Since October 2016, protests around demands have degenerated into a political crisis in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions. This crisis has led to the re-emergence of the Anglophone question and highlighted the limits of the Cameroonian governance model, based on centralization.
The politicization of the crisis and the radicalization of its protagonists is mainly due to President Paul Biya’s government’s response (denial, disregard, intimidation and repression), the diminishing trust between the Anglophone population and the government and the exploitation of the identity question by political actors who have aggravated the population’s resentment to the point that probably most Anglophones now see a return to federalism or even secession as the only feasible ways out of the crisis.
Faced with the Anglophone crisis, the government tried to maintain the status quo. However, realising there were limits to what it could achieve with repression, it began talks with the striking unions. At the end of November 2017, the prime minister formed an ad hoc inter-ministerial committee charged with leading negotiations. It comprised four Francophone ministers and was placed under the supervision of the prime ministry’s cabinet director. At the start of December, the lawyers and teachers formed the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC, “the Consortium”).
While the prime minister recognised the existence of the Anglophone problem and invited the trade unions for talks in Bamenda, other prominent Anglophones, such as the minister and permanent secretary at the National Security Council told the media in Yaoundé that there was no Anglophone problem. This inflamed opinion in the region, making the prime minister’s mission impossible and, especially, confirming the Anglophone belief that the prime minister, a post occupied since 1996 by an Anglophone, had no real power.
The president of the Republic also created a National Commission for Bilingualism and Multiculturalism. But Anglophone militants criticised this as too little too late and regretted that nine of the commission’s fifteen members were Francophones, that most of them belonged to the older generation and that several were members of the CPDM. The commission is handicapped by its remit, which gives it no power to impose punitive measures, and restricts it to preparing reports and advocating for bilingualism and multiculturalism.
The government announced other measures , including the creation of new benches for Common Law at the Supreme Court and new departments at the National School of Administration and Magistracy (Ecole nationale d’administration et de magistrature, ENAM), an increase in the number of English language teachers at ENAM, the recruitment of Anglophone magistrates, the creation of a Common Law department at Francophone universities and provisional authorisation for Anglophone lawyers to act as notaries in the Northwest and the Southwest regions.
Christian denominations supervise most schools and universities in the Anglophone regions. At the beginning of 2016, the Catholic bishops of the two regions wrote to President Biya and travelled to Yaoundé to meet him, but he did not receive them. On 22 December, they published their letter in the form of a memorandum listing most of the Anglophone grievances. The government accused them of fuelling the crisis and began to intimidate members of the clergy and the heads of schools, calling on them to open their schools, which had been closed since the beginning of the crisis.
The crisis worsened despite all attempt to negotiate. The office in power then opted for violence which eventually flamed and revolted the people. Property destruction of both public and private groups, Kidnappings, killing amongst many other. This clearly showed that the anglophone crisis is deep rooted and will not be resolved by denial of the existing problem or repression.
Promises made during The Major National Dialogue still Pending
President Paul Biya in 2019 called for a massive gathering of all sons and daughters of Cameroon dubbed Major National dialogue and possible solutions ton resolve the crisis. The Major National Dialogue which was the main step in resolving the anglophone crisis tabled a number of resolutions which are yet to be fur filled. The dialogue was chaired by Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute.
The five days of deliberations by some six hundred delegates in eight commissions was sanctioned by recommendations that were presented to the public during the closing ceremony.
The key Recommendations specifically highlighted by the National Station where,
Grant a special status to the North-West and South-West Regions, in conformity with Section 62 Sub 2 of the Constitution; Take specific measures to ensure equality of English and French in all aspects of national life; Reinforce the autonomy of Decentralised Local Entities; Improve upon the infrastructure of judicial services throughout the country; Strengthen the Humanitarian Assistance Program to better serve internally displaced persons; Institute a special plan to reconstruct the conflict affected areas; Popularise the Head of State’s offer of amnesty to combatants who drop their weapons and enter the reintegration process; and Create a team responsible for mediation with radicalized members of our Diaspora.
Three years after the Major National Dialogue, the prospect of Peace is still distant in the two Anglophone regions. Decentralization is less implemented and slow in the two regions.
The human rights promoter and founder of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa was one of the main actors during the 2019 Major National Dialogue-MND which was aimed at restoring peace to the two troubled Anglophone regions.
As a major stakeholder during the talks, Barrrister Agbor Balla says he hoped the dialogue was going to be a stepping stone for the return to normalcy in the troubled regions but over ten months after the event, he has voiced out his disappointments at the shortcomings of the purported dialogue.
“The current crisis in the North West and the South West Regions of Cameroon has caused unprecedented hardship to the populations. Ten months since the end of the Grand National Dialogue, there is nothing concrete to show in the direction of peace” noted the university lecturer and civil society activist on his official Facebook account.
The GND has yet given birth to a reconstruction plan for the North West and the South West regions among other things but is very slow and has borne little fruits.