Yaoundé by May

A short 5 day work trip to Yaoundé, Cameroon.  This was my first central African state so I was curious as to what is common and what sets it apart from the 9 others I have visited since 2002 starting with Ghana, my most frequented African state.

– attendant in bakery: you are from China?

– bureaucrat in his office, after I get his last name right on first attempt: I am surprised you can pronounce my name; most people get it wrong. Me: if the name is in your local language, I will get it right.

Not speaking French was a handicap    also a source of amusement for the women working in the bakery.

what is common: the quintessential African green    the booming laugh    the roadside stall    mud    old cars    70s architecture    at ease with unlit spaces
what sets it apart: too bureaucratic    policewomen at breakfast

I wrote my last post while in Yaoundé, and just before leaving the hotel room wrote this:

need of the forest    burn
of the

ashen past    will    wilnot
the bread

of fury and tread of summer
these are

kind, various, available as

To get some background, there have been two presidents since independence in 1962. The current one is in power since 1982. This bit of information alone might go some way in explaining the high bureaucratization and security. The late Eqbal Ahmed in his 1980 paper, “Post colonial systems of power” (which I visualized here), categorized Cameroon then as pragmatic-authoritarian. This is how he defines pragmatic-authoritarian:

This highly personalized system of power enjoys a certain legitimacy and the support of significant sections of the population by virtue of the historical nationalist credentials of the leader.

Two noteworthy characteristics: these deeply pro-Western regimes tend to prefer strong political, economic and cultural ties with the ex-colonial metropolis rather than the United States. The strength of the armed forces remains circumscribed and, in comparison with civilians, military officers are assigned lower status in the official hierarchy.