Is there an ‘Anglophone Problem’ in Cameroon? (2nd part) 

​Language and tribalism 

The reader of this paper may think there is no relation between language and tribalism, and for this reason, may feel surprised by this relation I shall try to point out. But I have been forced to recognize that many people in Cameroon do not see any difference between the language and the ethnical membership, so that ‘Anglophones’ – the term ‘Anglophone’ normally meaning only ‘English-speakers’ – are commonly considered as an ethnic group as well as Bassa and Beti for example. And because there is an ethnical connotation of Cameroon’s general policy, symbolised by the absurd political principle of “regional balance” [équilibre regional], this claim from the Nord-West of our country is wrongly analysed as an ethnical one. As a matter of fact, the idea of a “regional balance” hides the other tremendously damaging idea of an ethnical division of the country, and hence, the idea of a political ruling of the state grounded on ethnical bases and by which the simple administrative borders between regions are transformed into ethnical barriers between peoples. By this means, the idea of a “regional balance” reveals an ‘ethnicalisation’ of politics, or to say it in a less barbaric word, it is a mark of tribalism. 

In itself, the tribalisation of the state is not a problem. In many other countries around the world, ethnic groups and ethnical bases are used as a foundation for politics. In a debate with Njoh-Mouelle engaged on internet and published few years ago, Thierry Michalon, a French scholar, pointed out the ethnical foundation of many African states and recommended therefore the acknowledgement of this situation. By these means, the (political) unity of the state would be grounded on the ethnical particularities and the different representatives would be chosen among all the ethnic groups of the country and according to their size. In this situation, the ‘ethnicalisation’ of politics is not a problem, but a common accepted and shared ground of the original social contract. The problem comes from the fact that our state does not theoretically stand from such a criterion even though this one is used in practice.  Thus, one of the origins of the political anger – which is not only to be related to ‘Anglophones’ – could certainly be the inadequacy between was is said, and hence is supposed to be done, and what is really done in practice. This dialectic between laws and facts, theory and practice is certainly one of the darkest contents of the French colonialism legacy (if I can use this term to talk about the outcomes of this nauseating practice…). This hypothesis of an ethnical foundation of the term ‘Anglophone’ leads us to understand that although I am writing his paper in English, there is no way for me to be categorised as an ‘Anglophone’. Further, even the very common ‘Francophone’ practice to send children to ‘Anglophone’ schools do not turn these pupils into ‘Anglophones’. They mostly (socially) remain “‘Francophones’ who, whether are simply speaking English or, paradoxically, have English as their first language”. If then ‘Francophones’ do not turn into ‘Anglophones’ even with an extensive and ordinarily practice of English in Cameroon, and conversely, ‘Anglophones’ do not turn into ‘Francophones’ with a similar practice of French, we have to recognize that there is a problem with the state’s global idea of the language which leads us to question the so-called “integration policy” in Cameroon. We should ask ourselves how citizens should be “integrated” in their own country. This simple idea reveals the political failure of the Cameroonian state, and especially the idea of a “regional balance”, because the will to “integrate” citizens in their own country indicates that these citizens are primarily marginalised, considered as a minority. But as we have already seen it before, it is stated nowhere that ‘Anglophones’ and further, any ethnic group, are considered in Cameroon as a minority. Thus, the so-called “integration policy” is just the political mark of the failure of the Cameroonian state regarding the promotion of equality, equity and unity throughout the country. This is not a matter of law but a matter of fact and people like Enoh Meyonmesse are promoting violence and division instead of unity and peace by arguing from the wrong side of Cameroonian social and political policy, i.e. on a tribal ground.
Beyond the violent response to Violence

If I am right, then the Cameroonian state do respond to its primarily anti-constitutional violence against ‘Anglophones’, a fictive political category of its own, by social violence against their warrantable claims of equity and equality of treatment. This problem should have been considered differently if our politicians have read John Rawls’ Theory of Justice, because the major claim of our fellow citizens is the rightful implementation of the laws of our Republic which guarantees Justice to all and for all, Justice being defined here as an equality of treatment: as equity. To avoid conflagration, the main Cameroonian political principle, i.e. the ‘repressive principle’, should be replaced by a ‘communicational principle’, i.e. a social dialogue between all Cameroonians without no discrimination of language, ethnic group, religion, and so on. We would then see that the ‘Anglophone’ demand is not only to be related to Nord- and South-West regions but implies a reflexion on the social policies of Cameroon, especially regarding the respect of our Constitution. To this effect, two main attitudes should be banned.

The first consists in saying that there is no reason for ‘Anglophones’ to complain, because there are other ethnic groups which do not have the same social and political advantages they have, for example the people from East, who do not have any Ministers, no roads to go to their villages, and so on. I have heard such a poisoning argument on the radio during a high audience broadcast. There are many misunderstandings in this idea. We have already pointed out one of them, concerning the political and social lie by which ‘Anglophones’ are turned into an ethnic group. Here are the two others. 

First and at the beginning of this movement, the ‘Anglophone’ complain was not a political one, but only a complaint of lawyers who asked to the government to translate the OHADA system, i.e. the laws in force in Central Africa jurisdictional area. To this reasonable demand, the government replied with contempt and violence. That was the turning point from which people started to ask for the autonomy of Nord- and South-West regions of Cameroon. I am pretty sure that without this inappropriate response from the government, we would not have had all these troubles in Bamenda. It was just a matter of respect. Second, this critique of the ‘Anglophone’ complain hides the legitimisation of marginalisation as the major political principle of the Cameroonian state. It states that other tribes and ethnic groups are marginalised but are not complaining. It therefore means that the Cameroonian state is a repressive machine against which any complain is interpreted as a crime. Here is its terrifying motto: Suffer and Shut up! This arrogance of the state should stop by itself or should be stopped by us, Cameroonians.

The second attitude – and here I am specially talking to ‘Anglophones’ – to avoid is to say: “They also do the same”. By these means, we reject the fault on the other and we respond to stigmatisation with another stigmatisation. It is obvious that behaving like that will lead us nowhere. We should not work to enlarge the scope of stigmatisation even as a response to a previous one. Instead of that, we should always try to respond to violence by tolerance, to injustice by justice. This is not a sign of weakness. At the contrary, it is a sign of power, of majesty, and especially a sign of rightfulness and lawfulness, some of the missing values today in Cameroon… Marginalisation should not be the response to marginalisation between compatriots and we should not try to justify our own marginalisation of others by the marginalisation we have been suffering from, even if this marginalisation is addressed to the ones making us suffering. 

By banning these two negative attitudes, we would then face the only valuable question that raises from the troubles in Bamenda: the question of Cameroonian citizenship, which can be stated as follows: what does it mean to be a Cameroonian? By asking this question, we are forced to realise that ‘Anglophone’ and ‘Francophone’ are non-efficient categories to think the citizenship in our country. They raised from a clumsy implementation of the fundamental law of Cameroon, reinforced by an ethnical lecture of our political situation. Good questions should be asked and we should try to provide good answers to them. This can only be achieved through a national dialogue where we should adopt a new Cameroonian social contract. Some domains should be highlighted among which education, politics and equity, in order to end definitively with these (critical) questions of language and ethnical membership.
As a conclusion, and to answer to the main question of this paper, I should say that they are two levels of analysis when dealing with the situation of ‘Anglophones’ in Cameroon. The first level is the theoretical one which is related to our laws and especially our Constitution. To this effect, there is no ‘Anglophone’ problem in Cameroon because there is no linguistic distinction between French- and English-speakers in our country, both languages having the “same status”. But there is another level, the practical one, related to the way the Cameroonian state and the majority of (‘Francophone’) Cameroonians, conceive the ‘Anglophone’ reality. We have shown some of the social and political modalities of the Cameroonian perception of ‘Anglophones’. According to the common social and political practice in Cameroon, and following Thomas Samuel Kuhn’s terminology, I can say there is an ‘Anglophone’ “anomaly” which lays on the problematical social policy of the Cameroonian state. Instead of an ‘Anglophone’ problem, I do think there is a socio-politico-juridical problem in Cameroon, and the ‘Anglophone’ and ethnical anomalies are simply unfortunate outcomes of this fundamental problem.


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