By Eric Chinje
Cameroon is a nation at war!
For more than five decades between 1961 and 2016, the vast majority of Anglophones in the country wondered, with increasing anxiety, whether society’s path reflects their sense of belonging and their most independent aspirations. deep. Political and economic development during this period has consistently raised conflicting arguments. In 1965, the Prime Minister of the State of Western Cameroon – the English-speaking half of the country who agreed, in October 1961, to join former East Cameroon in creating an independent federal republic of two states – was Summaryly removed from office and replaced by a federal government appointee in Yaoundé. Citizens scratched their heads a lot, but the political novices of the state capital, Buea, couldn’t really understand what happened and what the long-term consequences would be. A few protests were recorded in the state independent press but the majority in West Cameroon preferred to stick with the federal experience.
In 1972, a referendum was held to validate the cancellation of the federal constitution adopted at Foumban in 1961 and institute the United Republic of Cameroon. It was a national consultation where citizens of the federated state of Western Cameroon (West Cameroon) were a minority and the positive outcome of this referendum did not necessarily reflect the wishes of the state’s citizens. Cameroon has become a unitary state, but the only unannounced result has been an increase in the number of English-speaking Cameroonians who have discreetly complained about the untenable nature of the experience. Again, the silent majority seemed willing to see what the United Republic would result in given the time.
The next decade was marked by a series of educational and economic actions that strengthened the growing sense of Anglo-speaking Cameroonians that they had made the wrong deal and were reduced to second-zone citizens. Firstly, students who qualified for university in Cameroon quickly understood that the choice of English courses at the only university in the country was very limited. Many have started looking abroad for opportunities to continue their studies, leaving the country with literally no love lost for Cameroon. Those who went to Yaoundé and worked to survive in a very francophone environment quickly retained the words used to describe them: ′′ anglo-mad “; ′′ anglo-idiot “; or simply ′′ anglos “. Resentment has taken root!
Economically, government action has further strengthened feelings of rejection and what many regarded as increasing cultural incompatibility. The revered institutions of Western Cameroon have either been closed or taken up by related institutions in East Cameroon that did not appear to have the same instruments of accountability. These included: The Produce Marketing Board – a structure that was created to ensure that farmers across the country are not victims of fluctuations in the international market for basic goods – which was absorbed and eventually destroyed by ONCPB; Cameroon Bank that was transferred to Yaoundé and finally closed; Mobile Wing – a highly disciplined police force that was the crown jewel of the policing system – that was simply dissolved; Public Works Department, PWD – the Unit responsible for ensuring that investments in transport infrastructure are properly maintained – has been transformed and essentially dissolved. Others were the commission of inquiry (commission of inquiry) mandated by the constitution which ensured that state resources were used for the benefit of the state and that no careless government officer with access to the public treasure could abuse his office for personal use; Cameroon Power Corporation (Powercam) – the energy entity that grew structurally and strategically with the economy – that was shut down and replaced by a system that quickly demonstrated its inability to meet growing needs citizens and economy; vehicle inspection and sanitary inspection units which respectively ensure that vehicles running around the country are still in a state of driving and public spaces maintain the most hygiene standards raised possible. Hospitals and schools had to function optimally, with teachers and health professionals among the most respected professionals in the state. In these and other areas, Anglophones have seen a decline in quality of life and public services with increasing concern.
In 1982, the first president of the Republic resigned from office and appointed his prime minister to succeed him in the Supreme Judicial. Some Anglophone citizens had hoped that in the spirit of the Foumban agreements that produced the federal constitution, power would pass on to an Anglophone. Many were deeply disappointed when it proved not to be the case but held their arms to see what the new president would do to return to Foumban’s mind. Not only did he do anything about it but, in 1984, without resorting to any form of public consultation, unilaterally declared the end of the unitary state and returned the country to what it was in 1960: The Republic of Cameroon! This decision provided the fertilizer that would energize the latent movement which had always required the independence of southern Cameroon (Southern Cameroons) – the name of the United Nations guardianship Territory which became Western Cameroon after the Foumban Conference. The notion of the an independent republic of Ambazonia was born with the announcement of the ′′ Republic of Cameroon “. His supporters thought Mr. Biya had withdrawn francophone Cameroon from the union, returning it to the entity that had obtained its independence from France in 1960. Many members of the movement have begun to make their arguments to the United Nations and the African Union and now ′′ celebrate ′′ what they consider to be restoring their country to its pre-1961. status.
Ambazonians remain a negligible political force that lost its momentum again in 1990 when it appeared that democracy – which had been growing in English-speaking Cameroon before and immediately after independence – was finally coming to the country. The rise of the Social Democratic Front, founded by John Fru Ndi with the initial support of the English-speaking elite, seemed to be the panacea for the evils that had settled into national society: endemic corruption, economic stagnation, poor infrastructure, degradation health and education, and increasing ethnicity and tribalism in politics. Democracy has found no democrats in Cameroon! This all proved to be a mirage and reality quickly settled, with a slow and steady slide to a single party regime and the collapse of justice and send of responsibility, two cardinal elements of any democracy.
The beginning of the second decade of the current millennium came with what appeared to be a determined attempt by the government to assimilate and francophone Anglophone Cameroon. The president of the republic appeared to confirm this during what was presented as a peace summit in Paris in November 2019. Magistrates and teachers as well as administrators and officials of public order with little or no English language proficiency have been deployed to both English speaking regions. In 2016, the population of both regions felt they had enough of trying to be Cameroonians with all rights of citizenship. Teacher s’ and lawyer s’ unions tried to start discussions with the government, but quickly called ′′ terrorists “, arrested and imprisoned. On October 1, 2017, mass protests, with protesters carrying ′′ peace plants “, were violently repressed, some having been shot down. This served as the call to action Ambazonians needed and when the head of state in November 2017 announced upon his arrival in Yaounde of a summit in Abidjan, the army’s sending to settle the uprising in English speaking regions, the country has entered civil war! Thousands of people died, hundreds of thousands were moved both inside and in neighboring countries, villages were shaved and despite Yaounde’s claims to the contrary, the end of the war is Nowhere in sight. Knowledgeable minds argued that this is a war for the hearts and minds of Anglophones; the army is the wrong instrument to resort to and can never win the war. What seems to be missing is the political will to recognize and act accordingly. Bullets pierce heart, don’t win it. Someone in authority should take note of this!