It is heart-rending to see Cameroon go down the path of chaos and conflict. Many African countries have walked this path and their experience has been anything but pleasant. Their different experiences indicate that it is not an honorable path that any responsible government should design for itself. Cameroon has been the oasis of peace in a desert of chaos for many decades, but things are gradually spiraling out of control as Anglophones are increasingly becoming restive in a union that has felt more like a prison to many of them than a smooth family relationship. Injustice, disrespect, discrimination and outright government-orchestrated marginalization have pushed the Anglophone minority over the edge. They now feel they are on a wire without a safety net. Their anger derives from many reasons and they hold that no matter how hard they try, they will never cohabit peacefully with Francophones whose perspective of life is diametrically different.
They point to injustice, arguing that the errors of the past have been intentional. They argue that no Anglophone has ever been appointed to head the ministries finance, defense, territorial administration, communication and foreign affairs and this cannot be considered an error after fifty-six years. They also argue that Francophone ministers such as Fame Ndongo, Laurent Esso and IssaTchiroma are clearly to blame for the escalation of the problem. Their public declarations have given Anglophones the feeling that they do not belong to Cameroon. They hold that Anglophone Cameroon accounts for more than 60% of the country’s wealth and the citizens of this region should be treated with respect like their Francophone counterparts. It should be recalled that Cameroon’s oil and gold fields are lodged in the country’s Anglophone region, precisely in Ndian division, where poverty – that which dehumanizes and robs people of their dignity – has taken root. But the most vexing issue is the fact that 95% of staff at the country’s lone oil refinery, SONARA, are Francophones who have the nasty habit of treating the locals with disdain and this has fueled the anger that is currently boiling over.
To many Anglophones, the time has come for a rethink of the union. It is time to come out of the 56-year jail term; a period during which the government has reduced them to second-class citizens. Years of complaints have never really resulted in any improvement as the Francophone-dominated government has always argued that there is no Anglophone problem and any Anglophoneswho talk of an Anglophone problem are immediatelyconsidered as a handful of trouble-makers who need to be taught a lesson, using outdated and intimidating laws. To them, Cameroon is one and indivisible, but the country’s indivisibility has been tested over the last year. Only the blind cannot see the cracks on the wall. Anglophones are honestly not part of that Cameroon that is one and indivisible and they have clearly demonstrated that over the last year.
Friday’s (September 22, 2017) demonstrations in almost every Anglophone city are confirming that the foundation on which that one and indivisible Cameroon is built is not solid. The demonstrations are unfortunately throwing up a grim reality that will be hard for the indolent Francophone-dominated government in Yaounde to handle. The government has clearly lost its authority over the English-speaking minority. Friday’s demonstrations have taken place in the presence of the police and gendarmes and the massive attendance clearly points to the fact that the wall of fear has collapsed. The people want to take charge of their own destiny, as the government has failed to deliver prosperity and opportunities to the ever growing and increasingly demanding youths of the Anglophone region.
The trend towards statehood appears to be irreversible. Southern Cameroons’ flag is all over the place though the government had proscribed its use. This is testimony to the fact that there is a limit to what a people can take. Anglophones are defying the government and they are ready for any consequences. Years of marginalization have not only sent two million of them out of the country, they have also emboldened those who have been taking the brunt. Anglophones are sick and tired of the government’s lies and manipulation. Thirty-five years of Mr. Biya’s ineffective rule and his presidence over a permanently ailing economy have left many young Anglophones desperate and hopeless. To many of them, the best option is for them to head out of the country, but in the absence of such a possibility, they are prepared to lay down their lives to make sure future generations do not have to walk down the same path of desperation, hopelessness and unemployment.
The writing is clearly on the wall, of course, in both English and French. Only the blind will not see how Cameroon is slowly, but surely heading to the brink after years of mismanagement and marginalization. The current crisis calls for a total overhaul of the system and a change in management style. The leaders who are supposed to be social engineers should start thinking of reengineering the country. The old model has failed. Continuing to pursue failed policies and tricks of the past will only go a long way in radicalizing Anglophones who are gradually coming to terms with the fact that their only option is independence. Though many are yet to agree to the name of their new country, that is, if it will ever see the light of day, there is a plethora of names being floated out there – Ambaland, Ambazonia, Southern Cameroons, West Cameroon and others that are still in the closet.
Despite the variance as to how their country will be called, they all agree that the union with East Cameroon has been anything but pleasant. They are gradually coming up with structures and symbols that will enable them to run their country whenever it comes to being. Their flag is floating all over the country and a governing council has been set up with its interim leader, Ayuk Julius Tabe, crisscrossing the globe to drum up support for an independent Southern Cameroons. In the minds of young Anglophones, their independence will be declared on October 1, 2017. This is certainly not an illusion. Friday’s demonstrations should inform the government that Anglophones abroad and at home are working hand in glove to achieve their goal.
After a year of demonstrations and a long battle of wills between the country’s president and Anglophones, things are on the decline, with independentists gradually winning the war on all fronts. The government’s indifference has given them a lot of time to persuade Anglophones who have been sitting on the fence. Today, they clearly hold sway over the population, especially as many members of the Diaspora are those who are running things in their families financially. While there are still a few diehard federalists among Anglophones, the government’s refusal to listen to advice and its inability to sincerely call for a national debate on the issue of reforms is pushing federalists onto the side of independentists.
The Anglophone crisis will surely not be addressed through any cosmetic reforms. The issues are real and the people are determined to change the status quo ante. It will be foolhardy and preposterous to think that sending a few self-seeking politicians to the region will help calm tempers. There is a disconnect between these self-seeking politicians and the people they claim they represent.
Anglophones have clearly rejected their so-called leaders. Peter Mafany Musonge, AtangaNji, Yang Philemon, AchidiAchu, Tabetando, Victor Mengot, Benjamin Itoe, Dion Ngute, Ako Edward and others hold no sway over the Anglophone population. Keeping themwithin the corridors of power will certainly not address any issues. They clearly belong to the past and it will be hard to resuscitate them politically. This also applies to people such as Shey Jones and Fai Yengo Francis who are being rumored to be part of a government that will soon be announced. These people have no constituency and it will not be in the interest of the country and the Anglophone population in particular, to bring back these people who have never displayed any sympathy with the people’s cause.
While Mr. Biya himself has over-stayed his welcome, it could be said that he had been voted and could be given the benefit of the doubt to finish his term. His failure to address key issues such as infrastructure development and unemployment will forever haunt him. He has reduced the country to an open air landfill wherein the ordinary Cameroonian has been reduced to a sorry spectator of events in his country. He should see the writing on the wall and should make the honorable decision – that of not running in 2018.
Cameroon has been pushed to the brink. The country has been caught in a downward spiral. To pull the country out of this quagmire will be a tough job. Using those who have driven this country to the brink to pull it out will be the wrong decision. If Cameroon has to stay one and indivisible, then there must be a change of mentality. The current unitary system has shown its limits. It has brought untold hardship to the people. Anglophones may be bitter but they will surely want to negotiate and they insist that such a negotiation should take place in the presence of a neutral, third party like the UN or the African Union. The writing is on the wall. The country’s authorities should make an effort to see it before it is too late.
The Editorial Desk
Cameroon Concord News Group