I have spent the past several years avowing to watch rather than talk about the ongoing Anglophone crisis. In times like this some talks are seen as senseless, while senseless talks are judged to be wise.
I couldn’t continue keeping quiet. Even if I can’t tell the future of the journey or project, at least let me think aloud where I think it comes from. Those who can talk will tell us where the ship is heading.
Cameroon is like a country suffering from drought. There are cracks everywhere. There are cracks between ideas and reality. Between the life of the state and that of citizens. Inequality isn’t the apt way to describe it. A huge gulf seems more apt. Call it a state of lies if you like.
The government talks about a united republic of Cameroon, yet majority of government officials are French speaking and there some ministries that have never been occupied by Anglophones until recent events started exposing these major cracks. The president creates a bilingualism commission, and yet in all his social media posts, he only post in French. We talk about justice and equality, and yet everyone, even little children can tell that there is no justice or efforts to pursue justice in Cameroon.
Anglophones are the realities of life in Cameroon, while Francophones, mostly government officials are the perfect ideas. This rift between reality and ideas always creates, as James Baldwin said, an existential crisis where people turn against all universal constructs or ideas. Some will say it leads to a form of nihilism, but I don’t think nihilism is the right word. They always turn to mad leaders after these crisis.
What is true is that the people no longer trust the state as an institution that promotes and protects common interest. They detest calls for unity, because they can smell domination in those calls. They are afraid of morality, because they believe it is weakness. They deny their humanitarian inclination and ask where has this humanitarianism been all this while when these leaders where treating us as animals.
We saw this in Europe after the first world war how ideas of justice and fairness were imposed on a weakened Germany, and within decades we had one of the worst governments in human history that fed on fear and anxiety. We saw this in Africa where exploits of civilisation differed so much from the barbaric and exploitative realities of colonial practices that, Sartre would refer to them as two worlds, governed by senseless evil. Recently we have seen how capitalist promise of wealth and the stark poverty and deprivation in the west, coupled with its own racist history amidst claims of universal equality have led to the emerge of demagogues like Trump and Salvini. As the west denies what they refer to as globalists.
The conflict in Cameroon can be described in just this term, the absolute denial of universal communities or states. Most Anglophone secessionist are Trump supporters, notwithstanding his racist history. They share one thing, distrust of universal projects. The fact that our ministers, president, and intellectuals are denying this separation that stands naked, cold and loud in front of our lives is a shame.
The cause is there. And the effect may follow. Anxiety. Senseless conflict and partisanship. Deep mistrust of authority, even though they are ready to trust mad authorities who promise respite. Our people may become like sheep who are ready to leave one farm to another, not for the sake of freedom, but freedom from the existing system.
The wide gulf is getting wider everyday as the government attempts to address a structural problem with paracetamol ideas of one and indivisible Cameroon.
The Anglophone problem is not mere fever. It is a permanent state of anxiety and mistrust. We need structural solutions to the problems. Anglophones are tired of universal slogans. There is no place for universal projects. They are not interested in African unity, nor in national unity. All grand projects have failed. All grand projects have been ruse to dominate and exploit them.
But I am right to even think about where we have come from? Aren’t we in the same place? The government slams Anglophone secessionist with life imprisonment as justice to the atrocities they have committed, and yet fails to follow due legal procedures. How do you reconcile these irreconcilable worlds. In Cameroon, words an actions are like Cain and Abel. They never want to see each other.
I am saying that we need to address this existential anxiety before it gets out of hand. We need to unify words and actions, otherwise, everything will be meaningless. The government needs to walk its talk.
It is true that in most societies the reality is often different from state sponsored propaganda and narratives. But there is a limit to any narrative that seeks to impose a grand domination on reality, one day that myth will disappear, and the people will be exposed to the reality. Always, in this Dionysian moment, these people wail and deny everything the powerful have imposed on them, even their names.