Cameroon’s Culture Challenge
Author: Marcel Fomotar
Originally published at Peace and Conflict Monitor on 09/28/2006
In Cameroon, culture has been one of the root causes in most, if not all, conflicts that have existed and continue to exist. It is very important to first understand what culture is and how diverse Cameroon is culturally before one can begin to explore possible solutions for sustainable peace building in the country.
The word ‘culture’ derives from the Latin word ‘cultura’ which means ‘cultivation.’ Originally culture was used in regards to agriculture although, today, the term culture characterizes intellectual activities. Given its historical origin, culture can be seen as ‘…the sum total of the best responses that human beings in a given society have found to satisfy their needs’ (Fonlon, 1967). The implication of this definition is that there are bound to be several different meanings of culture since men live in different environments and respond to their needs accordingly. Another very important implication of the working definition of culture is that, generally, culture is a source of pride. It is the identity of a people (Fonlon, 1968). With the idea of pride inherent in culture, it serves as a driving force behind human action. Culture can, for instances, serve as a source of a superiority complex. Superiority complexes can in turn encourage one to impose a culture on others. This is seen particularly in the case of language. Language is a good example of what composes culture. Language is the expression of ideas from an environment, it is the verbal expression of a peoples’ view of the world. Language is thus, fundamental as far as culture is concerned. One of the best tools of imperialism is to impose language onto a people (Said, 1993). The conclusion we arrive at, therefore, is that culture is at the same time, a source of happiness and a source of evil.
Secondly, more and intense efforts should be made to educate Cameroonians as a whole on the idea of culture with a special emphasis on tolerance and mutual respect. One must think back to the original definition of culture as it has to do with cultivation. Seeds of tolerance and respect by means of communication must be planted, resulting in a harvest of peace.
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