Academic journal article Africa

Mbororo Claims to Regional Citizenship and Minority Status in North-West Cameroon

Academic journal article Africa

Mbororo Claims to Regional Citizenship and Minority Status in North-West Cameroon

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Discourses on autochthony, citizenship and exclusion have become popular in Cameroon as well as in other parts of Africa, and lately even in Europe. This article considers the case of the Mbororo (agro-pastoral Fulbe) in north-west Cameroon (also known as the Western Grassfields) and their recent claims to regional citizenship and minority status.

The Mbororo are a minority in the region. They are perceived as strangers and migrants by local Grassfields groups who consider themselves their hosts and landlords. The Mbororo have long entertained host--guest and patron--client relations with their Grassfields neighbours. However, in the context of Cameroon's democratization and the constitutional changes of the 1990s, they have changed their political strategies, aiming at direct representation to the state. In 1992 MBOSCUDA (the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association) was founded and gradually developed into a nationally influential ethnic elite association. While confirming the Mbororo as regional citizens, it successfully portrayed them as an 'indigenous people' both nationally and internationally. Moreover, many Mbororo of the younger generation have gradually developed emotional bonds with their home areas. Neighbouring groups have mixed feelings about these developments, as they may generate new conflicts.

RESUME

Les discours sur l'autochtonie, la citoyennete et l'exclusion sont devenus populaires au Cameroun comme dans d'autres regions d'Afrique, et plus recemment meme en Europe. Cet article s'interesse au cas des Mbororo (agropasteurs Foulbe) du Nord-Ouest du Cameroun (region d'herbages egalement connue sous le nom de Orassfields de l'Ouest) et leurs recentes revendications a une citoyennete regionale et a un statut minoritaire.

Les Mbororo constituent une minorite dans la region. Ils sont percus comme des etrangers et des migrants par les groupes locaux des Grassfields qui se considerent comme leurs hotes et proprietaires fonciers. Les Mbororo entretiennent depuis longtemps des relations hote-invite et patron-client avec leurs voisins des Grassfields. Cependant, dans le contexte de la democratisation du Cameroun et des changements constitutionnels des annees 1990, ils ont change leurs strategies politiques en visant une representation directe au Gouvemement. L'association MBOSCUDA (Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association), creee en 1992, s'est peu a peu developpee en association d'elite ethnique influente sur le plan national. Tout en confirmant les Mbororo en tant que citoyens regionaux, elle a reussi a les presenter comme un << peuple indigene >>, tant sur le plan national qu'international. De plus, de nombreux Mbororo de la jeune generation ont peu a peu developpe des liens affectifs avec leur region d'origine. Les groupes voisins sont ambivalents a Fegard de cerre evolution recente, car elle est susceptible de generer de nouveaux conflits.

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In his 2007 Lugard Lecture Peter Geschiere pointed out that over the past fifteen years discourses on autochthony and belonging have become an overriding theme in the politics of many African and lately also European countries (Geschiere 2007; see also Bayart et al. 2001; Ceuppens and Geschiere 2005). Similarly, Jean and John Comaroff reported that in South Africa discourses of autochthony have been applied not only to people but also to animals and plants (Comaroff and Comaroff 2007; see also Comaroff and Comaroff 2001). The flipside of this preoccupation with belonging is the attempted exclusion of 'the other', the stranger, l'allogene. However, autochthone and allogene ate rather fuzzy notions that can be applied to different units of groups whose relationship may be constantly redefined.

Geschiere, as well as Konings, Nyamnjoh and Socpa, has pointed out the ambivalent outcomes of autochthony discourses in Cameroon. (1) As Geschiere argues, the new emphasis on indigeneity and minority rights, which has been promoted by the Cameroonian government as well as by international development and global rights organizations, is geared towards surpassing national citizenship (2004, 2005a). …

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