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May 20, 1972 – May 20, 2011: A Tottering Union Of Unequals 

By Francis Wache

At the beginning, it was expected to be an experience in blending two colonial legacies: the French in La Republique du Cameroun and the English in Southern Cameroons. For a while, it appeared to work. Cameroon’s bicultural, bilingual and bijudicial status endeared her to other nations.

On the continental level, Cameroon produced, for instance, two Secretary Generals in a row for the Organisation of African Unity:  Nzo Ekah Ngaky and William Aurelien Eteki Mboumoua. In the international arena, Cameroonians were the envy of other Africans. Dubbed "Africa in miniature", Cameroon, from the linguistic level, was an incarnation of the microcosm of linguistic fusion of the main languages inherited from the colonial masters – French and English.

When the political marriage was first consummated in October 1961, it was agreed by both parties that none of the Federated States would be allowed to impose its will or interests on the other. Sadly, after Reunification, the gentlemen’s agreement was respected more in the breach. Things began to fall apart.

According to the Buea Declaration, a document that encapsulates the grievances of Anglophone Cameroon, "In 1972, all this {agreement} was disregarded. Not only did the Francophone majority impose their will, fraudulently, on the Anglophone minority, but they also brought to an end the equality of status between the two founding components of Cameroon."
The reasons advanced by Ahmadou Ahidjo, the then President of Cameroon, for the unitary State were that it was expensive to run two governments and legislatures. He also said that, to cement national unity, it was imperative to disband the Federal system.

Ahidjo and his acolytes dubbed the referendum which dismantled the Federal Government as a "Peaceful Revolution". Anglophone nationalists disagreed. To them, the referendum was nothing more and nothing less than a "ploy by Francophones to use their overwhelming majority to alter the basis of Reunification for which Anglophones, and Anglophones ONLY, had voted."

The Buea Declaration reels a host of woes that have been visited on Anglophones by their Francophone "brothers" since the 1972 tumultuous marriage. These include, among many others, the exploitation and rape of Anglophone Cameroon’s economy. The Declaration posits that "the unconstitutional and illegal imposition of the Unitary form of government was aimed not only at dismantling the institutions of the Anglophone State (Legislature, Government, House of Chiefs, Judiciary, Police Force etc.) but also at exploiting and raping our economy."

The roads in Anglophone were in an execrable state, the Declaration said. It maintained that, "Today, the streets of Kumba, the economic capital of the South West Province, are a pool of mud in the rainy season, while Nkambe and Kumbo in the North West wallow in dust up to one foot thick in the dry season…Ndian, the division off whose shores the nation’s oil is produced is without roads."

Anglophones further complain that they are second class citizens, that they are marginalised; that they are discriminated against in education and training, that they are exploited and dominated… And the jeremiads go on. In sum, Anglophones grumble that, "since May 1972, we have patiently suffered numerous indignities, humiliations and injustices in respect of which we repeatedly cried out for redress."

Indeed, despite these pleas for redressing the wrongs done to the Anglophone component of the Cameroon State, Anglophoness are irked to note that their "several petitions, cries and calls for redress have been repeatedly and callously spurned without serious attention being given to them by successive Francophone-led governments." It is difficult to explain why the regime has ignored these pleas. Not less a personality than Kofi Annan, when he visited Cameroon as the Secretary General of the United Nations, called on Mr Paul Biya to hold talks with the Anglophones. Biya’s reaction? Nothing.

The Court in Banjul has also exhorted the regime to initiate talks with the SCNC, the organisation that articulates the stance of Anglophones. Again, nothing. Instead, the government has reacted with an implacable clampdown on those spearheading Anglophone demands for an equitable treatment in the Republic. The government has, relentlessly, molested, harassed, hounded, imprisoned, maimed and assassinated those crusading for the restoration of Anglophone rights.

There is a certain je ne sais quoi that prevents the government from hearkening to those voices advocating dialogue.  And, as Anglophones continue to nurse the grievance that they have been short-changed in the Union, their anger festers and their frustration simmers. It is anybody’s guess when this disenchantment will erupt. And with what repercussions.

Conventional wisdom indicates that, to prevent the nation from witnessing a cataclysmic option, the best approach would be to salvage the unity of the country by addressing the raised issues – promptly. Otherwise, the need to forge a Cameroon "that is one, united and indivisible" might remain an elusive slogan. Put differently, if remedial measures are not taken urgently, the tempestuous marriage between Francophone and Anglophone Cameroon may continue to totter towards the brink.

Marginalisation Of Anglophones

(An extract from the Buea Declaration following the All Anglophone Conference, AAC I, in 1993)

Since the inception of the Federation, Anglophone Cameroonians have only played second-fiddle to their Francophone compatriots, starting with the first Prime Minister of West Cameroon, who, on assuming the role of Vice-President of the Federal Republic, set the general pattern of the Anglophone role since then. Anglophones have been appointed mainly into subordinate positions to assist Francophones, even where the latter have been less qualified or less competent.

For 32 years since reunification, ministries such as those in charge of Territorial Administration, the Armed Forces, Education, Finance, Commercial and Industrial Development, Foreign Affairs, among others, have never been headed by Anglophones. When the Prime Minister is Francophone, there is no Secretary General at the Presidency and no Vice Prime-Minister.

The Prime Minister wields real powers and authority. But when that office comes to an Anglophone, he is hedged in between a Francophone Secretary General at the Presidency and another at the Prime Minister’s Office. At the same time, he is saddled with not one, but two Deputy Prime-Ministers on whom real power devolves.

In the Foreign Service, Anglophones rarely get appointed as Cameroon’s Ambassador to London, Washington, New York, Lagos or Paris. These key diplomatic posts are reserved exclusively for Francophones. In Home Affairs, there is a rapidly growing tendency to post only Francophone to Anglophone Cameroon in such top administrative positions as Governor, Senior Divisional Officer, Legion Commander etc.

The neglect of roads in Anglophone Cameroon has had disastrous economic and social consequences for our people and for the development of our Territory. We had an all-season Trunk A road running from Victoria through Kumba, Mamfe, and Bamenda to Wum and Nkambe. In their deliberate policy to subjugate us, our Francophone brothers have abandoned the maintenance of this important road. They have, instead, developed the Douala-Bafoussam road so as to compel us in travelling from Bamenda to Buea or Victoria, to pass through their territory.

Road Checkpoints

The hundreds of police, gendarmes and customs checkpoints on our roads today seem normal and acceptable to Francophones. They really make this country strange to Anglophones. Between Bamenda and Victoria, there are about 35 checkpoints.

This unnecessary restriction on the free movement of people, goods and services serves no useful purpose as traffic cases rarely go to the courts. What may originally have been an exercise with a noble objective has been reduced to a system of road tolls instituted by the Forces of Law and Order with the tacit approval of the government.

Francophone Exploitation And Domination

Instances of Francophone exploitation and domination of Anglophones are many. We cite the following examples:

a) The University of Buea is officially designated as being ‘Anglo-Saxon’. It is located in Anglophone Territory and run by Anglophones for the education, primarily, of Anglophones. All this notwithstanding, Francophone government officials in Buea and Yaounde arrogantly instructed the Management of the Buea University to deny the use of the latter’s premises and facilities for the purpose of holding the present All Anglophone Conference. We were reduced to beggars in our own land, confirming, once more, that we have become a subjugated people.

b) After reunification, all Cinema Theatres in Victoria, Buea, Kumba and Bamenda and other Anglophone towns were compelled to show only French-language films.

c) When there is a football match in France, the entire Cameroon nation is held to ransom by CRTV as the match is shown, sometimes live, on Cameroon Television. The Cameroon Radio and Television Corporation (CRTV) does not react in the same manner when a football or other sporting encounters take place in England or involves and English team.

d) Television films and programmes originally made in English are shown in Cameroon only after they have been translated into French, and only in their French version.

e) Broadcast time on Radio and Television is very unevenly divided between English and French programmes, even though it does not take longer to inform, educate or entertain in French than it does in English. In the end, Anglophones who share equally in the burden of financing Cameroon Radio and Television, get far less than ¼ of the service provided by this public utility.

f) Whereas all of Cameroon’s oil resources at present originate from the Anglophone part of the country only, all oil-related public corporations like SNH, SONARA, SCDP, HYDRAC, etc. – are predominantly staffed by Francophones.

g) Notwithstanding that all of Cameroon’s oil exploration, production and transformation take place in Anglophone Cameroon, oil-derived revenues are paid to the state directly in Yaounde.

h) It was a Francophone who appeared in Victoria to buy the property of the National Produce Marketing Board when the organisation wound up. It was a Francophone who appeared in Buea proposing to buy all the Buea Clerks’ Quarters. It was a Francophone who appeared in Bamenda wanting to buy all the CAPMAE and its installations.

It was a Francophone who appeared in Buea wanting to buy the Government Printing Press. It was a Frenchman who was employed to liquidate PAMOL in Ndian. He failed to proceed with the liquidation. For more than four years now, he has been exploiting PAMOL Plantations for the personal benefit of himself and of his Francophone associates and patrons.

i) In spite of the official bilingual character of Cameroon, and in spite of its wide international spread and high international standing, English is treated as a second language in Cameroon. Official texts and documents are issued mainly, and often exclusively, in French.

j) The independence which the judiciary enjoyed in Anglophone Cameroon has been eroded under successive Francophone-led governments.

k) In total disregard of the special place occupied in the government of Anglophone Cameroon by traditional authority, a Francophone-led government arbitrarily abolished the West Cameroon House of Chiefs.

l) We have been made to suffer all the evils of association of Cameroon’s economy and public finances with those of France without any corresponding benefits accruing to us. In 32 years since reunification, there are hardly any French-financed development projects businesses or investments of social or economic consequence in Anglophone Cameroon.

m) Ours must be the only known situation in the world where there exists a system of law without a legislature. Whereas successive constitutions of Cameroon have contained provisions purporting to preserve the body of law in force in Anglophone Cameroon before the advent of the Unitary State, since the abolition of the Federated State of West Cameroon and its law-making institutions, there now exists no institutional framework for amending or reforming that body of law.

The Francophones who have dominated the law-making process since 1972 have never cared to take the measures necessary to ensure that this body of law is in tune with modern times and with the present-day aspirations of Anglophone Cameroonians in the domains affected and governed by those laws.