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 By Fonkeing Fotabong (Download Pdf Version)

Introduction

Humanity today faces several challenges that need to be addressed in terms of health, terrorism, illegal migration, youth employment and especially the problem of youth education. Considered the “backbone of the nation” in many countries around the world, youth represent hope for future generations and stability for today’s society. While it is true that youth are perceived by many observers as “good-for-nothing” or “passive in society”, the African continent as we see it today faces major challenges that require strong actors capable of transforming the potential of youth into development opportunities. Given the current concerns in African communities, an analysis of this segment of the continent’s population, which has been growing exponentially in recent decades, is worthwhile. In an international context where transnationalism is the order of the day, associative movements are growing in size in States and are becoming important players in the construction of national integration. This analytical framework on the theme of youth helps to define the concepts of youth and associative movements, so that the reader can understand the extent to which young people in a state can contribute, via associations and groups, to making national integration a national priority or, to a certain extent, contribute to its materialisation. Thus, before starting the analysis of this theme, it is necessary to define the key concepts of this work, to make a panoramic presentation of the associative movements in Cameroon starting from the law, while drawing the parallel between the youth and the construction of a national integration with the aim of constituting and framing dynamics likely to capitalise on the youth as the Ariadne’s thread of a national integration to be preserved not only from insurrectionary movements, tribalism, but also and especially against the singers of secessionism.

Definition of key concepts

By declaring 1985 as the “International Youth Year” in its resolution 50/81 of 14 December 1995, the United Nations (UN) adopted the World Youth Programme to the Year 2000 to show how important youth are, to global “decision-makers”. While Emilie de BONNEVAL believes that the term youth was associated until the 16th century with the notions of irresponsibility, thoughtlessness and folly, the United Nations General Assembly in its Report on the Implementation of the World Programme of Action for Youth to the Year 2000 and beyond defines youth as “persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years”. This definition has been transposed by the African Union in its African Youth Charter, according to which “youth is a person between the ages of 15 and 35”. Furthermore, associative movements or associations are movements that bring together people operating in the same sector of activity or having the same profession either by affiliation, collaboration, attraction or rapprochement. National integration is a process whose outcome leads to a common feeling of belonging and solidarity in the construction of the Nation by all its populations. The principle of integration must also be adapted to economic constraints, particularly external ones (maintaining the Community’s international competitiveness, neutrality of Community measures). Similarly, it must be reconciled with social obligations or objectives (safeguarding employment, etc.).

Panoramic view of the associative movements in Cameroon

Cameroon’s law N°90/053 of 19 December 1990 on freedom of association gives citizens the possibility of forming movements with the aim of sharing common visions, implementing projects, influencing political ideas and changing to some extent injustices, inequalities and strengthening local development in our communities.

However, this law on freedom of association is above all a legacy of the 1972 constitution which was supplemented by Law No. 96-06 of 18 January 1996 on the Constitution of the Cameroon State. Thus, the associative environment in Cameroon shows the existence of several types of associations which can be categorised according to whether they are linked to the village, or whether they are religious, foreign, friendly, public utility, or profit-making and non-profit associations. As for the various forms, the associative movements in Cameroon are born from day to day with the aim of sometimes pursuing the orientations of the government, even if most of them are not of public utility. But associations in Cameroon, with their secular and non-discriminatory character, are entitled to ask themselves what role they can play in the construction of national integration. Furthermore, although it is not the intention here to make a history of associations in Cameroon or to list their activities, it should be pointed out that several existing associations do not have headquarters, significant funding and are sometimes not registered in local databases, but still manage to carry out activities and achieve their objectives in several towns in the country.  However, Cameroon has 51 organisations registered on the website of the Ministry of Territorial Administration and Decentralisation, which does not reflect the reality on the ground, as in the city of Yaoundé alone there are more than 3000 associative movements.

Youth and the construction of national integration

Emilie de BONNEVAL, in her doctoral thesis in political science entitled “Contribution à une sociologie politique de la jeunesse: Jeunes, ordre politique et contestation au Burkina Faso”, states that the concept of youth is associated until the 16th century with the notions of irresponsibility, absent-mindedness, madness, etc. It is only at the end of the 16th century that it begins to be defined as someone who has retained the physical and moral characteristics of youth.
Today, the number of young people in the world is increasing every year and their situation is becoming more stressful in spite of the existence of mechanisms and supervision programmes put in place by the States in the world in general and in Cameroon in particular.

With regard to the place of young people in the construction of national integration, the associative movements can contribute by:

  • Bringing together people and members from different backgrounds;
  • The manifestation and materialisation of freedom of expression;
  • The respect of everyone’s thoughts;
  • The principle of non-discrimination and equality governing associative movements;
  • The implementation of common projects in any part of the country.

Furthermore, at the beginning of 2017, the exacerbation of the socio-political crisis that shook Cameroon saw the emergence of associative movements whose aim was to maintain the integrity of the territory, either by proposing ways out of the crisis, or by setting up national projects calling for the participation of all citizens regardless of their social status, physical condition, origins and even their political convictions and opinions. Thus, we have seen the birth of movements led by politicians, religious men and mass influencers. The social situation in Cameroon, the rise of tribalism which is in the process of overturning the socio-political and cultural order of a Nation that is proud and jealous of its gains from the independence period, is going to be at the origin of the creation of “new types of associations” whose aim is the preservation of territorial integrity. In spite of all these factors that weigh on the preservation of national integration, the associations in almost all their statutes claim to act impartially. They have a social and economic obligation to promote the development of the territory, which includes: respect for diversity, conservation and preservation of national assets (integrity, living together, etc.), promotion of multiculturalism and, above all, national integration, which is the basis for all endogenous development of peoples with a high degree of cultural diversity. However, although these achievements remain and despite the contribution and the role played by the associative movements to promote and preserve national integration, it would be essential to see or at least to propose some solutions and elements to be taken into account if we want this dynamic to remain in perpetual construction and to know a continuous framing in time and space.

Associations in Cameroon, a dynamic to be built and managed

In his book entitled “The Scramble for Europe: Young Africa on its way to the Old Continent” published in 2018 by Grasset, the American journalist Stephen Smith states on page 45 that “abundance depreciates, scarcity makes it precious”. We cannot be satisfied with the fact that it is an achievement to have associations that work for the promotion and preservation of our territorial integrity, because leaders everywhere in the world should reflect on the strategies to be implemented in the localities in order to build and supervise the dynamics that revolve around the associative movements for a reliable and sustainable national integration as thought by the champions of the independence of Africa and Cameroon. They can thus rely on :

  • Young people as collaborators and not adversaries, whether they are religious, political, cultural, profit-making or non-profit associations, because this mark of consideration will favour the easing of tensions and reduce generational conflicts which are largely responsible for the weakening of national identities and local national integration.
  • The proposals of existing associative movements should be given particular attention because they are closer to the communities and have a good grasp of the real and daily challenges that weigh on the rule of law and within the community in terms of living together and social cohesion.
  • The associations that should be set up as associations of public utility, preferably distributed in the ten regions of the country, so that they can be the eyes and ears of the government in order to avoid certain misunderstandings in the future that could undermine national integration.

Conclusion 

At the end of this analysis of national integration based on the associative movements, we set about clarifying the key concepts. The content of this reflection shows, on the one hand, that the movement of young people towards associations is not a phenomenon of today, but that this attraction is justified both by global challenges on issues of protection, preservation of nature, building a better world, the search for democracy, good governance, peace, social justice and equal opportunity. But this panoramic view allowed us to understand the role and implications of young people through the associative movements in a world where entrepreneurship and self-employment are growing phenomena.

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