Tribalism for All?
Over the years tribalism has been decried has one the ills of the Cameroonian society. It is blamed for jobs not obtained; entrance to elites schools denied and the reason why score of talents stay at home while our less talented counterpart enjoy gainful employment. It seems as if everywhere you go, people are talking about an x or y they know who now has a job because he/she is of the same tribe as this director or this minister. Preference for one’s tribe or ethnic group is a reality of Cameroon and the truth is that we are all guilty of it.
Now transpose what I talked about to a professional setting. When in a position of power, one will put his “brother” or “sisters” because that is whom he/she knows.
Before you decide that what I’m writing is devoid of sense hear me out. We are raised with the belief that our ethnic ties are one of the most important bonds we will ever make throughout our lives. We identify with our parents’ tribal affiliations. We proudly claimed that we are X, from Z and wear that affiliation proudly. Every little Cameroonian will tell you where they are from, what their tribe is and how to get to their village. Those bonds get even stronger as we get older. When trying to find ourselves in an ever changing world, we tend to fall back and hold on to what we already know: I am a [insert tribe] from [insert village]. Even travelling abroad, we tend to rely on those same ties. This is not a bad thing: we trust what we know.
Now transpose what I talked about to a professional setting. When in a position of power, one will put his “brother” or “sisters” because that is whom he/she knows. Whether it’s good is a matter of debate, but it is necessarily bad? I don’t think so. Because one puts his kin at a job doesn’t mean that his/her kin is incompetent. One cannot simply make that leap. How is that any different from nepotism we all practice? Most of us give jobs and refer people to friends and acquaintances; some just decide to do it with people of their own tribe. Within Cameroon the answer to the question “what are you” will most likely be “Doula”, “Bamiléké”, “Ewondo” etc…Very few will answer “Cameroonian”.
Tribalism is neither good nor bad, it is how we apply it that may be detrimental to our society. Saying tribalism should be banished is trying to treat an issue from the wrong end.
We are all a bit biased towards our own. Our pride for our tribal affiliation tends to seep into most aspects of our lives, be consciously or not. We are comfortable with those who have names that sound like us and speak the same mother’s tongue we do.
Tribalism is neither good nor bad, it is how we apply it that may be detrimental to our society. Saying tribalism should be banished is trying to treat an issue from the wrong end. It all starts with how we are raised. Tribal pride can easily engender the dark side of tribalism and we have to be aware of that. Simply saying “We shouldn’t do it” is quite naïve because it is too entrenched in our thinking. Let me ask you this, if you have the power to give someone a job and two resumes from people of equal qualifications were put in front of you who would you choose? The person with whom you have tribal bonds? Or your other fellow Cameroonian? Be honest.
Your answers are welcomed in the comments sections below.