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The Effect of Violence and Dialogue in Relation to the Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon

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The current crisis is a particularly worrying resurgence of an old problem. Never before has tension around the Anglophone issue been so acute.

The mobilization of lawyers, teachers and students starting in October 2016, ignored then put down by the government, has revived identity-based movements which date back to the 1970s.

These movements are demanding a return to the federal model that existed from 1961 to 1972.

Trust between Anglophone activists and the government has been undermined by the arrest of the movement’s leading figures and the cutting of the internet, both in January.

Since then, the two Anglophone regions have lived through general strikes, school boycotts and sporadic violence. Small secessionist groups have emerged since January.

They are taking advantage of the situation to radicalize the population with support from part of the Anglophone diaspora.

While the risk of partition of the country is low, the risk of a resurgence of the problem in the form of armed violence is high, as some groups are now advocating that approach.

The government has taken several measures since March – creating a National Commission for Bilingualism and Multiculturalism; creating new benches for Common Law at the Supreme Court and new departments at the National School of Administration and Magistracy; recruiting Anglophone magistrates and 1,000 bilingual teachers; and turning the internet back on after a 92-day cut.

But the leaders of the Anglophone movement have seen these measures as too little too late. International reaction has been muted, but has nevertheless pushed the government to adopt the measures described above.

The regime in Yaoundé seems more sensitive to international than to national pressure. Without firm, persistent and coordinated pressure from its international partners, it is unlikely that the government will seek lasting solutions.



1.1 Background to the Study The economic, political and social consequences of civil wars are immense. War displaces population, destroys capital and infrastructure, disrupts schooling, damages the social fabric, endangers civil liberties, and creates health and famine crises. Almost 750,000 people die as a result of armed conflict each year (Geneva Declaration Secretariat, 2008), and more than 20 million people were internally displaced by civil wars at the end of 2007 (UNHCR. 2008). Any of these effects will have considerable consequences for long-term development outcomes, including the educational attainment of populations exposed to violence. In the broadest sense, conflict can be defined as forceful interaction as a result of opposing views. 

Armed conflict often destroys and damages schools and educational infrastructure. Conflict results in decreased access to schools, preventing the opening of schools, threatening children’s security and increasing teacher absenteeism. The World Bank reports that as a result of the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina, 50 percents of its schools required repair or reconstruction (Buckland, 2005). 

Conflict affects countries such as Somalia and Sudan, access to good quality education is seriously imperiled, not only due to the direct effects of fighting, but also because schools, teachers, students and staff are often targeted by violent attacks. The types of attack include the burning, shelling and bombing of schools, the occupation of schools by armed forces, the murder, torture, abduction and rape of teachers, students, education aid workers and school staff by armed groups or military forces, and the forced recruitment of child soldiers (O‟Malley, 2007, 2010). These attacks lead to the death of teachers and students, the destruction of infrastructure, and result also in severe psychological trauma to those exposed to them. The quality of education also suffers due to shortages in basic necessities, such as food and water and school materials, especially in areas bordering the conflict that may experience an influx of refugee or internally-displaced students. As is often the case, the academic year may be interrupted or shortened due to conflict (Shemyakina, 2006).

The Anglophone Problem, as it is commonly referred to, is a socio-political issue rooted in Cameroon’s colonial legacies from the Germans, British, and the French. 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 22nd December 2016, in a letter to Paul Biya, the Anglophone Archbishops of Southern Cameroons define the Anglophone problem as follows: The failure of successive governments of Cameroon, since 1961, to respect and implement the articles of the Constitution that uphold and safeguard what British Southern Cameroons brought along to the Union in 1961.  Konings, Piet (1997). “The Anglophone Problem in Cameroon”, (The Journal of Modern African Studies). The flagrant disregard for the Constitution, demonstrated by the dissolution of political parties and the formation of one political party in 1966, the sacking of Jua and the appointment of Muna in 1968 as the Prime Minister of West Cameroon, and other such acts judged by West Cameroonians to be unconstitutional and undemocratic. Ndi Anthony 2014(Southern West Cameroon Revisited 1950-1972). The cavalier management of the 1972 Referendum took out the foundational element (Federalism) of the 1961 Constitution. 

The 1984 Law amending the Constitution, which gave the country the original East Cameroon name (The Republic of Cameroon) and thereby erased the identity of the West Cameroonians from the original union. West Cameroon, which had entered the union as an equal partner, effectively ceased to exist. The deliberate and systematic erosion of the West Cameroon cultural identity, which the 1961 Constitution sought to preserve and protect by providing for a bi-cultural federation.

Since 2015, several associations of lawyers have denounced the lack of translation of major laws and the increased appointment of francophone magistrates in the Anglophone regions who were untrained in common law and the English language. Similarly, teachers have expressed long-standing grievances against the presence of francophone teachers in primary and secondary schools in Anglophone regions and in Anglophone universities. The immediate incidents that sparked the prevailing conflict occurred in October 2016. According to international news reports, large numbers of Anglophone lawyers and teachers went on strike to protest what they saw as government-backed attempts to marginalize traditional English practices within Anglophone courts and schools. (Aljazeera October 2016) These movements coalesced into a larger protest against the central government and demands for the return of federalism. Rather than engaging in dialogue with the protesters or seeking to address concerns, the Cameroon Government was reported to have responded with a heavy-handed crackdown on dissent (Al Jazeera2016). This led to an escalation of tension and further clashes into 2017, which resulted in several deaths and numerous government and civilian properties destroyed. The Government was then reported to suppress anti-francophone views by arresting activists and cutting internet provisions in the two Anglophone regions for several months. (Abdi Latif Dahir ‘African countries disrupt internet connectivity more than anywhere else.’ Quartz Africa, 19th November 2018). The violent government crackdown, alongside the arrest and imprisonment of prominent Anglophone activists, led to a breakdown in negotiations in 2017 that were intended to end the escalating conflict. (C. Nna-Emeka Okereke ‘Analyzing Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis.’ (2018) 10/3 Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses).This crisis has greatly affected education in the country and particularly in the North West and South West regions where it is reported that close to 600,000 children have been prevented from going to school since 2016 and only about 19% of primary and secondary schools are open across the north west and south west regions of Cameroon (report from United Nations agencies 2019). Since 2017, armed separatist groups have enforced a boycott of education in the country’s two English-speaking regions, as part of a perverse attempt to pressure the government to get greater political recognition. 2017 saw arson and attacks on schools linked to the protests and boycotts spreading through the Anglophone areas in reaction to the government’s perceived discrimination against the Englishspeaking population. The International Crisis Group (ICG) reported in December 2017 that armed “self-defense” groups had begun carrying out arson attacks on schools, as well as shops and markets.

War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale; war therefore is an act of intended violence to compel our opponent to fulfill our will” (Clausewitz et al, 2008, pg.12). There are several causes of political crises or civil unrest in states across the world and in Africa where the population riots, protests or revolts against a regime due to numerous reasons ranging from autocracy, underdevelopment, unemployment, salary increase or a change in the ruling order. The Anglophone crisis in Cameroon also known as the Ambazonian,  is a conflict between the Southwest (SW)/Northwest (NW) regions of Cameroon (Southern Cameroon) and the Cameroon government following their request for self-rule. 

One of the major strategies used by the Cameroonian government was done by organizing what President Paul Biya termed “THE MAJOR NATIONAL DIALOGUE”. This dialogue was held from 30th September to 6th October 2019 in Yaoundé, as an attempt to end the crisis killing many in the Anglophone regions of the country opening plenary session of the dialogue was chaired by his Excellency Joseph Dion Ngute, the Prime Minister, and head of Cameroonian government according to. This great step by the president was applauded by some individuals but at same time looked by others as fake and unserious. This notwithstanding, a series of proposals was however suggested at the dialogue with aim of ending the crisis. The suggested proposals are: The adoption of a special status for the two Anglophone regions, The restoration of the House of Traditional Chiefs, The election of local governors, The immediate re launch of certain airport and seaport projects in the two Anglophone regions, The rapid integration of ex-combatants into society, The name of the country be returned to the former name, the United Republic of Cameroon, Implement the law that government officials declare their assets, in order to tackle corruption.

 A major outcome of the national dialogue was the idea of granting a “special status” for the English-speaking population of Cameroon. This was decided at the house of parliament in a bid to stop the violence perpetrated by the separatist’s fighters in the restive Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon. According to members of the parliament, the above mentioned regions were to benefit from a “special status” due to their “linguistic particularity” and historic “heritage”. The legislation specifically made mention of the educational and the judiciary system to be those areas to benefit from this special status, but this offer was rejected by many and equally perceived by the founder for Humans Rights and democracy for Africa, Agbor Balla as not being a perfect measure to end the on-going crisis. Agbor Balla however believed the best action to be taken by the government as per ending the crisis is by creating a two-state federation as he says: “A two state federation is the solution to the crisis. Any other solution be it decentralization, 10 state federation or a special status are only stop-gap measures. We shall have to go back to the drawing board to address the fundamental issues”. In September 2017, the separatists in SW and NW declared their independence of Ambazonia and began to fight against the Government of Cameroon. On the surface of what has been dubbed the “Anglophone Crisis”, one will think it’s simply a clash of two cultures or languages, but it goes far deeper and farther back than that.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

 A problem statement is a concise description of an issue to be addressed or a condition to be improved upon. It identifies the gap between the current (problem) state and the desired (goal) state of a process or product (Kush, Max June 2015).

The impact created by the Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis is of great concern, both locally and nationally. The Violence has been witnessed progressively since 2016 to present, and has kept recurring periodically. The Anglophone crisis has brought enormous sufferings in terms of death or displacement of teachers, staff, student and destruction of schools. For example when schools close due to conflict normal learning is affected hence quality education and performance cannot be achieved. The Cameroon government called for a National dialogue, which began on September 30th 2019.This dialogue was called to address the Anglophone crisis which brought about untold sufferings on citizens residing in the English speaking Regions and Cameroon as a whole. But however, those pertinent issues that brought about the crisis were not addressed which has further led to tensions with armed groups and the Cameroon army.

Measuring influence of perennial armed conflict is not an easy task. However, it can be measured using various indexes (Nicolai and Triplehon, 2003). During crisis, education for children and the youth are affected and interrupted. The safety of the learners and the teachers is critical in the Anglophone regions. This study therefore, sought to establish the influence of the Cameroon’s on students’ performance education in the Anglophone regions, as none has been conducted so far. These two regions of Cameroon have borne the brunt of the conflict more than any other Hence the choice of the North West and south west regions. Which also involves the effect of violence and conflicts with regards to the Anglophone crisis how it has increased the level of insecurity, displaced of persons, derailing the economy of state, hindered social amenities and also destruction of properties.

The Anglophone crisis is not a thing that is hidden anymore as many schools have been shot down in areas like Mile 16 and Muea, Tole and nearby villages and students have dropped out of school Families have relocated to the Francophone areas especially to Douala and Yaoundé, areas such as Mile 16, Muea, Lyongo, Mile 15, Mile 14, Bova and other villages are highly deserted and there is unceasing ghost town imposed on the population. According to the U.N, over 161,000 persons have been internally displaced due to the crises.  Detainees also are also paying the price for the non-resumption of activities by the Common Law Lawyers as they inevitably stay behind bars more than they would, had they advocates to plead their cases and little has been done to resolve this issues which is a call for concern.

1.3 Research Questions

  1. How has the socio-political effect of the Anglophone crisis influenced displaced of individuals in the Northwest and South West Regions of the country?

2) What is the relationship between the Anglophone crisis and the level of insecurity in the Northwest and South West Regions of the country?

  1. What are the attempted solutions taken by the government to resolve the long lasting conflict?


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