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True Confession: My Minister Uncle and His Marabout 

By Jean-Marie T.*

Let me start by introducing myself. I am a teacher. I was born some 37 years ago by Francophone parents, the second of five siblings. Through a conspiracy of circumstances, however, three of us ended up going through the Anglophone sub-system of education, while the other two siblings have remained blue-blooded Francophones.

Although most members of my extended family speak French – and I can speak and write that language as well – I am more comfortable with the English language because most of my friends are former primary and secondary school mates, whose first language is English. In any case, if given the choice in a new life, I will rather be born an Anglophone.

Recently, I read a “True Confession” on this website, at a time I was undergoing torments; I decided to pour out my story in the hope that it will relieve me of some psychological burden, as you rightly suggested in your promotional announcement.

In effect, on Sunday, November 20, 2011, my uncle, a former government minister, for whom I served as private secretary for four years before his sacking, visited me with a delegation comprising three aunts, another uncle and a marabout. Threatening fire and brimstone, they swore that I must confess the evil things I did which caused my uncle to be sacked from government. According to the marabout, Uncle Minister’s reappointment in the imminent new government was absolutely hinged on my confession.

After my insistence that I knew not what they were talking about, they resorted to all kinds of threats, with the marabout even openly threatening my life. They eventually left after hours of fruitless threats and occasional pleas, but thereafter I was haunted by men stalking me in the dark, blood and fetishes in front of my door in the mornings, and threatening daily phone calls from Uncle Minister. To be fair to Uncle Minister, he promised me in one of those phone calls, while weeping loudly like a bereaved widow, a bundle of cash if I confessed.

All of these actions to force me to confess of I-don`t-know-what were just a continuation of occult methods which Uncle Minister unfortunately believes are the panacea to every problem, and the key to every lock.

When I was called to be Uncle Minister’s private secretary about eight years ago, my excitement and joy, as you can imagine, were total. I thought I had literally stepped into paradise without having to pass through the thorny path. But when I started work, I quickly realised that my role consisted mainly in executing the dirty tasks of Uncle Minister, help him watch his back and clean up his mess.

So that’s how a respectable teacher became a pimp, a mail-runner, a troublemaker, a spy, a mid-night suitcase transporter, a ‘high-priest’ and a number of other roles. For four years, I witnessed my life metamorphose from that gentle-spirited teacher to an uncanny bogeymen scorned by many and dreaded by all who came my way.

During those four years, I accompanied Uncle Minister to various shades of marabouts, sect leaders, soothsayers, and all types of dubious men of similar vocation in Cameroon and abroad. I was often horrified by the dirty rituals which I will not want to suffer you with. But what caused my present troubles started one dark, ominous night a little over four years ago.

On that fateful night in September 2007 I led Uncle Minister, the almighty member of government, through a nocturnal parade in some of the most eerie places in Yaounde. He had just received “intelligence” from the presidency that his job was at risk. With an imminent cabinet reshuffle, as happens every election year (twin municipal and legislative polls held in July 2007) Uncle Minister became a nervous wreck and settled on hiring a marabout from a locality near Maroua at a colossal fee.

So, on this fateful Tuesday night, while honest Cameroonians were fast asleep, Uncle Minister, husband to a pretty wife and father to a number of beautiful children, was stalking the streets half-naked under the whip of a weird-looking marabout and the watchful eyes of his private secretary. According to this Mallam, Uncle Minister needed a sort of corporal mortification in order to command more authority over his subordinates and peers as well as have his position maintained in government. In order for the ritual to work well, he commanded, we had to follow every step and keep to every minute detail.

We thus set out that night in search of the authority Uncle Minister thought he lacked. The first stop was at a giant refuse dumping site at Tsinga-Elobi where my boss was to strip naked and pick up rubbish clothes from the filthy mound and don as a sign that he was ready to take up the role of a madman. As I watched the usually cocky old man throwing off his clothes in exchange for rags, I was awed at how stupid a boss and uncle I had.

In the twinkle of an eye, the marabout unleashed a stroke from the raffia-cane he was wielding. In spite of the painful stroke, Uncle Minister, according to the rules of the ritual, only had to smile and chuckle like a senseless madman. He tried the first time but the pain seemed unbearable. I saw Uncle Minister wriggle in pain staring at me as if to get me to plead with the marabout to reduce the load.

Fiiiaaaap! Another blow from the whip and my uncle ran berserk kicking rubbish on his way nursing the spot where the stroke fell. “Voilà comment un vrai fou doit se comporter!” (Yes! That’s how a real mad man behaves) the Mallam declared. “Ça va marcher s’il coopère” (It is going to work if he obeys). Amazingly, Uncle Minister stoutly trusted the ritual as if his life depended on it. He more than cooperated.

The three-man procession went on through the Mokolo market. Uncle Minister was to join a band of real madmen scavenging for rubbish food along one of the drains. Whooop! Another whip of the cane. “Passe là-bas. Tu ne vois pas les autres?” (Go there. Don’t you see the others?). Without any delay, Uncle Minister dived into the drain and began rummaging the gutters for any loose piece of junk.

He found a cob of roasted maize drenched in the mud. Even before I could reprimand, my own dear uncle and boss gnawed at the trophy. “Oui c’est ça!” (Well done!) the marabout commended. The parade went on through the streets towards the municipal lake where the final purification was to occur.

I remained fascinated at the manner in which this very man I knew to be a tyrant could so scrupulously succumb to the diktats of an illiterate smelly marabout in a greedy quest for power. At the lake, Uncle Minister stripped again for a ritual bath. The marabout poured copious amounts of stinking water fetched from the lake in a dirty calabash. He then rubbed him all over with an acrid-stinking potion.

Mallam proceeded to serve some of the smelly potion for Uncle Minister to drink. With a sonorous voice as of a celestial being, the marabout issued warnings: no bathing for a week; no drinking of water during the day, no eating of palm oil, no entry into the house from the front door and a lot other unimaginable injunctions to be respected until the announcement of a new government.

About a week later, a new government was announced. Uncle Minister was sacked. The marabout’s sacrament did not work after all. I lost my comfortable office space and returned to the classroom. Since then, I have led a quiet life until Uncle Minister came with his delegation on November 20, 2011 accusing me of his predicament.

I was in the process of writing this story when another government was appointed on December 9. Uncle Minister is still in the cold. I live in fear, wondering what callous methods he may now employ to force me to confess.

* Real name withheld on request

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