01.05.2017 Feature Article

On the Anglophone Problem, Bilingualism and Multiculturalism

On the Anglophone Problem, Bilingualism and Multiculturalism
01.05.2017 LISTEN

The Anglophone Problem in Cameron could be summarized as the irrational destruction of the political and socioeconomic life that West Cameroon had before the 1961 Plebiscite which expected the UN Trust Territory to attain independence by joining the Federation of Nigeria or the Cameroun Republic. The results of the plebiscite show that Southern Cameroons opted to have independence by joining a people they believed to be their brothers in the Caneroun Republic.

What followed, even without the consummation of the union with a deed of union from the United Nations, was arrogant defiling of West Cameroon institutions and the rape of its resources. Suffice to say the bulk of Cameroun income for 56 years come from West Cameroon without a corresponding development of its infrastructure and people. The West Cameroonian is marginalized to a point where they are categorized as les Bamendas (servants) and Biafrais (foreigners).

It must be made clear that the West Cameroonian, despite his loyalty, steadfastness and entrepreneurial spirit has never been considered even as a second class citizen. The Anglophone comes fourth in State protocol. She is not loved but loathed and only kept on hand to ensure that the Cameroun Republic could continue exploiting and raping her without questions, and under the guise of a union or marriage.

Common Law lawyers asked for basic things which, a well meaning government should grant without blinking. They have been calling for the redeployment of civil law magistrates to civil law jurisdictions. On this grievance it is well documented that courts in West Cameroon have been flooded by civil law magistrates who do not have even a functional command of English. All Common Law schools put a high premium on English language proficiency. Most of these civil law magistrates in West Cameroon have only a nodding proficiency in English. It is ludicrous that a people oriented government would choose to prejudice the delivery of justice to 3,000,000 people because they want Cameroon to look bilingual and united. Paradox is that the same person pontificating on the indivisibility of Cameroon seceded and returned to the Cameroun Republic by dissolving the United Republic of Cameroon in 1984.

The delivery of justice could not be reduced to bilingualism as the Common Law court scene demands more than bilingualism. Common Law is a matter of principles, precedence and common sense. By precedence, we mean that Common Law is a history, the history of the delivery of justice in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and its dependents. A civil Law magistrate, depending on word processors would not be transformed by a machine into a historian of Common Law. So the celebration of the translation of the OHADA harmonized laws falls short of the requisite fundamentals of Common Law practice. Even with bilingualism at its best, the most bilingual Civil Law magistrate would be scoring less than 5 percent of the requirements to preside over a Common Law court.

Slavish application of codes or laws does not always deliver justice. It takes the soundness of a judge to determine the mitigating circumstances in a matter to lay aside the weight of even the most robust law to deliver justice on an issue. Civil Law magistrates, who always consider the accused guilty according to the law, end up, finding the accused guilty because such a magistrate is not able to summon the common sense to navigate between principles and precedence.

The creation of a Common Law Bench at the Supreme Court, creation of Common Law Departments in all francophone universities in Cameroon and a Common Law section at the national school of magistracy predicating it on four years implementation period betrays the carrot tendered to the Common Law lawyers as a concealed stick. Cameroun strategist believe that within this time lapse, a francophone secondary school graduate would have spent four years in the department of Common Law in any Francophone university to be qualified to enter the Common Law section of the school of Magistracy. It means Cameroun wants West Cameroonians to wait for francophones to be trained for four years to come back and preside over Common Law courts. Here again, the Cameroun Republic unapologetically demonstrates its perennial marginalization of the Anglophones.

When we turn to the grievances of the consortium and associations of teachers’ trade unions, Cameroun government penchant for creating 10 problems in its attempt to solve one problem clearly rears its ugly head again. Government chooses circumlocution instead of charting a clear roadmap to reach the goal or realize the dreams of the West Cameroonian. Its attempt at harmonizing the educational systems in 1984 continued even amidst stiff resistance at concept. The punches Cameroun aims at West Cameroon subsystem of education, even though gloved cannot hide their below the belt nature. Cameroun Republic has remained a trickster for 56 years and is not ready to quit its bad manners even with the Commission on Bilingualism and Multiculturalism.

Naïve folks would ask why we would not give the new commission a chance. If this commission was created as a duo cocktail or panacea to solve the Anglophone problem, then it might be the right medicine for a different problem. It is clear that there has been a misdiagnosis of the Anglophone problem; consequently the prescription would be wrong.

At the end of the first plenary session of the commission on 28 April 2017, the Right Honorable Peter Mafany Musonge said the commission hoped to bring Cameroonian peoples together around the same table. He said he is not from Manyu but he likes eating eru just like eating kwem from the centre region. The current Anglophone problem and the grievances of West Cameroonians should not be diluted in this way to bring it down to the level of food and epicurean delights.

President Biya has chosen to recycle his friends, in his hope to maintain the status quo; Le chien aboit la caravanne passent. Very callous indeed! This is saying protests, ghost towns and barking dogs would not stop the stubborn bull from marching on. Why would he not look beyond his circle of friends who have created all the mess in Cameroun? He could even have set up a commission including members of the consortium.

The Anglophone problems are not going away yet even with the creation of the Commission on Bilingualism and Multiculturalism. It is the right medicine for the wrong illness.

Fon Christopher Achobang
Social Commentator, Human rights activist
The Cameroons

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