24 March 2017

Cameroon: Colonial Solutions to the Anglophone Problem Misguided

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The so called Anglophone problem in Cameroon is proving to be the biggest challenge to President Paul Biya's 34 years in power. The government is battling with with the use of colonial strategies to counter modern-day civil uprisings. The usual use of force and psychological torture is proving inadequate. Something that needs to be understood is that the struggle is against a dictatorship.

The elite in place is more concerned with conserving power than the wellbeing of the people. To achieve this they will go to great lengths to keep the people quiet, for more than three decades the government has maintained three strategies when ever there is discontent.

First of all it plays the ostrich. It denies this problem exists.

Secondly its uses force. Sends in the military, turns any area into a war zone. Shoots down a few people as a means of scaring the rest.

Lastly it throws money at the problem, bribes a few "influential" people, arrest a couple and blames "third forces" for manipulating the population with the aim of affecting a regime change.

All the above have been used this far with no results. If anything it has proved counter-productive as it seem to be swelling the ranks of radicals who are clamouring for a cessation from La Republic du Cameroon and the creation of an independent Ambazonia Republic.

The arrests an abduction of civil society leaders and trying them under the 2014 terrorism laws has not dampened the spirit of the population and more and more the Francophones (West Cameroonians) are beginning to side with their Anglophone counterparts calling for a federal system of government.

WHATS THE WAY FOWARD

Many will agree that the problem the country is embroiled in today stems from the 1972 conference in Foumban the brought the two countries together. Historians say if former president Amadou Ahidjo and subsequently Paul Biya did not breach all the terms agreed in Foumban, the country would not be in the position it is in today.

The president among other steps has created a Commission on Bilingualism to come up with ways and proffer reforms that will harmonize the two regions linguistically. Debates have been raging in the print audio visual and social media on the causes and solutions to the problem. So far, all the causes and solutions proffered is only addressing one tiny part of the problem at every given time. The problem is so complex and it requires a holistic interpretation. The primordial question will be: What was behind former president Ahmadou Ahidjo's actions.

Were these just for his quest for political power or he was influenced by his godfather the French. Most Cameroonians think the French were behind his actions because of the enormous wealth found in Southern Cameroon. They needed to get their hands on it but being a Federation the Southern Cameroons House of Chiefs which was the governing body proved a stumbling block. Those in the know say the only reason the federal system was dismantled is so that petroleum company ELF can get its hands into the large oil deposits newly found in Rio-de-Rey off the coast of Limbe.

From the admissions of John Ngu Fomcha the then head of Southern Cameroons, Ahidjo then began the process of annexation as opposed to a unified federal agreement with equal rights agreed upon in Foumban. The good thing is that Biya who later took the reigns was beside Ahidjo in that conference as his prime minister. He definitely knew what was going on behind closed doors. If he can be frank and put in efforts to reverse all that went wrong he might be able to salvage his 34 years of bad governance.

Born in Buea, Michael Tantoh, is currently working on his PhD in Human Right's Law, and is a senior editor at allAfrica.com.

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