Home page > Catalogue > African Studies > Scribbles from the Den
| More

Scribbles from the Den

Tuesday 2 June 2009, author(s)-editor(s) Dibussi Tande

Essays on Politics and Collective Memory in Cameroon

This collection consists of 49 insightful essays by leading Cameroonian blogger Dibussi Tande, which originally appeared on his award-winning blog Scribbles from the Den. These essays tackle some of the most pressing and complex issues facing Cameroon today such as the stalled democratization process, the perennial Anglophone problem, the crisis of higher education, the absence of the rule of law, the lack of leadership renewal, a stifled collective memory, and a continued inability to harness technology for purposes of national development, among others. Scribbles from the Den goes beyond the news headlines to dispassionately analyze and unravel the complexities of Cameroonian politics and society.

Purchase on African Books Collective

Purchase on MSUPress

Purchase AMAZON

ISBN 9789956558919 | 232 pages | 229 x 152 mm | 2009 | Langaa RPCIG, Cameroon | Paperback

5 Book Reviews

  • Scribbles from the Den 5 June 2009 11:40, author(s)-editor(s) Lyombe "Leo" Eko, Associate Professor of Journalism & Mass (...)

    Dibussi Tande serves up a rich, highly relevant, intellectual smorgasbord of well-crafted critical reflections, nay spirited submissions, on the politico-cultural, economic and social components of what can be called the ‘Cameroon Question’. Scribbles from the Den is indeed a highly stimulating and rewarding intellectual banquet.

  • Scribbles from the Den 5 June 2009 11:41, author(s)-editor(s) Francis B. Nyamnjoh, Professor of Anthropology, University of Cape (...)

    Dibussi Tande, in this collection, shares with us a bumper harvest of essays that are instructive on how we could begin to go about the process of harnessing blogging and the ICTs in the interest of positive social change in Cameroon.

  • Up Close and into the Den of Dibussi Tande - Part I 9 July 2009 09:59, author(s)-editor(s) Innocent Chia

    Why we call anyone or anything any name has always fascinated me. Maybe because my parents went curious on me with the name Innocent. No wonder then, I got tickled with “Scribbles from the Den” as I began to wonder why a Den? The part of a scribbling Scribe was self-explanatory,but why “from the Den”? As much as these seemingly trite questions took up valuable space in my mind, so did I get interested in the trailblazing man behind the powerful, brilliant and introspective pieces. 

    If it is the power of his pen, or keyboard, that has put him on the high pedestal in the public eye, I have been fortunate to come close to the son, brother, husband, father, friend and consummate professional. On the occasion of his third title, Scribbles from the Den: Essays on Politics and Collective Memory in Cameroon, I seized a pretext to talk to Dibussi Tande about his book, and much, much more…What he fails to reveal in his treatises is plentiful – for instance, that his fun-loving wife, Therese is fuel to his virtuoso; that his seven year-old son, Mokali is his heartbeat; and that his disgust for Africa’s dictators is only abated by the juicy flavors of well-done slices of barbecued pork or beef on a charcoal grill…

    The Chiareport: Congratulations on your third publication! Is your proclivity for writing yet another emphatic antithesis to critics and cynics who have consistently and constantly footnoted Literature by Anglophone Cameroonians?

    Tande Dibussi: Thank you! Well, my work is just one out of many in recent years which demonstrates that writing (both fiction and non-fiction) is thriving in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. From this perspective, my book, Scribbles from the Den, is definitely a challenge to those who continue to downplay or question the quantity and quality of the literary output from Anglophone Cameroon.

    The Chiareport: What is so special about the 49 articles (roughly one tenth of total postings in Scribbles from the Den) that you elected to put together in print? In other words, how did you come about this selection? 

    Tande Dibussi: Simple. First, I selected articles which could easily translate into the book format, and then categorized them by theme. The book is divided into nine parts covering themes such as multiparty politics in Cameroon, the rule of law, the crisis of higher education, presidential politics, etc. 

    The Chiareport: When you started Scribbles from the Den in 2006, did you anticipate the mammoth reception and stream of reactions that has made it the leading marketplace for socio-political and economic discourse in the Cameroon and African blogosphere? 

    Tande Dibussi: Not really. When I started, I had very modest expectations for a blog that would focus on a variety of issues that interested me (sports, African/Cameroon politics, ICTs, etc.). However, I realized very early on that the most successful bloggers were those who created a niche for themselves and became an authority on a specific topic or area. So I focused most of my attention on Cameroon. I think that the popularity of the blog is derived from this “specialization” which gives readers the opportunity to be informed about the Cameroonian situation in a manner not seen in the mainstream Cameroonian or even international media. 

    The Chiareport: The Internet has unlocked the chains that governments had on the traditional media and repressed societies. Is this a statement of fact or fiction? If a fact, how has it freed you and enabled Scribbles from the Den? 

    Tande Dibussi: First of all, I think that the traditional media is still in chains in repressed societies, and the Internet has not really helped that much apart from being able to quickly publicize cases of press censorship and harassment or persecution of journalists. One simply has to look at the Reporters Without Borders’ 2009 Press Freedom Barometer to understand what I am talking about; 26 journalists killed, 167 journalists, etc. 

    The Internet’s main advantage is that it has been able to give unfettered freedom to those who operate outside traditional media, particularly bloggers, who are not restrained by the shackles of the state’s repressive apparatus. As I write in the preface of “Scribbles from the Den”, all over Africa, regimes which once had absolute control over the flow of information are taking note of, and trying to adapt to, this new phenomenon.”

    From a personal perspective, the Internet has not necessarily provided me with any new freedoms because I still write the types of articles that I wrote when I was in Cameroon. Rather, what the Internet has provided me is a truly universal or global readership; close to 200,000 unique visitors from a record 196 countries worldwide. Even the most popular newspaper in Cameroon will yearn for such statistics. 

    The Chiareport: Have you seen a certain growth or maturity of your audience or readers and, how have you continued to interest them? 

    Tande Dibussi: What I have seen is an increasingly diverse readership. Initially, readers consisted primarily of a small circle of friends, and individuals who were familiar with my writings on Cameroonian forums and listervs such as Camnet. As I pointed out in the preceding question, that readership has now spread to include thousands of people from around the world the vast majority who are unknown to me. These include foreign journalists, politicians, researchers, students, government officials, etc., with one interest or the other in Cameroon. In fact, rarely a day goes by without me receiving a request or an inquiry about Cameroon from an individual or an institution. 

    The Chiareport: Are there any of the pieces that may not have seen of the light of day were it not for the Internet and the distance between La Republique du Cameroun and The Den? Does it make those of us that write what others describe as “scathing” pieces cowards? 

    Tande Dibussi: Not at all! Nearly 20 years ago, while a student at the University of Yaounde, I began writing regularly for the leading publications in Cameroon (Le Messager, Cameroon Post, Challenge Hebdo, Cameroon Life, etc.). Even though the risks were great back then, I never held back out of fear or favor. And I did have close encounters with some shady characters as a result of my writing. So distance has neither emboldened me nor changed my writing style. I will nonetheless concede that there are many bloggers whose pen would not have been as vitriolic if they were still in Cameroon, within easy reach of security forces. On the same token, there is a growing number of Cameroon-based bloggers who are constantly taking on the status quo without fear. 

    The Chiareport: My favorite part of Scribbles from the Den is the depth of its archival library. You recently carried President Ahmadou Ahidjo’s reception by JFK. Of what effect, if any, are such memories to the national discourse? 

    Tande Dibussi: I have always been passionate about the issue of collective memory in Cameroon. As I point out in the preface of my book: 
    “For half a century, Cameroonians have been systematically deprived of the appropriate repères historiques or historical reference points that would enable them to analyze political and other events in the country in an informed manner, and place these events in their appropriate historical and geo-political context. Over the last three years, Scribbles from the Den has, from its little corner in the blogosphere, tried to recreate those reference points by taking a fresh look at events of the past and going beyond the official narrative when interpreting today’s events.” 

    I am one of those who believe that a significant part of the problem with Cameroon today is the inability of its citizens to clearly identify and learn from those historical reference points that have shaped the life of the country. If we all did a better job in this regard, then we would be able to ask the right questions and look for the right answers to our problems. 

    For example, a recurring theme these days (brilliantly articulated by the US ambassador to Cameroon) is the inability or unwillingness of Cameroonians to take charge of their country, their apathy and resignation in the face of major socio-political and economic odds. Granted, this is an accurate observation, however, it serves no purpose repeating it over and over without trying to place this Cameroonian attitude in its appropriate context. In my opinion, the real question is “why” have Cameroonians, who only two decades ago were among the most politically active people on the continent, given up on their country and on politics? Or to quote one observer, “what explains the early euphoria and subsequent disillusionment and even wholesale withdrawal” from the country’s political life? We cannot answer this question accurately without first understanding our history, particularly the history of the so called années de braise or the smoldering years of the early 1990s, when the Biya regime successfully neutralized and dispersed the forces of change. This is why I am passionate about history, about collective memory, and about archival material such as the one between Ahidjo and Kennedy.

    By Innocent Chia 
    Source: www.chiareport.com

  • Up Close and into the Den of Dibussi Tande - Part II 24 September 2009 06:10, author(s)-editor(s) Innocent Chia

    The Chiareport: There is no denying that many have tried to pigeonhole you: there are those who have regarded your writings to be in favor of a unitary state as Cameroon currently is; there are those who believe you are a middle-of-the-road guy; and there are those who believe you a cautious supporter of the Southern Cameroons secessionists’ movement…. Who are you not? 

    Dibussi Tande:
     (Laughs). It was only a couple of weeks ago that someone asked me if I was a “silent supporter” of the Biya regime. When I asked why, the person responded that to the best of his knowledge, I have never insulted either the President or the ruling CPDM, even though I have criticized both. My response was that the facts about the president Biya’s rule in Cameroon are so compelling that giving in to emotion while analyzing the Cameroon situation only obscures those obvious facts.

    The same applies to the Southern Cameroons situation, or the “Anglophone problem” to which I dedicate an entire section of my book. Whether one is a unitarist, a federalist or a “secessionist”, the facts about the union between the former British Southern Cameroons and the French Cameroons are so compelling that injecting oneself into the debate simply obscures those salient facts. There are writers who cannot write without putting themselves in the middle of whatever they write. That is not my style; I always strive to make myself invisible even when I write about something that I was actively involved in.

    So my advice to those trying to pigeonhole me is that they should instead focus on the quality, depth and relevance (or lack thereof) of my analyses of the Southern Cameroons issue. The same with the broader Cameroonian politics.

    The Chiareport: What has been most rewarding about your experience as a blogger, a leading, award winning blogger?

    Tande Dibussi: My most rewarding experience has been knowing that I have established an interactive forum where alternative and usually marginalized voices can be heard, that I am reaching a truly global audience, and that my contributions are being recognized for their quality. 

    The Chiareport: Who is your favorite Anglophone Cameroonian author and why? 

    Tande Dibussi: I am part of a generation which was surprisingly not very exposed to Anglophone Cameroon literature even during our secondary school days. In fact, the only novel by an Anglophone author which I can remember back then was The Good Foot by Nsanda Eba. So my exposure to Anglophone authors was minimal. However, I was greatly influenced by Bate Besong, although I must confess that I was initially attracted to his essays in local newspapers and only much later in his drama and poetry. 

    That said, my favorite Anglophone author at this time is novelistFrancis Nyamnjoh, not only because of his prolific output but also because of the quality and diversity of his works. There is also a group of Young Turks of the third generation whose writings are very exciting; Kangsen WakaiLloney Monono,Rosemary EkossoWirndzerem BarfeeOscar Chenyi Labang,Bernice AngohDipita Kwa, just to name a few. 

    The Chiareport: Because of my personal knowledge of who you are, and your beautiful family, I know that it will not be long before you feed the appetite of readers with another title… 

    Tande Dibussi: You’re correct. In fact, regular readers of my blog are aware that I am currently working on what I consider my most significant work on Cameroonian politics; a book that attempts to answer the question which I raised in the previous answer. The book is tentatively titled Reform and Repression in Cameroon and should be available next year, just in time to commemorate the 20th anniversary for the return of multiparty politics. 

    The Chiareport: Since the storied campaign and election of President Obama, it has almost become cliché to talk about improbable stories. Did you ever imagine the map of your life the way it has turned out as a prolific writer? 

    Tande Dibussi: My writing career is really not that improbable. I can state that it is a story foretold! (laughs). In fact, when my former classmates who have not seen or heard about me in a quarter of a century find out that I write books and have a blog, none of them bats an eyelid because that is what they expected of me. My first newspaper article was published when I was in Form Three. And at the age of 22, I became I regular contributor to major Cameroonian newspapers. It is around this same time that I started writing poetry. In fact, my first poetry collection, No Turning Back, which was published by Langaa in 2007, is made up of poems that were all written in my early 20s. So mine is not an improbable story. It is simply a response to the call of destiny… 

    The Chiareport: Our readers may not care to know that The Chiareport, which is my little corner, sprang to life because of your nagging and support. What does your crystal ball say about spaces such as mine, and the plethora of others thatJimbiMedia has created, in the new world media order? 

    Tande Dibussi: The term citizen journalism has become a cliché used in the most inappropriate of instances, but I think that it is still relevant to understand the role of blogs such as www.chiareport.com which provide analyses and commentary not available in the mainstream media. Traditional methods of disseminating information (newspaper, radio, TV) have changed irrevocably with citizen-generated media increasingly playing a key role and providing fresh new perspectives on issues, events, and people. Blogs such as yours will continue to play a pivotal role in that regard, especially at a time when we are witnessing an increasing blurring of the divide between blogging/citizen journalism and traditional journalism. So online spaces such as those created by JimbiMedia are here to stay and thrive. 

    The ChiareportThank you so very much for taking the time to talk with The Chiareport today. I hope we can do this soon again. 

    Tande Dibussi: Definitely! I look forward to another interesting discussion with you. Hopefully the next time around I will be the one asking the questions.

    By Innocent Chia

    Source: www.chiareport.com

    Dibussi Tande is a journalist, poet, author and an award winning blogger. He was born in 1968, under the foot of Mount Fako in Buea, Cameroon. He obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Law in Public Law (1989), and continued in 1990 to earn a Masters in Political Science from the University of Yaounde. He doubled up with another Masters in Political Science and Instructional Technology from North Eastern University and Northern Illinois University respectively. He is married to his wife Therese Tande, and they are blessed with a son, Mokali. He scribbles from the headquaters of the Den in Naperville, Illinois.

  • Scribbles from the Den 28 June 2010 18:49, author(s)-editor(s) Joyce Ashuntantang

    Dibussi Tande’s Scribbles from the den: essays on politics and collective memory in Cameroon definitely contains no ‘scribbles’. It is a collection of well articulated essays capturing the socio-cultural and political fabric of the nation state of Cameroon and of Africa in general. The 49 selected essays in this volume first appeared on ‘Scribbles from the den,’ Dibussi Tande’s award-winning blog, www.dibussi. com, between 2006 and 2009, a fact which has implications for the tone and texture of these essays. Tande is not oblivious to these implications. As he explains: 

    ‘While editing, I tried as much as possible to remain faithful to the look and feel of the original blog postings, many of which were interactive articles with hyperlinks and/or embedded videos and podcasts’ (p. xii). Addressed to a general audience, these essays are a product of citizen journalism, which is now en vogue as a result of the abundance of digital media. Cheap and accessible web blogs afford citizens like Dibussi Tande an opportunity to collect, analyse and disseminate news and information that is independent, reliable, broad-based and necessary to the practice of democracy. These essays therefore were not written as ‘academic essays’ following stringent citation rules and are not riddled with academic jargon. The author, for the most part, draws on his own informed knowledge to bring incisive analysis to past and present events. Nevertheless, these analyses are thorough coming from the pen (keyboard) of the author who is a graduate of law and political science and also a talented citizen journalist with years of experience.

    The essays are grouped thematically in nine parts: ‘The Anglophone file’, ‘Citizenship in the global village’, ‘Collective memory’, ‘The university in crisis’, ‘Presidential politics’, ‘Political pluralism’, Profiles of courage’, ‘Law and justice’, and ‘Random notes’. That Tande begins this collection with the ‘Anglophone file’ foregrounds his identity as both subject and citizen in this enterprise of narrating the nation in the blogosphere and in print. The Anglophone file contains essays that decry the marginalisation of English-speaking Cameroonians in La Republique du Cameroun. As an Anglophone student activist during the height of Anglophone Nationalism in Cameroon in the 1990s Tande’s analysis is instructive not only as a student of political science and law but a bona fide witness and participant in this history. The first article in this section, ‘Language as a tool for exclusion: reflections on Cameroon’s National Bilingualism Day’, provides the canvas for Tande to analyse the apparent marginalisation of English-speaking Cameroonians in Cameroon. As he states:

    ‘The simple truth is that in as much as Cameroonians obsess about national unity and nationhood, those in charge rarely go out of their way to ensure that these political clichés become reality, not even through largely symbolic gestures such as having a fully bilingual website for the presidency of the Republic, arguably the official gateway of the Cameroon government . . . such acts of omission go to reinforce the feelings of institutional and systemic marginalization that run rampant in the ex-British Southern Cameroons’ (p. 3).
    Yet, where Tande’s citizenship journalism manifests itself most admirably is in the prodding of the collective memory of Cameroonians and non-Cameroonians alike. The five essays in this section recover from the historical archives and memory, the lives of some of Cameroon’s unsung heroes like Felix Moumie and Osenda Afana, brutally assassinated because of their anti-colonial and nationalist leanings. But Tande goes beyond recalling history; he indicts Cameroonians for what he terms ‘collective amnesia’. As Tande postulates:

    ‘The absence of memoirs, autobiographies and biographies in Cameroon is merely one facet of a much broader problem, i.e., the collective inability (or unwillingness) of Cameroonians to keep historical records for posterity or even to consider these records as important contributions to the national collective memory’ (p. 55).
    It is in essays like these that Tande makes use of the ‘safe haven’ accorded him by the blogosphere which he has transferred into print. As he argues,

    ‘For half a century, Cameroonians have been systematically deprived of the appropriate repères historiques or historical reference points that would enable them to analyze political and other events in the country in an informed manner, and place these events in their appropriate historical and geo-political context . . . taking a fresh look at events of the past and going beyond the official narrative when interpreting today’s events’ (p. xii).
    However the thematic partitions are for convenience only and do not intimate solid boundaries because most of the essays have one denominator: Cameroon/Africa. The theme that runs through these essays is the debilitating terrain that Cameroonians in Cameroon or the diaspora are forced to call home, but Tande’s web blog translated into the printed word becomes a site of resistance, a testimony that an individual can indeed play a role, albeit a small one, in prodding and shaping national discourse on relevant national and global issues.

    Collecting these essays in print is indicative that despite the gains of digital media, the death knell of the print medium is still a long way off and papyrus certainly still rules. In fact, with the evanescent and ephemeral nature of web material, Scribbles from the den: essays in politics and collective memory is a real treasure.

    Author Posting. (c) Joyce Ashuntantang, 2010.
    This is the author’s version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Joyce Ashuntantang for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Review of African Political Economy, Volume 37 Issue 124, June 2010. doi:10.1080/ 03056244. 2010.484126
    (http://dx.doi. org/10.1080/ 03056244. 2010.484126)