The recent unrest in the English-speaking region of Western Cameroon caught the attention of the UN, EU and other international agencies. After all, it is now threatening to become a déjà vu of what Nigeria went through, which led to the Civil war in 1967.
Cameroon with a low-income country with a population of 23.4 million people, has a GDP of US$30 million and per capita income of US$1,217.
Cameroon belongs to the Central African Economic Community – CAEC, which is considered one of the weakest in the continent, alongside countries such as Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa Republic and Chad.
Cameroon was first colonized by the Germans and ruled the country between 1884-1916. The historic defeat in what can be termed the First Imperialist War forced the Germans to hand-over Cameroon to the French and the British. The French took the lion-share in the East while the British had a third of the territory in the West. Hence the language divide.
And that is definitely the beginning of the problems Cameroon is facing currently. Although, the west Cameroon enjoyed its autonomy which was a direct result of the British colonialists.
However, the moment the current President of Cameroon, Paul Biya took over the reins of government from Ahmadou Ahidjo, he nullified the federal constitution and replaced it with a unitary system, which in turn helped him centralize power, as the regional autonomy that the west enjoyed, collapsed immediately.
The new system gave so much power to the French-speaking region of Cameroon as opposed to the English-speaking region. The former enjoyed infrastructural and economic up-liftment, part of which is the location of the political capital in Yaounde, and the commercial capital in Douala both in the French-speaking eastern region of Cameroon.
The main national rail line links Douala and Yaoundé, while the seaports are in Douala, Kribi and Limbé. So, basically, the bulk of administrative and economic power is thus concentrated on the French-speaking side.
While Cameroon is constitutionally a bilingual country, the government has barely tolerated the use of English in preference for French in all matters of public administration.
As a result of the persecution and marginalization of the English-speaking dissidents, they unilaterally declared an independent “Ambazonian Republic”. With the declaration, the Cameroonian government responded with so much violence, that the EU was compelled to plead with the authorities to rather pacify and negotiate than the application of violent force.
Currently, there are more than 50,000 Cameroonian refugees in Nigeria. The Nigerian government on the other hand is careful to not rock the delicate boat simply because, Cameroon under Ahmadou Ahidjo staunchly stood with the Gowon administration, refusing to aid secessionist Biafra. There by, helping the Nigerian ‘win’ the war.
It is understandably premature to recognize the newly-declared Republic of Ambazonia by the English-speaking dissidents, but we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to our humanitarian obligation to the people of west Cameroon.
Enough we must say, is enough. Silence at this stage simply denotes a complicity in a brewing genocide. The regime in Yaoundé should and must be compelled to restore the federal constitution and the autonomy that the westerners had enjoyed hitherto.
There should also be an advocacy for a bilateral arrangement that ensures that western Cameroonians are represented at all echelons of leadership, government and the administration.
Cameroon is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. If the regime continues to violate the rights of its citizens in such a callous and brazen manner, steps must be taken to ensure that they are expelled from the Commonwealth.
There is a crisis that is gradually following the instructive path to a genocide. We cannot afford to fold our arms and watch like it is nothing. Africans ought to have learnt from Africa’s reoccurring cycle of dark history laden with violence, marginalization and genocide.
About the Author: Adeeko Ademola @OmoGbajaBiamila is a Fiery Writer • Digital Content Creator • Public Relations • Entrepreneur • Patriotic Nigerian