Posted by News Express | 22 June 2021 | 1,643 times
By ETEOBONG ITA
Mrs. Clémentine Timme is neither a politician, nor is she entertaining any political ambitions. Her mission is to help engender meaningful socio-economic solutions proffered by Africans for Africa. She is confident this could be achieved via an assemblage of like-minded Africans working in unison irrespective of where domiciled. When spiders unite their web can entangle and debilitate a lion.
Clémentine, a Cameroonian native resident in Germany, was six years old when her mother passed away during child birth in Cameroon. Hence, she was raised by her father – of blessed memory. He worked hard, was a traditional chief, confident, caring, wealthy, and instilled discipline. As a farmer he owned 100 hectares of land, grew and traded in coffee beans. Sadly, with the market rate for coffee beans set by France, the price of this commodity began to decline and eventually crashed. The crash proved devastating because it ruined her father’s business, left him somewhat broken and struggling to make ends meet.
In Cameroon, as a young woman Clémentine could not understand why her father who owned a number of cars, parked them in the garage and chose to walk. When she asked him why, walking is good for his health he retorted. She probed no further. Lately, across Africa there are growing cases of farmers rendered destitute. Some owing to debt burdens, a sense of shame or so-called failure, and with no recourse committed suicide.
In 1997, utterly naive, young, black, beautiful and single, Clémentine departed her native land to study information systems at a German university. Though she could have gone to France, Belgium, Switzerland or Canada where French is spoken, her father sent her to Germany because her older brother was already there. After arriving she enrolled in a German language course. In 1999 she married a German national, and the union was blessed with the birth of their first child – a girl.
One day, Clémentine received a telephone call from her father – he asked for financial help. Shocked and unaware of the status quo in Cameroon, or what had befallen her father, she asked what was actually going on. He disclosed that he had been seriously affected by the crash in coffee prices, and his situation was dire. Moreover, on the question she posed as a young woman in Cameroon, he was walking because he could not afford to buy fuel for his cars, her father remarked. Rather than purchase fuel, he saved the money to further her education abroad. Touched by his compelling disclosure, Clémentine swung into action to support her father. Fortunately, backed by her fluent command of the French language coupled with newly acquired basic German language skills, she gained part-time employment as a customer service representative in the communications sector. This, she was able to manage successfully between performing her duties as a wife and mother, while attending lectures at the university.
During her formative years in Cameroon, Clémentine attended a Catholic-Mission school. Some of her teachers were Europeans. Although somewhat familiar with Europeans, her consciousness was devoid of realities underpinning the classification of a person based on skin colour, or racist tendencies. Fast-forward to Germany late 1990s. New challenges emerged putting her daughter’s physical, emotional, social, spiritual and intellectual development at risk. As an African mother Clémentine encountered subliminal and overt racial discrimination in Germany. Even when her daughter displayed high intellect, superior knowledge and multilingual prowess when compared with her peers, still, there was this coded contempt harboured by sections of the society. It was ubiquitous. Unrelenting, mother and daughter carried on with life. Today, the little girl is now a vibrant young woman, confident in her skin, and an accomplished medical student. Clémentine is also a mother of twins – a boy, and a girl. Combined she has three children. Often they say, mother you have done more than enough for us. Now we want you to shine, go and do more in Africa.
Emanating purely from circumstance and curiosity, Clémentine’s study of architecture was unscripted. She and her spouse opted to build their house because having viewed homes on the market, none met their specific needs. Construction began in earnest and soon became an eye-opening experience. She discovered that in Germany many labourers in the construction sector are Polish, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Russian immigrants. Some have inadequate skills with poor work ethics. During construction, when she observed errors and pointed them out, some labourers took offence or showed aggressive tendencies. They must have wondered who is this black woman and what does she know about building construction. Driven by the harrowing experience endured during interactions with the labourers/building contractor, Clémentine enrolled at a university to study architecture.
During a visit to Cameroon, in spite of the crushing poverty and her encounters with some local children clad in tattered clothes and without shoes, etc., she saw the happiness in their eyes. Whilst the emotion and observations remain etched in her memory, she believes there are risks in simply accepting the situation as normal. Apathy contributes to inertia, she added. Thus, key actors across Africa need not only rethink existing assumptions, they must act now.
Clémentine is comfortable in her own skin, feels safe, and lives in a highly organised European city with adequate infrastructure. There is some semblance of good governance with social security and healthcare, etc. However, her experience dictates that the grass is not always greener on the other side. There are personal or collective costs that come with living in the Diaspora. Thus, she is preoccupied with the nagging issue of why Africa lags behind, despite being endowed with abundant human and natural resources. There are those who covet these resources and will stop at nothing. One hand gives under the flashing lights of cameras, in the shadows the other hand takes. Arguably, a beautiful fruit may contain canker worms. Hence, there is need to be mindful of complicity in advancing neocolonial agendas, which often divides the people, leaving many with nothing.
According to Dr. John Henrik Clarke, History is a clock that people use to tell their political and cultural time of day. It is also a compass that people use to find themselves. Through human geography, history tells people where they have been, what they have been, where they are, and what they are. History also tells people where they must go, and what they must be. The relationship of history to the people is the same as the relationship of a mother to her child. Dr. Clarke was a writer, scholar, historian, professor, activist, confidant of Malcolm X, and advisor to Kwame Nrumah – Ghana’s first President and foremost Pan-Africanist.
•Eteobong Ita is an Environment Consultant.
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