The government unveils an emergency plan to support victims of the separatist conflict, but some says it’s no substitute for dialogue.
Cameroonians have donated hugely to an emergency aid fund for two anglophone regions hit by violence between separatists and government forces, the state media and AFP reported on July 3rd. More than half a billion CFA francs (more than €750,000) has been collected from the public in the economic capital Douala and in the regions of Centre and South, CRTV radio said.
On June 20th, the government announced plans for a CFAf 12.7bn emergency aid plan for the Southwest and Northwest regions. The money would come from “the state budget, an appeal to national solidarity and contributions from international partners,” it said.
The Northwest and Southwest are home to most of Cameroon’s English speakers, who account for about a fifth of a mainly French-speaking population of 22m. Years of resentment at perceived discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority have fuelled demands for anglophone autonomy, which in 2017 culminated in a declaration of independence. A government crackdown then followed, plunging the two regions into almost daily acts of violence and retribution.
A government report in late June said anglophone separatists in Cameroon had killed 81 members of the security forces and more than 100 civilians, and torched at least 120 schools. The overall toll among civilians remains unclear. The UN says 160,000 people have been internally displaced and 20,000 have sought refuge in neighbouring Nigeria.
University institutions in Douala have joined the fundraising efforts, raising the sum of CFA francs 22,773,000, Cameroon Tribune reported. “Through this gesture we want to tell our brothers and sisters from the North West and South West that they are not alone. We are with them and Cameroon is one and indivisible,” said the Douala university Rector, Etoa François-Xavier.
President Paul Biya has completely ruled out independence for the anglophone regions. Image: Creative Commons 2009
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s main opposition party, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), criticised the emergency plan presented by Prime Minister Philemon Yang. “It is shocking to see that we are going back to an emergency plan while Cameroon is facing a cash crunch,” said Joshua Osih, SDF presidential candidate, quoted by Radio France Internationale. “We are going back to a plan that is not in the national budget and that is surprising too.
“I think that if we really want to deal with the Anglophone crisis as we call it, we would have found solutions through early dialogue,” he said, instead of “[trying] to offer money in order to buy the conscience of people who, unfortunately, have legitimate claims.”
“We could have had a dialogue with everyone. That would have cost us little or nothing at all. Today, we want to spend taxpayers’ funds to try and buy people’s conscience. I think that will not work.”
The French-state funded radio also said the government has singled out 14 people living abroad who are accused of collecting funds to buy weapons and “fund terrorist activities.” (©AFP 3/7 2018; Cameroon Tribune 13/7; RFI 21, 22/6)
Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:
CAMEROON: Crisis in Anglophone States
Economic, Financial and Technical Series
Vol. 55, Issue 4