Cameroon was a German colony that was divided into two in 1916 following the defeat of the Germans in WWI. France took over the administrative control of 80% of the Country while Britain took over control of the balance 20% in the south. The people in Cameroon who were under French rule are generally called Francophones and those under the British system are known as Anglophones.
In 1960, the French-administrated part gained independence. In 1961, the country was re-united after the British-administrated part joined it to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon. That federation evolved to become the Republic of Cameroon in 1984. Despite differences between the two sectors, Cameroon existed as a peaceful country for close to 50 years. It was considered to be one of the most peaceful countries in Africa.
This peaceful co-existence took a turn in 2016 when armed groups began fighting for the independence for the North West and South West regions of the country to form a new state Ambazonia. The once peaceful country plunges into violent crisis, affecting the daily lives of the people.
Cameroon showing the troubled Regions
The North and South West Regions of Cameroon are Regions affected by the crisis.
The different colonial heritage in terms of language, legal systems and way of life is one of the causes. The Francophone government attempted to assimilate and erase the Anglo-Saxon heritage in terms of Education, Judiciary among others. The Anglophones protested this move and had two major conferences in 1993 and 1995 where resolutions were forwarded on the way forward to resolve this issue but to no avail. Anglophone Teachers and Lawyers protested against this in 2016 but were met with force from the government.
The marginalization is in terms of infrastructures, access to opportunities, access to resources, as well as economic marginalization. Since reunification still this current 2020, there are some ministerial positions that have never been held by Anglophones such as the Defence and Finance Ministries, In addition, the budget of the Anglophone regions allocated by the state has always been smaller compared to those of their francophone counterparts
The government is so corrupt, cunning, manipulative and untrustworthy. The government has taken the laws of the country as a play thing. The government chooses to implement the law when it favors them. The government has given a deaf hear to the cries and complains of the Anglophone s for more than two decades. When the people took to the street to protest they were met with reprisals with security forces using live ammunition. In some days in the Anglophone regions, young men are rounded up and taken to detention for no reason. The untrustworthiness of the government is a major issue and the reason why earlier attempts to end this crisis has failed.
Effects on the People
The problems in Cameroon that culminated to the fragmentation of the State movement in Cameroon started in 2017 and has been going on for three years now. The Movement has had so many effects on the population in terms of property, Human life lost among others these can be explained as follows;
Gunshots which were rarely heard has now become a normal phenomenon. People have now resulted to know more about guns. For instance, some of us can tell from the sound of a gun, the type of gun fired and the approximate distance from which the gun was fired, knowledge which is vital for our survival. We have homes, but we feel like we are homeless people, we live in constant fear that one day we might lose everything or our houses may be destroyed. We live in constant fear, fear that we may be robbed of all our belongings, fear that today is the day we may be arrested or taken by the military, fear that you may be kidnapped or taken, every is another to live in total fear, we get the feeling of not living but surviving.
Property and infrastructure
In terms of infrastructure, several villages, schools and hospitals has been burnt down. The Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa(CHRDA) report of June 2019, identifies that 206 villages attacked, 134 of which have been completely or significantly damaged by state defense forces. Many homes have been burnt with many people fleeing to different regions and areas. They are people living as many as ten in a two-bedroom house. The threat of burning down houses and property has forced some of us to pay Money. We were once subjected to a situation where some armed men moved from house to house demanding money from people, if you refused they threatened to burn down your house. This is now a common phenomenon, several friends complain that their houses have been destroyed or burnt down, these reports keep coming in each day and all we can do is wonder whether our houses and properties are safe.
Cameroon now has the sixth largest population of Internally displaced persons in the world. The CHRDA reports indicates that there are about 450,000 to 550,000 displaced persons in Cameroon. The population movement sometimes are due to major events that will unfold in the coming days. A typical example was the September 2018, which was a few days to October 1, the Ambazonian Independence Day. Some of us moved to the West Region to avoid being casualties of War in what we perceived as a major confrontation between the two parties, we abandoned our homes and escaped to safety, we lived as many as 10 in a small apartment. Living in the troubled regions of Cameroon, population movements are affected by major national events. National event days like, the National day, youth day, election days, and any other event that has some semblance to come from the Yaoundé Government are usually characterized by “ghost Towns” which are usually accompanied by population movements. We all have a timetable for days of expected trouble and most people move out of the regions in such days.
A large population of children are uneducated or do not have access to schools. The atmosphere of insecurity is so great that parents, in some days refuse to send their children to schools, and even some of us adults do not go to school. In areas where they are some semblance of schools functioning, they are no schools on Mondays due to ghost towns declared by separatist. The number of schools’ days have been reduced to 4 days per week. Sometimes Children even spent as long as two weeks without going to school. This is usually due to the ghost towns declared by the Separatists fighters. Schooling is not continuous, schools are sometimes interrupted, and these conditions negatively affect the education system, for instance, our classes were interrupted by the crisis for three months, when we returned after three months, we only had one month of school time left before the semester was over. We were forced to cover four months’ worth of work in one month, the work was so difficult and as a result, almost half of my class dropped out because the conditions no longer favored them to continue. They are a lot of school dropouts in our communities as a result of the crisis. Education is very important for the advancement of any state or community, but a lot of children do not have access to education.
Human Lives and dignity
Anglophone separatists estimate 5000-10,000 deaths. The number of deaths is unknown with most of the victims being men between the age group 18 and 50, 5 out every 10 Anglophone has lost someone they know as result of the crisis. Human lives have been reduced to the level of that of a fowl. When we hear they is a death body somewhere, we go and check if its someone you know you go and contact the family, if not you go away. Death is now very common, we live in the region with the knowledge and thought that anything can happen to us at any time. Human organ traffickers have taken advantage of the situation, haven seen a young woman whose organs were harvested and her body dumped on the streets, has made many of us to come to see how little some people value our lives or how little we are worth.
Several businesses have been burned down or closed as a result of the extremist movement. Prices of some foodstuffs have increased exponentially. A bag of rice that was sold in 2016 for 16500frs CFA ($33) is now being sold for 21,000 frs CFA ($42). Prices of many foodstuffs has also increased, accompanied by an increase in unemployment and armed robbery. We live in a constant state of fear of being robbed of our belongings, being taken by the police for no reason so that you have to pay money to bail yourself. Financial exploitation is now the order of the day. Several armed factions have come up claiming to be separatist fighters and they move from house to house to ask for financial support, some threaten to burn down your house. We are forced to pay these men any time they come. It is like we are caught in a spider web.
Insecurity is the order of the day. People are kidnapped frequently with ransom demands. The situation is so horrible that ransoms demands are left in fronts of people’s door at night for them to find in the morning. The ransom demand usually indicates the amount they are expected to pay if they wish to live in that area. Having been a victim of such a situation twice, my family were forced to flee our home and move to another town for safety. Similarly, there is also a fear of being taken by the military and state security forces. In some days, young men are rounded up randomly for no reason except for the fact that there are men. Having been around the area where such roundup was occurring, the situation was very horrible, young men were taken right from inside their homes some were even taken right inside their rooms when they were sleeping. Those taken, some were forced to pay some money before they were released. I was terrified, I was forced to hide that day spending several hours under the bed, sleeping on a bare floor. The Human Security situation is very deplorable.
What is happening in the country is like two elephants fighting and the grass suffers. The Separatist and Government forces are battling for dominance in these regions, but it is the ordinary man or civilian that feels the most the effect of this confrontation. I believe there are two ways forward;
Firstly, an internationally mediated negotiation to bring the two parties to sit down on the table as equals and to work out an amicable solution. The government of Cameroon has the power to do so if they are willing to. The violence is the country is not helping anyone and both parties should sit down and talk. A mediated dialogue and negotiation that will address the needs of both parties.
Secondly, the crisis resolution must settle the major demand deals from Anglophones. This may result in changing the form of the state. The Anglophones voted to join Cameroon in the 1961 referendum. They must be allowed to vote whether they are willing to stay in the Union with Cameroon. There are different set of opinions on what the state should look like. I suggest that instead of letting few selected individuals speak on their behalf, the people should be given the choice to decide what they want. I believe a referendum is a way forward.
The crisis needs immediate attention before it gets worse and worst. A community like the LTE community can help to raise awareness about the crisis, lobby the UN Security for action and also put pressure on the Cameroon Government to resolve the crisis.