The issue classically and principally opposes many Cameroonians from the Northwest and Southwest regions, many of whom consider themselves Anglophones, to the Cameroonian government. This is based on the fact that these two regions (formally British Southern Cameroons) were controlled by Britain as a mandated and trust territory of the League of Nations and the United Nations respectively.
While many Northwesterners and Southwesterners believe there is an Anglophone problem, some do not. In fact, the term "Anglophone" today creates a lot of controversy, as many former French-speaking Cameroonians who are either bilingual or speak only English (most of whom have gone through the English sub-system of education) consider themselves as Anglophones. The root of the Anglophone problem in Cameroon can be traced back to the Foumban Conference of 1961 that united the two territories, with different colonial legacies, into one state. The Anglophone Problem is increasingly dominating the political agenda of Cameroon. This problem has led to arguments and actions (protests, strikes, etc.) that argue for federalism or separation from the union by the Anglophones. Failure to address the Anglophone Problem threatens Cameroon's ability to create national unity between the two groups of people.
The roots of the Anglophone problem can be traced back to World War I, when Cameroon was known as German Kamerun. The German Empire first gained influence in Cameroon in 1845 when Alfred Saker of the Baptist Missionary Society introduced a mission station. In 1860, German merchants established a factory: the Woermann Company. On July 5, 1884, local tribes provided the Woermann Company with rights to control the Kamerun River, consequently setting the foundation for the later German colonization of Kamerun. In 1916, during World War I, France and Britain joined forces to attack and seize German Kamerun. Later, the Treaty of Versailles would award France and Britain mandates over Cameroon as punishment of the Germans who lost the war. Most of German Kamerun was given to the French, over 167,000 square miles of territory. The British were given Northern Cameroons, about 17,500 square miles of territory and Southern Cameroons, 16,580 square miles. Each colonizer would later influence the colonies with their European languages and cultures, thus rendering them as Anglophones and Francophones. The large difference in awarded territory has resulted in present-day Cameroon having a huge majority Francophone population and a very small minority Anglophone population.
Following World War II, a wave of independence flowed rapidly throughout Africa. The United Nations obliged that Britain and France relinquish their colonies and guide them towards independence. There were three political options for British Southern Cameroons. They could become independent by uniting with Nigeria or with French Cameroun. No option of self-determination by becoming independent was given. The most desired option was independence with the least popular being unification with French Cameroun. However, during the British Plebiscite of 1961, the British argued that Southern Cameroons was not economically viable enough to sustain itself as an independent nation and could only survive by joining with Nigeria or La République du Cameroun (the Republic of Cameroon). Though documents on the United Nations' "Non-Self-Governing Territories" state, "integration should be the result of the freely expressed wishes of the territory's peoples", the United Nations would later reject Southern Cameroons' appeal to have independence as a sovereign nation placed on the ballot. The plebiscite questions were:
The United Nations documents defined the basis of integration as: "Integration with an independent State should be on the basis of complete equality between the peoples of the erstwhile Non-Self-Governing Territory and those of the independent country with which it is integrated. The peoples of both territories should have equal status and rights of citizenship... at all levels in the executive, legislative and judicial organs of government." With this promise in mind, in February 1961, British Northern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria, while British Southern Cameroons voted to join La République du Cameroun.
The purpose of the Foumban Constitutional Conference was to create a constitution for the new Federal state of British Southern Cameroon and La République du Cameroun. The conference brought together representatives from La République du Cameroun, including Amadou Ahidjo, their president, with representatives from Southern Cameroons. Two weeks before the Foumban Conference, there were reports that more than one hundred people were killed by terrorists in Loum, Bafang, Ndom, and Douala. The reports worried unification advocates who wanted British Cameroon to unify with French Cameroun. For the conference, the location of Foumban had been carefully chosen to make Ahidjo, appear as if he had everything under control. Mr. Mbile, a Southern Cameroonian representative at the conference noted, "Free from all the unrest that had scared Southern Cameroonians, the Francophone authorities had picked the place deliberately for the occasion. The entire town had been exquisitely cleaned up and houses splashed with whitewash. Food was good and receptions lavish. The climate in Foumban real or artificial went far to convince us that despite the stories of 'murder and fire,' there could be at least this island of peace, east of the Mungo."
Before the Foumban Conference, all the parties in Southern Cameroons, the Native Authority Councils and the traditional leaders attended the Bamenda Conference. This conference decided on a common proposal to present when negotiations with La République du Cameroun arrived. Among many things, the Bamenda Conference agreed on a non-centralized federation to ensure there was a distinction between the powers of the states and the powers of the federation. Most of the proposals from the Bamenda Conference were ignored by Ahidjo. Some of these proposals included having a bicameral legislature and decentralizing power, but instead a unicameral system was established with a centralized system of power.
At the Foumban conference, Ahidjo presented delegates with a draft constitution. By the end of the conference, instead of creating an entirely new constitution, the contributions of the Southern Cameroons delegates were reflected in suggestions made to the draft initially presented to them. John Ngu Foncha and Ahidjo intended for the Foumban Constitutional Conference to be brief, however delegates left the three day conference with the impression that there would be sequential conferences to continue the drafting of the constitution. Mbile later noted, "We may have done more if we had spent five months instead of five days in writing our constitution at Foumban." The Constitution for the new Federal Republic was agreed in Yaoundé in August 1961, between Ahidjo and Foncha, pending approval by the House of Assembly of the two states. In the end, the West Cameroon House of Assembly never ratified the Constitution. However, on October 1, 1961, the Federal Republic of Cameroon nevertheless came to fruition.
On May 6, 1972, Ahidjo announces his decision to convert the Federal Republic into a unitary state, on the provision that the idea was supported via referendum. This suggestion violated the articles in the Foumban document that read: 'any proposal for the revision of the present constitution, which impairs the unity and integrity of the Federation shall be inadmissible,' and 'proposals for revision shall be adopted by simple majority vote of the members of the Federal Assembly, provided that such majority includes a majority of the representatives ... of each of the Federated States,'... not through referendum. Such violations easily allowed for the passing of the referendum that turned the Federal Republic into the United Republic of Cameroon. Taking into account these actions, the evidence shows that the Francophone's intentions may have not been to form a federal state, but rather to annex Southern Cameroons and not treat them as equals. In 1984, Ahidjo's successor, Paul Biya, replaced the name "United Republic of Cameroon" with "La République du Cameroun," the same name the francophone Cameroon had before federation talks. With changes in the Constitution of 1996, reference to the existence of a territory called the British Southern Cameroons that had a "functioning self-government and recognized international boundaries" was essentially erased.
Despite the non-acknowledgement/denial of the Anglophone problem from Francophone government leaders, there exists a discontent by Anglophones, both young and old, as to how Anglophones are treated. This discontent presents itself in calls for federation or separation with movements that are garnering strength. At the core of Anglophone grievances is the loss of the former West Cameroons as a "distinct community defined by differences in official language and inherited colonial traditions of education, law, and public administration." On 22 December 2016, in a letter to Paul Biya, the Anglophone Archbishops of Southern Cameroons define the Anglophone problem as follows:
Movements which advocate the separation of English-speaking Cameroon from French-speaking Cameroun exist, led by the Cameroon Action Group, the Southern Cameroons Youth League, the Southern Cameroons National Council, the Southern Cameroon Peoples Organization and the Ambazonia Movement.
Advocates of Federation want a return to the constitution agreed upon in the 1961 Foumban Conference that acknowledges the history and culture of the two regions while giving equal power to the two. This federation had been dismantled on 20 May 1972 by the larger French-speaking Cameroon and extended the latter's executive power throughout West Cameroon. Federation advocates include the instrumental Consortium of the leaders of three Cameroon-based trade unions: Lawyers, Teachers, and Transporters. It also includes some Cameroonians in the diaspora led by a well organized US-based Anglophone Action Group, Inc. (AAG). AAG was one of the first groups in the diaspora to endorse the Cameroon-based Consortium as a peaceful alternative to achieving a return to the pre-1972 federated system. Opponents of federation include the ruling Cameroon Peoples Democratic Movement.
Unitarianism do not want Federation or Separation, but rather a decentralized unitary government; whereas, now the government is highly centralized in power. This violates the tenets of the 1996 Constitution as decentralization has yet to be implemented.
In March 1990, the Social Democratic Front (SDF) led by John Fru Ndi, was founded on the perception of widespread Anglophone alienation. The SDF was the first major opposition party to the People's Democratic Movement, led by Paul Biya.
Below are various reasons that Anglophones feel marginalized, systemically, by the government.
As of 2019, the Anglophone problem is still on-going. It has spiraled into violence with police officers and gendarmes shooting dead several civilians. Official sources have put the number at 17 dead, but local individuals and groups have talked of 50 or more. Radical members of some secessionist groups have killed several police officers and gendarmes. 15,000 refugees have fled Southern Cameroons into neighboring Nigeria, with the UNHCR expecting that number to grow to 40,000 if the situation continues.
Without clearly acknowledging the existence of the Anglophone problem, the President of Cameroon has attempted to appease tensions by making a number of announcements:
Several separatist or secessionist groups have emerged or become more prominent as a result of the harsh response by the government to the Anglophone problem. These groups desire to see Southern Cameroons completely separate from La République du Cameroun and form its own state, sometimes referred to as Ambazonia. Some groups such as the Southern Cameroons Ambazonia Consortium United Front (SCACUF) used diplomatic means in an attempt to gain independence for the Anglophone regions, whereas other groups began to employ armed confrontation with artisan weapons against the deployed gendarmes and soldiers in those regions.
The 2016–2017 Cameroonian protests were a series of protests that occurred following the appointment of Francophone judges in English-speaking areas of the Republic of Cameroon. In October 2016, protests began in two primarily English-speaking regions: the Northwest Region and the Southwest Region. On November 23, 2016, it was reported that at least two people were killed and 100 protestors were arrested in Bamenda, a city in the Northwest Region. In September 2017, the protests and the government's response to them escalated into an armed conflict.Anglophone Crisis
The Anglophone Crisis (French: Crise anglophone), also known as the Ambazonia War, is a conflict in the Southern Cameroons region of Cameroon, part of the long-standing Anglophone problem. In September 2017, separatists in the Anglophone territories of Northwest Region and Southwest Region (collectively known as Southern Cameroons) declared the independence of Ambazonia and began fighting against the Government of Cameroon. The situation has since been described as close to a civil war.Cameroonian English
Cameroon English is an English dialect spoken predominantly in Cameroon, mostly learned as a second language. It shares some similarities with English varieties in neighbouring West Africa, as Cameroon lies at the west of Central Africa.It is a postcolonial variety of English, long in use in the territory (Southern Cameroons, now the northwest of the republic). Over the years, it has developed characteristic features, particularly in lexis but also in phonology and grammar. Those characteristics were once regarded as errors but are now increasingly accepted as distinctive Cameroonian contributions to the English language.Felix Agbor Balla
Agbor Nkongho aka Balla (born Felix Agbor Anyior Nkongho) is an Anglophone Cameroonian human right lawyer who is the president of the Fako Lawyers Association, vice president of the African Bar Association in charge of Central Africa, founder and chairman of the Centre for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa and founder of Agbor Nkongho Law Firm an activist and freedom fighter who was arrested on 17 January 2017. Agbor Nkongho was born on August 23, 1970. He is a leading member of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC) which has been banned and its activities declared illegal in Cameroon.Fontem Neba
Dr Fondem Neba (born Fontem Aforteka’a Neba) Is a Cameroonian University lecturer, author and an activist who is the Secretary General of the banned Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium (CACSC), he was the Secretary General of teachers’ trade union of the University of Buea (SYNES) before his arrest on 17 of January, 2017 for staging peaceful protest in the defence of Anglophone Cameroon Common law system of education. He is the author of English Language Mastery and Academic Success which was launched on June 18, 2015.Januarius Jingwa Asongu
Januarius Jingwa (JJ) Asongu is an American philosopher, scholar, journalist, author, entrepreneur, and activist. Born in the small city of Lewoh, in the former British Southern Cameroons, Africa, he moved to the United States in the mid-1990s, where he is now a naturalized citizen.
In the United States, he continued as a human rights and political activist, while also engaged in academics. His academic career culminated in his becoming a professor of business and in 2012 he founded an American-style international university in Cameroon called Saint Monica University (SMU). With headquarters in the United States, SMU now has campuses in the Cameroons and upcoming campuses in Cambodia, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria.Jean-Jacques Ekindi
Jean-Jacques Ekindi (born January 1945) is a Cameroonian politician. He has been the National President of the Progressive Movement (Mouvement Progressiste, MP), an opposition political party, since its foundation in 1991, and he was a Deputy in the National Assembly of Cameroon from 2007 to 2013.Legal dispute over Quebec's language policy
The legal dispute over Quebec's language policy began soon after the enactment of Bill 101, establishing the Charter of the French Language, by the National Assembly of Quebec in 1977.
The Charter, enacted under the Parti Québécois government of René Lévesque, expanded upon Quebec's previous language legislation, Bill 22, also known as the Official Language Act, enacted in 1974 under the Liberal Party of Quebec government of Robert Bourassa. Earlier language legislation in Quebec had included Bill 63 in 1969, and the La Vergne Law of 1910.
Both statutes were drafted in an attempt to follow the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry on the Situation of the French Language and Linguistic Rights in Quebec (the Gendron Commission).
Unlike the (Quebec) Official Language Act of 1974 (not to be confused with the federal Official Languages Act), the Charter of the French Language was a legal framework defining the linguistic rights of Quebecers, and a language management policy giving the state of Quebec the power to intervene in many sectors of public life to promote French as the common language of all citizens. Its enactment by the National Assembly sparked a legal battle that still goes on today.Nation-building
Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. It is thus narrower than what Paul James calls "nation formation", the broad process through which nations come into being. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run. According to Harris Mylonas, "Legitimate authority in modern national states is connected to popular rule, to majorities. Nation-building is the process through which these majorities are constructed."Nation builders are those members of a state who take the initiative to develop the national community through government programs, including military conscription and national content mass schooling. Nation-building can involve the use of propaganda or major infrastructure development to foster social harmony and economic growth. According to Columbia University political scientist Andreas Wimmer, three factors tend to determine the success of nation-building over the long-run: "the early development of civil-society organisations, the rise of a state capable of providing public goods evenly across a territory, and the emergence of a shared medium of communication."Official bilingualism in Canada
The official languages of Canada are English and French, which "have equality of status and equal rights and privileges as to their use in all institutions of the Parliament and Government of Canada," according to Canada's constitution. "Official bilingualism" is the term used in Canada to collectively describe the policies, constitutional provisions, and laws that ensure legal equality of English and French in the Parliament and courts of Canada, protect the linguistic rights of English and French-speaking minorities in different provinces, and ensure a level of government services in both languages across Canada.In addition to the symbolic designation of English and French as official languages, official bilingualism is generally understood to include any law or other measure that:
mandates that the federal government conduct its business in both official languages and provide government services in both languages;
encourages or mandates lower tiers of government (most notably the provinces and territories, but also some municipalities) to conduct themselves in both official languages and to provide services in both English and French rather than in just one or the other;
places obligations on private actors in Canadian society to provide access to goods or services in both official languages (such as the requirement that food products be labelled in both English and French);
provides support to non-government actors to encourage or promote the use or the status of one or the other of the two official languages. This includes grants and contributions to groups representing the English-speaking minority in Quebec and the French-speaking minorities in the other provinces to assist with the establishment of an infrastructure of cultural supports and services.At the provincial level, New Brunswick officially recognizes the equal status of French and English. While French has equal legal status in Manitoba restored due to a court ruling that struck down seventy-year-old English-only laws in 1985, in practice, French language services are only provided in some regions of the province. Quebec has declared itself officially unilingual (French only). Alberta and Saskatchewan are also considered unilingual (English only). In practice, all provinces, including Quebec, offer some services in both English and French and some publicly funded education in both official languages up to the high school level (English language postsecondary education institutions are also present in Quebec, as are French language postsecondary institutions in other provinces, in particular in Manitoba, Ontario and New Brunswick). English and French are official languages in all three territories. In addition, Inuktitut is also an official language in Nunavut, and nine aboriginal languages have official status in the Northwest Territories.Theatre of Cameroon
Theatre of Cameroon consists in the theatrical plays produced across Cameroon. Its history dates back to the pre-colonial time, but it has gained wide popularity since the 1970s, with practitioners such as Daniel Ndo, Dieudonné Afana and David Kemzeu (alias Deiv K. Moktoï). It is made of different trends, some of them are more inflected by the European theatrical tradition, some others are more attuned to the indigenous performative styles. The comic genre is presently dominating so that laughter has become synonymous with modern Cameroon theatre productions, according to Bole Butake. Theatre of Cameroon is sometimes subdivided in traditional theatre, colonial theatre, and post-independence theatre.