Cameroon – Protests Continue

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The tensions between Anglophone and Francophone regions may be a sign of deeper problems.

Three activists are currently in detainment in Cameroon with their trials suspended, following a crackdown on anglophone protests. Agbor Balla, Fontem Neba and Mancho Bibissi are among another 100 arrested, charged with sabotage, terrorism and inciting secessionism and civil war – charges that could carry the death penalty.

The Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium has also been banned since protests in mid-November 2016 and many local independent media outlets have been shut down. The protest action was marked by violent clashes between youths and the police.

Additionally in the northwest and southwest areas the internet has been shut off completely for over a month; according to reports the decision is expected to have cost the country in the region of US$1.39bn.

The tensions in the anglophone and francophone regions revolve around perceptions that the constitution contains bilingual principles but that these are not being respected or implemented satisfactorily. The Anglophone regions speak of a sense that they are forced to assimilate to accept what is dictated by the Francophone majority. During the colonial period Cameroon was ruled as two separate territories by both France and Britain.

Others, while recognising the historical trajectory, also state that the unrest is symptomatic of larger government problems, particularly surrounding corruption. For a lengthy period many groups in the north have complained of marginalisation and the lack of state presence.

There have been attempts at implementing a federal-type system to devolve some power to Anglophone courts and administrations, but these have reportedly been undermined by irresponsibility and corruption. The government initially argued that the Anglophone protestors were secessionists and did not acknowledge their legitimate claims.

Renowned Cameroonian scholar Achille Mbembe points out that the claims by Anglophones started as linguistic and cultural but have become far more political. ‘They don’t feel there is a place for them in this centralised state,’ said Mbembe.

There are different opinions concerning the scale support for Anglophones during the protest; some suggest that Francophone Cameroonians supported calls by trade unions and students. However other views have suggested that a ‘genocide’ is being planned and reject secessionist claims.

To date the international community has expressed little reaction and the African Union (AU) has not been involved in any efforts to resolve the situation, apart from one statement expressing concern. The President Paul Biya is also to stand for re-election next year, although the expectation is that he will secure another mandate, despite the growing discontent.

Institute for Security Studies (ISS)

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

CAMEROON: Linguistic Tensions
Political, Social & Cultural Series,
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21289A–21289C

CAMEROON: Anglophone Unrest [Free to Read]
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 12, Pp. 21257A–21257B

CAMEROON: Rights Violations
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 7, Pp. 21074A–21074B

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