Challenges facing Anglophones in Cameroon

December 13, 2016 OPINION/NEWS

AP photo

 

By

Joseph Besong

Anglophones are the English speaking Cameroonians. It’s worth noting here that the English and French were the former colonial masters of Cameroon.

After the First World War in 1914, the Germans left the country, Britain and France ruling the country as “mandated” territories. France took 4/5 of the land while Britain occupied 1/5 of the region. This explains why today Cameroon has two official languages, English and French.

Cameroon is a nation known for her peaceful co-existence. The two Cameroons, French and English had lived for fifty years as one.  Cameroonians in the English part of the country believe they have been marginalized by the French majority counterpart. This struggle is seen in the formation of pressure groups like the Southern Cameroons National Council (SCNC) with branches all over the world. Today, it’s not just this pressure group that is agitating for equal opportunity for this minority groups but the lawyers and teachers of Anglophone origins. The lawyers complained about the absence of the English version on the OHADA text. The English teachers in the country also demanded a total overhauling in the educational sector especially the ones in the English region of the country.

As I write, the two English capital cities Bamenda in the North West region and Buea in the South West region are battling, with civilians being shot and brutalized by the country’s military. The Anglophones on social media are now agitating for secession or for a federal system. The call is now coming very strongly from this minority group called Anglophones because the administration has made it possible for the French speakers to marginalize the English speaking people in all spheres. Since the independence of Cameroon in 1960, no English speaking Cameroonian had held a major position like the Presidency, Ministry of Finance or Ministry of Territorial Administration.

Most parts of Cameroon are undeveloped but the situation in the English part is horrible. The administration has failed for 34 years to bring in meaningful development in the area of infrastructure, economy, education, etc. The unemployment rate in the Anglophone area is alarming with graduates’ last choice is only to travel abroad for a better life. The situation is so bad that the young people recently started peaceful protests across the two regions that harbor the English speaking population of the country. The latest protests in Buea and Bamenda led to the death of young Anglophones who are out to demand either secession or Federal system from their French counterpart.

The price these young Anglophones pay is losing their lives, some detained in prison, the entire region in dead silence with no activities going on. The teachers and lawyers are still in a sit-down strike, students having since joined their teachers in this section of the country to demand a better life and end what they called marginalization of the English folk. Many fear there may be no end for the course examinations this year for final year students and pupils taking English examinations.

Many are determined to see change. The English in Cameroon have been relegated to a second language as seen by the Anglophones. The language is absent in most of the official documents in a country with two official languages. French dominates in all instances and this leaves the impression that Anglophones as people don’t matter. The irony in all of this is the fact that most of the French speaking parents today prefer the English schools. They now educate their offspring starting from elementary to university levels. Common research shows that their new found love for English schools is to enable their children to gain admission in most of the English universities abroad notably those in the UK, USA, South Africa and Nigeria.

The English face enormous challenges in Cameroon going through poverty in a country where there are abundant resources. Most of the good jobs are filled by French speakers because the system favors them. No one can deny this because the Prime Minister of the country acknowledged that this Anglophone problem exists. The other ministers who are French believe there is no such issue. The military is now used to suppress and silence the voices of Anglophones who believe the time for change is now.

The diversity in Cameroon makes it very difficult because of the two cultures. The English are different from the French in a number of ways. The English always go with the English way of life whereas the French people move with the French lifestyle. It has worked perfectly since 1961 when the English people joined the French in what is termed the plebiscite. They had lived together for such a long time that it’s like nothing is wrong. Many are of the opinion that the Federal system of government might be the best option to end marginalization than asking for secession which many believe is unrealistic and difficult in the first place.

One thing is clear in Cameroon today, the government lacks the technique to reach an agreement with any group protesting for a legitimate right. The government always uses force through the the military in an attempt to suppress the people. With the advent of social media this is because the brutalization is caught on camera or videos and spreads faster on Facebook, YouTube, whassapp, just to name a few.

Cameroon is described as a peaceful country and that’s true because violence is not their thing. I think the government is taking that trait to her advantage. The recent strike actions in Cameroon are an indication to tell the administration that enough is enough. International bodies like the United Nations and the African Union should intervene for Cameroon before it reaches a point where dialogue will be difficult to achieve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

joseph besong

Joseph Besong

I am the editor-in-chief of Kilimandjaro radio. I hail from Africa, precisely from Cameroon in Central Africa.

I did my secondary education at Bishop Rogan College Soppo-Buea located in the South West Region of Cameroon. After graduation, I proceeded to the University of Buea-Cameroon where I read English minor in Journalism and Mass  Communication. I later worked in Cameroon as a broadcaster with Two radios namely Radio Evangelum and CBS Radio all located in Buea.

Presently, I work with Kilimandjaro radio, an online radio station based in Canada.

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