The Network for Solidarity, Empowerment and Transformation for All – NewSETA in partnership with the Open Society Initiative for West Africa – OSIWA organized the first Edition of the Cultural Blend Festival – CUBLEF. The Cultural Blend Festival took place from the 18th -19th of September 2020 at Djeuga Palace Hotel. This festival brought together 100 youth delegates from the 10 regions of Cameroon to celebrate Cameroon’s rich culture and historical diversity and common Cameroonian heritage, with a main objective of fostering peaceful coexistence in Cameroon through intercultural dialogue. The event was attended and facilitated by very high profile Professors, The Ministry of Culture, The National Commission for Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, Civil Society Organizations, The US Embassy Yaoundé, The Swiss Embassy Yaoundé, the Media etc.
In recent years, prospects for peace and democratic progress in Cameroon have been overshadowed by mounting turmoil and conflict. Security and stability have become urgent needs, especially in the Anglophone and Far North regions of the country. The embattled local populace faces random loss of life, criminal activity, displacement and destruction of public and private property. Civic values, social cohesion and ties of solidarity have been jeopardized. Beyond the political, historical, and sociological dynamics surrounding the erosion of peace and social stability, the conflicts themselves reveal a betrayal of our cultural values. No Cameroonian culture preaches hate and intolerance. None espouses the killing of innocent people for any purpose. That we find ourselves at this point today remains a conundrum
To make progress means we must collectively and individually address several lingering questions and finding appropriate answers is crucial to the direction we take as a nation. Do the varied conflicts in Cameroon eliminate the possibility of finding common ground based on peaceful coexistence and complementarity? How should we contemplate a form of community consensus void of demands for unanimity or uniformity in a country as multicultural and diverse as Cameroon? What enabling conditions are required for consensus and pluralism to cohabit in a single public space?
These questions animate public debate and ostensibly have no one-dimensional interpretations or answers. In this light, dialogue (palabre) should be the hallmark of civic life, and efforts to expand the space for exchange and mediation among independent voices, represent critical constituencies for change. In such a context as that of Cameroon, an important principle will be to encourage citizens not only to know their own culture, but also that of the other. This is crucial for a public space where dialogue can combat misunderstanding, strengthen emerging generations of civil and political leaders, buttress democratic gains and offer a lifeline to civic actors building bridges among communities threatened by divisions. Without embracing the classical transitional justice debate concerning the merits of prioritizing truth, justice, or pacifism, there is need to foster a culture of peace founded upon our collective intellectual and moral solidarity – a critical foundation for any future political and economic enterprises towards peace.
It is in this context that NewSETA organized the Cultural Blend Festival (CUBLEF). To help navigate the many hurdles in our collective aspiration for peace, CUBLEF aims to explore the potential in our cultural values, symbols and norms in mediating intercultural understanding, peaceful coexistence and intercultural dialogue. If God is peace and made us in his own image and likeness (Gen 1:27), the present culture of violence based on distrust, suspicion, intolerance and hatred, on the inability to interact constructively with all those who are different, must be replaced by a new culture based on non-violence, tolerance, mutual understanding and solidarity, on the ability to solve peacefully all our disputes and conflicts.
Prior to attending the CUBLEF, delegates were obliged to attend a virtual conference as part of CUBLEF activities. The Preliminary Virtual Conference which was held on the 7th of November aimed at setting the pace for understanding the place of intercultural dialogue in peace processes, orientations regarding the cultural event, logistics and upfront preparations for CUBLEF.
The first day of CUBLEF (Friday September 18, 2020) was predominantly a conference with panel discussions and group reflections. Issues addressed during this conference included:
- A keynote address by Prof. Jean Emmanuel PONDI titled: “Are African Cultural Values Relevant for Development Today?
- An intergenerational Panel on the theme: Is our Cultural Diversity an Asset for Peace and Social Cohesion in Cameroon?” Moderated Abong Bebey Blaise, The Panel was made up high profile Professors including Prof Beban Sammy Chumbow, Prof Dze-Ngwa Willibroad, Prof Leka Essomba and Dr: Alvine Henry Assembe Ndi
- A Cross country Panel consisting of Masezerano Jean Wycliffe (Rwanda), Jimm Chick(Ghana), Sarah Koch(Switzerland), and Eric Salgado (United States of America) and Moderated by Dr. Sakah Benard. This Panel focused on Cross-Country Experiences on Managing Multicultural Societies
- Peer Exchange Panel: Experience Sharing on Contributions to fostering Peace in Cameroon. Moderated by Tadum Tadum William the Panelist were: Achalake Christian (Local Youth Corner); Fidel Djebba (Rayons de Soleil); Tonga Benjamin, (CHRDA), Tioua Desire (Chercheur)
Day two of CUBLEF (Saturday September 19, 2020) was focused on Sports for Peace and a Cultural Jamboree.
The Sports for Peace was an opportunity for the delegates to engage in a collective experience, bridge the cultural gaps and bring about exchange and relationship building between themselves despite their difference in culture, ethnic group, language, Religion etc. Sports being a unifying factors, was used to build the mindset of group dynamics and impart the delegates with values and attitudes of effecting teamwork and relating positively with one another.
The Cultural Jamboree featured the exotic cultural parade and culinary exhibitions will mark the apotheosis of the Cultural Blend Festival. These were interspersed with dance, traditional music, and inspirational talks.
In conclusion, CUBLEF raised deep appreciation for Cameroonian culture and successfully ignited reflections on managing cultural differences and living together. In general, the Conference, sporting activities and cultural jamboree were a comprehensive approach to fostering peaceful co-existence in Cameroon by using intergenerational and cross cultural exchanges, sporting activities and cultural heritage to communicate messages of respect, tolerance and peace