The complaints of demonstrating Anglophones have surely not fallen on deaf ears as some government officials have, on a small scale, been trying to meet with leaders of the various groups that have been demonstrating and bringing life in Anglophone Cameroon to a standstill. Prime Minister Yang Philemon has not been indifferent to the issues facing Anglophones and his trip to Bamenda to meet striking lawyers and teachers deserves some commendation. It might not have yielded the fruits most frustrated Anglophones need, but it is testimony to the fact that through dialogue some of the issues could be dealt with. Some ruling party parliamentarians have also been listening to the striking lawyers and teachers with a view to gaining a better understanding of the issues, but their efforts will surely come to naught if the powers-that-be do not embrace this move that is more likely to be more effective than the violent rhetoric some ruling party members have been using. This only goes to underscore that dialogue holds more hope and it should be pursued regardless of the cost.
Dialogue is medication that soothes even the most violent mind. It sows peace and guarantees security for many generations. It is an effective political tool that has kept internal strife at bay in many countries such as Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway. If Canada, in particular, is today a huge attraction, it is because the country’s political leaders have embraced this philosophy and they sincerely think that the people’s wellbeing should be at the center of every political action and policy discourse. Cameroon stands to gain if it takes a long and an objective look at how the Canadian system functions. It is a bilingual system that has stood the test of time. The country’s efforts are geared at sustaining its bilingual and bi-jural system. While some issues linger, the Federal and provincial governments are permanently locked in talks on how to keep the union going. This is how to deal with cultural differences and this is the way forward for a country like Cameroon that currently has a huge crisis on its hands as Anglophones take to the streets to express their disgust and frustration with a union that has robbed them of their dignity and happiness.
Anglophones have a problem. Their marginalization is not a myth. It is a reality that can no longer be ignored. The scars of marginalization are all over the place. The country’s English-speaking minority has been frustrated for decades and current demonstrations only speak to the pain these people have been enduring for years. Most of these demonstrators simply want a righting of the wrongs of the past. The lawyers who started the demonstrations never talked of secession or independence. But as some government officials keep on playing the ostrich, the demands are gradually moving from redress to independence and outright secession. This points to the absence of genuine dialogue and good faith on the part of the government.
This bad faith has been reflected in the Prime Minister’s order of December 1, 2016,serving as a response to the demonstrations that have been playing out in the North West and South West regions of the country. Last Thursday’s announcement did not make any mention of an Anglophone problem and it did not really serve any purpose. Instead of providing real solutions to the issues that have been stalking Anglophones like stubborn shadows, the government, as usual, proposed some cosmetic and Band-Aid solutions. It will be recruiting 1,000 bilingual teachers, many of whom will be sent to those areas where there is a shortage of teachers. This is like papering over the cracks on the wall. Cameroon is suffering from an advanced stage of cancer, it makes no sense trying to give a cancer patient malarial drugs. The bull must be taken by the horn. Cameroonians are smart people. The government’s old tactics will not meet the needs of the striking Anglophones.
Similarly, the utterances of government officials such as those of the Ministers of Justice, Communication and Higher Education have been very unhelpful and this is radicalizing many Anglophones.It is always dangerous to pour gasoline into a burning house. The issues presented by Anglophones can be addressed if the Government demonstrates sincere leadership and objectivity. Showing its teeth in this context will not move the country forward. From every indication, the wall of fear has fallen. If the government does not engage Anglophones in a meaningful and sincere dialogue wherein most issues are discussed and positive steps taken, then it will be to blame when secessionists gain remarkable ground. Extremists thrive when the government resorts to violence and indifference to the plight of the people. Denying that there is no Anglophone problem is unfortunately playing into the hands of people who are seeking radical solutions.
Dialogue is undoubtedly the road to that paradise all Cameroonians want to live in. Anglophones don’t want an adulterated educational system. Their lawyers want to be more effective. They want their clients to have a good deal and not the raw deal they have been served for decades. It has not worked for them, their clients and their country. They simply need a new dispensation that will breed efficiency, confidence and peace. Let the government not think it will come out of this victorious. Times have changed and Cameroonians have understood that they have to get what they want no matter what it takes. The victor in all of this will be a strong, united and federal Cameroon. Dialogue is an idea whose time has come. Let Cameroonians embrace it as other people in other parts of the world have; an action that has made their countries great and attractive. With dialogue, Cameroonians can conveniently retire their differences and live in a better Cameroon.
Dr. Joachim Arrey (Contributing Editor)
Cameroon Concord News Group