79 students were kidnapped from PSS Nkwen in the Northwest region of Cameroon by armed men. The response by different Ambazonian camps to the incident has exposed a rift, a widening gap to put it in better words, between Anglophone separatists’ groups in the diaspora, but this is not a gap about putting “activism before journalism” or “who can best take us to Buea”. It is a reflection of the colonial-puppet principles that guide the secessionist movement. As the mist of that false ideology continues to wane, we should expect more conflict among these “colonial-white-maskers”.
Over 5 million English-speaking Cameroonians are deprived of the essence of their existence in Cameroon. Watching the spectacular neglect of English Language at the Constitutional Council after the October 7 Elections is a cold reminder of this hot problem. The current government of Cameroon, as the predecessor, governs the two Anglophone regions according to a logic with three principles. (1) Unprecedented displacement. By displacement I refer to the using or placing something in the place of what should rightfully be there. Examples of displacement, include replacing of Anglophone cultures, names with French, transferring resources to French region, and putting French administrative officials instead of Anglophones.
Another problem is (2) the omnipresence of violence and aggression as the channel of communication between the government and Anglophones. Make no mistake, violence and aggression are parts of all human societies. But in most modern societies they are the last resort not the first. However, the Biya makes violence and aggression the first resort in dealing with Anglophones. The wide scale construction of prisons, rather factories. The swift intervention of military to squash protest, instead of sincere dialogue. And the presence of over 12 military camps, the highest in the country in two regions, after Yaounde the capital of the country all reflect this eminence of violence and aggression by the government in the Anglophone regions.
The last logic is (3) the privation of Anglophones. Privation can mean intentional deprivation, as it can also mean the delegation of something to the private spaces instead of public spaces. I mean it in both ways. Whether as deprivation of basic services, water, roads, jobs, justice, or the unspoken norm that everything English should be spoken in private not public, or that English should be the official private language of Cameroon. It should never be spoken in Parliament or on TV by top government officials.
Anglophones who have worked for the government for thirty years have to bear the long and frustrating drive to Yaounde to beg, and if not always, bribe, government officials to attend to their request for their pensions. In fact, most Anglophones will have to make it to Yaounde for 63 of 70 critical government services. The point is, there is an Anglophone problem, which is a product of a logic of governance that is designed to emasculate and private a people.
In light of this emasculation and privation, on the 16th of November 2016, lawyers in the Anglophone region took to the streets after another displacement and privation, a trend which until recently had spared the holy-sanctuary of courts and laws, through the respect of the Common Laws. The government responded with a blind and swift aggression and violence which as I pointed out, is the other part of the mechanism designed to govern the Anglophones. The response was brutal, as if tying to a knot between displacement and privation, with aggression. Lawyers’ robe where trampled in the ground as if the government was trying to displace something out of these robes.
It didn’t take long before the protest turned into a full fletched conflict. Several Anglophones took up artisanal made arms against these three forces. The fighters attacked the displacement of Anglophone language, resources, and now laws, like an angry swamp of snakes chasing a cruel farmer. But that movement, that struggle against an unprecedented displacement, against black-face aggression and violence, calculated privation of a people’s existence, was soon hijacked by some Cameroonians in the diaspora.
The leap from the fight for federation into secessionist movement was wrong. Not because Anglophones cannot be independent or should not be independent. In fact, questions of territorial unity and separation are political questions, that contrary to the government of Cameroon should be discussed in public, in the parliament, not in private places. The problem is that founding principles of the secessionist movement are wrong, and won’t take Anglophones to their land of promise, even if they are to succeed with the “my trip to Buea”.
The secessionist movement is based on two fundamental and rotten principles. First, rejuvenation of the English heritage of British Southern Cameroons. Calls for this rejuvenation have shown up in three ways, through demands for the restoration of English names, Victoria instead of Limbe, etc. Restoration of English laws and culture, and finally, fight over land that was formerly British Southern Cameroons. The second principle is the differentiation between what is English and what is French. Francophones are different from Ambazonians. Of course, if both goals are achieved, then Anglophones will have their land of honey and bread, they would govern themselves, and prosper.
However, these arrest of the 78 children kidnapped by yet to be identified gunmen have shown the problem with the Ambazonia movement. Those two principles cannot save Anglophones in Cameroon. In fact, even if we are to gain independence today, the government that will come next will be no different from Biya’s government. The reason is that the problem faced by Anglophones in Cameroon reflects the broader problem of governance in Africa. And the current secessionist leaders are governed by the same “colonial spirits” that lead the current country.
Remember, there is an Anglophone problem. But this problem cannot be taken out of the broader governance problem in Africa. And it is in this governance problem that Anglophones evaluate what several secessionists leaders are doing. The problem of governance in Africa hinges on five things, (1) the displacement of people’s interest by private interest (or the replacement of popular interest with personal interest), (2) the displacement of African values and structures (with western counterparts), as Edward Said brilliant puts it in Culture and Imperialism, (3) the centrality of violence and aggression in politics and social organisations, what Achille Mbembe refers to as “Commandemant”, (4) the misuse of public resources and poor planning not necessarily for personal interest, but also due to incompetence and ignorance, and (5) the reliance on the west for solutions to African problems, through begging for aid, asking the west to help us from authoritarian leaders, or returning to colonial roots to alleviate our problems.
Careful observers of the ongoing Anglophone crisis will realize how much the current secessionist group of leaders have used public resources for private purposes, how chiefs and other African names and cultures have been dusted to the bin and forest as they fight for the “Queens ears”, as well as warning that I now have guns, you can’t TALK to me they way you use to. And I wouldn’t go further, I let our diligent readers reflect on this.