Over the years, the Republic of Cameroon has been submerged in a pile of crises. Most of them being security and governance related. In spite of how long these crises have lasted, it appears the international community is really indifferent to the many negative occurrences that have been going on in the Republic of Cameroon. Well, regardless of the fact that the international community is not exactly paying Cameroon much attention, it appears the spotlight is about to fall on Cameroon. This is believed will come with some attention from the international community. While there could be many reasons for this long anticipated attention on Cameroon, there are two basic factors that will fuel this change. They are; the continuously escalating troubles that are rocking the Anglophone region of Cameroon and the Cameroonian presidential election which is fixed for October 2018.
About 20 percent of the Cameroonian population is made up of English speaking people, while the rest 80 percent consists of French speaking people. This, therefore, makes the ratio of English speaking Cameroonians to French speaking Cameroonians 1:4. Although this looks quite okay on paper, it comes with a lot of grave implications, most of which do not favour the English speaking citizens of Cameroon. The ratio of English-speaking Cameroonians to French-speaking Cameroonians has resulted in the domination of French-speaking Cameroon in virtually every sector of the country, politics being one of the most obvious. The not too good domination of French-speaking Cameroon in the political sector of the country has generated a series of conflicts which do not appear to be stopping any time soon.
As Cameroon gets closer to a civil war, activists from the English-speaking region of Cameroon are beginning to protests their coerced adaptation into the more francophone dominant nation. These activists are of the notion that their inclusion into a more dominant French speaking nation is a violation of some of their rights which go all the way back to the days just after independence. Although until some 50— years ago, the Anglophone region of Cameroon was treated justly, after Cameroon became the United Republic of Cameroon in 1972, their rights as citizens of Cameroon gradually reduced up until a point when they do not have any major rights in Cameroon. These many negative occurrences have led to calls for a secession of the English-speaking part of Cameroon from the Central African country.
In as much as these calls for secession have been on for some time, their intensity will be a major hurdle for the Central African Country as it prepares for its presidential election in October.
Although Cameroon is at the brink of a civil war, there are certain things that can be done to avert the impending civil war. These things include getting a perfect understanding of the cause of the crises which have been rocking the country for a long time, the next is to make sure that the presidential election that is taking place in October, 2018 is free, fair and transparent, and finally, the third is to support an inclusive national discussion
How did Cameroon Get to this Point
In pre-independent Cameroon, the region that is today known as Southern Cameroon was a territory under British control just like Nigeria was. Well, just like everyone has a choice to make, this region decided to opt to become a part of Cameroon over becoming a region under Nigeria. This occurrence took place in 1961 just before Cameroon became an independent nation. In order to make this fair and official, an accord was reached by both the French speaking region of Cameroon and the English speaking region of Cameroon. This agreement basically implied that the executive arm of the Cameroonian government was to be enjoyed by both English-speaking Cameroon and French-speaking Cameroon. Although this agreement was indeed reached, it has not been carried out. This has, therefore, led to a gradual decline in the political participation of English-speaking Cameroon at an executive level.
Although the crises that resulted as a result of Francophone Cameroon not honouring its agreement with Anglophone Cameroon has been on-going for a long time, it became a major crises in 2016. This happened when a series of protests were led by teachers, lawyers, and other people from Anglophone Cameroon that felt cheated. These series of protects were based on demands that the rights of Cameroon’s minority be upheld as well as a demand for the integrity of their professional institutions. Although these protests were absolutely peaceful, the response of the Paul Biya led government was the exact opposite of the peaceful manner in which these protests were carried out. Now, in response to these protests, President Paul Biya deployed the military to the Anglophone part of the country and also blocked the access of this part of the country to internet facilities. Well, the violent response of Paul Biya to the peaceful protests of citizens of his own country is one reason Cameroon in on the brink of a civil war.
Since this incident, there have been various incidences of violence in Cameroon. Not too long ago, a document which contains reports of human rights violations in the United Republic of Cameroon was reported. According to this report, not less than 120 civilians have died in fresh outbreaks of violence in Southern Cameroon. In addition to this gradually increasing number of deaths, about 160,000 people have been displaced in Cameroon, while over 20,000 people have become refugees in Nigeria. These recent happenings are believed to be fuelling a civil war and could make Cameroon the next site for an African civil war.
In the words of an Anglophone human rights lawyer and director of the centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, “we are gradually, gradually getting there (civil war). I’m not seeing the willingness of the government to try to find and address the issue in a way that we will not get there.”
Another major issue which the United Republic of Cameron is facing is the diversity in the views of the citizens of Cameroon both from the Anglophone, as well as Francophone communities of what would be the best step for Cameroon to avoid a civil war and foster national unity.
What are the Hindrances to National Unity?
In October 2017, the independent republic of Ambazonia was declared by Julius Ayuk Tabe, a popular separatist leader in Cameroon. This government that has been set up by Julius Ayuk Tabe has laid claim to a part of Cameroon that is occupied by English-speaking citizens. Already, Nso Foncha Nkem, the spokesman of the interim government has called on French-speaking Cameroonians in the Anglophone region to leave and the English-speaking Cameroonians in the Francophone region to return home to Ambazonia and be a part of the movement for an independent nation. In addition to requesting for an evacuation of French-speaking Cameroonians and a return of English-speaking Cameroonians, Nso Foncha Nkem has also pleaded with people from southern Cameroon to have one opinion.
Irrespective of the fact that the spokesman of the interim government has made calls for unity among English-speaking Cameroonians, the many challenges which are as a result of divergent opinions by people for Southern- Cameroon is yet to be overcome. Basically, there are four opinions among the indigenes of the Southern part of Cameroon. The first and most popular opinion is the call for secession, the second is the upholding to the agreement which took place in 1961, the third, a decentralization which would give power to regional leaders, while the fourth is any solution that would bring peace and allow the United Republic of Cameroon to be administrated the way it currently is being governed.
The French-speaking part of Cameroon is not left out of this divergent opinion. Basically, there are three groups of French-speaking Cameroonians. The first group is made of those that are in support of the move for secession by the Anglophone-population, the second group considers the Cameroonian crises as a general problem, and the third consists of people that are in denial of any crises taking place in Cameroon.
Although the major reason for a civil war is the lack of political participation of the Anglophone populace of Cameroon. An impending civil war is just a fraction of what the Cameroonians are currently going through. A smaller, although significant fraction of the problem that is being faced by the Cameroonians is the position of Paul Biya as president of Cameroon. President Paul Biya is already 85 years old and has been in office since 1982. In spite of this, there are rumours that he might run for president again in October, this year. Paul Biya has been in power for 38 years. These 38 years in which Biya has been in power have been characterized by corruption. The desire for change is perhaps one thing that the Cameroonians have in common.
What is the Way Out?
As it stands, there is a dire need for an inclusive national dialogue to harness this desire for change. The government of Cameroon has to wake up to the fact that it has before it an impending danger that could take the nation back if nothing is done about it. Whilst a recognition of the need to take rapid actions is good and a step in the right direction, it is not all that the government needs. Steps have to be taken to handle the grievances of the Cameroonians. If the grievances of the citizens of the United Republic of Cameroon are properly handled, then the nation might be on its way to better days.