This article explores the increasing marginalization by La Republique Du Cameroun of the Anglophone peoples of the North-West and South-west regions of the country since independence in 1961. At that time the British-mandated Territory of Southern Cameroons freely voted in a UN-plebiscite to join with La Republique du Cameroun rather than with Nigeria. This result was largely due to the promises of Amadou Ahidjou, the first President of La Republique du Cameroun, to give the Anglophone peoples greater autonomy than was on offer from the Nigerian Government.
In the following 55 years of so-called independence, however, the Anglophone communities have found their freedoms curtailed rather than enhanced, their Common Law legal system increasingly threatened, their economic opportunities restricted more and more, their infra-structure deteriorating due to lack of investment.
Even the excellent education system, based on the British model, which had been inherited from the colonial power, has been seriously compromised over the years. It was naturally appropriate for a bi-lingual federal country to introduce the other language into the mono-lingual schools that existed before. Recently, however, there has been a concerted effort by Paul Biya’s government to force “harmonization” of the language of instruction, by importing Francophone teachers into Southern Cameroons who often don’t even speak much English.
The Southern Cameroons was part of the United Nations Trust Territory of the Cameroons under United Kingdom’s Administration. The Trusteeship Agreement between the United Nations and the United Kingdom was signed on 13 December 1946.
The name, Southern Cameroons, comes from the fact that the British Administering Authority had divided the Trust Territory into a Southern and Northern part, even while the territory was still a League of Nations mandated territory. British Southern Cameroons was created by the British Order in Council of June 26, 1923. By this act of the colonial authority, the British Southern Cameroons became a distinct territory from British Northern Cameroons within the international system, and a unit of self-determination.
Therefore it does not refer to the part of La République du Cameroun, but the Southern part of the British Cameroons. The French Cameroon was a United Nations Trust Territory under the French Government.
French Cameroun and British Cameroons were separate UN Trust Territories with separate agreements, and each governed separately by Article 76(b) of the United Nations Charter. Apart from the fact that they were former parts of an ephemeral German Kamerun that lasted just 30 years and which was formally dismembered by the Versailles Treaty of 1919, there was no other link between them, either in language, administration, culture, politically or otherwise. Each was being prepared for its own self-determination as per Article 76(b) of the UN Charter.
British Cameroons was ruled from Nigeria until 1954, when members of the Southern Cameroons in the Nigerian Eastern House of Assembly walked out and returned to Buea, capital of Southern Cameroons, where they formed a thriving parliamentary democracy which lasted until 1961. From 1954 then, the Southern Cameroons was self-governing, with its government, Prime Minister, parliament, judiciary and House of Chiefs. It conducted its first free and fair election in which power changed hands peacefully in 1959.
It is worth noting that it was Southern Cameroonians (Anglophones) who voted in the United Nations plebiscite for reuniﬁcation with French Cameroun rather than for integration into Nigeria. This was expected to mark the start of a unique federal experiment in Africa yet it soon turned out to be ‘more shadow than reality’. During negotiations on the constitution, particularly at the Foumban conference in July 1961 , the bargaining strength of the francophone delegation reﬂected the fact that the size and population of the Anglophone region was small, comprising only nine per cent of the total area and about a quarter of the total population. Even more important, by the time of these negotiations, the Southern Cameroons had still to achieve its independence by joining the sovereign Republic of Cameroon, whose President, Ahmadou Ahidjo, as leader of the francophone delegation, was able to dictate the terms for federation by capitalising on his territory’s ‘senior’ status. (John Ngu Foncha, the Prime Minister of Southern Cameroons and leader of the Anglophone delegation, had proposed a loose form of federalism but was eventually forced to accept a highly centralised system of government and administration which over the years has lead to massive marginalization, discrimination, tribalism and racism against the Anglophones today.
Southern Cameroons is well endowed with huge levels of mineral resources in the south western region of the country, such as oil, petrol and gas However, only 4% of Anglophones are able to work in these sectors.
For example, SONARA is an oil Refinery with an annual output of around US$70m, located in Limbe in the heart of the South-West region of Southern Cameroons. Top ranking officials all come from the Francophone region and Anglophones now only work as security officials, gate men and drivers to the bosses, despite our high levels of education.
Then again, we can look at the CDC Banana plantation in Tiko in the North-Western region of Southern Cameroons. This plantation is fully controlled by Francophones appointed by Biya himself, while Anglophones are only able to get jobs as labourers and factory workers, with low pay and poor working conditions, with no medical facilities and where any form of strike action or protest attracts leads to dismissal, fines and/or prison sentence.
There is also large scale tribalism leading to discrimination against Anglophones in La Republique de Cameroun. It is very difficult for most Anglophones to get a job in any of the francophone regions of the country, no matter what your qualifications may be. For example, in the government’s 2011 graduate recruitment programme, out of 25.000 government service positions, only 1000 Anglophones were integrated, and even then, just to work as clerks.
Haven’t we suffered enough already? And indeed, we are still suffering.
Cameroon is a bilingual country where English and French are both spoken due to the different colonial history of the two parts. Anglophones, who constitute just 20% of the total population of almost 25m, have always been dominated by the Francophones because of their relative size. Anglophones faces huge levels of racial discrimination due to tribalism and favoritism, not only in the francophones regions themselves but also within companies in the Anglophone regions which are being controlled by the Francophones appointed by Paul Biya himself.
For decades now Anglophones have been experiencing serious lack of investment in their educational facilities, medical provision, transport infra-structure and access to markets. Yet this is not the case in the francophone regions.
The legal system no longer represents the two distinct traditions of the Anglo-Saxon inspired Common Law and the Napoleonic Code or Criminal Law and Anglophones involved in cases arising in Southern Cameroons are routinely removed to Yaoundé for trial under the francophone system which few Anglophones are familiar with and where proceedings are held only in French, with no interpreters available
Paul Biya claimed to have instituted a multi-party political system in Cameroon in 1990
but he has been in power for almost 35 years.
in the 1990s, the opposition party SDF won the presidential election but Paul Biya used his influence and the election result was rigged. Alexis Dipanda Mouelle was the president of the supreme court at that time and overturned the democratic wish of the people. It so happens that he had been the classmate of Paul Biya, and he later claimed that he had had no choice in the matter.
Initially the constitution established a presidential term of 4 years but 1992 Paul Biya increased it to 5 years and then he further increased it to 7 years in 2004.It was further increased to its current term of 7 years. The next presidential election will be in 2018. Yet there is absolutely no need to vote because he has won already. There are constant arrests and police brutality of opposition parties and other secessionist group like the SCNC and the SCYL. Since October 2016 there has been a strike in the Anglophone regions which is organized by the Anglophone teachers, lawyers and trade unions against the introduction of francophone teachers in the Anglophone regions, which teachers strongly oppose and lawyers have also taken to the streets since October to protest against the government trying to scrap the Common Law, which is the Anglophone system, and to introduce the Criminal Law which is the French system and which we strongly oppose. This has already led to the death of three protestors, with many more having been wounded in the Anglophone regions
The highly centralised form of federalism experienced by Cameroon during remained a historical and symbolical reference for the Anglophone pursuit of self-determination and autonomy after the opposed creation of the francophone-dominated unitary state. In the wake of political liberalisation in the early 1990s, as this article has shown, Anglophone interests came to be represented ﬁrst and foremost by various associations and pressure groups that initially demanded a return to the federal state. It was only after the persistent refusal of the Biya Government to discuss this scenario that secession, which used to be covertly discussed by a limited few, became an overt option with mounting popularity. Except for those who are closely allied to the regime in power, the Anglophones have become increasingly aware of the importance of united action, and the positive response of concerned activists in both the South West and the North West to invitations to participate in All Africa Congress I and II is proof that the old provincial divisions have been somewhat reduced. The brutal clamp-down authorised in the South West during the 1990 till date anti-smuggling campaign was a decisive factor in drawing several hesitant members of the elite there into the ranks of the pro-federal pressure groups; and not even the appointment in September of a South Westerner as Prime Minister appears to have aﬀected that – especially since Musonge made a ‘false start’ by appointing as chief of cabinet someone from the Littoral Province.($ The Government’s continued denial of any ‘Anglophone problem’ in Cameroon, and its determination to defend the unitary state by all available means, including repression,marginalisation,torture and imprisonment of Anglophones which has escalated in recent days amounting to a number of deaths and causalities from the security forces of Paul Biya.
TERENCE NYANGA MANIH
SCNC ACTIVIST UK