THE CONSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ANGLOPHONE CRISIS IN CAMEROON
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Peace is not a natural attribute of man. Disputes and crisis are bound to occur; States just like man are conflict prone. The German government and the traditional Douala chiefs signed a treaty in July 1884, establishing a protectorate called Kamerun. Its territories were shared following the German defeat at the end of the First World War.
The League of Nations appointed France and Britain as joint trustees of Kamerun. The Anglophone problem as well as a number of other weaknesses in present day Cameroon has its roots in the colonial period, the process leading to the reunification of Cameroon is the heart of the Anglophone crisis.
The 1961 constitution instituted a bijural legal system largely dependent on our colonial past. Thus, the former west Cameroon adopted the British inclined common law system otherwise known as the adversarial system while the former East Cameroon adopted the French inclined civil law system known as the inquisitorial system.
For example case law and codified law respectively. Barely eleven years after the adoption of the federal constitution, was a referendum organised in 1972 leading to the unitary constitution
The autocratic nature of Ahidjo’s regime helps to explain why the inhabitants of Cameroon voted massively for the draft constitution, and hence the immediate establishment of the United Republic of Cameroon.
This chapter introduces a brief constitutional and political evolution of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon and its background, the statement of the problem relating to the study, the significance of the study, the objectives set out, the research methodology employed and the scope of the subject.
Worthy of note is that this research would lay particular emphasis on the legal aspects of the crisis
1.1 Background to the study
Constitutional and political crisis have been a global phenomenon that has befallen many nations. Especially when a dispute or an interpretation or violation of a provision in the constitution between different branches of government is involved. A constitutional and political crisis may threaten to break down government function
Constitutional and political crisis may arise from conflicts between different branches of government, conflicts between central and local government, or simply conflicts between various factions within society.
A constitutional crisis can paralyse the functioning of the state leading to the eventual collapse of the government, business as well as the loss of political legitimacy and to a civil war.
A constitutional and political crisis is different from a rebellion where political factions outside the government challenge the government sovereignty as in a revolution or a coup d’état led by a military or by civilians
From the aforementioned points, constitutional and political crisis may arise as a result of conflict between different branches of the government, constitutional crisis often arise from dictatorial governments, constitutional and political crisis also arise from conflict between central and local government, dispute over the interpretation of the constitution, failure to respect some sections of the constitution
Constitutional and political crisis may arise from certain causes. For example, a government may want to legislate on a law that which is contrary to the spirit of the population as well as contrary to the will of the people.
Specific examples to justify this include the South African coloured vote constitutional crisis in the 1950s, the controversial dismissal of the Australian federal government in 1975 and Ukrainian constitutional crisis
Several authors have tried to explain the emergence and development of what has been called the “ANGLOPHONE PROBLEM”.
Its cause may be traced to world war one after the German Kamerun protectorate (1884-1916), Britain and France emerge as victors. Britain and France sign the treaty of London partitioning Cameroon between them.
Significantly, the British territory was much smaller than the French, comprising only about one fifth of the total area and population of the former German colony.
Importantly, it laid the historical and spatial foundation for the construction of Anglophone identities in the territory, the population of Anglophone Cameroon begins to see themselves as a distinct community define by differences in languages, inherited colonial tradition of education, law, public administration and world view
With the approaching independence of Nigeria in 1960, the population of the British trust territory was to decide on its political future. It was evident that majority of southern Cameroonians opted for the creation of an independent state,
their express wish was not honoured because of division among the Anglophone political elite and the united nations refusal with complicity of the British not to put the option of an independent southern Cameroon to the independent votes at the UN-organised plebiscite of 11 February 1961 on the grounds that the creation of another tiny state was politically undesirable and likely to contribute to a further balkanisation of Africa.
Southern Cameroonians had to be given a choice they had to accept whether they liked it or not: independence by joining Nigerian or reunification with francophone Cameroon which had become independent in 1960 with the new name of the republic of Cameroon.
During the constitutional talks at Foumban in July 1961, Pierre Messmer, one of the last French high commissioners in Cameroon and a close advisor of President Ahmadou Ahidjo, pointed out that he and others knew at the time that the so-called federal constitution provided merely a “sham federation”, which was “safe for appearance, an annexation of West Cameroon (the new name of the former Southern Cameroons
Representatives of Southern Cameroons and the president of the Republic of Cameroon, Amadou Ahidjo, met at Foumban in the present day west region from 17 until 21 July 1961 to negotiate the terms of reunification.
Even today, the failure to keep the promises made at the Foumban conference, which did not produce a written agreement, is among the grievances of Anglophone militants. The Anglophone representatives thought they were participating in a constituent assembly that would draft a constitution guaranteeing an egalitarian federalism and a large degree of autonomy to federated states.
However, the final result reveals mischief on the part of the East Cameroon delegation who had ferried a semblance of their constitution. The Anglophones, who were in a weak position, accepted Ahidjo’s constitution and only obtained a blocking minority by way of concession,
There is a general tendency among Anglophones to blame the Francophone elite for the entire Anglophone crisis; it cannot be denied that Anglophone political leaders have the responsibility for the Anglophone predicament.
Apparently, when they realised that their influence within the federated state of West Cameroon was beginning to be whittled down, they started competing for Ahidjo’s favours and aspiring to positions of power within the single party and the federal government and eventually within the unitary state, thus blatantly neglecting the defence of West Cameroon’s autonomy and interests.
1.2 Statement of the problem
Provisions of the constitution have been violated several attempts by legal scholars and legal practitioner’s like Barrister Ayah Paul Abine to ensure the respect and application of the constitution has most often than not lead in to futility. The organisation of a referendum in 1972 was considered as a French affair, this was in total violation of the federal constitution, and this and more has led to Anglophone agitation
Several attempts by Anglophone jurist to have judicial independence and ensure the respect of the 1996 constitution as amended in 2008 have failed. The 1996 constitution in its article 1(3) stipulates that The Official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status.
The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavour to protect and promote national languages. There is a gross disrespect of the aforementioned article, this is because official documents are most often than not published in French and presidential speeches are always in French.
The so called bilingualism and multiculturalism commission does not have powers to sanction.
However, the common practice in Cameroon today is freedom of speech but no freedom after speech, Anglophone journalist are being restricted from giving objective reports, those who attempt to report objectively are being arrested, tortured and send to prison,
However, another problem identified is that of political powers. Those in power have twisted the law to favour them.
The judiciary is indirectly controlled by the current executive which is contrary to article 37 of the 1996 constitution as amended in 2008. failure to officially translate the OHADA law to English is another problem identify in these research paper
Under no circumstances shall any person be subjected to torture, to cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment; this is rarely put in to practice , during the 2016 peaceful protest in the university of Buea, students were arrested, tortured and send to congested prison cells.
1.3 Research questions
Based on the problems identified above a number of critical questions can be posed:
- What is the Anglophone crisis?
- What are the causes of the Anglophone Crisis?
- How far has the Anglophone crisis evolved socio-politically and culturally?
- What are the various institutional and political reforms that emerge in the reign of the Anglophone Crisis?
- What are the possible recommendations to be made in order to address the Anglophone Crisis?
1.4 Aims and objectives
The objective of this research shall be divided into two, Specific and general objectives.
- The general objective will be to examine critically and propose solutions to the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon
The specific research questions that this work intends to clarify are shortlisted below
- To establish and identify the causes of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon
- To underscore the extent to which the Anglophone crisis has evolved socio politically and culturally
- To examine the various institutional and political reforms that emerged in the reign of the Anglophone Crisis?
- To propose solutions and recommendations to the Anglophone crisis
Further reading:Rectification and reconstitution of civil status Certificate in Cameroon
The consequences of arbitrary arrest and illegal detention: case of the Buea central prison