Opinion: How not to make exclusion endemic in Cameroon

 By  Cyprian Ntiamba Obi Ntui

One of the key principles highlighted in the preamble of the constitution of Cameroon is that of building a nation where fraternity, justice and progress remain the focal point of leadership at whatever level.

As if to say that these are mere words that were meant to becloud the expectations, hopes and aspirations of the naïf ones who sit at constitution-drafting tables, what we see on ground and what is factual negates the very spirit of these ideals.

In practice and in reality, Cameroon is a country where various forms of institutional and or unofficial exclusion are not only allowed to persist, but are encouraged, fostered and reinforced with every passing day.

This is done by the very people who are supposed to work towards ensuring that fraternity, justice and progress reign in the country.

Today, exclusion and marginalization have become endemic to a point where they are seen by many, even the victims, as a norm. Only a few are capable of identifying and perceiving institutional and other practices that foster exclusion for what they are and giving them their rightful name: Potential instruments of destabilization and disintegration.

Take the nation’s educational system for instance. The system functions as though it is meant to victimize Cameroonians who live out of the country. As if the powers that be are not abreast with what is happening in the outside world.

Many countries operate different educational systems. Even those that used to apply the Anglo-Saxon system of education have long done away with intermediate certificates like the Higher School Certificate, HSC or the General Certificate of Education, “A” Levels which Cameroon has gotten stock at since independence.

Many nations now operate educational systems where citizens are allowed to spend more years in Universities rather than at Upper and Lower sixth. And the arrangement is making them thrive in terms of academic output. Most of those nations that have abrogated the HSC in the World are English speaking and it is Anglophone Cameroonians who are most likely to reside and study there.

By implementing a policy where Cameroonians who studied in countries where the “A” Level does not exist has resulted in keeping many citizens perpetually excluded from being employed into various services in the country. It also helps to accentuate the current brain drain. If the system was one that aims at inclusion and at giving every Cameroonian a sense of belonging, it would make room for this category of persons to also be absorbed into the system. This would not only curb brain drain but also encourage citizens who study out of the country to come back home and contribute to nation building.

On the contrary, the system instead victimizes and encourages them to remain out. For those who are forced by circumstances to come home, they remain unemployed and are denied the empowerment they need to contribute their utmost to national development.

These are subtle forms of exclusion that many Cameroonians cannot see so they will never come to decry. In most cases, it is Anglophone Cameroonians who are the greatest victims because there are more English speaking countries out there to accept them.

Again, how can a country whose constitution recognises English and French as official languages of equal status institute a national policy where French is the only language of the uniformed forces? How do they expect Anglophones who enter these forces to feel about themselves and their country?

On the other hand how do you stop Francophones from feeling puffed up when interacting with Anglophones who must speak French while they, the Francophones are not compelled to speak English?

Indeed, what reason have the Francophones to want to be bilingual when the English language is so subjugated? Or why will Anglophones who reject such discriminatory policies and stay out of the system not remain excluded?

The situation looks even more critical when we consider that we function in a system where the leadership believes that might is right. And that the nation’s military might could be used to serve the interest of the powers that be even if it means undermining the welfare of the masses.

What of cases too, where many Fracophone officials deliberately use subtle methods to undermine the bilingual nature of our country? Where Anglophones who deny themselves and Francophonise themselves enough are elevated to high positions and are in turn used as instruments in the system to victimize their own brothers and sisters who want to see bilingualism respected? Or cases where many Francophones in high offices see it as a betrayal of France should they speak or encourage their subordinates to use the English language in the conduct of official business?

Do we see how these attitudes help to fuel the antagonism between the two people, forcing many Anglophones who cannot endure the discrimination to go out of the country?

They then abandon the few job openings that are available to them to be picked by Francophones who can barely manage to scribble in the Queen’s language?

Are Anglophones not shocked that most international jobs that would have been picked up by them in the diplomatic services accredited to Yaounde and other international organizations are taken by members of specific Francophone ethnic groups that are more forward looking?

Are Anglophones aware that the current trend of going abroad to seek for ‘greener pastures’ is a time bomb that does not only accentuate our marginalization and exclusion but would render us less and less relevant in the national scheme of things in Cameroon in the long run? Our elders say that he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day.

The current trend of Anglophone migration and their preference for remaining in foreign lands weakens their political base at home and makes it more and more difficult for them to bring positive change into the body politics of their nation.

At worst, it depletes the Anglophone population and wipes out future generations of their families in the national scheme of things; thereby accentuating the Anglophone minority syndrome.

On the other hand, such escapism only leaves room for the other competing groups to spread and consolidate their hold on power. Of course, nature abhors a vacuum.

Too, by dissipating their energies across so many countries, and by exhibiting dispersed and divided loyalty, Anglophones have succeeded, to a great extent also in inflicting on themselves and aggravating the many forms of exclusion and marginalization which we collectively suffer from in many sectors of national life today.

For nearly six decades, every agreement that has been signed between the two post independence blocs has put a question mark as to the mental or intellectual competence of Anglophone representatives.

Anglophones have never signed anything with their French speaking brothers and we end up finding them complaining of having been outsmarted by Anglophones.

It is always the other way round. One is either tempted to see Anglophone negotiators as sell outs or people who signed such agreements under duress or without thinking.

Really, if Anglophones want to see their exclusion and marginalization mitigated, it is time for them to wake up and turn the tide of things by ensuring that they never sign any agreement with Francophones again which they will turn round later to complain and or regret.