12 Nov


For several months now common law lawyers of the Cameroon bar association have sent memorandums and ultimatums to the judiciary and executive arms of government for redress against acts they saw as intended to eradicate components typically characteristic to one of the country’s sub-national identities; comprising here Anglo-Saxon affiliated education, linguistic, jurisprudence and institutional structures though inherited from British colonialism have come to form the political culture and identity of the anglophone regions of today’s Cameroon.

Since 20 May 1972 referendum which replaced the federal system entered into between the two Cameroons in 1961 independence and reunification processes with an delusional unitary state system, the French speaking Camerouns led government has interpreted national unity and integration to mean re-writing history, suppressing or replacing English speaking Southern Cameroons identity and institutions with their share of French colonial inheritance.

Lawyers in anglophone Cameroon have been on strike and have refused to going to court for over a month now, thereby paralysing the judiciary branch of government in the common law jurisdiction of the country. They have called for an end to government appointing civil law magistrates to common law courts as judges. They have advocated for the rule of law, constitutionalism, equality of official languages in administrative, statutory and institutional use. In the wake of French usurpation of public policy on education and personnel, the lawyers have called for the independent co-existence of the Anglo-saxon and French education and examination sub-systems in the country.

Today the common law lawyers all over anglophone Cameroon (in proper appelation “Southern Cameroons”) are being fired at with tear-gas by gendarmes and riot police because they included a clause in their petition for a return to the federal system of government, for which the incumbent regime is famous for always interpreting all acts of civil disobedience as intended to jeopardise the internal and external security of the state hence treason or more properly for the sake regime survival, all acts intended towards a change of the stagnant status quo are to be brutally repressed and suppressed to dissuade others from daring. This is even more aching for the faltering regime and its increasingly paranoid leadership that has jailed its former bigwigs and panel beaters on excuses of anti-corruption drives. The fright is further exacerbated by the specter of a general election in 2018 amidst total suspense and anticipation over actual contenders and the rise of a leader of circumstances.

Now isnt the time to be politically correct! now isn’t the time to be a regime apologist either. The changes that brought about the 1996 constitution was a culmination of a set of reforms beginning with the 1990 liberty and freedom reform laws. Anglophone student union protests at the lone university of Yaounde in the late1980’s were a precursor to the May 26 1990 SDF mass movements and eventually the creation of the anglo-saxon styled university of Buea. It was also the resolute actions of parents and teachers syndicates that led to the creation of the G.C.E examination board and all its accompanying advantages for anglophone education in Cameroon some years later against government harmonization with the Francophone educational system. There were tripartite talks held during the All Anglophone Conferences to address these perceived marginalisation issues arising since reunification but the typical failure of government to adequately reform or respond to invitations for dialogue with stakeholders birthed an independece restoration movement further rendering the matter complex for it to handle.

The common law lawyers cause is very much legitimate and worthy of our total and unreserved support as geo-ethnic-politically Southern Cameroonians or that of this hell bent government’s acceptance to engage in a national dialogue for lasting constitutional reforms that protect and safe guard minority rights and the rule of law?Google up about Zanzibar, Scotland, Quebec, Belgium, Greenland, Faeroe Islands and many other working solutions on minority representation against the tyranny of the majority!

Any suggestion that it is a lawyers problem only as such demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of the issues at hand. Anyone justifying the statusquo and being apathetic to the reform process is doing disservice to posterity and may find them self on the wrong side of history when the dust settles on the matter. Organised protest and unified resistance from all anglophone civil and political groups against an unfair system in a peaceful manner void of anarchy and worse case scenario a popular response to the violence passionately resorted to by the gendarmes and police force of Cameroun is must also be anticipated to advance and consolidate the envisaged goals.

The LEADERSHIP perception on which Cameroon is run is one that is not people oriented, it is anchored on regime survival than on service to the nation and the citizen. Unless our leaders stop interpreting demands for internal democratization and institutional reforms purely in competitive and exclusive terms, their view of politics will remain purely extractive. What must come to people as a right of belonging to a nation-state must not be priced or made available as a reward for voting a party, sending a motion of support to obtain or thanks for a political favour.

As for the part on national unity, it’s very relative. Anglophone UNITY is has been subjected to divide and rule politics since the colonial era and have sadly hungover into post-reunification era. The differences among Anglophone Cameroonians don’t stem from cultural differences but come foremost from power sharing struggles and demographics in getting national privileges and allocations from central government. Bridging that gap needs an expressly written power rotation agreement and a proportional yet generous allocation of natural resource royalties. National unity and bilingualism as a whole weigh more on the anglophone Cameroonian, who is expected to integrate and effectively use French meanwhile functional use of English is applied with discretion by francophone Camerounians or at best remains elitist to them.

Let me quote emeritus barrister Akere Muna in his recent publication on the ongoing upheavals:
” The legal system of Cameroon is bi-jural constitutionally, politically socially, culturally and intellectually. Disregarding this fact is an assault on the very foundation on which our nation is built.
While it is true that diversity might well create ambiguity complexity and even confusion, the danger of assimilation under the guise of harmonization now appears as a time bomb.”

Not only is voter apathy in Cameroon endemic. People have been dissensitized by years of repression and political corruption into developing general disinterest to the governance and adminstration system. Political apapthy and docility is highly celebrated as exemplified in the lack of mass support or outright rebuke towards the efforts of lawyers and other syndicates clamouring for change in Cameroon.  Weak governance institutions and a very docile civil society have formed a political culture of disengagement from the political process,we are so contented with the status quo and distrust such that no one dares to say no or match a protest. Cameroonians have rescinded popular revolutions as an instrument for political change in favor of prayers for an ever increasingly elusive peace while awaiting the natural death of their leader.

The majority of youths today were born under the current regime and as such their experience in comparative politics is very limited or worsened by the lack of dynamism manifested vigorously by the Ahidjo generation. As long as discussing presidential succession or other issues critical to the country’s republical character remains a taboo subject, we shouldn’t expect any popular democracy taking ground just yet. Political succession is grounded in ethnic loyalties in both government and opposition parties. Unless we have strong institutions not strong politicians,only then can the system auto-regulate itself and learn to negotiate a consensus its political destiny with its constituent parts and national actors such as lawyers, politicians, interest and pressure groups.

It has also been announced that come November 21 2016, Anglophone teachers trade unions and syndicates will be staging a similar strike action. One can not ascertain from day one if other syndicates, civil society and ordinary citizens are going to enter the union of sympathy towards evolutionary change. May be this is the day Southern Cameroonians killed fear and acted on the objective of their many prayers. Could this be the beginning of a new chapter in the nation’s history? The last months in Cameroon have been marked by ghastly accidents and bloodletting which has laid bare its dysfunctional leadership and chronic institutional deficiencies of the state and its oligarchic government run by geruntocrats who celebrate mediocrity and tribalism.

While federalism remains the best option to consolidate reunification and nation building, seccession and restoration of statehood for Southern Cameroons entices as well, I still hope that a constitutional conference remains a better solution inspired by united Africa dream nursed during decolonization and independence. A poorly negotiated unification agreement as that of Cameroon in 1960-1 or a hastily accorded one as that of South Sudan merely postpone stathood and representation problems. The force of argument or the argument of force is the question on every mind as this issue in the Cameroons national politics unravels itself.

George Carlin did say “War is rich old men protecting their wealth by sending lower and middle-class young men off to die”


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