A PROPOSAL TO END THE ANGLOPHONE CRISIS
- The Anglophone crisis that began I October 2016 has deepened and escalated. It needs to end now. It has a negative impact on, or threatens:
- The forthcoming presidential election of 7October 2018,
- The forthcoming African Cup of Nations Tournament in Cameroon in early 2019
- Cameroon’s national unity, it’s political and fiscal stability, its economic performance, it’s social cohesion and the living together of it’s people;
- The lives and livelihoods of the population in the two Anglophone regions as they continue to face targeted killings, grievous physical injuries, arrest and detention for the prolonged periods, destruction of property, the disruption of education and of judicial, administrative and social services as well as internal and external displacement; and
- Cameroon’s international image
- The administrative and military measures so far taken by the Government, including the setting up of a national Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculralism (NCPBM) and the launching of an emergency humanitarian assistance programme, cannot end the crisis for several reasons:
- They are based on a refusal by public authorities to acknowledge the existence of the Anglophone problem.
- They fail to acknowledge the existence, and the need to preserve, the specific heritage of the territory and people of Southern Cameroons that united in October 1961 with Republic of Cameroon to form a new country and state, the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
- They fail to recognize the fact that it is not possible to have in the post-unification Cameroon that came into being on 1 October 1961, a purely Francophone country like Senegal, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Benin or Congo; nor a purely Anglophone Country like Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania or Uganda. In post-unification Cameroon, the Anglophone and Francophone heritages both belong to this country; they must be allowed to co-exist as equals. Succeeding generations of Cameroonians of the ‘Southern Cameroons’ origin would never accept the disappearance of their heritage.
- These measures do not address the heart of the Anglophone problem which lies in the various acts of marginalization, domination and assimilation of Anglophone Cameroon orchestrated for decades through the system of governance that prevails in the country.
- They are taken in a piecemeal and un-coordinated manner by the Government acting alone, without consulting with, or involving other stakeholders; they are imposed on the population by the Government.
- Some of the measures present the government and the population as adversaries; they portray the government as a force of oppression against the population and alienate the people from the Government.
- Several of the measures, including recourse to war, establishment of the NCPBM and the emergency humanitarian assistance programme, appear to be dictated by considerations of Financial benefit for Government officials in yaounde and the regions rather than benefit or service to the population.
- The Government is managing the crisis in a manner that leaves the impression that it does not have a focal point on the Anglophone problem
At different times, aspects of the problem have been handled variously by the presidency of the Republic, the Prime Minister’s Office and line Ministries such as Justice, Higher Education, Secondary Education, Basic Education, Territorial Administration, Defense, Communication, etc., with each Minister claiming to act ‘on the high instructions of the Head of State.’ This has made it difficult to determine the Government’s focal point for the handling of this problem and leaves the impression that the Government response to the Anglophone crisis is un-coordinated.
- The Government’s decision to take military approach to the resolution of the Anglophone crisis was a great mistake
- While the war was declared against ‘secessionists,’ the manner in which it has been prosecuted makes victims of the entire population in targeted towns and villages.
- Anglophone soldiers of all ranks have personally experienced at one moment in their lives the various manifestations of the Anglophone problem. Most are not in favour of separation or independence, but they do not perceive armed ‘separatists’’ as their enemy and would not engage them as such. This could raise questions about their loyalty and lead to the deployment of essentially Francophone soldiers in the two Anglophone regions. This in turn could reinforce within the Anglophone population the perception that the growing armed conflict is a war of francophones against Anglophones. Such a perception would be bad for our living together.
- The Government will not be able to end the current crisis through this war against a nebulous force. On the other hand, the ‘separatist’s’ will not achieve their goal of ‘restoring’ the ‘independence’ of Southern Cameroons by war. But they could for several years sustain a war of destabilization of the two Anglophone regions and render them virtually ungovernable. The human, social, political, economic and financial cost of a long war between government and separatist forces would be devastating for the Government and the people of Cameroon as a whole, not just for the Anglophones.
- The humanitarian crisis and gross human rights abuses generated by the war in the two Anglophone regions raise concerns abroad. They create international interest in the situation and are likely to result in the ‘internationalization’ of what started as an internal conflict or dispute. This exposes the Government and people of Cameroon to international scrutiny and pressure which will be difficult to resist.
- The war is costing a great deal in the loss of human lives, financial resources and public and private property in the affected towns and villages. It is contributing to erode our sense of belonging to the same country and living together.
- The war has made ‘separatists’ a major protagonist and the principal interlocutor of the Government.
- In tackling the Anglophone crisis, the Government made the mistake of treating the separatists’ demand for ‘restoration’ of the ‘Independence’ of Southern Cameroons and the moderates’ demand for restoration of the federal arrangements of 1961 as one and same thing. By so doing, the Government:
- Concentrates all attention and focus on the separatists;
- Lent credence to their demands for the ‘restoration’ of the ‘independence’ of Southern Cameroons;
- Radicalized the people of the Anglophone regions and Pushed them closer to the ‘separatists’; and
- Weakened the voice of the moderates who advocate a federal system of Government within a United Cameroon.
In review of the impact and the threats noted under paragraph 1 of the context, above, the following measures are recommended to the Head of State and the Government with a view to addressing the ‘Anglophone Problem’ and ending the ‘Anglophone crisis’;
- The head of state in an address to the nation, declare the end of the military offensive in the two Anglophone regions and the withdrawal of the military contingents that were deployed there in connection with the offensive. He should announce the commencement of the implementation of the Government’s emergency humanitarian assistance programme and put a credible, experienced and well-respected personality drawn from civil society in charge of implementing it on behalf of the Government and collaboration with the International Community.
- The Head of State and the Government should endorse and support the plan of moderate Anglophones at home to organize a general conference of all Anglophones which will draw up a list of issues to be examined in a dialogue with the Government on the Anglophone problem and select the representatives of the people for Northwest and Southwest at that dialogue. This general conference will be open to all Anglophones, including the separatists, consequently, conditions should be created for persons currently in prison or on exile and for the internally displaced and refugees to attend and participate in the general conference. Separation and/or independence will be shown at this conference to be the demand of a vocal minority, compared to Anglophones who want to maintain the unity of Cameroon while securing autonomous rule for the two Anglophone regions.
- The Head of State and the Government should endorse and encourage the effort of the moderate Anglophones, ahead of the Anglophone general conference, to conduct a public information campaign on radio, television, in newspapers and on social media aimed at demonstrating that the separatist agenda is an illusion that should not be adhered to by the population of the southwest and Northwest regions. This would enable the separatists to be isolated at home and abroad and thus reduce the influence that they enjoy now among a poorly informed and misled population.
- After the cessation of the military offensive, the commencement of implementation of the humanitarian assistance programme and the general conference of Anglophones, the Head of State should visit the two Anglophone regions. During the visit, he should announce the convening of a national dialogue on the Anglophone problem. The Head of State may wish, before doing this, to have a closed working meeting with a limited number of moderate Anglophones drawn from civil Society to discuss and adopt a strategy for the way forward.
- The aim should be to complete the course of action recommended in this note well before the official opening of the campaign period for the presidential election of 7 October 2018.
11 July, 2018