Understanding the “Anglophone Problem” of Cameroon
January 18, 2017
Perspectives from an expert.
What is the “Anglophone Problem”?
Dr. NSOH Christopher: This is an ethno-national dispute originating from two phases-the de jure and de facto. It came about from state building where two entities-The Republic of Cameroon (La Republique du Cameroun) and The Southern Cameroons came together and surrendered their loyalties to build up one state in 1961 (The Federal Republic of Cameroon) on the basis of equality. Since its inception, the Anglophones (former Southern Cameroonians) are convinced that their origin, culture, name, history and identity are being assimilated by the Francophone section of the state. The two Francophone governments that have governed Cameroon since this union have been homogenizing every aspect of statehood in favor of the Francophone (La Republique) way of life.
De Facto Reason: Before these two parts decided to unite, they started with a conference in Foumban. The dialogue at this Conference to realize the Federal state of Cameroon was never concluded. This means that there is no legal basis binding the existence of this union. According to Article 102 and 103 of the UN Charter, if a state wants to integrate another territory into its territory, both entities are to conclude their discussions with a Union Treaty signed by the two parties and a copy of the treaty deposited at the Secretariat of the UN in order to demonstrate the legal basis for the union. Until today, that has not been done. This lack of a Union Treaty has made Anglophones not to consider themselves as citizens of the Republic of Cameroon (La Republique du Cameroun) but internally colonized or annexed people of La Republique du Cameroun).
According to you, who is an Anglophone?
An Anglophone is a people with a defined Name, The Southern Cameroons, a defined History, under the British as a UN Trust territory and governed from Nigeria by the British. They later fought for their autonomy from Nigeria and participated in a plebiscite of 1961. They have their specific Culture, which are norms, customs, language, institutions and way of life. They have a defined Territory that is the NW and SW regions, who are aware of their community and finally have a defined origin. With these distinctive collective elements that make up their identity, the Anglophones are in a political contention invoking the international legal principle of self-determination due to the discrimination, exclusion and marginalization they now face in the incomplete union with the Republic of Cameroon (La Republic du Cameroun).
Reverting to this definition, the present conflict is an ethno-national conflict. That is (State versus Nation=SvN). The nation is challenging the statehood. In such a conflict, there is usually “Age Old” causes, a history of long lasting threats, discrimination, targeted repression, exclusion and non acceptance and recognition of the Anglophones. This conflict is usually being managed, not resolved. Resolution in this situation is at the worst case scenario. That is when secession of the state comes in play (Separation).
Why do you describe this conflict as ethno-national dispute?
It is ethno-national because one of the people who surrendered its loyalty to build up the state of Federal Republic of Cameroon thinks that the other people are not accepting, recognizing and respecting their identity and existence and due to that they are challenging the statehood, State versus Nation (SvN). Furthermore, the Anglophones are accusing Francophone governments of lack of credible commitment to the union. This means that the clauses they agreed to respect in order to live peacefully together are not being respected by Francophone governments. This is the most frequent contemporary type of conflict after the collapse of the “cold war”. It is different from an inter-ethnic conflict where two ethnic groups of a state are fighting or anti regime conflict where there is an insurrection from the people challenging the government in power or status quo ante. To clarify this point the more, the Anglophone section has tribes just like the Francophone part of the state. It is not because the Francophones are superior numerically or in power that they think that the Anglophone part of the state has become a tribe.
Dr. NSOH Christopher is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Laws and Political Science, at the University of Yaounde II, Soa