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The 1972 Generation

Several newly appointed government officials at the gendarmerie, police, territorial administration, and other decision-making positions in the country have been commissioned in the past few weeks. Interestingly, their ages range from 35 to 40 years and Cameroon will on Friday May 20, 2011 celebrate 39 years of the unitary state. Also, most of the officials are presented as married with this or that number of children and such persons taking up administrative positions today at the age of 39 can conveniently be referred to as the 1972 Generation in Cameroon.

They must have learnt about the unitary state mostly through History. But that is just part of the issue. The second part is that, all cabinet ministers in the present government are above 40. Logically therefore, there is room for the old guard to be able to pass on the meaning and tenets of nationhood as conceived at the time Cameroonians accepted to move together as a people. Thus, the battle to transform Cameroon from a state to a nation requires so much that both the young and the old must decipher in other to make the dream of our forbears become reality. Those receiving the baton of command will therefore have to hand it one day to their children. That is talking about the future which is difficult to fathom.

However, speaking about the celebration of 50 years of independence in Cameroon last year, President Paul Biya said: “Our attitudes, life styles and ways of thinking have changed. Few of us realise how much we have changed. As we become ‘westernised’, if we may say so, our differences tend to fade away.” That assessment is equally true of the changes that have occurred between the 1972 Generation and those of 2011. A few of such changes can quickly be recalled here as barriers among Cameroonians that are progressively being broken.

Language: Perhaps, one of the most outstanding differences among Cameroonians that is fading away is the language barrier. French and English languages have been a symbol of our bicultural character as a nation. And using any of the two languages as an official medium of communication in Cameroon no longer poses the same problem as was the case 39 years ago even though most official documents are still published only in French. However, many Cameroonians today can conveniently manipulate the two and the younger generation stands a better chance of never seeing language as a barrier as it was 39 years ago.

Social interaction: Despite the existence of a mosaic of ethnic groupings and a myriad of local languages, inter-ethnic marriages and other social factors keep bridging the social divide in the country.

Communication: Those who attained adulthood before 1972 tell weird stories of how difficult it was to move from one part of the country to the other. Today, the story is different for some, but the same for others.

Education: Going to school some 39 years ago required that young boys and few girls, whose parents allowed, had to walk for many kilometres with school boxes and other heavy luggage on their heads to get to the nearest educational centre. But today, almost every village has a secondary school and many of them, especially in the large heterogeneous agglomerations, offering education in both English and French. However, infrastructure and equipment, especially for technical schools, are still a major setback. Yet, it is technical education that transforms a country into an industrialised economy.

Economy: There are so many mega projects envisaged with the vision of transforming Cameroon into an emerging economy by 2035. But too much compensation for real or imaginary property is being announced as well, such that the amounts needed for compensation alone are enough to compromise the projects.

Politics: Ahaaa!!! Too many ramifications and many people hope politicians have not been fooling Cameroonians. Whatever the conclusions, there are people who think that Cameroon could do better while others think that we are where we ought to be.


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