….from denial [D] to acceptance [A]….
had been made to ignore the message from the streets. Ignoring Cameroonians’ grievances each time they are raised had become a favourite pastime for the unapologetic Yaounde regime. This time around, Yaounde ran out of luck as the ordinary people on the streets had made no effort to hide their determination and anxiety to, as it were, cross the Rubicon. Although riot police multiplied efforts at what they know how to do best by gripping their black sticks and guns with the hope of deterring the uprising, people showed their dogged determination by orchestrating a massive sea of protests. The sheer outpouring of protesters from across the board easily drowned the voices of
As if they were awoken from slumber, CPDM regime barons started shouting in chorus from the cozy confines of their Yaounde offices that those protesting on the streets had been manipulated and should be doubted. Although the crowds increased by leaps and bounds and on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, CPDM regime supremacists continued to claim there was nothing the matter with the Cameroonian experiment of ‘living together’. True to type, and in their usual characteristic manner, regime elites continued rehearsing that those claiming there was an ‘Anglophone Problem’ were in the minority, and a dwindling minority, for that matter. They were not only categorical but swore on their honour that there was nothing in Cameroon as an
To which even a common man on the street would respond: ‘Really’? For years, a quiet but mammoth antagonistic clash had raged between the francophone-inspired regime in Yaoundé and an umpteen informed Anglophone dotted across the country and in various spheres of life. It had been the battle for equality and dignity. Professor Tazoacha Asonganyi in the preface to Adolf Mungo Dipoko’s book Cameroon: The Anglophone Soul, situates what has today become the Anglophone Problem both in time and in space: ‘What is known today in Cameroon as the ‘Anglophone Problem’ is the consequence of the derailment of the agreed federal arrangement into what is described today as the ‘unitary state’ that bears the original name of none of the partners in the Federation: The Republic of Cameroon. Under the present arrangement, the identity of Southern Cameroonians has been virtually wiped out, and the country is perceived nationally and internationally as a ‘francophone country.’’ By this professor Tazoacha Asonganyi was also categorical that the Anglophone Problem was caused by the francophone leadership of the country, not necessarily by all Francophones as such. Dipoko’s book simply saw in the behavior of SDOs and Governors in the North West and South West Regions, mere pro-consuls sent by a foreign power to an annexed territory to maintain ‘Law and Order’. With prophetic insight, Professor Asonganyi wrote on June 10, 2010 that: ‘Human problems usually start with what authorities consider as banal demands, before the demands radicalize to the point of rupture.’ He went further to state that such radicalization is usually through reflection on who the affected people are and what kind of society they want. The radicalization, he writes, comes through ‘self-critical public judgments of events and conditions, which raise awareness and receptivity of
The Group Concerned.’
Since the resurgence of the Anglophone identity crisis characterized by the Common Law Lawyers and the All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions strike actions of October/November 2016, various attempts have been made to redefine the ‘Anglophone Problem’ in the light of the new actors that championed it. The majority of francophones who jumped into the bandwagon at an early stage, saw in the Anglophone Problem a language problem given that Common Law Lawyers had in their demands also decried the non translation into English of the OHADA Uniform Acts as well as the imposition of French as language of business in Common Law Courts by francophone magistrates posted to the North West and South West Regions. Others saw in the Anglophone Problem a minority problem that could be equated to problems faced by other minorities in Cameroon like the pigmies in the East, the mbororos, and what have you. Still, others, including educated Anglophones, saw in the Anglophone Problem the near impossibility of appointment of Anglophones to key and influential positions like Defense, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Education, et al, in Cameroon. As days, weeks, and months went by, and as the debate raged on, the definition of the ‘Anglophone Problem’ became much more recalibrated to mean the systematic exclusion of a people based on linguistic and cultural background from the decision-making process in Cameroon when the people came into the union as two equal partners. It meant in very simple terms that even if all the goodies were to be given to Anglophones without them having been involved in the decision-making process, it would still amount to
This, to the mind of an average Anglophone is the crux of the matter. It simply means that from the moment Anglophones are not part of the decision-making process, whatever share of the cake is given to them is considered marginalization. If the complaint was that very little is allocated to the English speaking Regions in terms of investment credit and the francophone-led government sits in Yaoundé and decides to increase the investment credit as well as decides what investment would be good for inhabitants in the North West and South West, it would still amount to marginalization and discrimination. To an average North Westerner and South Westerner, it is not so much the fact that little comes to these Regions in terms of social and infrastructural amenities but the fact that there are hardly admitted to the decision-making table. They would use a very simple analogy to explain out themselves. They say somebody cannot be complaining and bitterly about the fact that you ceased their Fish Pound, their very source of protein and instead of giving that access to the farming and harvesting of the fish, you on your own simply and unilaterally decides to increase the quantity of fish supplies to them. That would not only be further indignity but outright disrespect. As pointed out earlier, the recalibration of the Anglophone Problem pushed government to ignite a new wave of
One key member of government after another mounted the rostrum to claim there was no Anglophone Problem in Cameroon. From Issa Tchiroma Bakary , Communication Minister, through Laurent Esso, Justice and Keeper of the Seals Minister, to Jacques Fame Ndongo, Higher Education Minister, all took turns to deny there was ever an Anglophone Problem in Cameroon. As if that was not enough, influential Anglophone elites, amongst them H.Es Elvis Ngolle Ngolle and Paul Nji Atanga, swore on their honour that there was no Anglophone Problem in Cameroon and that as Anglophones, they have never encountered any obstacle because of their anglophoneness. Paul Nji Atanga even went a step further to demonstrate in triumphant detail that, as far as he was concerned, Anglophones in Cameroon were rather being favoured by President Paul Biya. He had as ‘proof positive’ the fact that Cameroon’s Prime Minister, Head of Government, Philemon Yang was an Anglophone, the Director of Central Treasury, Sylvester Moh, an Anglophone, and more importantly, the Director of Custom, Edwin Fongod. To show that he was not in any way making a mistake in his judgment, he asked that it be put on record that: ‘I have said it today, I said it yesterday, and will say it tomorrow, that there is no Anglophone Problem in Cameroon’. He declared how wonderful and supportive President Biya had been to Anglophones to the extent that even the Director of Presidential Security, General Ivo Yenwo was an Anglophone. As if that was not enough, Paul Nji Atanga cited the ‘numerous and wonderful’ projects Biya had realized in Anglophone Cameroon, including and not limited to, the creation of the two Anglo Saxon Universities of Buea and Bamenda, the decreeing of Referral Hospitals, the creation of schools and colleges, and more importantly, the tarring of the Bamenda Ring Road that Biya promised to personally supervise. Like Tchiroma and Laurent Esso, Atanga claimed Common Law Lawyers had simply been manipulated from abroad and that sooner than later, their masks would fall off. Tchiroma himself went further to claim there was nothing as Anglophone or Francophone again in Cameroon as everybody had simply become Cameroonian. According to him, Anglophonism smarked of colonial mentality. He underscored in very strong terms the fact that Cameroonians loved each other and were free to aspire to any position in the country, be it elective or appointive. This was nothing but denialism being raised to the
Level of Fine Arts.
How else can one explain it, if not that denial, like corruption, has been raised to the level of fine arts in our beloved nation, Cameroon. Not that denialism is a uniquely Cameroonian phenomenon. It would seem human nature and a subject of study. Fortunately, and for the purpose of a better understanding of this work, a body of knowledge already exists on denialism as a phenomenon. In psychoanalytical theory, denialism is a persons’s choice to deny reality as a way to avoid a psychologically uncomfortable truth. Denialsim therefore, is referred to as an irrational action that withholds the valediction of historical experience or event. It is when a person refuses to accept an empirically verifiable reality. In the sciences, denialism is simply the rejection of basic facts and concepts that are undisputedly well supported. Denialsim has come to be known as the biggest single way people lie to themselves. Most people would not recognize the harmful effects of denial until they are knee-deep into the bad situation. The reason-why people deny reality is because it hurts their happiness, health and their success. The motivation of denialism includes, and not limited to, self-interest [economic, political and financial] and defense mechanism meant to protect the psyche of the denialist against mentally distressing facts and ideas. In the great tradition of Cameroon, the regime supremacists in Yaoundé thought by consistently denying the existence of an Anglophone Problem, protests would die down by themselves. In the process of underestimating the resolve of the protesters to push to the end, both Yaoundé and protesters did a perfect job of ignoring each other. As the rumbling on the streets persisted, Anglophone statisticians and the intelligentsia also did a perfect and formidable job of putting to the public marketplace of ideas, irrefutable data on over 56 years of structural and systematic
The point must therefore be made, and with emphasis, that unlike other imaginary problems, the Anglophone problem has been a real problem. As documented in Cameroon’s lone English Language privately-owned daily, The Guardian Post newspaper and other online platforms, the problem was deeply embedded in the asymmetrical political structure of the country. According to the online platform, Cameroonconcordnews, this has led to institutional paralysis. It further argues that while Anglophones are divided over the exact nature of the Anglophone Problem, franchophones, on the other hand, were united in their bellicosity and belligerence towards Anglophones whom they cast as treasonable felons and secessionists who cannot be trusted. It is because of this self-fulfilling falacy, the platform reasoned, that the francophone-inspired leadership in Yaounde takes as an excuse to exclude Anglophones from the commanding heights of decision-making and treat them as second class citizens. To have a better grasp of the situation, just consider the following facts and figures as presented by The Guardian Post and the Cameroonconcordnews. Over 56 years after independence and reunification, there has never been an Anglophone President or an Anglophone Secretary General or Director of Civil Cabinet at the Presidency. Nor has an Anglophone ever held the strategic ministerial portfolio of Defense, Finance, Territorial Administration, Communication, External Relations, National Education or even in charge of the Police, Gendarmerie, the Army and Intelligence Services, not even ambassadors to English speaking countries like the USA and Nigeria. For a region that represents about 20% of the population accounting for over 60% of GDP, the fact that the lone oil refinery named in French [SONARA] is in Anglophone Cameroon, yet has been run by francophone General Managers with a predominantly Francophone workforce since creation, is unacceptable. It just cannot be that there is no competent Anglophone to occupy these positions. As if that was not enough, higher institutions like the National Polytecnic, the National School of Administration, ENAM, the school of International Relations, IRIC, and others like, ESSTIC, INJS, IFORD, CUSS, ENSPT, IRAD, Public Works, are heavily laden with French courses, another way of saying Anglophones need not apply. All official correspondences appear in French even when directed to Anglophones. French is the language used in administration, police, gendarmerie, army and courts. Road signs are in French, even in Anglophone Regions. There is not a single word in English on the FCFA currency in circulation. The facts and figures of Anglophone marginalization are to say the least,
Of the over 700 ministers appointed since Biya took office in 1982, only 76 [10.8%] have been Anglophones. In the current 63-member cabinet, there are only six Anglophones [9%] and only, Philip Ngole Ngwese [2%] out of the 38 ministers has a cabinet portfolio. Of the 130 GMs of State Corporations, less than 15 are Anglophones. Of the 130 Board Chairpersons of State Corporations, only 10 are Anglophones. Of the 38 DAGs in Government ministries, only three are Anglophones. There is no Anglophone on the Douala Stock Exchange Board. Of the 38 Secretary Generals in Government Ministries, only four are Anglophones. Of Cameroon’s 36 ambassadors, only six are Anglophones. Of the 58 SDOs, only six are Anglophones. Of the 36 Army Generals, only four are Anglophones. The picture in the judiciary is even more pathetic and scandalous with francophones occupying all key positions in the Supreme Court-The President, the Attorney General, Head of Judicial Division, Head of Administrative Division, Head of Audit Division, Head of Special Criminal Court, Special Attorney Criminal Court, Director of Military Justice, Registrar-in-Chief Supreme Court and Secretary General, Supreme Court. The situation was decidedly worse at
The Regional Courts.
58 [39%] of the 148 magistrates in the South West Region are francophones, while 54 [61%] of the 89 magistrates in legal departments in the South West are francophones. Of the 50 magistrates working in Buea [Bench and Legal Department] 20 [40%] are Francophones while 20 [71%] of the 28 magistrates in the Legal Department in Buea are Francophones. Of the 30 new bailiffs that were appointed in January 2014 to the South West, 28 of them [93%] are Francophones. The situation in the North West was even worse. Of the 128 magistrates in the North West Region, 67 [52%] were Francophones. Of the 93 magistrates of the Legal Department, 64 of them are francophones, [65.9%]; 22 [48.9%] of the 45 magistrates in Bamenda are Francophones. Of the 27 magistrates in the Legal Department in Bamenda, 21 [77.8%] are Francophones. Comparatively, of the 119 magistrates in Douala, only two [1.7%] are Anglophones. Likewise, of the 107 magistrates in Yaoundé, only two [1.9%] are Anglophones. These are certainly very disturbing figures in a bilingual country with two distinct legal systems. Added to this was the fact that there was no Referral Hospital and no functional Airport in the two Anglophone Regions. It should be recalled that preliminary studies by the Consortium charged with the construction of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline had established that it would be cost effective if the pipeline was to be constructed from Doba in Southern Chad to Limbe in the South West of Cameroon because it has a natural deep seaport. Documents at the World Bank and the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund attest to the fact that francophones at the Presidency of Cameroon re-routed the project to Kribi in the South Region; taking the pipeline through ecologically sensitive areas and increasing the distance by 90 miles and the cost by $2billion. To add salt to injury, government has made it a point to assign francophone administrators who do not understand a word of English to Anglophone areas. Cameroonconcordnews narrates how Francophone D.O in Oku, Kandem Andre once called a meeting with traditional rulers and started speaking in French. Not understanding what he was saying the Fons started dozing. Feeling he was being snubbed, the angry D.O ordered his bodyguards to wake-up the traditional rulers with a slap each and the meeting ended in chaos. D.O Kandem was not an isolated case. Francophones systematically disrespect Anglophones in positions of authority, even the Prime Minister, Head of Government. Francophone ministers either ignore cabinet meetings called by the Prime Minister or deliberately come late, in breach of standard protocol. It is in record that when then Prime Minister, Achidi Achu appointed Raymond Gwanyala as Director General of Customs, the then Finance Minister, a Francophone, openly challenged the PM in a flagrant display of insubordination. The said minister not only refused to preside over the installation ceremony, but ordered a boycott of the event which was heeded by all Francophone Directors in that Ministry. Valerian Ekinneh Agbor Ebai recounts in Cameroonconcordnews online that as Prime Minister, Peter Mafany Musonge was humiliated by the Paymaster General in Yaoundé. Musonge was dealing with a crisis after a timber truck derailed killing dozens, mostly roadside hawkers in the hotbed of Mutengene. As anger was boiling on the streets, President Biya ordered that FCFA 200 million be given to the PM to go help the victims and deceased families. A voucher was established to this effect; with the ‘visa’ of the Prime Minister’s office and that of the Minister of Finance, and sent to the central treasury. The then Paymaster General, Etogo Mbezele refused to pay, ostensibly because the then Director of Treasury’s visa was not on the voucher. The treasury Director had gone on vacation out of the country with the ‘visa’. Informed of Mbezele’s decision, an exasperated PM Musonge could not help but exclaim in anger and frustration: ‘Oh these Frogs’. There is no gainsaying the fact that Musonge spoke from his heart and that his spontaneous outburst, as described by Ekinneh, speaks to a deep-seated
Vaterian Ekinneh Agbor Ebai, public intellectual and foremost chronicler of Anglophone frustrations over the years, has also documented countless instances where francophones have been appointed to lord it over better-educated and well qualified Anglophones without anyone raising an eyebrow. He sees it as a tragedy that 56 years after independence and reunification, Cameroonians are still being assessed based on their Francophoneness or their Anglophoneness. What better way of qualifying the frustration of Anglophones than for Ekinneh to simply state that ‘Anglophones have been treated shabbily’. Because of this mean and unfair treatment, more and more Anglophones are asking whether they made the right choice in 19961, since only they were asked if they wanted reunification with francophones. Despite the fact that East Cameroun was deeply embroiled in a bloody insurgency and terrorism, Anglophones closed their eyes and voted with their hearts, Ekinneh asserts. Fifty six years after that vote, all Anglophones are asking is to be given an opportunity to manage their own affairs. Yet, they are being called secessionists or enemies in the house or Biafrians and even asked to go back to Nigeria. According to the public intellectual, this in itself is demeaning and outlandish. And for Ekinneh to suggest: ‘Our strength as a nation lies in its diversity. The bridge toward our future will be built on lessons from the past; hence government must refrain from assuming that anyone calling for restructuring of the present structure wants to break up the country. It is not Anglophones who threaten national unity; rather, it is the politics of exclusion and marginalization of Anglophones that poses a threat to peace and stability. Those who see Anglophones as a conquered people should look at these [above mentioned] unsettling statistics and learn the right lessons because the mood is very scary but the looming crisis is still avoidable’. Unfortunately for Ekinneh Agbor Ebai, the Francophone leadership in Yaoundé refused to heed to informed advice. It continued to denial there was any problem particular to Anglophones. Taking the Anglophone identity crisis as a parameter, it would go without saying that the cycle of denial is a predictable cycle and not only people but organizations go through upon receipt of news or opinion that differs radically from their own. Researchers have basically concluded that the cycle of denial and acceptance starts with
As stated elsewhere, Anglophone agitation had been around for so long a time that most Cameroonians considered any claims of marginalization from Anglophones as normal. The otherwise docility of existing Anglophone pressure groups from ACC1 through AAC II to the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC’s activism was simply seen as normal and déjà vu et entendu. Government agents in the North West and South West Regions saw in SCNC activism in the approach to October 1 of each year, an opportunity to clear fast cash from central government on grounds they were preempting potential uprisings. Many inside the Anglophone community saw in the annual ritual between government forces and SCNC activists a mere ping pong to deceive each other for their fiendish aims. At the approach of every October 1, separatists would engage in a hide-and-seek game with security operatives to an extent that most youths who to complete their asylum papers would excitedly hoist one flag after another in one street corner or the other neighbourhood, more for the sake of taking pictures than for the pushing of any particular agenda. Given that the normal experience stage is usually unclouded by doubt and undue emotions, government forces would rush and overrun isolated SCNC activist’s homes and communities in order to cease secessionist material and flags. In the process, scores of activists may be arrested, detained, and later released without charge. The same ritual would be repeated the following year. In some cases, activists are actually dragged to court. When the diehard activists who have as slogan, the force of argument and not the argument of force, urge the law courts to go ahead and charge them for secession, the cases are interestingly and systematically thrown out of court, for what reason, only the courts would say. At the national level, government had continued to see any form of agitation as political moves perpetrated by opponents in order to destabilize President Paul Biya’s regime. The ping pong and hide and seek game had since after 1993 All Anglophone Conference, AAC I, transformed itself into a normalcy that the revolting Common Law Lawyers and All Anglophone Teachers strike actions of October/November 2016 were received as
The strange opinion or bad news as orchestrated by the strike action, coupled with Mancho Bibixy’s Coffin Revolution signaled a dramatic movement of the crisis from the dormant stage I to an active stage II. Government itself had never believed over 700 lawyers from the North West and the South West Regions could come together and decide to abandon court work to become agents of social change. Their outpouring unto the streets of Bamenda and Buea and in unison signaled bad days ahead for government. Government itself had never imagined that Teachers Trade Unions could shutdown schools in Anglophone Cameroon from the Nursery through Primary to Secondary and Tertiary Schools. It happened on November 21, 2016 across Anglophone Cameroon. As if that was not enough, Yaoundé authorities were surprised a new form of civil society activism was emerging with a Bamenda-based radio comedian, Mancho Bibixy, virtually burying himself in his own paid-for coffin at City Chemist, Bamenda’s own Liberty Square in protest against government’s reckless abandonment of Anglophone communities and in support of the Lawyers and Teachers strike actions. Such was the bad news and strange opinions that activated gallons of adrenalin down the spines of government officials in Yaoundé, leading not only to the denial of the existence of anything called the ‘Anglophone Problem’ and more importantly,
Government’s anger could be justified as it had over the years comforted itself with the believe and understanding that it was but a few misguided and disgruntled individuals amongst the Anglophone community that was fomenting trouble. Government had gone to sleep with the impression that with the passage of time, such grievances would naturally die down. It was but with shock , consternation, and anger that they got up to see an outpouring of thousands of protesters virtually rehearsing and chanting the same chorus about Anglophone marginalization. Government’s initial reaction at this stage three and four of the crisis was like ‘This can’t be true. It’s you that is wrong. Government can’t stand that’. In that anger, they comforted themselves with the impression that they are not failing, that they have been successful in running the state, that they know what they are doing. As the resistance was mounting in degree, government’s anger too boiled to a degree, and like any other person and organizations faced with the same situation of embarrassment, government at this juncture went
Mad with aggression, government declared it would deal squarely with anybody going against the laws of the land. Charging that Common Law Lawyers and Trade Unions have gone past the red line by including political demands in their list of grievances, government minister after another swore that anybody found making demands beyond the professional would be dealt with. Not that at this stage the government had expressed any readiness to address the grievances. It had rather gone back and dusted its old notes and was singing at roof tops to anybody that wanted to hear how beautiful government harmonization policies were and that any group of persons saying the contrary had been clearly manipulated. As the protests went violent by December 8, 2016, when a group of Yaoundé-based Cpdm elite, led by the Prime Minister, Head of Government and Jean Nkwuete, Secretary General to the CPDM Central Committee showed up in Bamenda with the aim of holding a public rally at the Commercial Avenue to garner solidarity in support of government’s action, protesters saw in it one provocation too many. In trying to block the CPDM from staging their own demonstration in support of government action, this led to open confrontation with Forces of Law and Order. In the process, three civilian deaths were reported, vehicles destroyed and a flag that was flying high at the Bamenda Regional Hospital, brought down and burnt by protesters. Their mission to the Bamenda Regional Hospital was after a tip off that Minister Paul Nji Atanga, who had earlier angered them through TV platforms declarations in Yaoundé that there was no Anglophone Problem had been wounded at Commercial Avenue and taken over for treatment at the Bamenda Regional Hospital. In that search for a supposed wounded Atanga, protesters ransacked offices the Regional Hospital, invaded wards and harassed management to produce Atanga with immediate effect or bear the brunt. Regional Hospital management led by Dr. Kinge Thompson Njie and Fung John had to employ all the wits to bring the aggressive protesters to understanding that there was no patient in their keeping in the person of Paul Nji Atanga. It turned out that the supposed Paul Nji Atanga had been Dr. Bernard Nwana, CPDM Secretary to the North West Coordination Unit that had been attacked and vehicle destroyed thinking he was Paul Nji Atanga. Scores of arrests were made. A wave of pandemonium swept across the city of Bamenda. Not that this was the first day acts of aggression were recorded. On October 16, when Common Law Lawyers launched their first open street protests in Bamenda and marched from the Court premises at Up Station Bamenda through Hospital Round About to City Chemist after the expiry of a six months ultimatum they had tabled to government, trigger happy security offices sprayed tear-gas at them and scores of onlookers were seriously wounded. The following months, hundreds of Common Law Lawyers also gathered in Buea to continue their street protests but were met with brutality from government forces. Lawyers’ wigs and gowns were also confiscated on the instruction of the Buea administration. It was clear to everyone’s mind that aggression had taken central stage because government believed lawyers and teachers were not qualified the articulate the kinds of issues they were articulating. When they discovered the dogged determination of the lawyers and teachers who had now been joined by other civil society actors and members of the general public, the anger and initial aggression gave way to
This was stage five of the crisis. At this crucial stage, government officials systematically withdrew into their own world, arguing that some of the problems raised by lawyers and teachers have already been solved, By doing so, they were trying to create a sense relevance and importance and self worth. A lot of dysfunctional behavior within government cycles was also witnessed. This at times took the form of avoidance of the truth. Here, government started rationalizing on the grievances. The initial rationalization was that although Anglophones may have a point going by their stated demands, the grievances could also be true of other spheres of life and other people in other regions. Some of the government Ministers who initially swore on their honour there was no Anglophone Problem started declaring that government could look into some of the grievances but that there were certain of the demands that nothing could be done about. Even here, the streets continued to rumble unabated. At this stage, the government bench was more of a confused lot as they engaged themselves in controversial declarations. One Minister would say one thing in the morning and another would say the contrary in the evening. A case in point was that of a government Delegation led to Bamenda by Philemon Yang, Prime Minister and Head of Government. As he was listening to the grievances of the Common Law Lawyers and All Teachers Trade Unions and in the process, clearly giving to their understanding that there was clearly an Anglophone Problem, some government Ministers gathered in Yaoundé that same afternoon to declare that nothing was going to change as there was no Anglophone Problem. Anglophone agitators jumped on the declarations of Issa Tchiroma, Jacques Fame Ndongo and Laurent Esso as proof positive there was clearly an Anglophone Problem. They charged that if there was no Anglophone Problem and that if junior francophone Ministers even had an iota of respect for an Anglophone, why could they not have waited for Philemon Yang, Prime Minister and Head of Government to finish with his consultations in Bamenda before they could make the declarations they made. The action of these three overzealous francophone Ministers had even embarrassed Philemon Yang as the lawyers and teachers as well as other categories of opinion leaders he was actively consulting in the North West used the opportunity to tell him to his face that he himself was actively being marginalized even as he was consulting with them. But for his level headedness, Yang would have made open declarations. That incident only further enraged even the moderates within the Anglophone community. At this depression and early bargaining stage, confusion continued within government cycles in Yaoundé, leading to continued anger and denial. After being adequately edified on the import of the grievances and the dangers ahead if government continued to remain arrogant and adamant, Philemon Yang finally agreed to begin the process of
At this stage, government started questioning itself from within. Different reasonings were emerging that since government existed to solve problems, it should not be embarrassed to acknowledge they had failed in the past. The first clear signs of this bargaining upon the Prime Minister’s return from his three days working visit to Bamenda was the setting up of two Ad Hoc Committees, one to handle the Common Law Lawyers demands, and the other; to handle the All Anglophone Teachers demands. The one to handle the All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions demands was initially headed by Higher Education Minister, Jacques Fame Ndongo. The teachers were unanimous in boycotting that Ad Hoc Committee if it were to be headed by Fame Ndongo and in Yaoundé. They charged and with enough jurisprudential evidence that the crisis had reached the point they were because Fame Ndongo was carrying around a scarlet letter, ‘A’ and that letter was unfortunately, arrogance. They posed as preconditions the fact that Fame Ndongo be replaced as Ad Hoc Committee Chair, that the venue of Committee meetings be moved to either Buea or Bamenda and that members of the Committee be enlarged to include teachers, civil society and opinion leaders from the South West. Given the pertinence of the preconditions and urgency of the moment, the Prime Minister, Head of Government was forced to bring in Prof Paul Minlo Ghoghomo, his Director of Cabinet as Ad Hoc Committee Chair with Fame Ndongo and the other education ministers as members. The venue of the Committee was moved from Yaoundé to Bamenda and civil society and opinion leaders from the South West included as members from the teachers’ trade unions side. Although it was clear the government bench came to the talks with preconceived ideas of coming to simply read out what they believed government had already done in the past to resolve the problems, they did so by underestimating the resolve of the teachers. The teachers had been the more angered by the fact that it was not until the Ad Hoc Committees were set up that education stakeholders in Yaoundé had to call Teachers Trade Unions in Bamenda to forward to them minutes of the last meeting they held with Ministers of Education in Yaoundé in January 2016. The meeting had been called at the behest of All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions to present their grievances to government and to indicate their resolve to call an indefinite strike action if their demands were not addressed. At that famous meeting, it was reported how Jacques Fame Ndongo had raised arrogance to the level of fine arts as he told trade unionists to their face that the harmonization of education programmes in Cameroon was far advanced and irreversible. He had also made them to understanding that any Cameroonian can teach any subject and anywhere in Cameroon. He had as example the fact that people from other countries travel to China, study Chinese in six months and are able to teach Chinese children. In much the same way, a francophone teacher posted to teach chemistry or mathematics in any school in Anglophone Cameroon can take six months to learn English and be able to teach Anglophone children chemistry or maths. Anglophone teachers’ and parents’ complaints about the francophonization of the English system of education had fallen on deaf ears. They had complained bitterly that teachers with francophone backgrounds posted to work in Anglophone Regions and schools ask children to ‘sweep’ the board when the mean, wipe. In examinations they asked questions such as ‘What is the place of a ‘candle’ in the engine of a car, when they mean, plug. Fast forward to the early stages of the bargaining in the
Ad Hoc Committees.
In Bamenda, the government bench had come from Yaoundé with a prepared agenda. They had come and as usual sat on the high table looking down on the trade union leaders. After reading out what trade unionists considered a high-handed agenda, initial objections were recorded from the floor. Leader of the Cameroon Teachers Trade Union, CATTU’s Tasang Wilfred raised an objection to the fact that their points of view were not recorded on the agenda. They also raised as precondition for any meaningful dialogue the release of hundreds of Anglophone youths arrested and taken to detention centers in Yaoundé. The government bench relapsed back into anger and charged that the union leaders were not only imposing on government but also not ready for discussions. Professor Ghoghomo was even quoted to have told some union leaders that if there were not ready he would go ahead and work with those who are ready to work with government. This was understood at the time to mean that government was ready to dialogue only with those who were ready to toe the government line. Given the deadlock, talks were suspended and the government delegation returned to Yaoundé more confused. At the same time the Ad Hoc Committee to address Common Law Lawyers demands was programmed to hold in Yaoundé. Chaired by Professor Fegue, Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Justice, it was not lacking in demands and preconditions. One of the preconditions muted both by leaders of the lawyers’ delegation and the Anglophone Civil Society was that this one takes place in Buea, South West Region, as well as the fact that government publicly apologizes for the brutality on lawyers and the seizure of their wigs and robs by the Buea administration. Bobga Harmony Buton, enigmatic leader of the North West Lawyers Association, NOWELA, and long time activist as well as Agbor Nkongho Felix, charismatic leaders of the Fako Lawyers Association, FAKLA, all were articulate on the fact that Anglophone activists arrested and detained in Yaoundé be released as a precondition for talks to begin in earnest. As the haggling lasted with government dragging its feet on all preconditions, it took a more decisive President Paul Biya’s End of Year address to the nation on December 31, 2016, to push the debate to
This is what President Paul Biya had to say: ‘My dear compatriots, I would like now to dwell on the events that have unfolded recently in the North West and South West Regions. Physically and emotionally, we are deeply concerned about these events. Due to the acts of a group of manipulated and exploited extremist rioters, Cameroonians have lost their lives, public and private buildings have been destroyed; the most sacred symbols of our nation have been desecrated; economic activities have been paralyzed momentarily. You would agree with me that all of this is UNACCEPTABLE. Our country does enjoy political and trade union freedoms which are guaranteed and governed by our laws and regulations. Against this backdrop, every citizen can rightfully opine on any aspect of national life, including through duly declared peaceful strike action. This is a fundamental civil right as desired by the Cameroonian people given that it is enshrined in the constitution. This right is inalienable in the model of democracy which I proposed to the Cameroonian people and which, TOGETHER, we have been building daily, patiently and resolutely. It is unbecoming of some people to use this context of freedom and try to undermine our country’s unity. Under such circumstances, it is the State’s bounden duty to restore order, in the name of the law and in the interest of all. To act otherwise is to jeopardize our democracy and allow anarchy to prevail over the rule of law. I strongly condemn all acts of violence, regardless of their sources and their perpetrators. We will fully draw conclusions from the various inquiries being conducted on the matter. 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 canbe found only through peaceful dialogue. All the voices that spoke have been heard. They have, in many cases, raised substantive issues that cannot be overlooked. I have enjoined the Government to engage in frank dialogue with the various parties concerned to find appropriate solutions to the issues raised. I urge them to participate, without any bias, in the various discussions. However, we should never forget that we are walking in the footsteps of our country’s founding fathers, our national heroes, who shed their blood to bequeath to posterity a nation that is united in its diversity. Cameroon’s unity is therefore a precious legacy with which no one should take liberties. Any claim, no matter how relevant, loses its legitimacy once it jeopardizes, even slightly, the building of national unity. All Cameroonians, without exception, have embarked on building a united, inclusive and bilingual nation. This is a unique experience in Africa. Like any human endeavour, our experience is not perfect. There are aspects that can be improved. We should therefore listen to each other. We should remain open to constructive ideas, to the exclusion, however, of those that would affect the form of our State. Besides the bodies that I have instructed the Government to set up and which are already at work, we are ready to go an extra mile. We are willing to move in the footsteps and spirit of the architects of Reunification, and put in place a national entity which will be tasked with proposing solutions aimed at maintaining peace, consolidating our country’s unity and strengthening our resolve, and our day-to-day experience of LIVING TOGETHER. And this should be done in strict compliance with our Constitution and our Institutions. Do I need to repeat this? CAMEROON IS ONE AND INDIVISIBLE. It shall so remain…Its wealth and strength are derived from the diversity of its people, its cultures and its languages. Such is the pluralism that has earned our country the esteem, respect and admiration it enjoys. Cameroon is a democratic country, a state governed by the rule of law. Its problems should be resolved within the ambit of the law and through dialogue. Our compatriots want to live in peace and harmony. They should not be disturbed’. Going by the above extract, President Paul Biya did not make any pretense to the existence of an Anglophone Problem. That speech clearly set the stage for the beginning of Government’s official
Acceptance of the Anglophone Problem.
Biya had been more than clear and unequivocal: ‘All voices that spoke have been heard. They have, in many cases, raised substantive issues that cannot be overlooked. I have enjoined the government to engage in frank dialogue with the various parties concerned to find appropriate solutions to the issues raised. I urge them to participate, without any bias, in various discussions’. Earlier, he had stressed the need for dialogue when he said: ‘…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.’ From that movement, government delegations that had earlier been high handed, had no choice than to get back down field and reengage the striking teachers and lawyers. The Ghoghomo Delegation that had put an end to talks in Bamenda was forced to come back virtually crawling on their knees for a three days laborious dialogue that lasted from January 10-13, 2017 at the Governor’s Office. Benefitting from the fact that, after it’s official acceptance of the existence of an Anglophone Problem, government was now at the begging end, trade union leaders came tougher on their demands and grievances, increasing them from 9 to 11, to 15, to 19, to 21, and finally, to 25. Virtually having an upper hand in the discussions, trade unionists led by the no-nonsense Wilfred Tasang of CATTU insisted even before the discussions could begin that everybody, including Government Ministers, must be seen to be sitting on a round table, not that ministers should man the high table and other members on the floor. During the laborious deliberations that saw government ministers virtually accepting all proposals made by trade unions given that the Ghoghomo Delegation was under an obligation to take back concrete results to Yaoundé, trade unionists went the extra mile to insert a point on the resolutions on the change of the form of state from a unitary decentralized state to
Although during his 2016 End of Year Speech, President Biya had repeated with insistence that government was ready to discuss everything with striking Common Law Lawyers and Anglophone Teachers except the form of state, the Inter-Ministerial Ad Hoc Committee resolutions in Bamenda clearly had as one of the resolutions a return to federation as the best form of government that would be capable of guaranteeing a faithful implementation of the agreed upon resolutions. Point 21 of the resolutions agreed upon by Government and teachers reads, inter alia: ‘The trade unions are opting for federation in the conduct of public affairs in Cameroon. The Ad Hoc Committee proposes that this shall be taken to the new entity which the President of the Republic has proposed to create’. It should be recalled that although not originally one of the grievances of the teachers, their alliance with Common Law Lawyers and other Civil Society organization in the North West and South West allowed the issue of federation, which from all intents and purposes is a political demand, to creep into the agenda of teachers trade unions. They had been taken hostage by
Before government could reluctantly admit the existence of the Anglophone Problem after two months of deafening and violent street protests as well as a complete shutdown in schools in Anglophone Cameroon, teachers and lawyers had presented grievances that spoke directly to the amelioration of the educational and judicial systems in Anglophone Cameroon. From the moment the population identified with them and joined them in street demonstrations, they were bound to include the demands of the population. According to an average Anglophone, the better way of resolving the internecine Anglophone crisis once and for all, was by changing the form of State from a unitary decentralized State to a federation. Since government’s intention during the three days dialogue in Bamenda was to quickly reach an agreement with teachers and lawyers so as to enable schools reopen in the North West and South West Regions, and since government had resorted to holding the meeting behind closed doors thereby blocking access to the venue by the restive public, news quickly made its rounds in Anglophone circles that trade union members were being forced to sign a strike suspension note. To make the already bad situation worse given that by mid night trade unionists were still in the dialogue hall at the Governor’s Office, wild rumours made their turns that they have been taken hostage. At this point, the streets started rumbling afresh. Although forces of law and order had blocked access to Up-Station from Finance Junction in down town Bamenda, bike riders emerged from nowhere in minutes to mount pressure on authorities to release all leaders taken ‘captive.’ Attempts by Forces to restrain their invasion of the premises of the Governor;s Office proved an uphill task. The dogged determination of bike boys and other categories of activists was demonstrated by the risk they took to appear Up-Station, some taking long and winding paths through Bali to Akum and others sampling sneaking their way through the bushes. Sensing trouble, government requested that some three trade union leaders, that is Dr. Fontem Neba, Tasang Wilfred and Afu Stephens go right up to the teaming crowds and calm them down. They were welcomed with liberation songs from the crowd. As Dr. Fentem Neba tried to explain to an already suspicious crowd that deliberations were going on normally and that government had in no way come close to forcing them to take a different line of action from theirs, the expression on Wlifred Tasang’s face looked pensive and revealing. When they had finished explaining and went back to the hall, some youths decided to take a different interpretation to town. They explained that if there was nothing fishy about the negotiations, Tasang would have been the one to talk to them. Some went burning vehicles and suspected government structure in town that fateful night while others resolved to stay put until the meeting was over and they get briefed by Wilfred Tasang. Even before making their way through to the Governor’s Office that night, some of the bike riders had rushed to the Ntarikon residence of Cameroon’s leading opposition party leader, Ni John Fru Ndi to alert him to the fact that trade union leaders had been taken hostage and he needed to do something to rescue the situation. Fru Ndi, who later said some of the bike riders had reached out to him through phone as he participated at a family friend’s wake keep in one of the neighborhoods in town, had to rush up to the Governor’s office to see for himself. As he made his way into the premises of the Governor’s Office, members of the Inter-Ministerial Committee were on a five minutes’ recess and so he had occasion to get the pulse of the atmosphere directly from them. Convinced that the situation was not as grievous as had been earlier presented, Fru Ndi took off for his residence, not without having to share a word of encouragement and vigilance to some members of the teaming crowds. Some thirty minutes after, Barrister Bernard Achu Muna appeared at the venue of the meeting said he came following news that trade union leaders had been taken hostage. In an exchange with the curious crowd gathered outside the Governor’s Office he said was supportive of the action by the youths and said they had a right to fight for their future and people of his generation were now only to give moral support. It was later learned that despite enormous pressure from government that night that trade union leaders sign a communiqué suspending the strike action and calling on schools to resume, they had excused themselves by the fact that they had to go back and consult with their members over the weekend and come back the following Monday to append their signatures to the resolutions as well as suspending the strike action in order for schools to resume. They had also programmed a press conference at the Presbyterian Church Centre the following day to explain their actions to the public before going back on Monday to sign. Invitations were already dished out to the press. Interestingly, by the early hours of that Saturday, a release signed by Barrister Felix Agbor Nkongho, Dr. Fentem Neba and Wilfred Tasang was already making its rounds on social media condemning government machinations, calling off the planned press conference and
Instituting Ghost Towns.
The other trade union members were taken aback as they were uniformed about the latest twists. That Saturday, some journalists who had not gotten the information still went to the press conference venue. So did other members of the public and civil society leaders. Barrister Bernard Muna who had been informed about the press briefing and was anxious to get first hand details of the resolutions and the way forward, also came to the Church Centre only to be informed that it had been called off and that ghost towns have been called beginning Monday until government implemented all the resolutions including the institution of a federal system of government where all Anglophones would feel at ease. It was realized later that Tasang, being a hardliner amongst the trade union leaders, had been quick to ally with lawyers because he sensed his colleagues trade union leaders were likely to see with government and call off the strike on grounds that their demands were purely professional and not political and that since government had demonstrated good faith all through the discussions, it needed to be given a chance. Although before then, leaders of the Common Law Lawyers and All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions had been holding meetings and strategizing together, they never had a joint command. It was only that fateful Friday breaking Saturday morning that the three established a joint command and named it
The Consortuim of Anglophone Civil Society Organizations had as responsibility to to coordinate the strike actions ignited by the Common Law Lawyers and the All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions as well as pressure government and other political actors to quickly resolve the Anglophone Problem by granting a federation. It directed that henceforth the population should take orders and direction from them, not from any individual civil society organization or trade union in Anglophone Cameroon. It now meant that individual teachers’ trade unions and lawyers associations were no longer in control of the momentum. The driver’s seat had been taken over by the trio with sidekicks as traders’ union leaders, professional bike rider’s union leaders, transporters union leaders, and a good numbers of Anglophone pressure groups. With ghost towns now instituted on Mondays, with schools from Nursery through Primary to Secondary High Schools and the Tertiary still being shutdown, Government was more than angered and agitated. Haven gone through humiliating circumstances in Bamenda and thinking of the fact that during the earlier discussions with Philemon Yang, Prime Minister and Head of Government at Ayaba Hotel in November 2016, trade union leaders who, by then presented only some nine grievances, had promised the Prime Minister that if any three of the demands were met upon return to Yaoundé, trade unions would suspend their strike and school boycott, and that even when the three demands were made, the imminent recruitment of 1000 Bilingual Teachers to supplant francophone teachers in Anglophone Technical Colleges and a subvention of two billion to private schools and the teachers did not bulge, the Ghoghomo-led Delegation sent out a press statement from Yaoundé informing the national opinion that it had put an end to discussions at the level of the Ad Hoc Committee given the intransigence of some trade union leaders and given that they had moved away from professional demands to making political demands which were no longer within the scope of an Ad Hoc Committee. As if to signal the coming of tough days ahead for the newly created Consortium, Professor Ghoghomo indicated that they had submitted their report to Government and Government was ready to take its responsibility. Weeks after, and precisely on January 21, 2017, Government through the Minister of Territorial Administration, Rene Emmanuel Sadi signed a communiqué disbanding the Consortium of Anglophone Civil Society organizations and went ahead that evening to
Arrest Agbor Balla and Dr. Fentem.
News of the arrest spread across Anglophone Cameroon and internationally like wild fire. It was on every lip especially as it had it that Government had also intended to arrest the rest of the trade union leaders including Wilfred Tasang and Barrister Bobga Harmony, the no-nonsense leader of the North West Lawyers Association, NOWELA. It was rumoured that Wilfred Tasang had escaped arrest by hair’s breathe and that Bobga had disguised and travelled to seek refuge at the American Embassy in Yaoundé. For days, weeks and months, people speculated how Tasang had sort refuge at the residence of SDF Chairman, Ni John Fru Ndi. Others claimed that he was hiding in Fru Ndi’s farms down Menchum Valley. Yet others, including security operatives, claimed he was hiding with his Pentecostal Pastor Wara at hid Rama Centre. As if that was not enough, new speculations emerged that he had been confirmed to be hiding at the U.S Embassy in Yaoundé, and that sooner or later, he would transit to the United States. It took even the most informed more than five months to confirm that Tasang had taken refuge in next door Nigeria. As activists were increasing been abducted and taken to SED and the Yaoundé Maximum Security Prison for detention, many Common Law Lawyers, teachers and journalists simply escaped from the North West and South West and to neighbouring Nigeria for their dear lives. As Tim Finian, publisher/editor of Life Time Newspaper was being whisked off by unidentified gunmen in front of us at SONAC Street, news of John Mbah Akuroh’s mysterious escape from Yaoundé and out of Cameroon through Gabon, was making rounds. The likes of Barrister Andang, Mbah Eric and Nalova as well as a countless number had escaped or simply gone underground for their dear lives. While some lawyers were briefly picked up, interrogated and released, as was the case with Barrister Fon, others like Kemende, Bar Council’s Representative for the North West, and Professor Abangma of the Bura University Higher Education Teachers Trade Union, SNAES, simply went underground for fear of the unknown. Atia Tilarius, Amos Fofung, Ndong et al, were easily whisked off and detained in Yaoundé on charges of terrorism. SDF District Chairman for Limbe, the firebrand ….was also picked up and whisked off to Yaoundé for supporting terrorism in Anglophone Cameroon. If former Bar Council President and senior Barrister at the Muna and Muna Law Firm, Akere Muna was lucky to have just been called for questioning following an article he commissioned in national newspapers questioning which Cameroon was ‘One and Indivisible’, Supreme Court Judge and leader of the opposition People Action Party, PAP, Ayah Paul Abine was to spend upwards of 100 days in detention for supporting the Consortium of Lawyers and Teachers. Added to the indiscriminate arrests where upwards of a thousand activists were picked up in the North West and South West, government had also
It had started as rumour during the day of that Monday January 21, 2017, that government was going to shutdown internet in the North West and South West Regions so as to limit the flow of propaganda information being churned in to the regions from mainly the Diaspora. By 8 PM that evening, it was confirmed to be true. There was total internet blackout in the North West and South West. Youths and Startuppers who constitute the new Silicon Mountain in Buea and across Anglophone Cameroon were helpless. More frustrations set in as tensions in the two Regions were mounting to a degree. Businesses, banks, educational establishments, NGOs and even Government Services that relied on internet for a livelihood were grounded. During Youth Day Celebrations in the University of Yaoundé I, students sort to know from Cameroon’s Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma, why Government could be talking about youths and the digital economy and still go ahead to deprive millions of Cameroonian youths of the internet. In response, Issa Tchiroma said Government was going to maintain the internet shutdown as long as Anglophones continued to protest violently on the streets. Local and international human rights organizations, including Cameroon O’BOSO and the Bamenda-based A Common Future carried out a sustained campaign to force government to end the 94 days internet shutdown. A Common Future organization using the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Principles harped home on the fact that it was criminal for any Government to shutdown internet for whole populations or parts of the population because ‘internet offers unprecedented opportunities for the realization of the human potential and human rights’. It argued that ‘Internet is an enabling space and resource for the realization of all human rights, including the right to freedom of expression, the right of access to information, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of opinion, though and belief, the right to be free from discrimination in all forms, the right to education, the right to culture and language, and the right of access to socio-economic services’. Concerning the meaningless shutdown of internet in the North West and South West Regions in the wake of the Anglophone uprising, A Common Future argued was forced to bring to the attention of Government and opinion leaders in Cameroon, international human rights law which holds that: ‘The cutting off or slowing down of access to internet, or parts of the internet, for whole populations or segments of the public can never be justified on any ground, including on public order or national security grounds’. It also made the public to understand the evil of internet shutdown by insisting that: ‘The right to freedom of expression on the internet should not be subject to any restrictions, except those which are provided by law, for a legitimate purpose and necessary and proportionate in a democratic society, as consistent with international human rights standards’. The organization also propagated the idea that shutting down internet to a uniquely cultural and linguistic group constituted a gross human rights abuse and a bridge of international human rights law and UN Conventions. Addressing specifically the wrongness of internet shutdown in Anglophone Regions, the organization was articulate on the fact that: ‘The rights of all people, including minorities and vulnerable groups, to use the internet as part of their right to dignity, to participate in social and cultural life, and to enhance the exercise and enjoyment of their human rights, should be respected and protected’. As the internet shutdown lasted, youths who were seeing their dreams being dashed became ‘internet refugees’, virtually relocating to Douala, Yaoundé and Baffousam where internet was not tampered with. Those who could not afford to take up temporal residence in francophone Cameroon preferred to migrate to and fro every day at the risk of being arrested. Over 100 youths were arrested between Bamenda and Baffousam and Buea and Douala as they struggled to access internet in the francophone zones. They were accused of taking images and crossing over to send on
Arguing that social media was facilitating the free flow of false information, propaganda and more importantly, hate speech, the Cameroon government had thought that by simply shutting down internet, Diaspora-generated propaganda would be minimized and protests across Anglophone Cameroon would die down. Fat Chance. They were soon to realize people were more determined and would get information from any source, with or without social media. Given that the popularity of social media in Cameroon had helped improve individual’s sense of connectedness with real or online communities and that Anglophone Cameroonians were actively using it for advocacy and mobilization of protesters each day, Government thought by shutting it down it would kill the demonstrations. Although for the 94 days that the January to April internet shutdown lasted, nothing changed in the mobilization momentum of protesters. On the contrary and since society does not appreciate a vacuum, the Anglophone extremists went ahead to set up a satellite
The baby satellite TV platform that was born already with teeth by the now-known secessionists group came as a direct response to the shutting down of internet in Anglophone Cameroon. Lodged in distant South Africa, the TV platform christianed Southern Cameroons Broadcasting Corporation, SCBC, seemed to have penetrated even the remotest of communities in Anglophone Cameroon as well as giving the state broadcaster, CRTV, a run for its money. Its strong signals and programming quality seem to more than outdistance its propaganda. Although many political observers seem to conclude that government is not learning from its errors of the past as it continues to shutdown internet in the two Anglophone regions, the secessionists insist they are working on providing satellite internet to Anglophone communities in Cameroon. An umpteen Anglophone now swears by SCBC even as more and more government officials and its agents watch the channel though for fiendish ends. In its desperate attempt to limit the negative propaganda damage caused on a sometimes uninformed local population by the SCBC channel, government agents proceeded to arresting technicians, cable distributors as well as rampantly destroying dishes planted on individual users’ private homes. As if that was not enough, Cameroon’s Communication Minister virtually threatened cable distributors with administrative sanctions in the North West and South West Regions. Seen more as a censorship move, government even went ahead to send internal memos, urging Regional Communication Delegates to request that all cable distributors send in to government the list of channels they distribute to the public. These were the kind of incidences animating life after the suspension of the Consortium and the arrest of its leaders. We must recall at this moment that, hours before Barrister Felix Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem Neba were arrested; they had signed a joint order transferring the command post to
Tapang Ivo and Mark Barreta.
Hours before the arrest of Barrister Agbor Balla and Dr. Fontem Afoteke Neba, as well as the going underground of Wilfred Tasang and Bobga Harmony, on January 17, 2017, Agbor Balla signed a communiqué transferring the interim leadership to Mark Bareta and Tapang Ivo, since they were in foreign countries and have been actively involved in the struggle via social media. There is no gainsaying the fact that Tapang Ivo and Mark Bareta are the two most prominent Anglophone political activists and bloggers this crisis has produced. Despite allegations that both were using the struggle to enrich themselves, the majority of Anglophone youths take every word that comes out of their mouth for gospel truth. The duo has given the communication arsenal of Cameroon a run for their money. In terms of effective communication and mass mobilization, activists Tapang Ivo and Mark demonstrated in triumphant detail that they were far advanced of Cameroon government in reaching target audiences and on time. A government of over 60 Ministers, Regional and Divisional services, and aided by CRTV and state-run daily, Cameroon Tribune, found themselves helpless in the hands of just two individuals sitting behind their keyboards in distant United States of America and Belgium. Through SMSing with instructions that people share till the last person, they directed operations and brought out crowds to the streets each time the need arises. In frustration, government simply referred to them as Facebook Generals. To show the level of Government’s desperation, CPDM Central Committee Permanent Delegation leader to the North West, Philemon Yang, who doubles as Prime Minister and Head of Government took time off and went from one Division to the other advising people not to listen to anything coming from Tapang Ivo and Mark Bareta. He was heard advising CPDM militants across the Region against taking instructions from Tapang Ivo and Mark Bareta. He reminded them that Tapang was not their President but Paul Biya. In one of the meetings he was reported to have declared: ‘Tapang is not your President. Don’t listen to him. Listen to President Paul Biya. He is your President’. Not that people have not been listening to President Paul Biya. They have simply been weary of the fact that he makes promises that are hardly fulfilled. One of the promises had just been made in the wake of the Anglophone uprising; and it was that government was ready to go an extra mile to create a structure that would propose solutions on how our ‘living together’ could be consolidated. As all Cameroonians speculated and waited anxiously for that miraculous structure, President Biya came up with what he referred to as the Commission on
Bilingualism and Multiculturalism.
When on December 31, 2016, President Paul Biya promised to go the extra mile to create a structure that would resolve problems of living together in Cameroon; many Anglophone activists thought he was about creating a Bilingualism and Bi-cultural Commission. Disappointment could be a said to be a mild word for Anglophone activists when Biya created a Bilingualism and Multiculturalism Commission. Many argued and rightly so that Cameron has never had a problem of multiculturalism; that it was Anglophones as a cultural and linguistic entity, complaining, not tribes and cultural entities in Cameroon. As if that was not enough, the decree creating the Commission stated that all proposals of the entity are submitted to the President for approval. Anglophone Cameroonians wondered how proposals of such a Commission could be submitted to the same person that is responsible for the Anglophone Problem. Anglophones cried foul, arguing that it was President Paul Biya, more than anyone else, that was the source and summit of the Anglophone Problem. To add salt to injury, membership of the Commission was seen to be biased. It had as Commission Chairman, H.E Peter Mafany Musonge, former Prime Minister and leader of the CPDM parliamentary Group at the Senate. Activists did not see how a diehard CPDM militant like Musonge, who only weeks to his appointment had led a CPDM Delegation to Buea, South West Region, to declare that there was no Anglophone Problem and that it was strangers who had settled in the South West that were creating problems for the Region, could be appointed to man such an important structure. That cast aspersions as to whether President Paul Biya was actually ready to begin to address the root causes of the Anglophone Problem. The reasoned that if President Paul Biya actually wanted to redress the situation, he would have instead appointed former Governor of the North West and South West Regions and former Secretary General at the Presidency, David Aboum A Choyi, to head the Bilingualism and Multiculturalism Commission. It was just a matter of time that pessimists concluded that the Musonge Commission was after all, a toothless bulldog. To appreciate the role the Musonge Commission could play in the resolution of the Anglophone crisis and by extension, in the consolidation of Cameroon’s experiment of ‘living together’, it would be better to understand its
Mandate and Objectives.
The Commission is charged with submitting reports and recommendations on issues related to the protection of bilingualism and multiculturalism; monitoring the implementation of constitutional provisions establishing English and French as two official languages of equal status; conducting studies and proposing measures likely to strengthen Cameroon’s bilingual and multicultural character; receiving petitions against discriminations arising from non-compliance with constitutional provisions on the said topic; amongst others. Justifying why the Commission was important, Lukong Pius of the national bilingual daily, Cameroon Tribune, argues that the creation of the National Commission for Bilingualism and Multiculturalism [CNPBM] comes as a logical follow up of the commitment made by the Head of State during his end of year speak on December 31, 2016. As guarantor of the constitution, Lukong Pius argues, President Paul Biya by creating the Commission sets out to reinforce this aspect of the Cameroonian people which he describes as rich and should be preserved. In the same vein, Lukong continues, Cameroon is a country with a multiplicity of cultures characterized by over 250 languages which give her a specific identity in the African continent. Unfortunately, Lukong thinks that, instead of serving as a serious resource for the development of the country, bilingualism for instance, has remained
It was no thanks to Cameroon government’s limping efforts at bilingualism that Anglophone anger was boiling and overflowing. Over and above, every honest Anglophone would admit that the government in Yaoundé since moved away from denying the existence of an Anglophone Problem in Cameroon to acceptance. Although there was no need for government to pass through all the seven outlined stages of denial to acceptance, This was an indication of a lack of foresighted leadership in Cameroon. Smart leaders quickly move from denial to the acceptance stage without having to waste all the time and energy that the Cameroon government wasted. To my mind, the argument today is no longer on the existence or not of an Anglophone Problem, but rather the solution to it. Like Anglophones, the Francophone-led government admits the Anglophone Problem is of great concern. The quarrel today is over
While government in Yaoundé believes a permanent solution or response to the Anglophone Problem is in the strict implementation of the Teachers and Lawyers Ad Hoc Committee Resolutions arrived at in Bamenda and in Yaoundé, Anglophone activists, who are today in the majority, believe the only lasting solution to the problem would come from the restricting of the form of state. As government shouts at rooftops how it is gradually and methodically implementing the AD Hoc Committee resolutions, restive Anglophone activists say government is administering medicine after death. They claim government response is too little and too late. But truth be told. Those who know the lackluster attitude of this government; those who have watched this regime operate in the past 36 years, would confirm that what government has done to address the Anglophone Problem in one year since the outbreak of the crisis far exceeds what it was able to do in over 36 years. These include: the recruitment of 1000 bilingual teachers to make up for the shortfall in technical teachers in Anglophone technical colleges; the creation of a Common Law Department in the National School of Administration and Magistracy, ENAM, as well as the admission of 50 Anglophones in training in that department; the redeployment of Francophone magistrates from Common Law Courts; the translation of the OHADA Uniform Acts into English; the creation of Faculties of Law and Political Sciences in the Anglo Saxon Universities of Buea and Bamenda, as well as the opening up of Common Law Departments in other state universities in Cameroon; the granting of two billion FCFA special subvention to private schools in Cameroon; the redeployment of Francophone teachers from Anglophone technical colleges; the redeployment of Franchophone lecturers from the Universities of Buea and Bamenda’ the appointment of qualified Anglophones to Head Faculties and Departments in the Universities of Buea and Bamenda; the creation of a National Institute of Polytechnic in the University of Bamenda, and more importantly, the creation of the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism. Government insist many more were still to come and that once the announced Education Forum holds, more resolutions would be implemented. It should be recalled that teachers’ trade unions had asked for the creation of two separate Education Councils to cater for the education needs of the two sun systems of Education. They had argued for the introduction of an education tax so as to cater for the Education Councils. The lawyers, on their part, had asked for creation of a Law School in Cameroon as well as a Common Law Bar Council. Although government had not made its position clear on these last two points, Anglophone activists believe these are the sticky points of the crisis. On their part, government insiders argue that Anglophone activists were demonstrating
Government argues that teachers’ trade unions had originally indicated that once any two of the conditions were met, the strike action would be called off, but that it had satisfied more than two conditions and the strike had not been called off. It also argues that Anglophone activists had posed as pre-conditions the release of those arrested and are being tried at the Military Court in Yaoundé and that even when the President granted clemency to over 50 of them, strikes rather intensified. Ghost Towns were rather seen to be intensified from the original one day a week to two and sometimes, three days. School boycott was maintained, schools and churches burnt down, and children attacked on their way to and fro school. The Prime Minister and Head of Government, who had made peace and reconciliation in the two Anglophone Regions his top priority, multiplied his peace missions to the troubled areas. The more he and his government tried to broker a peace deal the more things got complicated. Armed with its carrot and stick strategy, government finally pressurized teachers’ trade unions to call off the strike that had paralyzed the two Regions for months. Even then, nothing changed given that with the creation of the Consortium, decision-making had moved away from teachers’ trade unions and Common Law Lawyers who called the strike in the first place, to the
Anglophone Civil Society.
The activists now under the direct control of the population had taken over the driver’s seat. It was at this point that things were further complicated for government. They argued that although government was responding to the demands of lawyers and teachers, they population had in the process, raised their own demands and government must look into them. Their argument now was that given the history of rescinding on its agreements, the Yaoundé regime could no longer be trusted. Their understanding was that Yaoundé might just as well be agreeing to those things only to bring back the situation to normal and after that rescind on the agreements. The population judged that the only way to ensure the changes were lasting was through a systematic framework and that framework to their understanding was federalism. While government continues to argue that the Anglophone Problem would find expression and satisfaction in the full implementation of the 1996 constitution with effective decentralization, Anglophone activists are unanimous only a fool would listen to such promises. They argue that for over 22 years it has been more than government to implement its own version of decentralization as outlined in the 1996 constitution. That it has been so because the 1996 constitution allows its implementation to the whims and caprices of the Yaoundé regime where they have the latitude to choose which section to implement and which not to. In order for the situation to be corrected once and for all, the Anglophone activists’ reason, the form of state should be restructured to introduce federation as form of government. They argue that since in a federation the roles of the game are clearly defined in advance rather than allowed to the whims and caprices of the government, and that since the constitution devolves power directly to local government, the new arrangement would be a better and systematic framework to address all local and national concerns. They even argue that if government fully implemented the 1996 constitution, there would not have been any Anglophone uprising in the first place. As regime supremacists continue to insist the 1996 constitution is capable of addressing the Anglophone Problem and that the form of state cannot be discussed, this unfortunately grows the number of
Like regime supremacists who distrust everything Anglophone, Anglophone extremists have come to distrust everything Francophone. They believe that have given enough time for the regime in Yaoundé to drag the rope. They have convinced themselves that time has run out. That enough is enough. They have taken on the zero option. They conclude that if nothing has changed in the past 56 years, it would not be today. They have turned their back on any form of union with the larger Cameroon. They are dotted on Ground Zero and in their majority in the Diaspora. As far as they are concerned, they are already a new country: Ambazonia. They have an interim government in exile. They direct attacks and deadly confrontations between the military and armed groups. They preach Ghost Towns and continues school boycott. They preach the boycott of national days and the disrespect of ‘colonial administrators’ on homeland. When called secessionists they retort by saying that it was La Republique du Cameroun through President Biya that seceded, not them. They prefer to be called restorationists and would even challenge Biya to produce any United Nations or legal document that binds them together. They claim that by abrogating the 1961 Articles of Association in 1972 when federation was abolished and by single-handedly decreeing the nomenclature of Cameroon from United Republic to Republic of Cameroon in 1984, Biya had seceded. They beat war drums and declare they are ready to fight to till the last man standing drops death. They conclude nothing good can ever come from the union between Francophones and Anglophones. Others, both within and without Cameroon, consider them the vocal minority. This school of thought thinks that things continue to be the way they are because of the helplessness of
The Silent Majority.
This silent majority are the moderate voices in Anglophone Cameroon. This current is animated for the most part by campaigners for an Anglophone for Presidency 2018 and long incarnated by the likes of Ni John Fru Ndi, Dr. Simon Munzu, Barrister Agbor Balla, Ben Muna, Edith Kah Walla, Bochong Alhadji Lawan Bako, Ntumfor Nico Halle, the media and a lot more civil society organizations and churches. This growing silent majority function with the understanding that what is needed more is a new thinking so as to solve the old Anglophone problem. It is also informed by the existentialist question asked by Soyinka in The Swamp Dwellers as to whether it was of any earthly use changing one’s Slough for another. More importantly, this silent majority is informed by the fact that although Peter had spent a whole night without catching any fish in the river in which he was fishing, when Jesus met him in the morning and asked him how many fish he had caught and he said he had not caught any, Jesus did not ask him to move to the next river. He rather asked of him to cast the net deeper. In so doing, Peter caught so many fish outnumbering what he had been able to catch in his whole professional fishing life. It is the same thinking that speaks to the current Anglophone crisis. Rather than resign to fate, Ni John Fru Ndi, SDF Chairman in 1990 ignited
A New Kind of Thinking.
After he and Albert Mukong had nursed the dream of launching a movement to fight for the independence of Southern Cameroons, they sort the opinion of the Queen who was quick to tell them how impossible it was to fight for independence of Southern Cameroons. She rather advised them to form a political party through which they could articulate the concerns of Anglophones. That is how the Social Democratic Front, SDF, came about to be created. Even though with a national character the SDF fundamentally articulates Anglophone concerns. It was thanks to the SDF and the stolen victory of Presidential candidate Fru Ndi in 1992 that yet another fresh thinking, this time championed by Professor Carlson Anyangwe, Dr.Simon Munzu and Barrister Ekontang Elad
The fresh thinking was an attempt by Anglophones to make powerful contributions to the constitutional crisis rocking Cameroon after the controversial 1992 Presidential elections where Union for Change candidate, Ni John Fru Ndi was widely believed to have won and where the Supreme Court declared that although it had found irregularities as raised by Fru Ndi’s lawyers substantive, its hands were unfortunately tied. In other to dose off tempers in the country, the regime in Yaoundé set up a constitutional review Ad Hoc Committee to propose a new and democratic constitution for Cameroon. In the Commission were three level headed Anglophones who quickly rallied Anglophones to Buea in what was termed the All Anglophone Conference, AAC, to propose elements to be added to the constitution. The 1993 AAC came up with a Federal Constitution which the Joseph Owona Commission refused to entertain. From AAC I to AAC II, the germs of a new thinking matured. Although the momentum seemed to have died down some years after when the Southern Cameroons National Council, SCNC, created out of the Bamenda AAC II, Barrister Bobga Harmony, Felix Agbor Balla, Tasang Wilfred, Mancho Bibixy and co, in 2016 reignited
This new momentum that was translated into unprecedented mass protests across the two English speaking regions of the country, decried the slow pace of implementation of reforms and demanded that for things to change and for better, federation must be introduced as a form of government in Cameroon. Although the Yaoundé regime has been making nonsense of the demand and insisting that the form of state can never be altered, this new thinking is still a currency in the minds of an average Anglophone. One continues to wonder how seemingly intelligent and sane adults would be associating federalism to secession despite the body of irrefutable data on its workability. This denial, it has been said, is akin to Stephen Colbert’s ‘truthiness’ in that these deniers adamantly refuse to accept verifiable scientific facts because they get in the way of their own rigid ideas. These deniers are the same people Pope Francis recently referred to as ‘fundamentalists’. As Yaoundé, in its usual characteristic manner, drags its legs over so glaring an issue, many are beginning to conclude it is shooting itself on the leg. Benjamin Ngah, teacher-cum journalist-cum physiotherapist, who since relocated to the United States of America because he could not withstand Yaoundé Government’s frustrations, thinks all those in the Biya regime are deaf. He goes beyond that to insist that the regime in Yaoundé no longer hears because it is going through the last stage in the process of dying. He recalls that since the last sense that someone losses before dying are the sense of hearing, the regime of President Paul Biya just lost the sense of hearing. According to Elizabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler, the German researchers who pioneered in researching the dying process or the Five Stages of Grief, once a patient loss the sense of hearing, dying becomes
The inevitability of truth is that come rain, come shine, it always prevails. For years and despite irrefutable scientific evidence that the earth was round, some deniers continued to proclaim that the earth was flat. Some even went ahead to declare that gravity did not exist, and that diseases were caused by evil spirits. A few more examples of denialism would make you understand what I am talking about. Deniers have been claiming that there was nothing as man-made climate change; that there was nothing we could do to improve on the environment; that many immigrants are terrorist, rapists, dealers and criminals; that blacks are violent; that Cameroon is a state of law; that Cameroon is ‘one and indivisible’; that there was no Anglophone problem; that all those protesting on the streets were simply being manipulated from abroad; and more importantly, that AIDS was invented in a laboratory in the United States of America. Their views are taken literarily to suit their prejudices and hates. Accusing everybody who sees different from them of conspiracy, deniers are never ready to accept any contrary evidence. Former South African President, Thabo Mbeki denied the scientific existence of AIDS, proclaiming that AIDS was primarily caused by poverty. It was not until over 365000 people died of AIDS during his presidency that he changed his views. As President Biya is still battling with his views on whether to change the form of state, Jane Francis Mufua, epouse Chongsi and leading gender advocate, has stated categorically that it is not Biya to decide whether the form of state is changed or not. According Jane Francis, who was reacting to the Head of State’s 2017 End of Year address to the nation, it is the Cameroonian people who have to decide the form of state for Cameroon, not an individual. As the haggling continue, I take the opportunity to
Revisit Letters of the Alphabet.
This, in the light of the ongoing Anglophone Problem. Even though many learned gentlemen and women have grown up to know that there 26 unchangeable letters of the alphabet, and although it has taken centuries and ages without any change to the present 26-letters, it should be indicated that what has come o be known as ‘alphabetical solidarity’ is nothing more than a temporal effect. If the alphabet itself is that malleable, temporal and subject to reform and revision, what more of a form of state, whose change would just requires a combination of letters of the alphabet and words? Do we need to remind ourselves that language itself is a system in constant motion: shedding skins of dead words, borrowing words from other languages and inventing other words to reflect its users habits and needs? Was it not Benjamin Franklin, a founding father, diplomat, printer, scientists, writer and civic reformer who already advocated for the reform of the alphabet? He had actually proposed six new letters to be added to the alphabet. Do we know that if like the Cameroon government, alphabet reform gatekeepers argued that letters of the alphabet would not be reformed, we would still be struggling with an alphabet of
In his book: Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, Michael Rosen tells the story of the evolution of our letters of the alphabet from the original 400 letters to 27, then to 29, and to 26 letters in the 16th century. Michael Rosen states that ‘As we formed our modern language, we lostju a few letters of the alphabet’. Interestingly, of the 26 letters of the alphabet, only two, ‘A’ and ‘I’ constitutes words in themselves. While Old English included the ampersand,&, it did not include a few letters we use today, notably, J, U, and W. It was until the 16th century, according to Rose, that ‘I’, ‘V’ and ‘W’ became letters independent of ‘U’. The ampersand was dropped from the alphabet because of the development of the song ABCDGFJ that we all know today and which shares its tune with twinkle, twinkle, little star….Put differently, and in the context of the ongoing Anglophone crisis, letters ‘A’ and ‘D’ may as well be
The Scarlet Letters.
As stated earlier, all 26 letters of the alphabet tell a story. Take the letter ‘A’, for example. Rosen holds that when you turn it upside down, you will have a good sense of its original meaning when it was introduced around 800 BC. Resembling an animal’s head with anthers or horns, the original meaning of the letter in ancient Semitic was ‘ox’. Other meanings of ox are ‘domesticated bovine animal’ and ‘castrated bull’. Can Anglophones in today’s Cameroon be said to have been treated as domesticated animals or castrated bulls? The answer is blowing in the wind. As concerns the letter ‘D’, Rosen reveals that it was also around 800 BC that Phoenicians began to use a ‘dalet’ or a rough triangle facing left which translated to door. The Greek adopted it and renamed it ‘delta’. The Romans later added sheriffs and varied the thickness of the lines, softening one side into a semicircle. The story of the letters ‘A’ and ‘D’ in the context of the Anglophone Problem reveal a similar background and plot experienced in Nathanael Hawthorne’s book The Scarlet Letter. Set in Boston in the United States of America, Hester is accused of adultery and brought to be disgraced on the scaffold to the glare of the public. As she is worn the black scarlet letter ‘A’, representing shame and disgrace, the adulterer, an ordained and influential man of God is also among those shaming and disgracing Hester. She decides to carry her scarlet letter and disgrace alone, preferring not to name that man with whom she committed adultery with. One Sunday, after the Boston influential man of God has just delivered what was considered the best sermon ever given, he staggers and almost falls on the doorsteps of the Church. Sooner after, the Christian community begins noticing that their preacher’s health is deteriorating and that must probably be because of
An Unconfessed Sin.
Realizing that he would die under the weight of the sin sooner or later, the preacher decides to confess his sins. He goes back to the scaffold, confesses he was behind Hester’s adulterous act, and dies soon after. Even before he could die, his physician had discovered the preacher was all along wearing a big scarlet letter ‘A’ under his cassock. Put into context, Anglophones are now all wearing the scarlet letter and being publicly shamed and disgraced at the scaffold. Like the renowned Boston preacher, the regime in Yaoundé accuses Anglophones in the present context of all the ills and makes as if they share no blame in the escalation and deterioration of the situation. They are deaf to calls both nationally and internationally for inclusive, frank and genuine dialogue that addresses the root causes of the problem. Before the situation could get to this point, Yaoundé had preferred to meet protest with blood. The regime in Yaoundé is not only suffering from an unconfessed sin but is also wearing a huge black scarlet letter hidden beneath their gowns and vests. Only that the letter ‘A’ on the government side is arrogance and adamancy against any suggestion that any form of state could be better than the present decentralized unitary state. Although extremists Anglophones are increasing also wearing the scarlet letter by claiming that nothing good can ever come out of francophones and that Anglophones and francophones would never live happily together, it’s only a matter of time when the ‘fundamentalists preachers’ in Yaoundé would have confessed their sins and quit the scene thereby creating an enabling environment for Cameroonians to usher in a befitting
1] Bishops Letter on the crisis
2] David Aboum A Choyi’s letter
3] Ad Hoc Committee Resolutions
4] Prof Dzengwa’s writeup
5] Dr Nick Ngwanyam’s writeup
6] Valerin Ekinneh Agbor Ebai’s writeup
7] SDF Nec Resolutions on subject
8] Common Law Lawyers ultimatum
9] All Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions ultimatum
10] Kah Walla’s writeup
11] Relevant The Colbert Factors Anglo 4 Presidency campaigns
12] Document on Education Council by CATTU