The Anglophone problem that started like a joke has finally reached a critical point with Anglophones set to declare their independence on Sunday, October 1, 2017, despite threats from the Francophone-dominated government that has ruled the country for fifty-six years without regard to the Foumban Agreement that was signed between Southern Cameroons and East Cameroon in 1972. The determination of the English-speaking minority to walk away from the hastily stitched marriage has left the government scrambling for solutions to contain Anglophone protesters who are no longer scared of government intimidation. Even the heavy deployment of Special Forces and battalions of army soldiers is not striking any fear in the minds of disgruntled Anglophones.
To deter Anglophones, the Yaounde government has been flexing its atrophied muscles. A dusk-to-dawn curfew has been declared to curb the movement of persons and the country’s borders with Nigeria have been closed till September 2, 2017, but Anglophones are not listening to all of that. In their view, Cameroon’s borders are the most porous in the world. The inept government in Yaounde has never really developed any real border posts with Nigeria. In places like Akwaya, many Yaounde government officials are already moving out for fear that they will be arrested as instructed by the Anglophone Governing Council. The fear of the unknown is perceptible, as demonstrations across Southern Cameroons on October 22, 2017 informed the government that it really had a sticky situation on its hands. Last week’s demonstration will surely be reduced to a dress rehearsal, as the young and old will take to the streets to let the beleaguered government understand that they are not being manipulated.
Years of marginalization and mistreatment have hardened the Anglophone and he is determined to change things so that future generations do not have to walk this humiliating path. Over the last fifty-six years, Anglophones have never occupied the ministries of defense, interior, national security, territorial administration and communications. Currently, out of 39 ministers, there is only one Anglophone while the President’s Beti-Fang ethnic group that does not even account for 5% of the population has about 28 ministers and it is running 21 of the 34 state-owned corporations. Out of 34 state-owned corporations, Anglophones only head two. Out of more than 30 army generals, Anglophones have only two full generals, with the Beti-Fang ethnic group taking the lion’s share. But the really vexing issue is the country’s oil company that is located in the country’s southwest region. The oil deposits are located in the Rio Del Rey Estuary in the same region, but Francophones account for 95% of the refinery’s staff. South-westerners have clearly been cut out of any oil deals and this has been accomplished with the connivance of the region’s so-called elites and colonial governors and administrative officers who have been working hard to inflict pain on the population. In 2016, the government’s investment budget for Biya’s South region with a population of 700,000 was more than double that of the two Anglophone regions that account for 20% of the population. The details of the marginalization are simply revolting. This explains, in part, why Southern Cameroonians will be more than pleased to arrest these officials on Sunday for them to explain why they have been working against the people.
The international community understands the seriousness of the issue. It has been carefully watching and it thinks dialogue will be the right response.The United Nations has not been indifferent to the chaos playing out in Cameroon. It has, on many occasions,intervened, but this time around, it has been calling on both sides to exercise restraint and avoid actions that might result in an escalation of tension. The global body has reaffirmed its respect for the country’s integrity, adding that the government should engage with the natives of the North West and South West regions, while the Commonwealth has reiterated its determination and willingness to support efforts at peacefully resolving the issues that have pitted Anglophones against the government.
But Southern Cameroonians are not buying into the UN’s rhetoric. They have been victims of government-orchestrated marginalization and injustice for more than fifty years and they want to live in a brand new republican democracy that respects human rights and freedoms. In many cities across Southern Cameroons, young Southern Cameroonians, who are anxiously looking forward to Independence Day, have been working hard to clean up the environment in preparation for the great day in line with instructions given by the Governing Council’s Interim Leader, Ayuk Julius Tabe. All these activities are taking place in the presence of the army of occupation that has been mowing down demonstrating Southern Cameroonians throughout this crisis.
The Anglophone Diaspora, for its part, is determined to make sure the government pays the price for its irresponsibility and poor policies. Ever since the conflict broke out, the government whose position has been vacillating, has accused the Anglophone Diaspora of all the crimes and sins in the world, lashing out that the Diaspora has been fanning the embers of chaos and enmity. It has also accused the Diaspora of bank-rolling the conflict with its vast financial resources, arguing that the Diaspora has no stake in the country. But the Yaounde-based government that seems to be living in a bubble fails to see that from their quiet abodes abroad, members of the Diaspora have been helping to sustain their families back home, even paying for healthcare and education. Some have built homes for their parents and even helped to purchase expensive hospital equipment for hospitals the government has built but has failed to equip. With such a contribution, members of the Diaspora cannot be accused of not having a stake in the country of their birth. What the Anglophone Diaspora has been doing is exactly what a credible government should do for its citizens.
Members of the Diaspora have been taking the hardship in strides for decades, yet for fleeing marginalization and economic deprivation, they have been stripped of their citizenship and have no way to exercise their citizenship in their country of birth. The Anglophone Diaspora has very high stakes in this struggle, a lot higher than many think. The Diaspora wants to help make the country a better place for all so that it too can know some respite. The constant demands for assistance have been blighting the lives of members of the Diaspora and this cannot come to an end if the despotic government in Cameroon is not held accountable for its actions. The Anglophone Diaspora is also educated and its huge war chest makes some of its members to feel that they deserve to play a key role in the political life of their country and if the government does not acknowledge that role, then they will continue to destabilize the government and the country. This is what is driving the Anglophone Diaspora that has many dollar millionaireswho think this is an achievable goal.
The decision to quit this hastily arranged marriage has already been made. Indeed, an entire region cannot be mad. There is nothing like collective madness. From every indication, the die has been cast. Anglophones are prepared to bite the bullet. They understand that anything short of total independence will never guarantee them a good life. While they agree that dialogue is the best path to tread, they also hold that that dialogue should focus more on how Anglophones can walk away without bloodshed. The Yaounde government is not repentant about the errors of the past. It speaks from both sides of its mouth and it is never as good as its word. In the minds of Anglophones, it will be hard to trust such a government; a government that has run the country aground; a government that is known to burn through money like wildfire, with its president spending most of his time abroad with a large entourage.
As the D-Day approaches, Yaounde government officials have been running all over the place like neckless chicken just to get a solution that can stop Anglophones from walking away, as such a situation will imply walking away with 60% of the country’s wealth. Meanwhile, government surrogates have been spreading across the Anglophone region like ragweed just to give the impression that Anglophones can be stopped from leaving the lopsided union. So-called elites have stepped up their fake meetings to give the impression that they are working. That will surely please their Yaounde masters, but will never cut ice with the Anglophone who is in independence mode. They also fail to understand that Anglophones are prepared to lay down their lives just to correct the errors of the past. Their philosophy – one for all, and all for one – is having a huge impact and it is giving the government real food for thought.
Yaounde government surrogates may be all over the region like a bad rash, but Anglophones are not paying any attention to them. Their focus is on the independence they want for themselves and future generations. From every indication, a violent confrontation is in the offing as Anglophones will have to take over government buildings and arrest those who have been aiding and abetting the Yaounde government in its effort to exploit and intimidate Anglophones. The message of their leaders has gotten across and they will stop at nothing to make that dream come true. They know the government is capable of anything, from shutting down the Internet to slaughtering large numbers of protesters, but that is not stopping them from reaching the Promised Land – Buea – on October 1, 2017.
By Editorial Desk
Cameroon Concord News Group