On August 30, 2018, the International School Network visited the Embassy of Cameroon to interview the Ambassador, His Excellency Dr. Pierre Ndzengue.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue has been the ambassador of Cameroon to Japan since 2009. He noted that there are various areas of cooperation between Japan and Cameroon, including soccer. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue also listed cooperation through MOFA and JICA in terms of public relations, private companies such as Marubeni, and building hospitals and decentralized cooperation like in Oita Prefecture.
Culture and Unity
The educational system of Cameroon is bilingual. There are two official languages, English and French, as the nation was colonized by two countries. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that Cameroon is home to about 250 different tribes, so it is difficult to unite them using just one language, which is why the educational system in Cameroon teaches both languages.
As a diverse nation, the culture of Cameroon has found “diversity in unity”. Because of the diverse nature of the nation, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue describes Cameroon to be like “Africa in miniature”.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue commented that Cameroonians are warm, hospitable, and always welcome for greeting. He noted that this goes back to the way Cameroonians understand family. Family in Cameroon is very strong as many families live together for generations, and the inclusion of family goes beyond biological or blood relatives. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that family is the first place to teach children how to behave, and adults will correct and educate children even if they are not biologically connected. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explains that it is a common endeavor in Cameroon that people interact with each other. “Solitude is something we don’t know”; Because of this culture of family, people do not die alone or die from hunger. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue recalled that in his village, there are common houses where neighbors get together and eat.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue sees the phenomenon of globalization to be a means of opening Cameroon for development and FDI. Globalization brings about a rapid change that cannot be avoided- and whilst this change takes place, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue stressed on the importance of “people first”. He noted that we must ask ourselves the fundamental question of “What do we need?” and must always watch out for the people. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that through globalization, people must bring together specific qualities from their own countries, and realize their own dreams.
When H.E. Dr. Ndzengue met Emperor Akihito, he asked why Japan has maintained both traditional and industrial aspects. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue has noticed that there are traditional aspects in the modern streets of Japan, including small shrines in many corners of Tokyo. The Emperor answered that Japan had been closed from foreign influence before opening up after World War II. Because of globalization, there is now a need to embrace foreign cultures, such as the Western culture, but in villages of Cameroon, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue noted that traditions have been maintained. H.E> Dr. Ndzengue emphasized that it is important for the youth to know their own history and backgrounds, including their own traditional languages, which is in fact a challenge. French and English are international, working languages that people in Cameroon learn in school, so it is difficult for parents to pass on their traditional languages to their children. Nonetheless, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue emphasized that as “citizens of the world”, we must have both modern and historical knowledge and appreciation.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue noted various natural and cultural aspects of Cameroon that he recommends for visitors to see. He first commented that there are reserves in Cameroon where tourists can see animals, as well as beautiful mountains and forests. He also mentioned that there are hospitable villagers with festive cultures, who ride horses, and do fireworks in the Winter at safari parks.
Relations with Japan
Cameroon and Japan have shared diplomatic relations since 1960. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that the two countries have had a close and friendly relationship. Cameroon has supported Japan in international organization candidates, and Japan has helped Cameroon in a variety of aspects, including schools, roads, water and electric infrastructure, and rice cultivation. Furthermore, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue commented that Japan is famous in Cameroon due to the number of Japanese schools in the country.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue expressed his aspirations for more Japanese companies to come to Cameroon. He noted that there must be implications for the private sector, as the decision-making process on the government level in Japan is too slow. He hopes that through TICAD, he can find more dynamic Japanese private companies that will come to Cameroon.
When H.E. Dr. Ndzengue was a child (at around age 12), he had the dream of becoming a priest. In secondary school, he wanted to become a military man, and it was after he graduated from university that he got interested in diplomacy.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue expressed that he finds Japan to be an interesting diplomatic posting. He noted that Japan is very industrialized, with lots of knowhow to gain. His message towards Japanese people would be to encourage Cameroon. He wishes for more Japanese people to learn how the youth of Cameroon live, and to connect person-to-person to talk about their challenges and dreams. As an Ambassador, he hopes that more Japanese cooperation can strengthen between Cameroon and Japan for the future.
In terms of gender inequality, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue mentioned that it is important to ensure that women receive equal pay as men with equal qualifications. In Cameroon, there have been many strong business women as well as women in the parliament. The nation has not yet reached 100% gender equality, but H.E. Dr. Ndzengue assures that the situation is much better than that of Japan. Furthermore, he noted that it is not only the government that should be deciding rights for women, but it is the women’s important job as well to fight for rights daily. His message towards women is “not to let men drag you down” and to “make sure your qualifications are respected”.
H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that poverty is an issue that is always existing in all countries. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue noted that even in Japan, he was surprised when he was a homeless man on a bench which proved that the no matter the level of development in each country, poverty still exists. Nonetheless, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue, believes that fighting poverty means conducting policies that help people. He believes that policies should target the vulnerable part of the population, including kids, women, elders, and not the rich. He also explained the need for projects to assist them, such as projects that empower women, or takes care of families.
Last week, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue attended a conference on peace treaties. He posed the question, “Why do we have conflicts?” H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that every country has conflicts of some sort, and that world peace is impossible as long as it is something we are just dreaming of. He believes that we must go against the conflicts, and cooperate on working hard to achieve peace, by tackling the causes of instability. International organizations such as the UN gathers heads of states to discuss such humanity issues, and have found that economic issues, and injustice cause instability and inequality. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue believes that the two major factors that bring peace to the world are justice and love, as the lack of those two factors are what brings about inequality. H.E. Dr. Ndzengue hopes that people can realize that we are all humans, as no one is inferior or superior to one another. He said that the “blood flowing is the same color”. Furthermore, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue explained that this is one of the most important jobs of diplomacy; people-to-people communication and traveling leads to easier exchanges and understandings for other peoples, despite any differences in appearances or ways of living.
As a message towards students, H.E. Dr. Ndzengue hopes that students can be more open to learning foreign languages, to communicate better with others. Additionally, he hopes that students can seize every opportunity to travel and meet new people. He notes that it is especially important that students engage in student-to-student communication to befriend and learn about the youth from other cultures and their ways of thinking and living. He believes that students from differing nations or regions should come together to present the diversity of their cultures.