A few years ago, I came across this poem by Sarah Anyang Agbor, and thought I will share it with you today. It focuses on the Anglophone issues of Cameroon: institutionalized divisions rooted in colonial legacies. As the Anglophone crisis persists in Cameroon, as the current Cameroonian government persists in trying to split its own country into further little pieces of the pie, under the politics of divide-and-conquer, I had to share this. Where other countries and governments fight to stay one, fight to remain united, fight to serve their compatriots, this 36-year-old Biya regime indulges in tribalism, division, blindness, mismanagement, embezzlement, violence, repression, incompetence, dilapidation of public goods, nepotism, stupidity, cronyism, … and the list is so long.
Agbor’s poem is inspired by the great American Renaissance author Langston Hughes‘ poem ‘I, Too‘ , whose first sentence is I, too, sing America, in which he expresses the Afro-Americans’ experiences of prejudice and discrimination. In ‘I too, sing Cameroon‘, I love the way she manages to say it all in a few words: “I am the ninth and tenth provinces … I too can feel … .” I love the strength in her words. In reality, what she says can also be applied to other provinces and peoples of Cameroon. The 36-year-old regime has not been good to the majority of its population: no roads, no hospitals, no jobs, destruction of the social net, destruction of the educational system, desolation, ruins, nothing good at all, and all should unite to see it gone forever for it is a total failure. Enjoy! The author also read her poem on the BBC Poetry postcards in 2014.
“I too, Sing Cameroon” by Sarah Anyang Agbor
I too sing Cameroon.
I am the ninth and tenth provinces
Or is it regions?
I just want to be human,
Accepted as a person
I know how you perceive me:
“Traitor”, “Opposition”, BamiAnglo2
A figment of your own imagination.
Why do you see an Anglophone and you hear-
“Gunshots!? Crisis!? Protests!? Grumblings!?
You got criminals! We’ve got criminals!”
I too can feel
I too can dream
I too can lead.
But you look down on me
And call me “Anglofou”3
You say you are the top dog
And I the underdog.
Now I am the country nigger “Anglofou”
Now I am the house nigger.
When the stakes are down
Will it be my turn to look down at you?
Will I call you “Franco Fool?”
Or will I call you brother?
That tomorrow will surely come
No one will dare say to me:
“Anglofou”4; “Parlez Anglais”5
Besides, I have walked up the ladder
With the virus of bilingualism
And I will sit at the table
And you will see the good in me.
I too, sing Cameroon!
1 Inspired by the talk on Harlem Renaissance, DVC series at the American Embassy in Yaoundé on 28-09-2007.
2 A Bamiléké who has grown up with English as a second language, hence, such a person is a Bamiléké from predominantly French-speaking Cameroon by origin and Anglophone by culture.
3 Anglophone fool; crazy English-speaking person
4 An abusive term, most often used by Francophones, to denigrate Anglophones.
5 Speak English
6 Those Anglophones
5 thoughts on ““Cameroon: I too, Sing Cameroon” by Sarah Anyang Agbor”
Beautiful call to brotherhood — wise poets have been doing this for so many centuries, perhaps someone will finally listen …. Remember Shylock’s speech in “The Merchant of Venice” :
I am a Jew. Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, heal’d by the same means, warm’d and cool’d by the same winter and summer, as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh? If you poison us, do we not die?
And if you wrong us, do we not revenge? If we are like you in the
rest, we will resemble you in that.
But maybe there is even greater wisdom than that last line: maybe those who are excluded have enough clarity to say, I can be like you in the rest, but I have understood the danger of the never ending cycle of revenge ….
Thank you for introducing me to Sarah Anyang Agbor…a voice to follow.
Beautifully said Vaincotes. Thank you for sharing the quote from “The Merchant of Venice;” it fits perfectly!
That poem was beautiful. I heard about the Anglophone/Francophone tensions from some Dr. Mumbi videos and I’m saddened by it. Cameroonians are brothers and sisters. After finding out that I’m part Cameroonian in addition to Congolese and other ethnic groups, I get depressed seeing this fighting because I see them as family I never knew I had as sentimental as it sounds. I wish they would unite. There are a couple of songs addressing the situation that I found to be powerful such as Mr. Leo’s “Pray” and that collaborative piece Salatiel did with a bunch of Cameroonian singers (Mr. Leo included) called “We Need Peace” which is half in English and half in French to really drive the point home for friendship.
Yes.., I do know both songs, and Mr. Leo is one of my favorite Cameroonian artist of the hour, Salatiel as well.
Peace is really what we need throughout the continent, and we also need to unite, and get rid of all these Western puppets placed to plunder their countries
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I’m glad you know about those songs. I knew you like those two singers.
That’s right and I do hope peace and unity prevail over Cameroon let alone the whole of Africa. I definitely agree by getting leaders who aren’t puppets.