Cameroon: Ethnic minorities petition Biya over marginalisation

Yuh Timchia

Yaoundé

Three minority ethnic communities in Cameroon have petitioned President Paul Biya to ensure they are properly represented in state institutions.

The Mbororo, Montagnard and the Pygmy communities, specifically, say they want representation in the country’s nascent senate, whose members will be voted early next month.

Mr Sarli Sardou Nana, the founder and coordinator of Laimaru, a national network of organisations advocating the rights of minority and indigenous communities in Cameroon, says political parties fielding contestants for the April 14 vote had not kept a promise they made last year to include minorities in their tickets.

“It is disappointing that so far that has not happened. The Mbororo, Pygmy and Montagnard communities are not represented in the Cameroon People’s Democratic Movement (CPDM), SDF or any other party list,” Mr Nana said.

He added that people from the communities, who wanted to run for senate seats, were unjustly shoved aside by the political parties.

“The state and mainstream society are responsible,” he said.

Mr Nana said the memorandum, including four reports, sent to the presidency, was based on consultations with over 1,000 members of the minority and indigenous communities.

Political sphere

This follows a national workshop on the participation of minorities and indigenous peoples in elections and decision-making held in the capital Yaoundé last year.

Ahead of the senate poll, ruling CPDM leader and President Biya said respect for the ideals of unity and national integration were among conditions to be fulfilled by all before they run for the upper house of assembly.

The Mbororo are a semi-nomadic cattle-rearing community, a sub-ethnic group of the world’s largest nomadic group, the Fulani, who are spread across West, Central and North Africa. They have complained of discrimination since arriving in Cameroon in the early 1900s.

About 1.5 million Mbororo live isolated in small, remote communities and often clash with neighbouring majority groups, who they say deride them as illegal immigrants or land-grabbing invaders.

The Montagnard are another isolated and relatively impoverished group, living on the highlands of northern Cameroon. Also known as the Kirdi, the Montagnard of Cameroon consist of some 15 closely related, yet distinct groups.

They are also found in southeast Nigeria and southwest Chad. Their way of life and alleged governmental neglect has kept them mostly away from the Cameroonian political sphere.

The pygmies are also a marginal group, who live mostly in recluse in the forest zones of the East and South Regions of Cameroon

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Mbororo man with a traditional facial tattoo in Cameroon. Photo by Mohamed Matovu
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Date: 26/03/2013

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Cameroon

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