Posted on: November 1, 2020 Posted by: Felicia S. C. Gooden Comments: 0
A picture taken on February 17, 2015 show Cameroonese soldiers patrolling in city of Waza, northern Cameroon. Cameroon’s army says it has killed 86 Boko Haram militants and detained 1,000 people suspected of links to the Islamist group, as central African leaders held talks on how to combat its bloody insurgency. Five Cameroonian soldiers were also killed during the clashes in the Waza region near the border with Nigeria, defence ministry spokesman Didier Badjeck said on February 16. AFP PHOTO / REINNIER KAZE (Photo credit: Reinnier KAZE/AFP via Getty Images)

The crisis in Cameroon has been in the making since the end of World War I when the Treaty of Versailles established the two territories of British and French Cameroon. Since that time, deep cultural differences led to political divides, and when British Cameroon’s path to independence arose, the territory was not allowed an actual path to freedom but a path to being a sub-state of a larger state. Hoping for autonomy, the Anglophones chose to reunify with French Cameroon, only to be duped by then-President Ahmadou Ahidjo, leading to bitterness between then Anglophones and Francophones and off and on conflicts. These subconscious tensions rose again in 2016, triggered by disparities in the Cameroonian education and political system, and since the country has plunged into a humanitarian crisis that the international community has remained largely silent upon. Though diplomatic talks between the Anglophones and Francophones have been encouraged, it seems no one is willing to truly champion the Anglophone cause and set things right – help British Cameroon (Ambazonia) gain its right to a sovereign state and to exercise its self-determination.

The Current Cameroonian Crisis

Cameroon is a nation that once was known for stability[1]; however, in 2016, the rivalry between the Francophone government and the Anglophone regions returned with a vengeance. The English-speaking Anglophone regions are militant separatists seeking their own independent state named Ambazonia.[2] In 2016, the Anglophones took to the streets to protest common grievances that became unbearable including an unfair schooling system that offered French-speaking students an advantage over English- speaking students as well as the Francophone judicial system that made it harder for Anglophones to get justice.[3] There was also frustration with the lack of a “genuine political process” to reconcile decades-old criticisms of the Francophone government.[4] In 2017, President Paul Biya – who has led a Francophone government since 1982 – responded to the protests with force, firing live ammunition from helicopters and beating protestors to the ground.[5] Anglophone separatists attacked and burned schools; threatened teachers, students, and parents; kidnapped principals; and led violent attacks against students and teachers.[6]

In the wake of the ongoing conflict, thousands of schools are closed, Anglophone teachers have left the separatist regions in droves, and school lessons are given in secret.[7] Only 100 out of 6,000 schools remain open, and despite the Cameroonian government’s attempt at a back-to-school campaign, the ongoing violence still leaves a high risk of students being shot.[8] Between 74 and 200 schools have been destroyed or burned and 600,000 children have been affected.[9] Biya’s government claims that separatists torched the schools, but the Anglophones claim the military forces destroyed them upon learning the schools were used as rebel bases.[10] In September of 2018,

There have been human rights abuses committed by both sides and the conflict has created a humanitarian crisis. Anglophone separatists have attacked government institutions as well as kidnapped and killed civilians who support the Francophone government.[11] When government forces took aim at protestors in 2016, they killed six people, injured dozens more, and used torture and ill-treatment towards captured protestors.[12] After the Anglophone secessionists unilaterally declared an independent state of Ambazonia, President Biya declared the Anglophones to be terrorists laying siege upon Cameroon and claimed that the “criminals” should be eradicated.[13] Human Rights Watch found that government forces carried out extrajudicial executions, used excessive force on civilians, tortured suspected separatists and detainees, and burned scores of villages.[14] Over a dozen civilians have been shot and killed, including people with disabilities, and four elderly women were burned alive in their homes.[15]

Cameroon hosts 350,00 refugees and asylum seekers from the Central African Republic and Nigeria, and the state has forcibly removed tens of thousands of Nigerian asylum seekers since 2015, employing abuses such as torture against them and imposing unlawful restrictions against the movement in Nigerian camps.[16] Police arrest and harass people suspected to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, and the Francophone government has conducted investigations of abuses by security forces in secret, leading to not only little accountability on part of the government but also a gentle allowance or encouragement of torture and arson.[17] The ongoing violence has caused tens of thousands of Cameroonians to flee to Nigeria.[18]

How We Got Here: A Background

The Treaty of Versailles repartitioned the German protectorate of Kamerun into the Republic of Cameroon, splitting the territory into two halves – the larger part that was rechristened as French Cameroon and the smaller areas under Great Britain known as British Cameroons, North and South.[19] Northern and Southern Cameroon ran as an integral part of the Federation of Nigeria and French Cameroon, as well as British Cameroon, became League of Nations mandates in 1920 and United Nations trust territories in 1945.[20] Forty years of existing separately “broke” the territory[21], meaning that the once unified German protectorate developed deep cultural divides, mainly due to not having a unifying language for the state. There were those who advocated for the English-speaking territories to gain independence under the Federation of Nigeria, and some in the French-speaking territory were averse to having to mix with outsiders if the British Cameroonian reunited with French Cameroon.[22]

On 11 February 1961, a UN plebiscite was held to determine whether British Cameroon would gain its independence under the Federation of Nigeria or through reunifying with French Cameroon; the English-speaking territory was not offered the option to become solely independent – independence only came through association with one of two larger states.[23] Article 47 of the Cameroonian Constitution provided that there would be a federal government system, allowing the British Cameroonian territories to have their own independence and local government structure, which secured the votes for British Cameroon to seek independence by reunifying with French Cameroon.[24] On 20 May 1972, President Ahmadou Ahidjo reneged on the “promise” and held a referendum that successfully established a unitary state in July 1972 and banned all political parties.[25] This striving for independence and self-determination for the British Cameroonian people, which was never offered much less granted, largely undergirds the animosity between Francophones and Anglophones, the declaration of the Ambazonia, and the current crisis as well as a looming civil war in Cameroon.

Finding a Diplomatic Solution

The Anglophone question and the crisis in Cameroon went largely ignored due to lack of interest and the desire to protect state interests, but the carnage of the conflict and public outcry have forced state and IGOs to pay attention. The United States along with the UK, France, and Canada are Cameroon’s closest allies, especially in terms of monitoring the terrorist acts of Boko Haram in the Far North Region of British Cameroon[26], which as exacerbated the overall crisis. France and the US provide Cameroon with military and security assistance and training.[27] The US has the opportunity to put additional conditions on Cameroon’s ability to receive aid including engaging in dialogue to solve the crisis.[28] To date, the US has only condemned human rights abuses of the Cameroonian government and used rhetoric to encourage the Francophone government to consider granting Anglophones autonomy.[29] Germany, Canada, and the UK have also condemned the human rights abuses in the crisis, but they tried to be more balanced in condemning both sides, though all three states generally side with the Cameroonian government.[30] France has used its historical clout to make some headway in communicating directly with Biya and negotiating the release of 289 Anglophone detainees; however, France only supports decentralization, not federalism of the state.[31] Switzerland does not have much clout with Cameroon’s government but has offered its services in mediating the conflict between the government and Anglophone separatists, and has focused on relations with Anglophone federalists to move towards having talks.[32]

As for regional organizations and IGOs, the African Union and European Union do not have much clout or access to President Biya to attempt to arrange dialogue.[33] The EU is Cameroon’s biggest economic partner, but that does not include opportunity to influence political decisions.[34] Thus, the EU has considered reevaluating development aid to the state.[35] The AU and the West would like to see the AU have more influence, but at best, the African Commission of Human and People’s Rights has condemned the actions of the government and does not seem inclined to put more pressure on Biya’s government.[36] Nigeria sympathizes with the Anglophone cause but is hesitant on pushing too hard on Biya because secession in Cameroon may spark a separatist/secessionist movement within Nigeria’s Biafra.[37] Due to apparent state interests and inaccessibility of various IGOs to get to Biya, some organizations conclude that concession on both sides must be made, including the Francophone government entertaining regionalism and/or decentralization, grating the Anglophone their deserved autonomy, and the Anglophones would have to accept that there is not enough regional or international support to grant full secession and independence.[38]

The UN has condemned actions of both sides of the conflict, offered its offices for mediation, and held a detailed discussion on the issue at the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Central Africa, but the issue has not made it to the Security Council agenda because it has not received the number of votes to be on the agenda, with states including China, France, Russia and other African states blocking the agenda item.[39] The Catholic Church has called for dialogue, enjoying the clout that comes with 30% of the Cameroonian population being Catholic.[40] The Presbyterian Church in Cameroon has engaged in prayer and called for action to mitigate the crisis and lessen the carnage.[41] Some researchers have observed the use of Twitter and social media in the crisis and though the UN made little to no note of the crisis online and Biya’s government denied the accusations of human rights abuses shared through social networks, there is still an opportunity to create a more unified, public peacebuilding campaign to put public pressure on the government to concede to at least some of the demands of the Anglophone territories.[42]

Final Analysis

The Anglophone question is one of state sovereignty and the right to self-determination. Seen in context, the current crisis in Cameroon stems from a deep divide going back to the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I. When the French and British Cameroons were partitioned from the German protectorate, cognizant of the cultural differences that stem from national influences and languages, there should have been an establishment of two independent states as opposed to one larger state and a small territory linked to an entirely different state. When the time came to decide the course of British Cameroon’s journey toward independence in 1961, there was another opportunity to use IGOs to grant British Cameroon its own state and autonomy. Britain could step in to advocate for its derived territory and fight for the independence of the Anglophones to establish their own state, but there is not enough incentive for Britain, most Western nations, or most African nations to get behind supporting the Anglophone cause. Biya has done well in ensuring that French Cameroon is such a vital ally to influential member states that even at its worst, the international community will do little to go up against the Francophone government. Advocacy organizations see the trend of states not wanting to intervene and suggest typical solutions of painful compromise, sanctions, withdrawing aid, etc. However, when seen in context, short term solutions to big problems that face the international community now will only put a band aid on the deep wounds and bigger goals of the Anglophones.

The English-speaking territories may be able to concede for a time, but the deep grievances are very likely to surface over again until the international community puts its short-sighted, self-interest to the side and stands up for the right for all states to enjoy their right to sovereignty and self-determination as outlined in the Treaty of Westphalia, which governs the international order as it is known today. In short, the most effective solution is for the international community to unify to negotiate a ceasefire and advocate for state legitimization that leads to the codified, retroactive establishment of the state of Ambazonia.

Bibliography

Browne, Gareth. “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International.” Foreign Policy. Last modified May 13, 2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/13/cameroons-separatist-movement-is-going-international-ambazonia-military-forces-amf-anglophone-crisis/.

“Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: How to Get to Talks?” Crisis Group. Last modified May 3, 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/272-crise-anglophone-au-cameroun-comment-arriver-aux-pourparlers.

Kuwonu, Franck. “Crisis Worsens in Cameroon.” Welcome to the United Nations. Accessed September 7, 2019. https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2018-march-2019/crisis-worsens-cameroon.

Maclean, Ruth. “Stay Home or Risk Being Shot: Cameroon’s Back-to-school Crisis.” The Guardian. Last modified September 3, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/sep/03/cameroon-pupils-risk-being-shot-back-to-school.

Nfobin, E. H. Ngwa. 2017. “The Francophone/Anglophone Split over Article 47 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon: An Abiding Malaise with an Explosive Charge.” African Journal of International & Comparative Law 25 (4): 538–60. doi:10.3366/ajicl.2017.0211.

Nganji, Julius T. and Lynn Cockburn. “Use of Twitter in the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis.” Behaviour and Information Technology (2019): 1-21.

Quinn, Nolan. “Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon Was Decades in the Making.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed September 10, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/blog/anglophone-crisis-cameroon-was-decades-making.

Riordan, Kevin. “At Church, Voices of Concern for Cameroon Crisis.” Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct 21, 2018. , http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/2123985957?accountid=12085.

“World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cameroon.” Human Rights Watch. Last modified January 23, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cameroon.

 

Footnotes/Citations

 

[1] “World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cameroon.” Human Rights Watch. Last modified January 23, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cameroon.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Browne, Gareth. “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International.” Foreign Policy. Last modified May 13, 2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/13/cameroons-separatist-movement-is-going-international-ambazonia-military-forces-amf-anglophone-crisis/.

[4] “World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cameroon.” Human Rights Watch. Last modified January 23, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cameroon.

[5] Browne, Gareth. “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International.” Foreign Policy. Last modified May 13, 2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/13/cameroons-separatist-movement-is-going-international-ambazonia-military-forces-amf-anglophone-crisis/.

[6] “World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cameroon.” Human Rights Watch. Last modified January 23, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cameroon.

[7] Maclean, Ruth. “Stay Home or Risk Being Shot: Cameroon’s Back-to-school Crisis.” The Guardian. Last modified September 3, 2019. https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/sep/03/cameroon-pupils-risk-being-shot-back-to-school.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cameroon.” Human Rights Watch. Last modified January 23, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cameroon.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Browne, Gareth. “Cameroon’s Separatist Movement Is Going International.” Foreign Policy. Last modified May 13, 2019. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/05/13/cameroons-separatist-movement-is-going-international-ambazonia-military-forces-amf-anglophone-crisis/.

[19] E. H. Nfobin; Nchotu Veraline Nchang Epse Minang, “The Cameroon Anglophone Question in International Law,” African Journal of International and Comparative Law 22, no. 2 (2014): 234.

[20] Ibid. 234.

[21] Ibid. 234.

[22] Ibid. 234.

[23] Ibid. 234.

[24] Nfobin, E. H. Ngwa. 2017. “The Francophone/Anglophone Split over Article 47 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroon: An Abiding Malaise with an Explosive Charge.” African Journal of International & Comparative Law 25 (4): 539. doi:10.3366/ajicl.2017.0211.

[25] Ibid. 540.

[26] World Report 2019: Rights Trends in Cameroon.” Human Rights Watch. Last modified January 23, 2019. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2019/country-chapters/cameroon.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Quinn, Nolan. “Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon Was Decades in the Making.” Council on Foreign Relations. Accessed September 10, 2019. https://www.cfr.org/blog/anglophone-crisis-cameroon-was-decades-making.

[29] “Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis: How to Get to Talks?” Crisis Group. Last modified May 3, 2019. https://www.crisisgroup.org/africa/central-africa/cameroon/272-crise-anglophone-au-cameroun-comment-arriver-aux-pourparlers.

[30] Ibid.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Ibid.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Kuwonu, Franck. “Crisis Worsens in Cameroon.” Welcome to the United Nations. Accessed September 7, 2019. https://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2018-march-2019/crisis-worsens-cameroon.

[41] Riordan, Kevin. “At Church, Voices of Concern for Cameroon Crisis.” Philadelphia Inquirer, Oct 21, 2018. , http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/2123985957?accountid=12085.

[42] Nganji, Julius T. and Lynn Cockburn. “Use of Twitter in the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis.” Behaviour and Information Technology (2019): 1-21.

 

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