Ibrahim Ndzesop to give convocation address on politics in Cameroon
Ibrahim Ndzesop will deliver a convocation address entitled “Will the Democratic Wave in North Africa Move Southward? The Case of Cameroon” at 7:30 p.m on Thursday, Nov. 10. in Young 113.
Ndzesop, a diplomat for the Ministry of External Affairs in Cameroon and Ph.D. candidate at the University of Paris, will discuss whether revolution like the uprisings known as the ‘Arab Spring’ earlier this year can also happen in sub-Saharan countries like his native Cameroon.
“The question I’m asking is, will the same causes lead to the same effects? My hypothesis is that there is no likely hope of political change in Cameroon,” Ndzesop says. “The way the opposition is organized, and with international support for political change in Cameroon being so small, there is little hope for change right now.”
As is the case with many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Cameroon is a parliamentary democracy by name only — Paul Biya has been president for nearly 30 years, despite changes to the political system since he came to power.
“Cameroon was a one-party system until 1990, when a wave of democratic change was coming on the coattails of the fall of Berlin Wall. The first multi-party election was in 1992, and at that time, the opposition was quite vibrant,” Ndzesop says. “With passage of time, the opposition has weakened and been divided by dissention. Now there are about 250 political parties. The opposition in 1992 had about half of the seats in parliament; now it has about 20 in parliament of 386.”
Ndzesop doesn’t believe change as dramatic as the uprisings in Arab countries can come to Cameroon in the current political climate.
“The party in power has capacity to do whatever it wants to do. The president has command of all institutions, especially two most important things in elections: money and media,” Ndzesop explains. “State media is not different from party media. State media covers the campaign of the president but doesn’t cover anything about the opposition. As long as President Biya is able to manage those two resources, change is impossible.”
Ndzesop has several Centre connections: he was a student at the International Relations Institute of Cameroon when professor of history Richard Bradshaw taught there on a Fulbright Scholarship in 2004.
“Ibrahim was one of the most interesting and intelligent students in my class, and we became friends by talking after class,” Bradshaw says. “I learned a lot about his difficult journey to this elite school, and about his life in general, so I decided to invite him to Strasbourg when I was director there to share his life history with a class I taught called Francophone African Lives.”
As they got to know each other better, Bradshaw became so interested in Ndzesop’s life and his unique story that he recorded a 100-page oral history of his experiences.
“I started telling stories of my life, things I saw when I was a kid, what people did to me and what I did to them, those kinds of things,” Ndzesop says.
Bradshaw introduced Ndzesop to associate professor of international studies Lori Hartmann-Mahmud, which led to Hartmann-Mahmud asking Ndzesop to act as a guide for her CentreTerm classes in Cameroon in 2009 and 2011.
“Students are sometimes disappointed by the infrastructure and shocked by the condition of the schools and hospitals,” he says, “but they’re always impressed by the people.”
During these CentreTerm trips, Ndzesop has introduced the complicated politics of Cameroon to Centre students.
“On the two trips I’ve led, students have been able to meet the chair of opposition party, members of the media, and have been to at least two round table conferences where local politicians and analysts explain what they think is the situation in Cameroon,” Ndzesop says. “It’s hands-on learning.”
The convocation is free and open to the public.