Last September, amidst a bloody civil war between radical Anglophone secessionists and a brutal Francophone dictatorship, 89 courageous young people throughout Cameroon embarked on a journey to transform their country from a unitary authoritarian regime to a two-state democracy. The result was a historic seven-page document entitled “A Resolution for Peace by the Anglophone and Francophone Youth of Cameroon,” in which the children call upon President Paul Biya as well as leaders and citizens of the world to help them bring peace and equality to their beloved homeland.
The 15-week journey to justice, known as the Cameroon Peace Project, was developed and administered by the Global Justice Journal (GJJ), a US-based educational platform whose mission is to share the voices of youth who have been silenced by persecution and to assist them in creating positive social change. The project was facilitated locally by Kumba-based NGO, Survivors’ Network, whose staff recruited students and teachers for the program and forwarded the participants’ weekly assignments to GJJ. This may seem like a relatively easy task, but GJJ founder Cece Buckley insists otherwise.
“The decision to engage in this project was an extraordinary act of courage by our local partners, teachers and students,” says Buckley. “President Biya, whose regime has ruled Cameroon since 1982, has declared any discussion of federalism a crime punishable by imprisonment. So to develop a resolution calling for Cameroon’s return to a federal government is the ultimate form of passive resistance.”
According to Buckley, the vast majority of students had no idea that, upon achieving independence from France and Great Britain in 1960 and 1961, respectively, Cameroon was meant to be a federal republic consisting of two equal states — one Francophone and one Anglophone. In fact, it is virtually impossible to find a copy of the original 1961 constitution anywhere in Cameroon. Once participants learned the true history of their country, however, their path to peace became clear. As fanatical separatists continued to demand a violent division of the country and the reigning dictatorship continued to oppress 20 percent of the population for no reason other than their Anglo-Saxon heritage, the young Anglophone and Francophone peacebuilders reached across the cultural divide and set their sights on a groundbreaking collaboration.
In addition to discovering the history of their own country, students learned about the sometimes tumultuous history of Anglophone-Francophone relations in Canada. Through the use of texts, music and poetry, they also drew inspiration from peace leaders who preceded them, including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and Leymah Gbowee, who was instrumental in bringing an end to Liberia’s civil war. Little by little, these shining examples of heroism instilled in participants the hope and confidence they needed to successfully graduate from the program on January 30, 2021 as the changemakers they were always meant to be.
Now their fate rests in your hands.
Source: Global Justice Journal