Meeting Barrister Mbinkar Caroline and the ALL for Cameroon team at the ALL office in Bamenda.

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Goooood Morning Cam-errrr-ooooooonnnn!!!!!

Read the title of this post and imagine it is being delivered by Robin Williams,.   It seemed like the best was to give you my first impressions of Cameroon.

 

In three words -: Loud.  Busy.   Friendly.

 

I wrote this post on Monday night and am now about to upload it on Tuesday morning.   Technology issues!  

 

When I got here on Sunday night there was only time to meet local VSO staff and to have a bite of supper with them.   Having started the day at 4.15am in London that was quite enough.

 

The drive from Yaounde Airport was an introduction to one of the already standout features of life here in Cameroon – the approach taken to road safety by many of the local population.   It is relaxed, to say the least.   As one guide book observes, Cameroon drives on the right – in theory.  In practice, most people seem to drive wherever they need to in order to avoid the many potholes.

 

Step into this situation my first VSO Cameroon hero of the day – Petit Joe.  Joe is our driver.   More importantly he is a man with nerves of steel and a decent concern for the health and well-being of visiting parliamentarians.  Joe not only got me from the airport to the city centre but then yesterday from Yaounde to Bamenda – a six hour drive.

 

I don’t know if J K Rowling ever visited Cameroon but if she did then I am pretty certain that I know where she got the inspiration for the Knight Bus in the Harry Potter novels.   I am not sure how it happens but somehow, when necessary, three cars and a motor cycle or two all manage to share the same piece of road while avoiding potholes and each other.   The rules may be hazy but the blowing of horns seems central to the whole business.

 

Today (Tuesday) we get down to business in earnest.  I shall be spending the day in the offices of ALL for Cameroon and the local VSO cluster.   I have read all the briefing that I can find and the work they do seems fascinating..   Human rights law, when viewed from the UK can sometimes seems a little esoteric.   Here it looks very different.   There is nothing esoteric about the work that ALL does – protecting the rights of widows and their property, minors in detention and tackling police corruption just to name a few selected at random from their last annual report.

 

I am already feeling slightly overwhelmed by the enormity of the task.   How much can I really hope to achieve in two weeks?   I guess I will be able to answer that question more fully in a fortnight.   I already see this not as a two week project but rather as the start of an involvement that I hope will last well beyond my time here.   I think it was Chairman Mao who said that the longest journey starts with a single step.  

Today we get marching!

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Getting Ready To Go

This Sunday I am heading off to do something a bit different.

All this week I have been getting round some of the outer isles of Orkney and Shetland holding surgeries and meeting constituents.   It is a well-worn but still enjoyable path for me.   To give you a taste of it, yesterday I did surgeries in Fetlar, Unst and Yell.  I took this picture from the room in the Fetlar Hall where I held my surgery.Image

On Sunday, however, I am swapping this for a two week stint working on a project organised by VSO in Cameroon where I shall be working with a local organisation called ALL for Cameroon.   ALL (Aide Legale Libre – apologies but I have never worked out how to type acutes, graves, circumflexes etc) provides legal representation for those who can not afford to pay for it themselves.   They have a website where they explain what they do and why which you can find at http://www.allforcameroon.org

The basic plan is that I shall be spending some of my time getting to know the organisation and its work and then I shall be accompanying them as they meet ministers and government officials to try to help their work.

So, you may ask, why the Blog?  I am not, to be honest, a natural blogger or a particularly enthusiastic one.  It seemed, however, like a good way of keeping people back home informed about what I am doing and maybe raising awareness of the work of ALL for Cameroon.  There is obviously a limit to what I can achieve in a two week project but I hope that this might be just the start of an association with ALL for Cameroon and that maybe some of you might be prepared to support them in this country.

I don’t know much about the work of ALL yet but the little that I do know impresses me greatly.  They do great things with meagre resources.  The could do even greater things with greater resources.  To that end the next item on my “to do list” will be to set up a Justgiving page so that you can give a little (or maybe even quite a lot) to support them and the many organisations like them that the VSO work with worldwide.

Watch this space!

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