A colonial mess
The relics of colonialism in Africa are not only material but cultural including language. The shame might be more in the fact that African leaders have still retained colonial institutional structures and systems. These structures are evident in the ties that many African countries still have to their former colonial masters. More important is that even in the African Union (AU), the politics of colonial language still plays a huge role in the bloc’s electoral processes.
In the last election for the AU chairmanship, member states were clearly divided along linguistic lines. The linguistic division continues into a country like Cameroon. Cameroon’s colonial history is sandwiched between three colonial powers; Germany, Britain and France.
In 1954, southern Cameroon (currently north-west and south-west provinces of Cameroon), became a separate region from Nigeria with E.M.L. Endeley as Premier. On February 11 1961, the United Nations (UN) organised a referendum with two options: either to join Cameroon or Nigeria. The third option which was for the region to be granted independence was opposed by the United Kingdom representative to the UN Trusteeship Council, Sir Andrew Cohen, and as a result was not included in the options during the referendum.
Southern Cameroons joined the Republic of Cameroun in 1961 and lost its autonomy when Cameroun adopted a unitary state to replace its federal state. The result was the marginalisation of the Anglophone region.
For a long time, the Anglophone part of Cameroon has been agitating for an inclusivity in the federal government. This week, eight people were shot in Beau, south-west of the country during a peaceful protest. The protesters called for independence from the majority Francophone country.
The Anglophone region has been under heavy military occupation. Early this year, the region, which the Anglophones call Ambazonia, experienced three months of internet blackout. The internet blackout was followed by numerous arrests in the region.
Barrister Akere Tabeng Muna, the president of the International Anti-Corruption Council, addressed a letter to the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres of the risk of imminent genocide in Cameroon. There have been calls for dialogue to dispel the tension in the country.
There have been complaints of social media platforms such as WhatsApp being disrupted. The marches which occurred on October 1 following the declaration of the independence by Ambazonia were met with stiff resistance from the army.
A letter from the southern Cameroons/Ambazonia governing council read “We, the people of Southern Cameroons are slaves to no one. Not now, not ever again! Today we reaffirm autonomy over our heritage and over our territory.”
The antagonism against Anglophone Cameroonians is further aggravated by the presence of police trucks in neighbourhoods with heavy Anglophone population.
Unlike Quebec, where the Francophone speakers were in the minority and took up arms against the Canadian government, the Ambazonians have continued to use peaceful protests.
President Paul Biya on his Facebook page announced “I strongly condemn all acts of violence, regardless of their sources and their perpetrators. Let me make this very clear: it is not forbidden to voice any concerns in the Republic. However, nothing great can be achieved by using verbal excesses, street violence, and defying authority. Lasting solutions to problems can be found only through peaceful dialogue.” President Biya’s announcement has however not quelled the tension in the country.
Cameroon’s case is more critical considering that the central African region is a cauldron for violence. Any solution to lasting peace in Cameroon lies either with the UN or AU.