A REPORT OF VALIDATION WORKSHOP OF RESEARCH ON THE CHALLENGES OF CULTURAL DIVERSITY IN CAMEROON
The validation meeting for the research on the challenges of cultural diversity in Cameroon was a joint effort by UNESCO and Local Youth Corner Cameroon to employ expert perspective on an ongoing research work which sought to identify the challenges of cultural diversity in Cameroon and propose tangible recommendations on how cultural diversity could be a development and peace dividend in Cameroon. This meeting brought together 32 experts including government ministries, international organisations, traditional and religious authorities, civil society and young people from across the nation to reflect on the finding of the research.
This one day meeting which was held at the National Museum was chaired by the representative of the Minister of Culture, the deputy director of UNESCO in Cameroon and moderated by Mr Achaleke Christian Leke the National Coordinator of Local Youth Corner Cameroon.
The process towards the validation meeting featured expert review of the work by a group of 6 experts who for a period of two to three weeks provided inputs which were incorporated into the draft copy which was used for the discussions during the meeting.
Highlights of Expert Meeting
The opening session featured an opening remark from the National Coordinator of Local Youth Corner Cameroon, whom in his remarks highlighted the vision of the research and applauded the fact that UNESCO bestowed trust on a group of young people to lead this research. Christian’s remarks was followed by an opening word from Mr Christian Ndombi who is the Regional Deputy Director of UNESCO for Central Africa. Mr Ndombi extended his gratitude to the team of researchers and building on UNESCO’s vision towards promoting cultural diversity reassured the participants of how important the research is and their efforts toward ensuring that cultural diversity in Cameroon becomes a plus than a minus. His remarked followed with a lucid speech from the representative of the Minister of Arts and Culture. The Ministry of culture applauded the initiative and highlighted the timely nature of the work considering the numerous challenges which the country in facing due to the culturally diverse nature of the country. In his closing words, she firmly on behalf of the Ministry commitment toward taking up the final recommendations which will be arrived in the publication.
Presentation of the research and discussions
Dr. Sakah Bernard presented the main parts of the research including the major findings and recommendations. His presentation was followed by the projection of a 7 minute video documentary depicting the state of cultural diversity in Cameroon. After the projection, the moderator insisted that the video was still being developed and the experts could formulate any proposals for its improvement. He further emphasized on the different chapters where chapter one talked on the concept of cultural diversity, chapter two putting focus on the tangible and intangible elements of cultural diversity, chapter three analyzing the trends and experiences of living in a culturally diversified Cameroon and chapter four talking on the challenges of cultural diversity in Cameroon. The last chapter that is chapter five stretched on the need for harnessing cultural diversity in Cameroon that is looking for a way forward for sustainability. It was an enriching session as most participants coming from different Ministries, National Assembly, national commissions and many others state institutions got acquainted with the research.
Prior to the chapter review, the moderator Mr Achaleke highlighted the rubrics of the reviewing process. He insisted that specific chapters of the work due to time will be subjected to in depth discussion. He highlighted chapters 2, 4 and 5 as key chapters of the review. The format involved 5 minutes presentation by members of the research team of the chapter, following a 30 minutes of discussion, question and answer sessions by research team. The reviewing address issues of content, form of the work
Review of Chapter 2
The summary of the chapter was made by Dr Kah Henry kam, one of the researchers. The session talked about the tangible and intangible elements of cultural diversity in Cameroon. After his presentation, the first comment was made by Prof Raymond Assombang on the title of the chapter. He claimed the use of the term “element” on the title challenges the use of words “tangible” and “intangible”. He insisted that the intangible part of culture can’t be termed elements. He recommended the use of the word “heritage”. Summarily, a major concept emerged from several speakers as they pulled the attention of the researchers on the need for clear definition of concepts and terms. Some shared the view that without a clearly stated definition and articulation of the dimension of the chapter, readers will find it difficult to understand. Dr Chaira from UNESCO highlighted the need for researchers to consider reviewing and referencing some UNESCO conventions including the 2003 convention which provide deep perspectives of cultural diversity and its dimensions. She further expressed her availability to support the research team with more information on this regard. A remark was made by Prof Assombang who mentioned the lack of analytical data and figures, also he reiterated on the fact that the research was short of analytical data. Mr Hughes Tchouemegni, a civil society activist representing the Association 237 PAROLES insisted that social media culture and urban music were not taken into consideration in the work . He also talked on the inclusion of youths in the promotion of Cameroon’s cultural diversity. The idea of defining a lot of terms in the research was also looked upon by Mr Hughes. He emphasized that to understand cultural heritage, we need to understand where we are going to. furthermore, Dr Rose Anjoh of the University of Buea highlighted the need to explain culture based on the legal system in culture, governance in culture and political culture.
After 30 minutes of debates, the moderator summarized the comments and assured the participants that the inputs will be considered strictly.
Review of Chapter 4
Chapter 4 was a critical part of the work as it speaks to the title of the publication itself. Mr Roger… one of the researchers took the floor and shared the compilation of challenges of cultural diversity in Cameroon which came from FGDs and KIIS as well as serves they carried out. He mentioned that the challenges were non exhaustive and open to critical inputs.
This session sparked emotional conversations as some of the recommendations already highlighted in the work questioned the competence of some state institutions who were present in the room. The participants agreed on several aspects in this chapter but disagreed on the formulation and discussions on some points presented in the document. Most of the participants including Prof Yeshu highlighted that there is actually not the problem of living together. His claim was due to the fact that the people of Cameroon are bonded at different levels including marriage and other aspects of culture. His perspectives was followed by comments from Prof Raymond Assombang who illustrated with his experience working in the Ministry of culture that the main problem if cameroon is not “living together” but eating together ». This perspective was seconded by Mr Adamou IDIRISOU of the Mbororo Cultural
and Development Association MBOSCUDA who as a youth from a marginalized ethnic group highlighted that he has benefited a lot from other tribes and ethnics groups.
Another major debate arose from the fact that the Ministry of Culture has divided the country into four cultural zones. Some of the participants question the fact that the work adopted this obscured a representation of culture in Cameroon. Though the representative from the Ministry of Culture tried to defend the Ministry’s vision , Most of the participants suggest that limiting the Diversity of Cameroon only to four zones which actually are also very diverse is part of the problem.
This session rounded up with a firm remark from Dr Rose who brought up the challenges of the anglophone crisis and highlighted the denial and acceptance of the differences between English and French cultures has landed us in the conflict we find ourselves today. To her this is a bigger problem and the research should consider the realities happening in the anglophone zones. The representative from the National Bilingualism commission highlight the cold feet by Cameroonians to be bilingual as another challenge. She shared some efforts by the commission toward promoting bilingualism but insisted the population have a key role to play by upholding this two languages.
Review of chapter five
The moderator highlighted the importance of this chapter as he shared that the research work is aimed at providing tangible recommendations to solve the challenges erupting due to poor management of cultural diversity in Cameroon. The opening summary was done by Miss Sheila Tantoh who is one of the researchers of the work. She mentioned the motive for dividing the recommendation with focus on specific groups. The recommendations targeted; the international community right down to the regional organs such as the African Union and other Regional Economic Communities. Also, her recommendations targeted the national level. Civil societies and private organisations like the media and individuals were also targeted
After her presentation, the first remark came from Mr Achaleke who mentioned that the recommendations left out the role which the entire population has to play toward making the diversity of Cameroon a bonus. In the same light, the participants after reviewing the list of recommendations already presented in the work raised the issue of framing of the recommendations. They insisted the researcher work on the language. Rev Fr Afoukeze Ghongson added that the recommendations should capture the idea of the culture of leaving . He insisted that humanity on its own has its divine culture. Chiara followed suit with others to highlight the importance of harnessing modern effort including clam, poetry and others as a key aspects towards sustaining cultural diversity in Cameroon. To add, a handful of the participants recommended the need for more invested both financially and infra-structurally in the domain of culture. From a media perspective, Miss Fawoh Nancy highlighted the need for capacity building for journalists and others actors in communication on how to use media to promote cultural diversity. She highlighted negative reporting and hate speech is growing within media landscape because most of her colleague lack knowledge and capacity on these issues. Her recommendation was seconded by Chaira who highlighted some efforts by UNESCO, in Cameroon to support journalist and further reiterated that UNESCO is willing and open to supporting journalist in this regard.
The closing remarks were made by the researchers and the Moderator with a concluding word from Mr Luca from UNESCO. Luca in his closing work applauded the team of researchers, the participants and reviewers of the work. He was especially impressed at the Local Youth corner team to pulling the event together and ensuring its success. He further assured the participants on the incorporation of the recommendations and comments in to the work and reaffirmed the commitment of UNESCO towards supporting cultural diversity in Cameroon.
Observations and recommendations
During this work, it was observed that most of the participants were very positive about the research but were critical on how the outcome of the work will serve the purpose of advocacy. Based on this, we would like to recommend that UNESCO uses its network and mastery of the thematic to lobby with various stakeholders in implementing the outcomes of the recommendations of the research.
To add, another emerging aspect of the meeting for that most of the experts did not have a perfect mastery of the work of UNESCO and other legal instruments of UNESCO in these issues. As had been mentioned by Chiara, we would like to recommend that UNESCO periodically organise capacity building for experts experts from different walks of life and share with them in depth knowledge of UNESCO’s work.