Anglophone Cameroon demand autonomy
• As Discrimination Stirs Discontent
• Protest Against Political, Economic Discrimination Fuelling Clamp Down
• Country Heading Towards Pogrom
Few days before October 1, 2017, the atmosphere was charged on the two campuses of University of Bamenda and University of Buea. On the orders of President Paul Biya, troops were drafted from the Francophone region to Anglophone towns and cities to carry out a specific mission- stop, by all means, the symbolic proclamation, by students and university teachers, of the “Republic of Ambazonia,” a name for Anglophone Cameroon.
The political union of both Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon, two separate and sovereign legal entities, came into existence on October 1, 1960 via a referendum; whereby Anglophone Cameroun opted to join a united and indivisible Federal Republic of Cameroon.
These university teachers and students want a return to pre-October 1, 1960 when Anglophone Cameroon was a separate nation-state under the tutelage of the United Nations.
According to Mesang Rosine Noutsa, a student of University of Bamenda, the soldiers moved into the hostels and residential quarters on the campus in the wee hours of October 1, and started brutalising students and families of lecturers.
“It was a scene of horror, and I have never witnessed such an ugly incident in my entire life,” she declared on her sick bed at the General Hospital, Bemenda, where many students and teachers were receiving treatment for wounds inflicted on them by the soldiers.
The repression by the soldiers was also carried out at the University of Buea. Unconfirmed reports indicate that some students and teachers were allegedly killed by the soldiers on these two campuses.
According to Amnesty International, and eyewitnesses, who spoke to Al-Jazeera, an international satellite television, at least 17 peaceful and unarmed protesters were killed by soldiers drafted to the campuses by Biya.
“In order to avoid further bloodshed, the security forces must cease unnecessary and excessive use of force, and protesters should be peaceful if they want to make their voices heard. The government should investigate these killings,” declared Illaria Allegrozzi, a researcher with Amnesty International in the Lake Chad basin.
Vice Chancellor of University of Buea, Professor Horace Ngomo Manga, and Vice Chancellor University of Bamenda, Professor Theresa Akenji Nkou, were both summoned for a meeting with the Higher Education Minister, Jacques Fame Ndongo. At the meeting, which took place in Yaounde, capital of Cameroun, the two vice chancellors were told, in very clear terms that their campuses would remain closed until “all secessionists were cleared from the campuses.” The meeting only lasted for 10 minutes.
According to diplomatic sources, in order to escape arrests, many ring leaders of the symbolic attempts to declare the Republic of Ambazonia, fled into Nigeria through bush paths, to where they reside a large community of Cameroonian students and teachers on Nigerian university campuses.
Discontentment of Anglophone Intelligentsia
IN an exclusive interview with University World News (UWN), Professor Samuel Wara, Head of Department of Electrical Engineering, Covenant University, Ota, Ogun State, who is a native of Bamenda, Anglophone Cameroun, provided useful insights into the past and present complex history of his country, with particular reference to the difficult relationship with Francophone Cameroun, and the role of the Anglophone intelligentsia in the possible resolution of the current problems in the land.
“Anglophone university community in Cameroun has always played a vital role in the misfortunes and fortunes of the English speaking region of our country. It was the intellectuals, who canvassed and supported a United Nations- sponsored referendum in 1961, in which our people massively accepted the idea that we create a federation with Francophone Cameroun,” he stated.
An internationally renowned scholar, Wara, who has won many awards in electrical engineering, affirmed that it is the same university community that has been campaigning to put an end to what he called the lopsided nature of 1961 union with Francophone Cameroun.
“It was Professor Bernard Nsokika Folon, Professor Carlson Anyangwe, and Fon Gorji Dinka, a renowned lawyer, who produced, in 1984, a manifesto called the New Social Order in which they stated clearly that by reverting to the name French Cameroon it had at independence, President Paul Biya, had “seceded” from the union and so the English speaking part of Cameroon has the right to revert to its “independence” before 1961. And the new state was named Ambazonia.”
And in 2005, Anglophone Cameroon was registered and recognised as Republic of Ambazonia, with Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO), an international organisation affiliated to United Nations,” he informed.
Wara, while shedding light on the current political situation in Anglophone Cameroon, revealed that Bamenda and Buea universities’ communities are in the forefront of what he called, “the struggle for the emancipation of the people of Anglophone Cameroon.”
Instances of marginalisation and discrimination against the Anglophones, which the intelligentsia are fighting against include:
•The National Entrance Examination into schools that develop the human resources are set by the French Subsystem of Education. This makes it difficult for Anglophones and Francophones to compete on an equal playing field. The examination board members are all Francophones, a development, which places some bias against Anglophone candidates. Important examinations into professional schools are set in French only, sometimes sparingly in the English-speaking region.
•There are five ministries in charge of education. None of them is Anglophone.
•State institutions put documents and public notices in French with no English translations.
•Most heads of government offices only speak French, even in the English speaking region. Visitors and clients to government offices are also expected to speak French.
•Most senior administrators and members of the Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies in the Anglophone region are French-speaking, and there is lack of effort by them to demonstrate an understanding of Anglophone culture.
•According to the 1961 constitution, the vice president was the second most important person in state protocol. Today, the Prime Minster (appointed Anglophone) is the fourth most important person in state protocol, after the President of the Senate and the President of the National Assembly.
•Of the 36 ministers, who defended the budget for the ministries last month, only one was Anglophone.
•Most of the military tribunals in Anglophone Regions conduct their courts in French.
•Financial documents such as COBAC Code, CIMA Code and the OHADA Code are all in French. These documents are international treaties and conventions to which Cameroon is a signatory.
•Magistrates in Anglophone Cameroon are disproportionately Francophone. In addition, other government –appointed officers such as the senior divisional officers, commissioners, and commandants are disproportionately Francophone.
• There are Francophone principals in Anglophone schools, hospitals, banks and mobile telephone companies.
The Way Forward
IN an exclusive chat with UWN, Professor Augustine Awasum, a veterinary surgeon, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, who hails from Anglophone Cameroon, said that best solution to put an end to the current bloodbath in Anglophone region of his country is to create an enabling atmosphere for dialogue by all stakeholders.
He is of the view that all students, teachers held in prison by the government must be released unconditionally. And the universities of Buea and Bamenda must be reopened as soon as possible. “This inevitable dialogue should be supervised by the African Union, and the United Nations, with a view to ensuring that mutual agreements reached at the negotiation table are legally binding on all the parties. The minimum condition to guarantee peace, progress and meaningful development is to reinstate the October 1, 1961 constitution, which guarantees true federalism where Anglophone and Francophone regions are equal partners,” he concluded.
• Fatunde is a professor of French, Lagos State University (LASU).
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