Opinion: Why the union of Southern Cameroons and LRC failed.

*By Ben Bezejouh


“Anglophones have been dealt a very bad blow from Yaoundé for 55 years. Only two francophone presidents in power in 55 years has been part of their policy to ensure that assimilation was complete”

At the center of the failed marriage between Southern Cameroon and La Republique du Cameroun lies the Cameroon Government policy of ‘’an ever closer union’’.

If you have attended any meeting with ministers from Cameroon, you would usually hear them preach this one theme over and over, the policy of an ever closer union. You hear this monologue both from the francophone ministers and their Anglophone counterparts.

Southern Cameroons map

No Anglophone can serve in a senior position in Cameroon government without first embracing this theme/ideology of ‘’an ever closer union’’. But the policy of an ever closer union is nothing but a deceptive scheme by the francophones to assimilate and crush Anglophone values.

At the heart of this policy lies the notion that everything will be done the same where ever you are in Cameroon be it in the English part of the French part of the country.

The francophones calculated that this being the case, the dominant francophone culture and values will prevail in the end, noting that the francophones make up some 80 %  of the country. In the English side of the country, it meant, police officers who spoke only French, administrators who spoke only French, utility officers who spoke only French.

There was no effort to put in protections for minority Anglophones whose way of life will be riped apart in an ever closer union where francophone values will dominate and sweep the anglophones off their feet.

This policy was very cleverly devised by the francophone leadership and it has fooled even the most senior angophones in yaounde who have succumbed to it as they preach the indirect policy of assimilation as gospel.

The policy of an ever closer union is similar to marrying a wife and telling her we must all wear the same shoes, same trousers and same shirt. How can that work? But that is exactly the foolery that the government of Cameroon adopted towards the Anglophones. To hear one francophone minister say, “it’s you people who decided to join us, so  you must not complain’ drives home the point.

What we voted for in 1961

When we voted in 1961 to join La Republic, we wanted a federation of two systems and the francophones agreed then to it. If they then found out down the road that they cannot handle a federal system , they have no choice but to let the Anglophones go form their own country, of which anglophones are more than ready to do just that.

Anglophones have been dealt a very bad blow from yaounde for 55 years. Only two francophone presidents in power in 55 years has been part of their policy to ensure that assimilation was complete. If the francophone leadership had an outa of conscience, they would have made the effort to bring in an anglophone president in the last 55 years, to help cement the union.

Unfortunately everything speaks to the opposite. They are glorifying one man in power for 32 years instead of sound democratic values. This is not what we voted for in 1961. Francophones should not blame anglophones for seeking the exit.

President Paul Biya champions the marginalization of Anglophones in Cameroon

There is nothing wrong with a seaport in Limbe, an international airport in Kumba, anglophones being in charge of tarring their own roads, incharge of their judiciary, incharge of their education, incharge of their police, incharge of attracting foreign investment, curbing unemployment and building their own cities in a United Cameroon. That is exactly what Quebec in Canada is. You can never do these things from yaounde they way we want it done. If francophone leaders see this as a problem, then anglophones must leave the union.

Can the union be saved?

In my opinion, there are only two options for the Anglophone Cameroonian; either a return to a federal system as was in 1961 or a breakup of the union. Angophones have very legitimate grievances and a right to pursue one of these options. Unfortunately, the experience of the last 55 years shows that a francophone president cannot effectively implement and run a federal state in Cameroon, otherwise they would have made the best use of what was there in the sixties.

Federalism is in the blood of Anglophones, so I have faith only in an Anglophone president implementing a federal system of government in Cameroon. Thus the only way you can keep the two Cameroons together as one country is the resignation of President Paul Biya followed by an Anglophone president who proceeds to immediately implement a federal system of government in Cameroon.

What are the chances of this happening? Given the ego of Biya and his henchmen, I don’t see him resigning. Thus the breakup of the United Republic of Cameroon is a real scenario at the moment. The blame lies on Paul Biya.

To conclude, the policy of ‘’an ever closer union’’ was the wrong policy by the Cameroon Government built on deceit. Rather the correct policy should have been  ‘’stronger in our diversity’’. May God show us all the correct path.

*Ben Bezejouh
University of Maryland
USA

 

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