the French national football team while thousands of regular day Africans languish and survive on the edges and margins of Euro society, caught between legalization and integration speed-breaks to their potentials and abilities, bleeding for what others are begged to have.
If those seven athletes wearing the national colors and representing the Cameroon nation can create a media buzz of ‘disappearing’ in London during the 2012 Olympic games, despite their modest pay package according to Cameroon ‘standards’, what do we expect their fellow, repressed and deprived citizens do then? Despite the humiliation brought about by these disappearing acts, national sympathy from citizens at home and abroad is in favour of the vanished athletes. Sooner or later they will turn up in foreign colours or become  protected persons for committing this “treason” (valid grounds to seek asylum, based on the premise that they could be persecuted if   arrested and deported back to Cameroon after over-staying their visas beyond March to November 2012).

The faltering regime currently holding sway over the country has exalted peace over economics as a campaign slogan; peace in Cameroonian terms is the absence of gun shots regardless of  the chronic social injustice, widespread poverty and mass unemployment. Even the process by which these athletes were selected to represent their country is plagued with clientelism and patronage; it would not be surprising to hear that they are relatives of officials at the sports ministry or may have paid sums of money to be selected and  ‘trafficked’ via this event. Now they are being depicted in the media as ‘potential economic migrants or asylum seekers’, which just goes along to feed the stereotypical “Help Save Africa” campaign and appetite for labeling and tagging Africa as a continent of misery and risk projections.

Random picture on Facebook pages. Unidentified source.


Dear EU, before you absorb and quickly drain to waste these runaway talents, ask yourself why they ran away in the first place. Cease from enticing and deluding our nation builders to defect, for it is illogical and double standards when you have a tough anti-immigration stance, yet you shop for the best of talents and brains of the poor and at the same time expect their states and the masses to  be self reliant. You have thrust upon us and continue to legitimize those whom we now refer to as merely secretaries of your foreign ministries serving abroad in the persons of gerontocratic presidents’ for-life at the helm of our artificial states. These ‘leaders’ in effect are accomplices to the full measure of deprivation visited on their citizens and to the ravishing of their economies. This just goes to say the state of Cameroon is economically and politically very sick! Sports as with other employment is highly politicized, service is rendered to Cameroonians not as a right or duty, but rather as a reward to a ‘connected’ and sycophantic few. They like you and I dear reader, are victims of a global system of exploitation and deprivation, which alters national affections.
While FrontEX is busy shielding the heartland from invasions of the peripheral scum, let us reflect on the fate of these seven (number could rise) Cameroonian athletes just as other Africans before and after them, who have thrown away their careers in favour of washing plates and doing many other things that they and their hosts would not otherwise do.


Related News: 
London Olympics: Cameroon athletes ‘abscond’
Cameroon boxers ‘were threatened’ at Olympic Games by state authorities.
Four Congolese Olympians have gone missing in London 
** “Afropeans” are Africans who are assimilated, integrated and culturally obsessed about Europe wherever they may be.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own, representing just a fraction of the many perspectives to this topic.

Football and the “Burden of Patriotism” in Africa

15 Jul

The African continent, from Cape to Cairo, is awash with Football Fever. All eyes are on Egypt where the African Nations Cup is currently taking place. The competition, with its mixture of unrealistic expectations and unexpected triumphs; of Cinderella stories and might falls; of epic David and Goliath battles; of great illusions and shattered ambitions; and of pure flashes of genius rivaled by pedestrian displays, will end on February 10th.

Togolese fans during the game between Cameroon and Togo

As in previous years, Cameroon is one of the favorites. The Cameroonian national team started the competition on a high note with a 3-1 defeat of World Cup-bound Angola. Cameroon’s three goals were scored by Samuel Eto’o who plies his trade in Barcelona, Spain.

Eto’o, who had initially flirted with the idea of skipping the tournament because of persistent administrative and other problems in the national team, was instantly hailed as a “true patriot” who had risen to the occasion to defend the honor and pride of the nation. As I read these glowing tributes couched in ultra nationalistic terms reminiscent of Communist Russia, I could not help but marvel at how African politicians has succeeded in transforming football into a most potent tool for political mobilization around vague notions of national unity.

As I mulled over this fact, I recalled the observation of an American Peace Corps in Cameroon when Marc Vivien Foe collapsed and died in 2003 while playing for the Cameroon national team: “Anyway, the entire country is mourning here. It’s quite different. People are calling him a patriot and I keep thinking that he’s just a soccer player who left his country to make more money playing in France and England but still plays on his country’s national team when they play.”

I must confess that like any Cameroonian who loves his football, I found this observation a tad sacrilegious, and was initially ticked off by what seemed like a trivialization of Foe’s death. However, I eventually started thinking about the real and imagined significance of football in Cameroon and other African countries, and its appropriation by politicians for political gain.

Why is it that when a Cameroonian soldier dies in Bakassi (fighting in what most Cameroonians considers a “Just War”) he is never given a hero’s burial or lauded as a patriot or a valiant soldier – his death is not even a footnote on the news – but when a Cameroonian footballer excels in his trade like Roger Milla, or “dies in battle” (another military term!) like Foe, he is hailed as a patriot, a true soldier, etc., etc.,? Why label a footballer a soldier and then make the soldier invincible? Why the double standards? Do we have our priorities all wrong?

I shared my thoughts with members of the Cameroon football forum,CAMFOOT, back in December 2004 and all the answers pointed to the fact that “normal” rules do not apply to football because it is simply a different ball game (excuse the pun…). Here is a sample of the responses:

  1. Soccer brings the feel-good factor. In a country like Cameroon with hardly anything going right, only soccer is there to talk about. Treating a soccer player who dies on duty as a hero could bring a lot of political gain to the person in power.
  2. Cameroonians–both politicians and the press — do not generally talk about war, even when it is common knowledge to everyone that some fighting is going on. To treat a dead soldier as a hero is to admit that Cameroon is at war, and to expose the numbers that have been killed. Openness is not tolerated by Etoudi [Residence and Offices of the Cameroon President]. In fact, showing too much interest in the plight of soldiers in Bakassi could land you in trouble.
  3. Football is one of the few things that truly unites Cameroonians. When the players go on the pitch, nobody thinks of where they come from, but only how well they do on the pitch.
  4. The [national team] is the only thing that Cameroonians can be proud of. The [Indomitable Lions are] a source of national identity and pride. Cameroon today is seen as a footballing nation and hence Foe’s death, live on TV and defending the national colours affected us a lot more that those killed in Bakassi. All of this is used by politicians to their own ends.
  5. Someone once said of religion as being the opium of the masses. Football is the opium of the people.
  6. That football has turned into religion for Cameroonians doesn’t bother me. What annoys me most is the never-ending irresponsibility of this government which exploits the fans … and keeps them uneducated about real issues (job creation, social welfare, politics and war).

The Burden of Patriotism
All of these points are true in one way or the other, but they don’t explain why footballers are the only ones required to carry the “burden of patriotism” in Africa.  Is Eto’o less patriotic when he fails to score a goal, as was the case in last year’s crucial encounter against Egypt which resulted in Cameroon’s elimination from the 2006 World Cup tournament? Did Inter Milan’s Pierre Wome commit treason when he missed that vital 95th minute penalty during the game against Egypt which could have taken Cameroon to Germany? Cameroonians and the Cameroonian Government seem to think so. Wome was initially selected by Cameroon’s Portuguese coach Artur Jorge for the ongoing Egyptian campaign (can’t just stay from the marshal language, can we…), but he was later dropped from the squad because Cameroonian authorities considered his presence in Egypt as “problematic” – after all, hadn’t he betrayed the nation in its time of need?

I can’t help but wonder if those punishing Wome for missing a penalty – a very common occurrence in football – have thought of extending this “performance clause” to all sectors of national life. Why not impose the same standards on teachers in failing schools; on managers of underperforming corporations, on incompetent civil servants, on corrupt government officials, etc., ? Wouldn’t that be the beginning of a real revolution in Africa?

Of course, that is just wishful thinking. The prebendal political systems of post-Independent Africa will continue as African Governments thank their gods that the masses still view football as something unique with its own set of rules and expectations.

In Africa, “with its density, variety, vivacity, open wounds, illusions, beliefs and battles,” once wrote Heidi Hamel of African football magazine, “football is the only opium with which one can keep the withdrawal symptoms at bay. This painful dependency reflects an unavoidable need. Africans love their football to the point of desperation. To the point of madness.”

African regimes have understood and appropriated this madness so well, which is why football is a potent tool that these unpopular regimes use not only to get a veneer of legitimacy which they would otherwise not have, but also to stifle opposition. I guess it is a two-way street  after all; the people get their “opium” and the politicians get another day to plunder….

Originally posted by Dibussi Tande, January 25, 2006 on his blog at