The Colbert Factor
Like Rohingya Refugees, Like Southern Cameroonians
This reflection is inspired by the fact that unlike refugees who flee their countries because of sectarian or ethnic conflicts, Rohingya refugees just like Anglophone Cameroonian refugees fled their respective countries because of the rampaging actions of government forces.
It is also informed by the fact that while the military in Myanmar took the pretext of the border attack on a Myanmar uniform officer by a Rohingya to descend on Rohingya to kill, maim, arrest and brutalize any able bodied individual they found in the community, the military in Cameroon also took the pretext of an attack on the military in Jakiri, Bafut and Mamfe, to descend on Anglophone communities with reckless abandon, living in their wake hundreds killed, maimed, arrested, and thousands displaced.
It is also inspired by the fact that just as the Rohingya crisis dates back to centuries, with Myanmar government always claiming that the Rohingyas
are from Bangladesh descent and so should not enjoy full Myanmar citizenship, the Anglophone Cameroon crisis dates back to the tampering of the federal arrangement in 1972, and subsequent protest by Anglophone leadership of their being treated as second class citizens by francophone led regimes.
It went to an extent that some francophones refer to Anglophones as Biafrans who could as well go back to Nigeria if they are not comfortable with Cameroon. Just like Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar President is heaving a sigh of relief that the Rohingyas have finally left Myanmar back to their ancestry in Bangladesh, Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya may quietly be expression the same contentment. For one thing, he knows and for a fact that none of the over 40 000 registered refugees in camps in Nigeria constitute any political capital for him.
So it is good riddance they continue staying with their Biafran brothers in Nigeria.
While some 420,000 Rohingya Muslims, a religious and
minority community in Myanmar, have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017, upwards of 40,000 Anglophone refugees fleeing violence in the two minority English speaking Regions of Cameroon started fleeing to neighbouring Nigeria since September 22, 2017.
While the Rohingya have been qualified by the United Nations as the most persecuted minority group and described atrocities by Myanmar’s authorities as ethnic cleansing, a situation whereby one group removes another ethnic group through violence, I dare qualify the Anglophone minority in Cameroon today, as Africa’s most persecuted minority group. You just need to listen to heartrending accounts of fleeing survivors who tell you the names they have been called by the rampaging francophone- dominated military. Just as the persecution of Rohingya is not new or did not start in 2017, so too is the persecution of Anglophone activists.
If that of Rohingya dates back to 1948, the year the country achieved independence from their British
colonizers, that of Anglophone Cameroonians dates back to 1961, the year they decided to achieve independence by joining LA Republique due Cameroon.
Just like West Cameroon that was promised love, care and equality by the francophone leadership at independence, the Rohingya in Myanmar had been promised an autonomous state within Myanmar by the British before independence. Just like the Rohingya who were instead called foreigners by Myanmar after independence when they started asking for the promised autonomy, West Cameroonians were also denied all the advantages promised them by Ahidjo immediately after independence. As animosities continued to grow, some within the francophone leadership in Cameroon saw Anglophones as a nuisance, a people who were not grateful to have been allowed to benefit from the wealth of larger Cameroon. Like the Rohingya, the more Anglophones asked for their own fair share in the larger body polity, the more they were treated as second class citizens.
Like Anglophone activists who are today being referred to as terrorists, Rohingyas were referred to by Myanmar government as Mujahid. As stated by Engy Abdelkader, Rutgers University 2017 fellow, right up till now, the international community has never agreed on how to define terrorism. Although as she holds, the legal definition could vary by country as politics dictates its contours, both Myanmar and Cameroon have found it difficult convincing the international community that their freedom fighters are terrorists. As another researcher, Ben Saul says, officials in a country can use its meaning as a weapon against even valid political rivals and demands. One does not need to negotiate the next bend before discovering that Cameroon and Myanmar governments have use the meaning of terrorism as a weapon against valid political demands.
Just like in 1962 where a military coup in Myanmar culminated in a one party military state with democratic governance woefully lacking and
worsening for the Rohingyas, it could also be said that the 1972 abolishment of the federal system of government in Cameroon by President Amadou Ahidjo and the unilateral change of nomenclature of the country’s name in 1984 by President Biya from the United Republic of Cameroon to just Republic of Cameroon, also saw things beginning to worsen for Anglophone Cameroonians. That single act ignited nationalist identity feelings amongst Anglophone elites. Just like the 2017 Rohingya crisis where the army killed, tortured and raped, the same scenario was text booked in Anglophone Cameroon. In much the same way the Myanmar government had since independence systematically transferred all the private Rohingya businesses to government ownership, the various francophone-led governments in Yaoundé have since independence, systematically transferred public West Cameroon profitable structures to Yaoundé and Douala, or worked tirelessly to kill private and flourishing businesses in
Anglophone Cameroon. Cases abound, and not limited to Marketing Board, Powercam, Air Transport, Wada Sum, Ombe, the Nanga Company, and you name the rest. Like Rohingyas who, over the years have suffered from systematic discrimination when it comes to employment into the public service, arbitrary detention and physical abuse leading to so many escaping to Bangladesh and other European and Western countries, Anglophone Cameroonians have suffered same. In their frustration, those who could not afford to go further afield found solace in neighbouring Nigeria. The more determined found themselves in countries with jaw breaking names in the Middle and Far East, Europe, Russia and America. Get to states in America and you actually see colonies of Anglophone Cameroonians making the place community look like an extension of a quarter in Bamenda or Buea. Just like in 1977, when authorities in Myanmar launched a national drive to register citizens and considered Rohingyas as foreigners, when authorities launch census or head count in Cameroon they make sure real statistics of the growth of Anglophones are doctored. In Myanmar, when Rohingyas protest and military come to molest them and they flee to Bangladesh, Myanmar authorities point to their flight as purported evidence of their illegal status and the fact that by fleeing to Bangladesh means they are not Myanmar. In the same light, when clashes between military and Anglophone activists push them to take up refuge in Nigeria, authorities in Yaoundé point to their flight as evidence they are Biafra. Just like the statelessness of Rohingya makes them defenseless in the face of Myanmar military, the second class citizenship of Anglophone Cameroonians also make them defenseless in the face of rampaging Cameroon military who now claim to be fighting terrorists. Thousands of defenseless minority English speaking Cameroon’s are detained, molested, maimed and killed for their sports. The same way flies are to wanton boys, so are Anglophone
Cameroonians to the military.
As Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh have been telling Human Rights Watch that government forces carried out armed attacks, and burned down their homes, as well as beheaded men, raped women and murdered children, same picture is being painted by fleeing Anglophone refugees in Nigeria.
Like in the case of the humanitarian catastrophe in Myanmar with Rohingya refugees where the Army denies any wrongdoing, so too is the situation in Anglophone Cameroon. Apart from government ministers taking turns to praise our military for their professionalism, a military spokesman just two weeks ago issued a disclaimer urging those claiming Cameroon military is carrying out exactions to bring proof. Just like Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi shunning criticism and refusing to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has made no effort to recognize the plight of the thousands of Anglophone refugees and the thousands of internally displaced.
The Muteff Boy’s Take