President Paul Biya has created a consultative commission on bilingualism and multiculturalism, pushing his agenda for “togetherness”, in the wake of Anglophone pro-federalism protests and a muscular government crackdown.
The commission vested with no real powers will report directly to the president with proposals on promoting bilingualism and multiculturalism, Biya decreed Monday. The preference for multiculturalism is in direct contrast to biculturalism, which underlies Anglophone arguments that Cameroon consists of two peoples with separate aspirations.
Biya indicated that the final goal of the commission will be to foster unity and togetherness, a theme that has emerged strongly in the past months to counter calls for a return to the federal arrangement that existed before 1972. It is consistent with the president’s opposition to what he has described as any change to the form of the state and the actions against Anglophone activists of the past weeks.
The president did not immediately appoint the chairperson and members of the commission. Most of its nature was left to the commission to forge. But it was clear it will exercise no direct influence on how bilingualism and multiculturalism plays out across the government/public establishment. That jobs is left in the hands of the president of the Republic.
While the new commission will make sure that constitutional provisions on bilingualism get respected and even reprimanded, it takes the country further away from the duality that established at the down of independence in 1961. With it, the country has now evolved from a federal, to a united, to a unitary, to a multicultural nation – or what looks very much like a post-Anglophone/Francophone era.
It came as security forces continue to hunt down Anglophone activists opposed to this trajectory. On Monday, Anglophone cities, towns and villages observed a stay-home protest against Yaounde, which paralysed schools and businesses and disregarded government assurances to protect school goers. The protest has persisted since November.
Analysts will be watching to see how this development affects things on the ground, particularly plans to pursue ghost town protests over the next few days and for the rest of the month.