Archive pour novembre 2016

​Is there an ‘Anglophone Problem’ in Cameroon? (First Part) 

The present paper deals with what is going on in the so-called ‘Anglophone side’ of our country, precisely in Bamenda, and in a certain sense in Buea. My aim is neither to legitimate nor to criticize. As a philosopher, what I first try to do is to understand the sense of the troubles by questioning the origins and the terms of this movement. 

Is there a ‘linguistic minority’ in Cameroon? 

To me, this question seems to be the first to ask ourselves when trying to analyse the situation in Bamenda, because I have heard on internet and elsewhere that ‘Anglophones’ can be considered as a ‘linguistic minority’. This nonsense idea is probably based on the fact that English is a common spoken language in only two of the ten regions of Cameroon. But what is done in practice is not necessarily what should be done, i.e. the law. The article one paragraph 3 of the first part of our Constitution clearly states that “The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status”. Thus, according to the law of the country, when, we, the people of Cameroon, decided to end with the Federal Republic of Cameroon and to move forward towards unity, we decided also to abandon this linguistic distinction between on one hand the ‘Anglophone’ Cameroon, and on the second hand, the ‘Francophone’ one. If we then assume that we are in a united country, we should also assume that this linguistic distinction is related to an earlier period of our common history now completely behind us. Nowadays, talking of a ‘linguistic minority’ in Cameroon obviously points out a misconception of the laws of our country and by these means, a misunderstanding of the concept of ‘unity’, which is at the foundation of our Republic. This idea is not only related to ‘Anglophones’, and shall therefore also apply to ‘Francophones’ who cannot be considered, according to the same criterion, as a linguistic community of/in Cameroon. As a matter of fact and following the fundamental law of our country, there is not on one side ‘Anglophone’ Cameroonians, and on the other side ‘Francophone’ ones, these adjectives been cancelled talking of us, from the time we decided to unite. That is why “The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country” (Constitution of Cameroon [1996], part one, article one, §3). Unfortunately, even here there is a common mistake.
‘Bilingualism of exclusion’ in place of ‘bilingualism of inclusion’

I am not quite sure we have well understood was is meant in the Constitution by the “promotion of bilingualism”. By saying ‘we’, I firstly think of the Government and secondly the layman. To me, what had been – and is still – promoted in our country is certainly not what was intended in the Constitution. In the implementation of this article, we substituted the intended ‘bilingualism of inclusion’ to something we could call a ‘bilingualism of exclusion’. The first bilingualism aimed the promotion of national integration and national unity, while the second promotes the exactly opposite values. The bilingualism of inclusion should have led us to a state where every Cameroonian feels at home everywhere in the country, but that is not the case. Instead of that, the ‘bilingualism of exclusion’ had reinforced the former linguistic character cancelled by the creation of the united Republic of Cameroon so that in fact, we have practically regressed to the federal situation. Many examples can be used to confirm it.

First, the fact that we practically have two national anthems does not favour national unity at all. A lecturer in Sociology at the University of Douala pointed out the dangerousness of this situation where children of Nord- and South-West regions are not singing the same anthem that the ones of Centre and Littoral for example. It should have been easier either to translate the national anthem originally composed and written in French into English, or to transform both anthems in a unique one, so that one of the symbols of our sovereignty and therefore of our unity, could really promotes an inclusive bilingualism. We could, for example, following what have been done in South-Africa, have a national anthem in both official languages. I am very doubtful on the fact that the majority of Cameroonians could sing the national(s) anthem(s) in French and English. To be sure, this duality of the national anthem does not improve national unity by promoting a ‘bilingualism of inclusion’, but actually undermines it.  

Second, I can mention the educational system which is totally in contradiction with the Constitution, because official languages do not have here the “same status”, even in what we call ‘bilingual high schools’. Of course, in ‘Francophone’ high schools, English is taught as well as French in ‘Anglophone’ ones, but certainly not with the “same status”. Depending on the main language, the other one is considered as secondary. For example, in ‘Francophone’ high schools, students have from six to eight hours of English lessons per week. Most of the time, English is considered only as a subject, used during the English class, studied to have good marks from the English teacher, but never spoken elsewhere, even during other classes. We could have reasonably thought that this situation changes in ‘bilingual high schools’, both official languages having here the “same status” as stated in the Constitution. Nevertheless, this attractive idea of ‘bilingual high schools’ is practically an absurdity because it consists in a ‘Francophone’ high school alongside an ‘Anglophone’ one: another perfect example of ‘bilingualism of exclusion’ which recreates practically the former theoretically abandoned linguistic distinction between Cameroons. I would not be honest if I do not mention that in some special classes, students are trained to perfect inclusive bilingualism where all the subjects are given both in French and English. But these classes transform into something special what should be common. And furthermore, the difficulty of such classes is unnecessarily increased because subjects are given twice: once in English and once in French, so that students learn at the same time ‘history’ and ‘histoire’, i.e. history in English and history again, but now in French. Practically, this is a nonsensical way to study and to learn even though students are really trained to practice an inclusive bilingualism. To reduce the superfluously difficulty of these bilingual classes, the possibility should be given to the students, while learning a subject in a specific language, to react either in French or English. But here we face another difficult question that points out once more the political endeavour to achieve an inclusive bilingualism: are teachers trained to this task? 

Be careful, I am not saying that nothing has been done to promote national unity, especially concerning the promotion of bilingualism; I am just saying that much more could have been done and in a much more efficient way.



novembre 2016
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