Cameroon's Minister of Culture chastise for "scandalous" and "abominable" acts
June 12, 2014

Ama Tutu Muna has been indicted by the traditional authorities of the North West Region of the country, for scheming and scamming to transfer the Regionís cultural artifacts to the capital Yaounde.

The Royal majesties of the North West Region of Cameroon are flabbergasted and furious over what they consider to be an act of flagrant desecration of the tenets of their cherished cultural heritage, by Ama Tutu Muna and Angwafor Gladys, respectively the Minister of Arts and Culture and the Inspector General of the same ministry.

Both ladies are reported to have masterminded the overnight transfer of more than 1.500 priceless historical artifacts from the region to Yaounde. The fans of the North West and the elites of the region are particularly angry over the fact that the two ladies behind the scam are daughters of the region who ought to know better than mess around with sacred icons of culture from which women are supposed to maintain a respectable distance, irrespective of whether they are appointees of the "Fons of Fons." It is no surprise then that the Fons of Mankon, Bafut, Bali, Kom and Nso, the top-5 of the region, are currently putting together a delegation of their peers to descend to Yaounde and pressurize the minister to return the artifacts back to their home region immediately.

The Fon of Mankon, His Royal Highness Solomon Ndefru Angwafor, who is also the first vice president of the ruling CPDM party, states very bluntly that what minister Ama Tutu Muna has done is scandalous, disrespectful and tantamount to what he describes as a dirty slap in the face of the North West Fons.

Senator Fon Teche Njei of Ngenmuwah, the current president of the North West Fons' Union NOWEFU, is on record for stating, "It will not be during my tenure as NOWEFU president that such an abomination will take place."

Ama Tut Muna in defense says, "We had realized that the artifacts were not only abandoned in dirt, but were gradually being sold out by some officials of the North West delegation of Arts and Culture." She disclosed that more than once, some of the stolen artifacts have been intercepted at the Yaounde Nsimalen airport and that because of this, it became necessary to move them for save preservation in Yaounde.

This to me is the most flimsy of excuses, and is more of a smokescreen for giving a dog a bad name and then hanging it. How can Yaounde be a venue for safeguarding cultural artifacts when there are relatively very negligible Yaounde native artifacts on display in Yaounde or anywhere else? And how can Yaounde, which is the haven of the biggest thieves in the nation, be the ideal venue for safeguarding any moveable objects, especially priceless ones from the countryís cultural heartland?

For many years during the pre-colonial, colonial and post independent period, the western part of Cameroon in general and the North West region in particular protected their priceless cultural heritage in their palaces and in the Bamenda museum which was the best in the country. Yaounde had no museum for decades after independence except for a small tattered structure behind the Ministry of Education, where less than thirty stools and masks mainly from the western part of Cameroon were on display. I know it because I was the head of cultural heritage for two years in that so called museum. It only occurred to Yaounde to create a museum many years after the president Ahmadou Ahidjo had packed out of the old presidency leaving it to be ransacked by government officials who dislodged whatever valuables were in the building. The idea of transforming the old palace into a museum was only adopted after many appeals from the Cameroon Calling crew of CRTV to create a befitting museum for Cameroon in the abandoned palace.

Once upon a time, government authorities also threatened to transfer the entire contents of the Buea archives to Yaounde, but, ironically, it was the same Ama Tutu Muna who put up a bitter fight against the idea of destroying the iconic Mecca of research that her father Pa S.T Muna had devoted much of his time and efforts to maintain. It was the Buea archives that furnished vital exhibits and documented information used for resolving the Bakassi crisis.

Cameroonians are clamoring for real decentralization so that each region and its peoples can concentrate their last efforts towards developing themselves and safeguarding their cultural identity. What Ama Tutu Muna is doing with the artifacts runs at cross-purposes with the timid trend of decentralization that the Biya regime is under pressure to implement. Anglophones of the former Southern Cameroons have been victimized enough under the policy of marginalization and assimilation. They should not in any way, succumb to the schemes of those who want to toy with their cultural heritage.

Samson Muteh