North West media actors pledge to promote intercultural dialogue in the region

Despite the cultural diversity of the population of the NWR and the issues this poses, there is still little awareness and understanding of cultural diversity and cultural rights that has resulted in the abuse of the cultural rights of women, youth and ethnic minorities such as the Mbororo-Fulani ethnic group. Often times, this abuse is accompanied by violence which leads to the death of many.

In this light, the Mbororo social and cultural development association of Cameroon (Mboscuda) in collaboration with NOWEFOR through the project “Bridging the gap; safeguarding peace and human rights by promoting intercultural dialogue in North West Region of Cameroon” funded by the European Union through United Purpose based in the UK, organized a three day workshop which ran from the 28th to the 30th of May 2019 at central park hotel for journalists.
Aimed at strengthening the capacity of print and online media personalities on cultural diversity and cultural rights for the promotion of intercultural dialogue, the workshop looked at;
• Culture and cultural expression
• The link between cultural diversity and cultural rights
• The link between cultural diversity and intercultural conflicts
• Cultural dialogue
• Impact of media on culture and
• Cultural journalism

Shei Kanjo Williams – a development consultant and co-facilitator drilled participants on the inter-cultural issues in the NWR while pointing out that about 80% of Northwesterners live in the rural areas and depend mainly on agriculture (crop and livestock production) as their principal source of livelihood. Also, over 80% of the region’s cattle producers are of the minority indigenous, Mbororo-Fulani ethnic group.

These groups for years have been in conflict due to cultural intolerance and competition over land and water resources. Farmers-grazer conflicts in the NWR are often triggered by cattle overstepping into farmers’ lands, farmers planting on grazing land or farmers and grazers misusing water resources which have led to the destruction of crops and cattle poisoning. Such conflicts can be avoided if each group learns to respect the cultural rights of the other and practice tolerance. For example the Mbororo community practices “Pulaaku” which is a culture of silence. They will agree to a proposal publicly but within them, they are not satisfied thereby reacting differently to what is expected of them. The culture of silence has been mistaken many times by other people to be pride.

In order to bridge this gap, the cultural expression of every individual or group of persons has to be respected. Individuals should cherish the beliefs, norms, ideas, and values of any cultural group in order to safeguard peace and promote intercultural dialogue.

Cross section of participants

The workshop also served as a platform for participants to analyze the effects of the ongoing Anglophone crisis on the NW culture. In this regard, the desecration of palaces, destruction of artifacts, suspension of cultural festivals and rites amongst others were outlined. Participants worked in groups with similar cultural heritage (Ngemba Clan, Mbum Clan, and Kom/Ngo clan) to discuss the impact of the media on culture.

According to Nji Blasius co-facilitator, cultural journalism includes criticism which enables a journalist to analyses cultural events including music and dance steps.
“Any journalist can get into cultural journalism by doing a lot of research on culture, understand cultural rights and heritage. A journalist, who specializes in writing or producing programs on culture is called, a cultural journalist.” Added Nji Blasius

Ndasi Gilbert a participant revealed that during cultural festivals traditional rulers bless coins and camp wood which is shared to attendees as a gift of wealth and fertility.
“These events also serve as an opportunity for elites to court ladies or seek for wives. In the past, the shooting of guns during the Lela cultural festival was a message of strength sent to neighboring villages but today it is more about promoting their culture.” Says Gilbert

On the issue of culture and modernization, participants noted that musicians now portray less cultural values in their videos which depict mostly the women as they now use half-naked women. The issue of cultural abuse was also scrutinized. For example – the scary demonstration of knives and bikes by Muslims youth during celebrations were described as dangerous to.

Participants also shared their experiences about museums they have visited in the region such as that of Bamumgo, Bafut and Mankon. The Bafut museum is unique taking that it’s very organized and has the bones and skulls of historic personalities such as Zingraff and prisoners of wars. It is also classified under UNESCO as they give them annual funding for maintenance.

Reporting on culture can be beneficial to journalists if they belong to a network. Reasons why Shei Kanjo William schooled participants on the forms of a network which included:
• Cooperative
• Association
• Network
• Platform
• Observatory
The legalities of each form were looked into after which participants choose to create a network for cultural journalists. Five volunteers were chosen to join the committee tasked with creating a working document for the Network. The committee will meet on the 5th of June 2019 to work on the document.

Maikem Emmanuela

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