Tuesday, December 29, 2009
The Anglophone Problem
The Anglophone Problem has been now for more than 49 years since the day West Cameroon decided to join East Cameroon. Some people say there is a problem but others think there is no problem. It is expedient to unravel the nature and genesis of this problem. An Anglophone used to be anyone who spoke English. In those days, only two provinces: South West and North West spoke English and were initially called Southern Cameroons. These two provinces started to speak English when the UN handed German Post WWI colonies to Britain and France as Mandatory Territories and later the UNO after Post WWII rehanded the same countries to them as Trust territories. Britain to facilitate governance decided to rule part of her Cameroonian territories with her Nigerian territorieswith English as the main language. The Northern part of Cameroon (the present Gongola State that was renamed Taraba State by the government of Ibahima Babangida Badamusi) was administered from North Eastern Nigeria and the Southern Cameroons was administered through Eastern Nigeria. France decided to rule East Cameroons as French Cameroons where they spoke mainly French.
However, due to the maltreatment the Southern Cameroonians received from East Nigerians especially the Igbos, there were now two groups: those that wanted Southern Cameroon to join East Cameroon and those who wanted Southern Cameroon to remain in Nigeria. Notwithstanding there were others that wanted Southern Cameroon to be a country on its own. Finally, after the plebiscite of 1961, Southern Cameroon voted to join East Cameroon while Northern Cameroon voted to join Nigeria. The union between Northern Cameroon and Nigeria has gone so far smoothly but the one between Southern Cameroons has failed to blend and bond. Rather we have seen the formation of separatists groups like Southern Cameroon National Congress (SCNC ), Southern Cameroon Youth League(SCYL) Ambazonia (the country name for Southern Cameroons), and Southern Cameroon People’s Organization (SCAPO) fighting for the total independence of Southern Cameroons.
During this time of the union, Southern Cameroonians learnt French and French Cameroonians leant English thereby escheating the Southern Cameroonians of the sole privilege of calling themselves Anglophones since the term Anglophone was for anyone who spoke English and was mimicking the Anglo-Saxon culture. Nonetheless, when the term is used closely, it simply means those from Southern Cameroons. When the term is used politically it refers to those who are Southern Cameroonians. These are the Cameroonians who rightly believe they have never been integrated into French Cameroon or the Republic of Cameroon. With the advent of the unitary government of 1972, the institutions of Southern Cameroon were all destroyed to make way for solely the East Cameroonian institutions.
Unlike their northern counterparts who joined Nigeria, Southern Cameroons was never integrated into the union. No one can easily tell that the present Taraba state in Nigeria was part of Cameroon for there is even infrastructural, social, psychological, and political connection which Southern Cameroons misses. When Southern Cameroon was joining East Cameroon it was in terms of partnership. The union was not forever since they have lived for some time as separate entities. Thus they do have the right if they decide to secede from the union since it has failed to fulfill their aspirations and the terms of the federation.
Southern Cameroonians always feel they are marginalized since all through the more than 49 years of the union, only French Cameroonians have ruled it with the prime minster position given as crumb to Southern Cameroons who bark for it between the North West and South West. All the key ministerial positions always go to East Cameroon with the inconsequential ones again thrown as bones to the dogs of Southern Cameroon. Look at the national teams be it football, basketball or whatever team you will see Anglophone conspicuously lacking. Not because they lack talents but because of their peregrinity-Southern Cameroon. Most new infrastructures have been constructed only in French Cameroon and those left behind by the Germans have been left to rot in dilapidation even though the bulk of the money that does these constructions comes from Southern Cameroon. French language which was the official language of French Cameroon has been made the de facto dominant national language even though the country says it is bilingual. There are still many government documents and exams that are solely in French. Most government scholarships are issued only to East Cameroonians even those coming to America meanwhile they do not even speak English. This has bred a lot of animosity amongst Southern Cameroonians with some calling for a separate country of their own while others are calling for integration but much more as partners.
While it was easy for Northern Cameroon to integrate in East Nigeria because they were the same Mambilla people who live in the Mambilla Pleatau in Nigeria and in the Tikar Plain in Cameroon . One thing that may not favor the separation of Southern Cameroons from East Cameroon is that there are many ethnic and sub ethnic groups. In addition, those freedom groups and separatist movements struggling to represent the region are fighting amongst themselves for supremacy of the region and this had brought in a lot of skirmishes which the government has exploited. The two dominant provinces have always lived in distrust because those from the South West let by Emmanuel Endeley believe that John Ngu Foncha of the North West sold them to French Cameroon. That mutual distrust needs to be annihilated for them to become a group to reckon with. The third reason is that skeptics who flashback at history with India as case study, find little solace to believe that if Southern Cameroon breaks off from East Cameron it will find peace. Pakistan broke off from India and Bangladesh broke off from Pakistan. Presently each of them is still threatened with breakaways factions.
Nevertheless, the failure to solve this Anglophone problem; though it lies is like a boiling cauldron or a sleeping volcano that will explode with time. It is the right time and chance that is needed for a similar situation like in Ivory Coast, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Chad, Congo, Somalia, and many other places where they have been ethnic wars for it to become a warzone. The reason why it is even difficult and even prolonged is because of the different ethnic groups in Cameroon which seem to distrust each other. In Addition, Southern Cameroon has lacked a charismatic leader that could breach the gap between the two areas: North West Province and South West Province and galvanize support even from French Cameroonians who could feel threatened.
Nonetheless, though there is such great mistrust between Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon the union could actually be improved. The presidency should be rotational after every seven years between East Cameroon and Southern Cameroons. The major ministerial posts should go to the opposite section that takes the Prime Minister position to balance the power. Translation should be done on all government official documents and there should be more integration of Anglophones into all other aspects of the Cameroonian life. Though there is a lot of intermarriages the government should actually use that as a program and project which will bring more integration than before. Without pretensions there is a problem and this problem must be solved expediently. The reason why this problem should be taken seriously is that though the oppressed may be dormant for some time when they wake up they do some with blood when the whirlwind of change blows through. For one reason or the other God always sides with the oppressed.
Until then let us strive to live in peace with all men as much as it deepens on us for blessed are the peacemakers for they shall God.
Prince & PA Hamilton Ayuk
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