The past one year Cameroon has witnessed one of its worst government clamps down on peaceful demonstrations .Incidences of systematic violence, rape, arrests, and killings continue to be recorded in Southern Cameroon, (English Minority).
Yet I cannot help but wonder at the silence emanating from the “majority”. At those exercising their superiority and supremacy through either not acknowledging there is a problem or are silent.
The problem in Southern Cameroon crisis not only about secessionist/federalist but also has as root causes bad governance and the inability or bad faith of the regime in handling issues affecting the people.The entire country has serious issues from bad infrastructures, youth unemployment , little or no Power and water supply, bad roads ,absence of good and affordable health care , and to topple this a militarised system of governance . It is no secret that Paul Biya is a dictator whose regime has been meted with accusations of heavy corruption, nepotism, embezzlement, and the absence of total lack of accountability.Yes to me this is at the helm of the on going crisis, next year the 84-year-old leader who has been in power since 1982 is expected to run yet again for another term and has managed to maintain his grip by according positions of responsibility to a selected few.
So does the rest of the country suffer the effects of bad governance? Of course they do ,but is there an an anglophone /southern cameroon problems? YES!
With the poor management of affairs in the country the anglophones feel a different kind of marginalisation because they are not only a minority in a badly governed country ,but is host to majority of the country`s natural resources.
For the sake of this essay the term Anglophone in Cameroon means (geophraphical description of Southern-Cameroons parts that were colonized by British) and the term Francophone means those from East Cameroon ( that were colonized by France).
For decades now Southern Cameroonians have clamoured for more recongnition in the country .My bone of contention is the silence of the “majority” .Here the Majority includes all those who stand aloof to the systematic human rights abuses Biya and his cohorts have perpetuated over 36 years in the country.
It is tough living as a minority in an already poor governed country. I know from personal experiences how challenging it is being a woman and then an anglophone in Cameroon.It is like having two strikes to my name because that is how I am identified. Albeit opportunities are dwindling in the country,yet as Southern Cameroonian I have to work 10 times harder than my Francophone counterpart.
Personally I studied in the University of Yaoundé and though I managed to graduate I understood firsthand what it meant to be a minority in an already corrupt and dysfunctional system .Many at times; derogatory words were thrown at me like”Biafra, le gens de fru ndi” “graffie”, etc .I was walked out of many government offices because I could not express myself fluently in French and the officer was not expected to understand or obliged to speak English. It was a constant and taunting struggle. In school we were shunned by lecturers and required to either speak French or be quiet .I know so many Anglophones who dropped out of Yaoundé University because it was so difficult maneuvering the system. Yes I had low self-esteem living in Yaoundé that is supposed to be the Capital city.Even though I tried to hide my “graffi nature” it often betrayed me and made me more ashamed for being born in Southern Cameroon, because being “graffi” meant you were backward, primitive and a second class citizen.
So when Southern Cameroons demanded peacefully for equal treatment ,some understood this but I was appalled at the silence emanating from most of the country.It is no secret that we all in Cameroon have been unfairly treated but others feel this injustice more .
The demand might have moved from federalism to secession ,but its because of how un fair the government has handled the crisis ,they forget that for one Southern Cameroon Youth that is killed more than 500 are radicalised .
Even amongst the minority there is a lot of blame game and finger pointing but unfortunately Southern Cameroon Intellectuals and elites who are supposed to project the facts, majority of them because of political positions or to seek for new ones are thwarting the truths and maintaining sealed lips.They fall under the majority and their silence is defeaning.
No one is asking the majority to be part of a secessionist/federalist ideology but at least this will be the time to come together and fight a common enemy .At least use your power to speak against a ruthless and rougue regime .Like the German Martin Niemöller wrote; When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;I was not a communist. When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat. When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out. I was not a trade unionist. When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn’t a Jew. When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out “
You may choose to be silent and not say anything but never say you did not know. Because your silence in the midst of injustice is deafening .So I tell you now to Exercise your “majority privilege “. Although the conflict in Cameroon has mainly affected the English-speaking minority, the government’s heavy-handedness suggests that worse may lie ahead for the rest of the country.
The rhetoric should not be about who speaks English or French .But about equality and equity ,about fairness, accountability and good governance .So if you cants identify inequality when you see one then maybe you are just as bad as the oppressor. We cants afford to stay neutral in such matters and dwell on trivial issues like who is francophone or Anglophone. Let us not forget the greater evil because if you ask me injustice to one is injustice for all.
I will end with a quote from American pop star Lady Gaga “The really fantastic thing about kindness is that its free and it can’t hurt you or anybody else and brings us all together …In times of chaos and crisis what we all tend to do is to point fingers at where we think the bad guy and evil is .We all start arguing and we have different opinions but don’t forget that hatred /evil no matter how you want to call it, is intelligent ,smart and invisible .it does not have color ,language ,religion ,politics and it’s an invisible snake that connives and says “I am going to divide my enemy into smaller ,less strong groups and will make them hate each other to make it easier to take them down”. And as we all are yelling at each other which group it is that is causing the problem evil is winning all around us .We need to shift the perspective and build a kinder and better environment .Get rid of the labels and different factions … we are unified in our humanity and the only thing we all know and appreciate in one another is kindness. ” ……….
Because what is good for the goose is good for the gander!