Monday, April 13, 2020

Cameroon: Covid-19 pandemic covers another crisis in the country

We are not equal in the face of the health crisis that Cameroon is currently going through. Neither facing the risk of contamination (medical staff have few resources. Very few Cameroonians have access to drinking water. The price of gels and masks also remains out of reach for a significant number of the population), neither face confinement (the reality is not the same between those who can confine themselves in large houses and for those who have to live together in extreme promiscuity; between those who can stock up on food and those who live day to day ), nor in the face of socio-economic consequences (loss of income and employment). Despite the common shock, the simultaneous experience of vulnerability and the collective encounter of the tragic,

While it is true that COVID-19 can potentially affect everyone, the fact remains that the means to deal with it, if necessary, depend on social status (Cf. morbidity rate in Seine-Saint- Denis in France or black populations in the USA). Confinement, social distancing and other barrier measures are defined and experienced unevenly. This must be taken into account when the challenge of responding to a pandemic with unexpected socio-political consequences barely opens up under our skies. It is not only an ethical requirement, but also an issue of social and political stability. I hasten to tell you why. 

Economic and social crisis 

The 2020 finance law was drafted on the assumption of a barrel at $ 54. However, on April 1, 2020 a barrel hovered around $ 20. The drastic fall in tax and customs revenue due to the closure of borders and the unprecedented slowdown in economic activity is becoming more and more evident. The price of certain basic necessities explodes. The night economy is on the verge of bankruptcy. The hotel and entertainment sector is almost at a standstill without knowing when it will be able to function again. In the coming weeks, many entrepreneurs, employees, (inter) urban transporters, journalists, traders and resourcefulness of the informal sector, etc. will lose their jobs and income. Suffice to say that the current health crisis is full of an economic crisis. 

While it is true that the analysis of the conditions for the emergence of social revolts is ill suited to an exclusively monocausal approach, it can nevertheless be affirmed in the light of the riots of 2008 that the exacerbation of social inequalities and scarcity ( objective or subjective) of resources are the ingredients of social and political dislocation. Confronted for a long time with a problem of violence, either as a reality to contain (because of poverty, nepotism, persistent social inequalities and multiple relative frustrations), or as a threat to be dismissed (because of the deficit of confidence and legitimacy which it suffers), the Yaoundé diet could hardly contain new hunger riots. 

So what does he have left as leeway to ward off the potentially explosive effects of an unprecedented health crisis? Prevention. 

It is not a question of using police and repressive software as suggested by certain academics close to the anomic power of Yaoundé. In the circumstances of a long and severe socio-economic crisis, such an option would not last long. On the contrary, it could stir up the brassier and pave the way for a potentially dramatic revolt.


It may be useful to remember at this level that a revolt manifests itself whenever the political discourses and practices ordered according to authoritarian ukases, reveal their repressive exhaustion in the face of the simple, pressing and strident need to eat, drink, sleep, copulate, dream healthy. 

It appears as the consequence of an arbitrary and permanent fixation of a group of individuals in an unequal, unjust and, moreover, immutable social order. In fact for many peoples, revolt is often an opportunity to break away from their miserable routine and their accumulated internal resentment. Every event-revolt feeds on social injustice long before and too often as the impossibility for a people to satisfy their basic needs and to aspire to a new social contract. It is the event-driven translation of the expressed refusal to see a social situation persist which suffocates it or traps it in a situation of permanent stress. Is this the “radical rejection of brutality? normal a? which our lives are exposed and that an event makes everything a? unbearable blow ”(Pierandrea Amato). 

More broadly, the revolt testifies as much to the instinct for survival as to maximum relative frustration. That is to say the tension between two levels of divergent representations: that of activating needs and expectation of goods and services that are considered legitimate, urgent and vital and that of concrete possibilities of satisfaction that they are considered to be unduly restricted and unjustly inaccessible. 

I will finally emphasize that the intensity? and the impacts of any revolt are unpredictable. Each revolt draws its own truth from itself? fundamental. Here, the consequences precede any knowledge that concerns them. The Arab Spring is very illustrative in this respect. Gradually sedimenting itself in the elusive webs of concrete existence, the revolt arose suddenly at the turn of a banal event to become what the event decided ?. 

Prevention is better than cure

Relative to Cameroon, therefore, the antidote to a potential revolt, I said above, is nothing other than prevention. This refers to the dialogue-solidarity-justice triptych. 

The Biya regime must dialogue with its main political opponent, Maurice Kamto, in order to create a convergence, even only momentary, around the fight against this pandemic which threatens the lives of Cameroonians regardless of their political, social, ethnic, cultural or religious affiliations. In view of the recent press release from Atanga Nji which aims neither more nor less than to thwart the popular success of the fundraising of Maurice Kamto, we cannot say that the regime has taken the measure of the necessarily transpartisan dimension of the response to COVID-19. 

This crisis, I insist on saying, puts at stake our capacity to stand together and not our ability to be in frontal opposition to each other. The Tontons Macoutes of the Yaoundé regime would also be wise to understand that the insecurity or the fragility of their power in such circumstances does not necessarily come from the power of the MRC. Most of the fragility of the regime comes first from the failure of its social policy. I cannot say it enough: health inequalities are above all social inequalities. And we know that, in a chain, the resistance depends not on the strongest link, but on the weakest. It is therefore inappropriate in this sense to agitate his bidasses and his legal self-righteousness to prevent Cameroonians from receiving aid because it comes from an initiative of the leader of the MRC. 

Moreover, the regime must take emergency measures (institutional solidarity) in order to minimize the economic and social effects on Cameroonians in general and on the poor and deprived strata in particular (justice / equity). 

And tomorrow, this after COVID-19 that we must nevertheless think of as beings who are trying to invent an uncertain tomorrow, we will have to remind all those who govern that health is not an expense, c is an "investment". This implies reinventing the social state which was laminated and broken down by the Bretton Woods institutions, but also by corruption, bad choices, security obsession, lust, mismanagement, nepotism, tribalism, mediocrity, cronyism and a bad heart.