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EXAMINATION OF ETHNIC POLITICS AND NATION-BUILDING IN CAMEROON

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EXAMINATION OF ETHNIC POLITICS AND NATION-BUILDING IN CAMEROON

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

Background of the study

Ethnicity refers to the sense of affiliation with a certain ethnic community. The term 'ethnic' is derived from the Greek word 'ethno' and refers to characteristics related to race, people, country, and ethnic group. Ethnocentrism is the belief in the superiority of one's own culture (Bachus, 2019). As an individual ages, their impression of ethnicity undergoes a transition that occurs along with cognitive growth. According to Jean Piaget, children in the pre-operational stage of cognitive development (2-7 years) tend to associate themselves with a certain group and show a tendency to reject those who are different from them (Bathuure, Brobbey & Bawa, 2020). Over time, their level of tolerance towards others increases. As cognitive development progresses, the understanding of ethnicity transforms into a cognitive framework that encompasses language, traditions, cultural information, and overall knowledge of one's ethnic group (Bello, 2018). An individual's self-esteem is significantly impacted by their deep awareness of their ethnic background. It may result in perilous and even aggressive illusions of superiority that tend to rationalise genocide, as shown in the case of Rwanda in 1994 (Burgess et al., 2015). Cultural variety refers to a civilization that encompasses a wide range of distinctions in ethnicity, language, social practices, and religion. It requires a proactive attitude of tolerance. The presence of several ethnic groups necessitates the acknowledgment, acceptance, and reverence of their distinct patterns of conduct and traditions (Gadjanova, 2017). Nation-building is significantly challenged by cultural diversity. Nationbuilding is the establishment or organisation of a collective sense of national identity via the authority of the government (Hassan, 2020). Nation-building is the process of bringing people together within a state to ensure its political stability and viability. This is achieved by promoting social harmony, economic development, military conscription, and a national curriculum in schools (Hassan, 2020). Consequently, the management of cultural variety may either promote or hinder the process of nation-building. 

The political landscape of Cameroon is now grappling with a multitude of challenges. These outcomes arise from the convergence of colonial impositions, demarcations, and our inability to effectively navigate ethnic variety in the pursuit of nation-building. Cameroon has a diverse array of more than 250 ethnic groups, each with its own unique cultural heritage influenced by the colonial legacies of German, French, and British civilizations. Prior to colonial invasion and the establishment of multiparty politics in 1990, the multi-ethnic society had been characterised by harmonious coexistence among ethnic groups. However, with the advent of political competition and the pursuit of resource allocation, conflicts arose as different factions vied for political dominance. While there is constitutional equality across ethnic groups, the last three decades have seen one particular ethnic group strategically using political opportunities, resulting in significant antagonism. Every kind of variety has its own historical background, often characterised by colonisation and the exercise of power. Throughout Africa, ethnicity continues to have significant influence, but with variations throughout different historical periods and between rural and urban regions (Kumase, 2018). Cultural variety in Cameroon assumes a tripartite history: pre-colonial, colonial, and post-colonial. During the pre-colonial period, ethnic groups mostly resided in rural areas and exhibited a greater degree of homogeneity. They coexisted together with less resource-based rivalry. During the colonial period, minor ethnic groups were compelled to amalgamate regardless of linguistic, cultural, and geographical disparities. During the post-colonial period, there is a mixture of foreign and native cultural values. Hence, ethnicity has a significant influence on the political landscape and process of nation-building in Cameroon. The notion of a "electoral village," in which urban residents vote based on ethnic affiliations, suggests that the village or ethnic group plays a crucial role in the political system (Mills, 2018).

The primary issue of this thesis lies in the exploitation of cultural diversity in Cameroon for personal political or commercial advantages. Ethnic communities diligently protect their shared lineage by barring outsiders. The inadequate handling of ethnicity fosters ethnocentrism - a bias towards one ethnic group over others. This trend fuels detrimental competitions, promotes divisive political strategies, and incites ethno-political conflicts. Marginalised ethnic groups may resort to violence as a possible method to rectify the situation, particularly during election campaigns. Repressive regimes suppress this violence by exercising ultimate authority, which leads to complete corruption. According to Mişcoiu and Kakdeu (2021), this quote suggests that powerful individuals are able to act according to their abilities, while others who are less powerful are forced to endure the consequences. It is legitimate for people to protest governments that expose them to risk.. Therefore, the study  examine ethnic politics and nation-building in Cameroon.

1.2 Statement of the problem

Cameroon, a heterogeneous country located in Central Africa, has been dealing with the intricate relationship between ethnic politics and the need of constructing a unified nation for a considerable period of time. The nation's socio-political environment is distinguished by a diverse array of ethnic groups, each with its own cultural legacy, language subtleties, and historical resentments. In Cameroon, variety has often acted as a divisive factor, leading to political tensions, marginalisation, and even violent conflict (Mişcoiu & Kakdeu, 2021).

The primary challenge facing Cameroon is the significant influence of ethnic politics on the process of nation-building. The ongoing ethnic differences have impeded attempts to establish a unified national identity and promote inclusive government. The current situation is worsened by the lasting effects of colonialism, ongoing power conflicts after colonial rule, and socio-economic inequalities between different ethnic groups. These elements have hindered progress towards true unity and development by creating an environment of distrust, anger, and struggle for resources (Bello, 2018).

Moreover, the process of making ethnicity a political issue has firmly established a mindset where only the victor gains everything in Cameroon's political environment, thereby sustaining a pattern of marginalisation, favouritism, and electoral aggression. Such actions not only subvert democratic values but also diminish the credibility of governmental institutions and weaken societal unity. The inability to resolve the deep-rooted conflicts arising from ethnic politics is a significant obstacle to the stability, democratic governance, and sustained socio-economic progress of Cameroon (Gadjanova, 2017). In addition, despite the efforts made by consecutive administrations to foster national cohesion through decentralisation policies, affirmative action, and multiculturalism, these endeavours have frequently been unsuccessful due to insufficient execution, the influence of privileged groups, and a lack of authentic communication with local communities. The lack of efficient methods for resolving conflicts and sharing power intensifies grievances and sustains a mindset that views situations as win-lose, so impeding the development of a collective vision for the future of Cameroon..

1.3 Objective of the study

The broad objective of the study is to examine ethnic politics and nation-building in Cameroon. The specific objectives is as follows

To examine the historical development and evolution of ethnic politics in Cameroon and its impact on nation-building efforts.

To analyze the role of state institutions, political elites, and civil society in shaping ethnic politics and nation-building processes in Cameroon.

To assess the effectiveness of various policy measures and strategies employed by the Cameroonian government to address ethnic diversity and promote national unity.

1.4 Research questions

The research questions have been prepared to guide the study

How has the historical legacy of colonialism and post-independence governance contributed to the formation and perpetuation of ethnic politics in Cameroon?

What are the key factors driving ethnic mobilization and identity politics in Cameroon, and how do they intersect with broader nation-building initiatives?

What are the challenges and opportunities associated with reconciling ethnic diversity and fostering national cohesion in Cameroon?

1.5 Significance of the study

The findings of the study will be significant to the following

Cameroon government: Nation-building in Cameroon hinges on fostering a shared national identity that transcends ethnic affiliations. This study can shed light on the factors that either facilitate or hinder the cultivation of such a collective identity. By examining the role of ethnicity in shaping social relations, cultural practices, and perceptions of citizenship, researchers can offer recommendations for promoting interethnic dialogue, cultural exchange, and civic engagement. Strengthening social cohesion and a sense of belonging among Cameroonians from diverse ethnic backgrounds is essential for building a resilient and united nation capable of confronting internal and external challenges.

Academia: The study of ethnic politics and nation-building in Cameroon adds to the academic discourse on comparative politics, ethnicity, and state-building in Africa. By situating Cameroon within broader theoretical frameworks and comparative analyses, scholars can draw parallels with other multiethnic societies facing similar challenges.  And contributing to the existing literature.

1.6 Scope of the study

The study focuses on ethnic politics and nation-building in Cameroon. Empirically, the study will examine the historical development and evolution of ethnic politics in Cameroon and its impact on nation-building efforts, analyze the role of state institutions, political elites, and civil society in shaping ethnic politics and nation-building processes in Cameroon and assess the effectiveness of various policy measures and strategies employed by the Cameroonian government to address ethnic diversity and promote national unity.

1.7 Limitations of the study

Like in every human endeavour, the researchers encountered slight constraints while carrying out the study. Insufficient funds tend to impede the efficiency of the researcher in sourcing for the relevant materials, literature, or information and in the process of data collection (internet, questionnaire, and interview), which is why the researcher resorted to a moderate choice of sample size. More so, the researcher will simultaneously engage in this study with other academic work. As a result, the amount of time spent on research will be reduced.

1.8 Definition of terms

 Ethnicity:  the quality or fact of belonging to a population group or subgroup made up of people who share a common cultural background or descent.

Politics: the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power.

Nation-Building: a significant undertaking that governments employ to develop political, economic, security, and social institutions in other countries. 


This material content is developed to serve as a GUIDE for students to conduct academic research



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