Departmental Bulletin Paper On "Autochthon" and "Allochthon" Divide: Ethnic Stereotypes and Social Conflict in Cameroon

SOCPA, Antoine

37 ( 1 )  , pp.17 - 28 , 2016-03 , The Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
In Cameroon as elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s, the re-institution of multi-party politics gave renewed impetus to the antagonism between so-called "autochthons" and "allochthons", and led to an awakening of ethnic stereotypes. Inevitably, these new developments resulted in flexible and violent social conflict. Major clashes occurred between the 'Arab Choa' and the 'Kotoko', the 'Beti' and the 'Bamileke', and the 'Fulani' and the 'Kirdi'. The first two instances of conflict are based on ethnic differences while the third represents a religious cleavage involving Islam versus paganism and/or Christianity. Beyond these primary divisions, ethnic or group disparities in access to, or control over resources appear to serve as the common denominator in all episodes of conflict, whether historic or recent, and whether psychologically experienced or manifest in the form of non-violent or violent confrontations. In this paper, I rely on data collected from the 1990s onward, a review of the pertinent literature, and my own daily observations of political developments, to map out some of the informal mechanisms or agreements that were—and continue to be—established as a way to resolve ethnic identity-based social conflict, with the primary goal of creating peace within communities or among members of different communities. Some of these local solutions include the land dowry practice and joking about ethnic stereotypes.

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