The 1961 Reunification of Southern Cameroons and the independent La République du Cameroun and the later ‘big brother’ behaviour and activities of La République officials in the union coupled with the hypocritical attitude of some ‘always ready to betray’ Anglophone elites did nothing less than creating bad spirits of assimilation, exploitation, and marginalisation of Anglophones in Cameroon. Today just like in 1961, 1972, 1984, and early 1990s, some Anglophone activists have challenged the unitary status of Cameroon through street protests, memorandum, and some sort of civil disobedience thereby creating what many authors now call Anglophone consciousness which is proving to be uncontrollable nowadays. This Anglophone consciousness has intensified thanks to bad governance on one hand and poor living standards on the other other. Since the most recent manifestation of the Anglophone Problem in Cameroon from November 2016, popularly referred to as the Anglophone Crisis, lives have been lost, property destroyed, people displaced, people bribed, people intimidated and people threatened and there seems to be no compromise between the hypocrisy and animosity of the Cameroon government and the determined and united Anglophone activists, thereby making a solution to the problem and the crisis a dream yet to come true. Why are there delays in the solution to the Anglophone Problem in Cameroon? In my most modest and objective style, I will attempt to respond to this question with two main points; the divergence of demands and supplies of actors, and the divide and rule tactics, faint dialogue, and the use of military by the Cameroon government against peaceful protesters.
- THE DIVERGENCE OF DEMANDS AND SUPPLIES OF ACTORS
I call it divergence because there seems to be no uniformity or compromise whatsoever between those who have projected some solutions to the Anglophone problem in Cameroon. There are three main schools of thoughts; Nationalists, Moderates, and Secessionists. Note should be taken that the nature of analysis here is guided by what I consider to be true not appropriate, necessary not pleasant, and objective not faint patriotic feelings.
Nationalists are those who consider themselves patriots of the Republic of Cameroon and their main tenets are that Cameroon is one and indivisible and they in most cases reject the existence of a problem particularly Anglophone in nature. Within the nationalists, there are those who say there is a problem while others simply say the Anglophone problem is an illusion and as such nonexistent. To most of them, there is a general problem of bad governance and the enforcement of the 1996 Constitution and its decentralisation clauses is the way forward. Nationalists stand to support the national identification and integrity of the nation Cameroon as a whole (though doing almost no ground work in that direction). Examples of nationalists include Solomon Tandeng Muna (no of late), Atanga Nji Paul (Minister of Territorial Administration as from 2 March 2018), Government Ministers, other lower ranking officials, and some privileged Anglophones by the francophone-dominated regime. There are desperate youths and students who through bribes have decided to support the nationalists. And by nature, there are many francophones who are nationalists because they have little or no mastery of the reunification history of Cameroon has some francophone authors avoid the unbalanced nature of such history.
Moderates include some leaders, adherents, members, supporters, and sympathisers of some opposition political parties in Cameroon, some civil society organisation leaders, and other people who detest the highly centralised nature of the Republic of Cameroon. According to them, the solution to the Anglophone problem is constitutional reforms that will take Cameroon back to the Federal system of government as was the case from 1961 to 1972. Within these moderates or federalists as they are called, there are those who call for two states, four states and others then states federation; two states for the Anglophone and Francophone Regions respectively, four states for the North, West, South and East sections of the national territory, and finally ten states corresponding to the ten Regions in the country namely; Far North, North, Adamawa, East, Centre, West, North West, South West, Littoral, and South. These are people who have publicly called for a return to federation. They include; Senator chief Mukete, Ni John Fru Ndi, Jean Jacque Ekindi, Walla Edith Kahbang, Agbor Balla and others.
These are people who want nothing but the independence of the two Anglophone regions collectively known as Southern Cameroons. They are also referred to as Extremists. These secessionists claim that Southern Cameroonians are marginalised, assimilated or francophonised, and exploited by the francophone-dominated government of Cameroon and so should quit the 1961 union. Their activities which are mainly coordinated from abroad have many followers and sympathisers in Cameroon and abroad thanks to the social media and the Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation (SCBC) available on satellite as a free to air television network. Most of the activists here are those who have gone through the difficulties of being an Anglophone in Cameroon and decided to move to other countries willingly or by fear or force. Their followers in the country and mainly youths who have almost every reason to regret as unemployed and neglected Cameroonians. There are also old people who have live from the Cameroon before independence, independence, reunification, and unification eras and have seen that it is an unfair union. Bad enough, these separatists are fighting for justice and democracy yet their activities are marked by intimidation and intolerance as houses of defectors are burnt down.
Their proclaimed State or country is called ‘Ambazonia’ which to the best of my knowledge dates back to 20th March 1985 when an Anglophone lawyer and later President of the Ambazonia Restoration Council and Ambazonia Movement, Fon Gorji Dinka wrote a memorandum challenging what he called the unlawful 1984 change of name and status from The United Republic of Cameroon to The Republic of Cameroon (La République du Cameroun) by President Paul Biya. His arguments were that the changes simply took Cameroon back to the period before Reunification and therefore implying that Southern Cameroons was annexed or conquered. Fon Gorji Dinka consequently declared the independence of Southern Cameroons with the name The Republic of Ambazonia. Some known pro-independence activists include Carlson Anyangwe, Bernard Fonlon, Henry Fossung, Ebenezer Akwangga just to name a few. Other separatists known through the most recent manifestation of the Anglophone problem include Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, Tassang Wilfred, Bobga Harmony and most leaders, adherents, supporters and sympathisers of the now banned Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC). Government officials including President Paul Biya, State Ministers, Regional Governors of the NW and SW Regions, and host of nationalists and some francophones refer to these separatists as terrorists because of the subsequent use of arms by some unidentified men in the crisis believed to be pro-independence activists.
All these factions therefore make a solution slow and almost impossible.
I also blame the delays to solutions to the Anglophone problem to unpopular actions taken by the government of Cameroon since the start of the upheavals in the Northwest and Southwest Regions in late November 2016 when lawyers and teachers syndicates raised their concerns and announced the modalities of their strike actions. It is said that the government tried to bribe activists, divide and rule them, called for what I consider to be faint dialogue, and when all these seemed unsuccessful, the government called them terrorists and declared them wanted.
2. DIVIDE AND RULE, FAINT DIALOGUE, AND THE USE OF FORCE
Any crisis needs a solution if there are hopes and intentions of controlling or stopping its escalation. The lack of honesty by the government, the determination of some Anglophones, and the eminent support for justice from some forces behind the scenes have made the solutions to the Anglophone problem look like looking for fresh water in the deserts.
In its elitists approach, the government of Cameroon in a bit to calm activists turned to some picked and privileged elites of the Northwest and Southwest regions to use them and throw money on traditional rulers and some opinion leaders. This is seen in the changing tunes of some leaders who supported the existence of the problem and later called it a fruitless action by extremists. Someone wrote on his Facebook timeline that:
when you complain,
when you insist,
they bribe you,
when you refuse,
they arrest you.
Also, it is an old tradition in Cameroon that the government tries in most cases to divide the unity of the two Anglophone regions and rule them through appointing Prime Ministers, Ministers, heads of Companies and others of a particular region at a time and neglecting the other thereby making the region show more signs of alienations to the government. This is what the government has done to elites of the Southwest Regions who think that the Northwest region is privileged in high ranking positions of the government. This tactic works like magic especial in crisis periods. See the appointments of Prime Ministers Simon Achidi Achu, Peter Mafany Musonge, Ephraim Inoni and Pholemon Yang. Also see the creation of the University of Buea and the University of Bamenda for more information on how such government actions divide Anglophone regions and make them compete for assimilation and exploitation by the Republic of Cameroon.
I call the so-called dialogue faint because we all know that Paul Biya once had the power to call the factions of the crisis to table but did nothing. But as it has always been the case in Cameroon, the government thought and still thinks that those protesters will soon get tired and stop making noise. In the strongest conviction of the government, the Anglophone activists don’t have adequate human, financial and moral resources to succeed. Going by this, the government has failed because it’s evident through the respect of ‘ghost town’ operations, civil disobedience, ‘no back to school’ operations, that Anglophones are more engaged in solving the Anglophone problem as the years go by. The government cannot say for sure how it has controlled or stopped the escalation of the problem over the years apart from using appeasement measures such as appointing some Anglophones in government offices, creation of numerous solution oriented commissions and making false promises which have all proven to be temporal as a new generation of Anglophone Cameroonians sees the Anglophone problem beyond the appointment of a few Anglophones. This measure has failed because once appointed, these people thank the appointer and become more francophones than anglophones and end up losing respect in the Anglophone milieu.
The government of Cameroon has applied the use of force from the onset of the claims to this Anglophone problem. Fon Gorji Dinka and followers were brutally repressed by government forces and many sent to prisons under hard conditions. Recently, when lawyer’s syndicates went on strike for what they consider the francophonisation of courts in the Anglophone Regions of Cameroon, they were man handled by forces of law and order.
TAKE HOME MESSAGE
I don’t like war and don’t think anybody in his right senses like war but there are some actions that push people to happily live as rebels. Every government wants to protect its territorial integrity but how you protect it matters most. When you beat armless protesters, torture protesting students, kill protesters with life bullets, rape innocent girls, and push people to live in mountains and bushes, the law of nature has it that there is bound to be a reaction. This is exactly what is happening between the government of Cameroon and the activists of the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. The NW and SW Regions are militarised and people now look at the military as enemy or occupation force. The government has argued that the Regions are secured not militarised but a common man will hardly say who the government is securing as the actions are rather aggressive against the population. There are Anglophone activists in prisons in Cameroon and their unconditional release is one of the solutions to the crisis, not even the problem.
As they say, the government does not win a war against its own people. The African cultural setup just as it’s the case with Cameroon makes families to be rather large as cousins, friends, and mates are in most cases considered family members. This therefore means that when the military kills one man, at least thirty people are touched as brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, classmates, school mates, church mates and neighbours indirectly become supporters of the deceased and may be seeking avenging actions. Some Anglophones are avenging for their lost ones by attacking military formations believed to have killed their loved ones. Killing more therefore means waiting for more reaction from the population which in no way, there is any guarantee that the professional military will succeed to kill every protester and kill the Anglophone consciousness.
Only time will say if we are in a war period or not, of the so-called peaceful Cameroon.
NB: EVERYTHING WRITTEN ABOVE IS MY IDEA OF WHAT I SEE AS A STUDENT AND RESEARCHER.