Transnational Relations of Mbororo Migrant Families
By James Achanyi-Fontem
The 2nd General Assembly of the Mbororo migrant network of associations held in Douala recently. Some 200 delegates from the three Northern , East, Centre and Littoral provinces attended the one full day of deliberations on how to promote gender and development for the integration of the Mbororos in national plans.
Associations from the different provinces are grouped under the Mbororo network organisation « SURAMAMA ». Opening the deliberations in the presence of the provincial delegate for the promotion of the woman and the family, Suzanne Patricia Bebe, Team leader Hassan Hamadou, told the delegates that all human beings are equal in the eye of God, irrespective of the political, religious or cultural background. With this, he invited delegates to exchange ideas and make proposals on how to develop strategies for the intergation of the marginalized Mbororo groups in cameroon in national development policies to reduce their migration into other countries.
Suzanne Patricia Bebe lauded the initiative of the Surmama and announced the decision to put the Mbororo women at the centre of celebrations marking the Africa Women’s Day 2008 in Cameroon. She observed that the integration of the Mbororos has been a challenge to the government, because these are people who migrate constantly and do not have birth certificates and do not establish marriage certificates for the establishment of socio-economic development security. They hardly carry identification papers and though composed of very large populations, have a low education rate.
The Provincial delegation for the promotion of the woman and the family joined in the organization of Mother/Father support activities to empower the Cameroon Mbororo woman through existing organized groups like Suramama.
Reports made by the different group leaders from Garoua, Bertoua, Yaounde, Bamenda and Douala approved that alphabetisation of the Mbororo remains a major problem, due to their normadic activities. Their normadic life style does not make them benefit from the common soci-ecnomic and education possibilities granted by the government and international communities.
Women are a target for alphabetisation because this will empower them and assist in the promotion of infant immunisation of Mbororo children between zero and 5 years, encourage HIV/AIDS prevention and promote the fight against malnutrition. Suramama has worked out a collaboration partnership with the provincial delegation for public health and legal organization to prevent violence against women.
A close look at the Mbororo Community structures show that the margin between the man and the woman is very wide. The woman reamins marginalized and uneducated, compared to the opportunities accorded to the man or boy-child. The girl-child is given out to early marriages in exchange of cows as dowry. For every 100 Mbororo in Cameroon, only two have national identity cards.
To reverse the situation, Horé Poulakou, a Mbororo association located in Garoua with over 500 members has engaged in the promotion of the education of the girl child and the established of national identity cards for newly born babies as well as the aged who do not have one.
The General assemmbly organized in Douala was an opportunity to evaluate how far the Mbororo have gone with their self-help integration and development projects with the last five years. Suramama is in its third cycle. The third cycle started with the success story of registration of some 600 Mbororo children in primary schools in the Adamaoua, though the classrooms remain congested, due to the lack of enough classrooms, benches, and teachers.
Suramama partnership with other local association in Cameroon started 6 years ago in the area of capacity building, health promotion of the Mbororos through immunisation campaigns in Ndobo – Bonendale communities, promotion of mother and child care, infant and young child feeding , organisation of educative talks on the importance of child education and the protection of the rights of the mother and the child, promotion of micro-economic activities as a source of women’s empowerment and the promotion of networking of the Mbororo associations.
Addressing the audience at the general assembly, Dr. Michaele Pelican, who lectures at the Department of Social anthropology in the University of Zurich, Switzerland presented a paper on her research studies on Mbororo Muslim migrants from Cameroon in various parts of the world, their experiences with western and islamic educational nteworks as well as with work opportunities in African countries and the Arab world.
Her paper also dealt with the migrants' impact on their home area and their contribution to economic, political, religious and social change. Transnationalism is a relatively new concept in the study of migration, she told the delegates, as it refers to mobility across multiple national borders and to migrants enter1aining regular and sustained contacts with individuals/communities in two or more nation states.
While much research on African migrants has concentrated on migration to the West and the migrants' integration into the host society, the focus of her research on the migrants' relations with their home communities as weil as on the perception of these relations both by migrants' and their relatives and friends at home, narrowed its focus on Mbororor Muslim migrants and their migratory movements within Africa and to the Arab/Muslim world.
Since the Muslim community of Cameroon is ethnically heterogeneous, the research concentrates on the migration trajectories of pastoral Foulbe (Mbororo) and Hausa from northwest Cameroon. Both groups have considerable historical experience of pastoral and trade mobility, and their par1icipation in international migration may be conceptualised as an extension of their "culture of mobility".
Frequently, international mobility is closely linked to labour and urban migration. Moreover, it requires networks of information and facilitation that are mostly found in urban centres. The on-going research will include extended phases of fieldwork both in the home regions of the study communities as well as in the cities of southern Cameroon, Yaoundé and Douala.
As concerns the migration destinations, Gabon, South Africa and Dubai will be considered. The choice of these destinations is based on their popularity among Cameroonian migrants as well as on the comparative opportunities they offer. As a neighbouring country to Cameroon, Gabon supports different types of transnational relations as compared to South Africa where regular mobility to Cameroon requires considerable economic resources. Dubai, on the other hand, allows us to investigate linkages between historical and modern experiences of trade mobility as weil as the possible impact of a Muslim environment on the migrants' transnational relations.
Researchlng transnational migration requires also the researcher's mobility. Due to its multi-sited character, the project is extending over a period of two years (2008-2010) and will involve substantial travel and research within Cameroon (Centre, Littoral, West, Nor1hwest,
Adamaoua. North. Far Nor1h) as well as within Africa (Gabon, South Africa) and Dubai.
Michaele Pelican, better known within the Mbororo environment as Aïshatu, is an anthropologist and post-doctoral researcher . Her other works include research on transformation of the socio-economic situation of Mbororo women in North West Cameroon published in 1996 and the inter-ethnic relations of Mbororo, Hause and Grassfielders in Misaje of North West from 2000 -2002.