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