THE ANGLOPHONE PROBLEM:
Towards A Lasting Solution
By ShuSheey Barrister Joseph AKUWIYADZE
The marginalization of Anglophones in Cameroon started immediately Southern Cameroons got independence “by joining ‘La République Du Cameroun”. Barely three years after ‘unification’ Anglophones started suffering marginalization from Francophones wherefore Professor Bernard Nsokika Fonlon wrote to President Ahidjo in 1964 complaining about the Marginalization of Anglophones in Cameroon.
This means that contrary to what some people claim, the “Anglophone Problem” is 56 years old!
Those who initially claimed that there is no Anglophone problem in Cameroon (probably out of ignorance or bad faith) are now the ones singing every day that there is an Anglophone problem in Cameroon. Admitting the existence of the problem is not enough at this time because a lot of water has passed below the bridge. What efforts have the Government made towards solving the problem?
It would appear the only effort so far made by the Government towards solving the Anglophone Problem is the creation of the “Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multi-culturalism”. Unfortunately the Anglophone problem is far above the competence of this Commission in that it is a Constitutional Problem. The creation of the Commission is a mockery to Anglophones in that it has, inter alia, to identify the various problems within the over 250 ‘cultures’ in Cameroon as well as receive complaints about the marginalization of one official language in favour of the other. The Anglophone Problem is not a language problem!
It is a problem of the identity of a people, the people of Southern Cameroons who (voluntarily?) came into a union with La République Du Cameroun, in 1961, to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. As I said before, the Anglophone Problem is a Constitutional Problem.
Let me not belabour the point with the various Constitutional Coup D’états against Anglophones in Cameroon but if we must continue in the highly trumpeted “vivre ensemble”, then we must look at what went wrong with our Constitution since 1961.
I have listened to the President and Communication Minister talk about the “non-negotiable” nature of our Constitutional provisions (especially as concerns the form of the State) as if it were the Ten Commandments of God handed down to us by Moses. Unfortunate indeed!
The 1996 Owona “jealous” Constitution (like other earlier Constitutions) is man-made and it has been amended several times by man. What has suddenly made it sacrosanct when the same Constitution is still to be fully implemented twenty one (21) years after it’s elaboration and/or amendment?
The Head of State who is guarantor of the Constitution was elected by the people. If the same people are crying for a constitutional amendment as a means of solving the many problems plaguing Anglophones in particular and Cameroonians in general, the Head of State has no choice than listen to the people who gave him the mandate to guarantee the protection of the Constitution.
By not facing the Anglophone Problem squarely, the Government has created a stalemate wherefore a good number of Anglophones are for outright severing of ties with “La République Du Cameroun” while others believe that a return to the 1961 arrangement could. foster the “vivre ensemble”. What then is the way forward?
I have had sleepless nights pondering on what suggestion I could make towards solving the standoff between the Government and disgruntled Anglophones.
We all agree that the way forward can only be through dialogue. The vast majority of Anglophones put forth three (3) pre-conditions for dialogue to resume:
- Reinstate Internet connection in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon.
2. Unconditionally release Agbor Balla, Dr. Fontem, Mancho Bibixy, Justice Ayah Paul Abine as well as all other persons arrested because of the current crisis.
3. De-militarization of West Cameroon.
On the 20th of April 2017, Government satisfied the first condition ~ reinstatement of Internet in North West and South West. If Government were to satisfy the other two conditions and dialogue resumed, then my proposal will be the following:
- In 2018, a Transitional President should be elected for a Transitional Period of three (03) years within which the various relevant structures should be put in place.
2. A Constitutional Conference should be organized wherefore Anglophones will meet in an All Anglophone Conference (AAC III) and choose their representatives thereto.
3. The said Constitutional Conference should adopt a return to the two (02) States Federation of East Cameroon and West Cameroon as was the case from 1961 to 1972, with greater autonomy for the two Federated States, governed by two Prime Ministers.
4. A Rotating Presidential term of office of five (05) years renewable once. That is, when Francophones rule for ten (10) years, Anglophones will equally rule for ten