Western imperialism as the root cause of major conflicts in Africa.The Case of the Cameroon-Anglophone Conflict
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1.1. Background to the Study
At the dinner table in Berlin, hosted by Germany in 1884-1885 to 14 guests whose meal was solely the rich continent of Africa, European or Western imperialists before the scramble had started the problems most third world countries have been going through particularly Africa‘s condition now. This conference whose sole aim was to distribute the African continent to the major European actors at the time, did not take into consideration the heterogeneity of the African continent and did not see Africa too as a continent of people who matters. At the dawn of the industrial revolution in Britain, Europe became in need of natural resources to feed and keep their industries growing while cheap labour was at this time obsolete. This search for raw material led to the creation and conquest of other states which today are considered colonies and ushered in imperialism. From the academic lenses of Thomson (2010:25), the main objective of European countries was to satisfy their economic interest, with each of them competing to get the biggest and the richest colonies. As such, in order to avoid intra-European wars, colonialists held conferences at Berlin in 1884-1885 for the peaceful partitioning of Africa. Accordingly, the continent was divided in the following manner the North, west and central Africa was given to France; a great part of west, east, central and southern Africa to Britain; Portugal on her part took the territories of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau; while Congo was handed to King Leopold of Belgium; Italy forged control over Libya, Eritrea and part of Somalia; Spain controlled north Morocco, the Spanish Sahara and Spanish Guinea; and, Germany took areas in the southwest and the east of the continent as well as Cameroon and Togoland meanwhile Ethiopia and Liberia were untouched (ibid: 12). Imperialism created many political problems. European nations disrupted many traditional political units and united rival peoples under single governments that tried to impose stability and order where local conflicts had existed for years, such as in Nigeria, Eritrea and Ethiopia, Sudan, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leon, Somalia and Somaliland, Burundi, Guinea Bissau, Lesotho, Senegal and Gambia, Tanganyika and Zanzibar and even Cameroon of recent. Ethnic conflicts that developed in the latter half of the twentieth century in many of these areas can be traced to these imperial policies. Imperialism also contributed to tension among the Western powers. Rivalries between France and Great Britain over the Sudan, between France and Germany over Morocco, and over the Ottoman Empire contributed to the hostile conditions that led to World War I in 1914.
Baah (2003:1), after looking at the situation, concluded that the scramble for Africa at the aforementioned Conference and other succeeding formation of many small countries in Africa was based on pure imperialist greed and voracious quest for wealth. This according to him resulted in arbitrary division of its people without taking into account the social cohesion which had kept Africans together for a long period of time (ibid). Africans were not consulted; rather, they were blindly divided to satisfy the selfish interest of those imperialists. In this same light Rodney (1973:231) affirms that colonialism was primarily intended to exploit the continent and send back profits to ‟the imperialists‘ home country‖.
Colonialism began as a result of changes in the mode of production in Europe (For example, the emergence of industrial revolution). This revolution ushered in a new process of production in place of the earlier slave-based economy. The industrial revolution was also a revolutionary trend in the history of mankind. The problem of how to lubricate machineries came up with the emergence of the industrial revolution. The slave trade and slavery have by this time fulfilled their basic function of providing the primitive capital.
The quest for the investment of the accumulated capital and the need for raw materials led to the colonization of Africa. With 10 political regions, Cameroon is a country geographically located between West and Central Africa. Eight of these regions are predominantly French speaking (Francophones) while two of these regions are English speaking-North West and South West Regions (Anglophones) respectively.
Over the years, it has been argued that nation building has not always benefitted the English speaking regions of Cameroon as English Cameroonians have not really been given the opportunity by the dominant Francophone government to explore their resources. (Piet J Konings 2005). The origin of friction between Anglophone and Francophone population in Cameroon can be traced back to the colonial era. Scholars like Awasom (1998), trace the genesis of the Anglophone problem in Cameroon back to World War I. To him, the unequal partition of the country between France and Britain, following the defeat of Germany in West Africa in 1916, ‗sowed the seeds of future problems‘ in that this accounted for ‗the ultimate emergence, in a reunified Cameroon, of an Anglophone minority and a French majority‘.
Originally under German rule, Cameroon was partitioned between the French and British into two territories, both governed as trusts. Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians were unified under a federal system in 1961 after a plebiscite was held in which voters were given a choice to join either Nigeria or Cameroon. It is worth mentioning that, among Anglophone Cameroonians, nearly 60 % of Anglophone in the majority –Muslim northern region voted to join Nigeria, while roughly 70 % of Anglophone in the majority- Christian southern region voted to join Cameroon. In 1972, under President Ahamadou Ahidjo, the federal system was abolished in favor of a united, Bilingual Republic. To this day, however, Anglophone regions are governed by Common law, whereas the rest of the country is governed by a civil code. Debates however over the extent to which the country is dominated by Francophone, what sub-national authorities that the two Anglophone regions should be granted and also activist groups and general politicking around the issues have been recurrent. Anglophones Cameroonians currently make 20% of the country‘s population and are undeniably underrepresented in President Paul Biya‘s government. Since taking power since 1982, less than 11% of the ministers appointed by Biya have been Anglophones. At present, just three of the 33 generals in the country and six of the 63% cabinet members are Anglophones. Even within districts government jobs are often given to Francophone appointees.
History alludes that, Cameroon was annexed on the 11th July, 1884 by the Germans. The territory comprised of a multiplicity of ethnic groups and polities which varied in size and administrative system. However, the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 in Europe further complicated the history of the country: Britain and France jointly invaded German Kamerun and defeated the Germans in 1916 and on 17th March, 1916 the territory was partitioned between the French and the British. The share of the British comprised of two disjointed, narrow strips of the territory in the West, stretching from Lake Chad to the Atlantic coast and bordering Nigeria. It was made up of about one-fifth of the total area and population of Cameroon. While the share of the French had the remaining four-fifths of the territory and population.
The League of Nations (LON) in 1922 sealed this division and authorized the British and French to administer their shares separately as mandated territory under the League of Nations, an arrangement which the United Nations later confirmed as UN trust territory. The French part of the territory became known as French Cameroun while the British section became known as British Cameroons which comprised of British Northern and Southern Cameroons and administered separately by the Northern and Eastern Regions of Nigeria respectively. In 1954, British Southern Cameroons ceased to be administered as an integral region of Eastern Nigeria when it gained a quasi-regional status from Nigeria. Three years later (1957), it became a full Region of the Federation of Nigeria. These arrangements almost led to the total neglect of British Cameroons in the political, economic and social development of the territory. This led to the rise of nationalist movements in British Cameroons which later culminated in a separate plebiscite in Northern and Southern Cameroons on 11th February, 1961. The plebiscite questions warranted the people to choose independence by joining either Cameroun or Nigeria. British Southern Cameroon voted overwhelmingly to join French Cameroun which had hitherto gained independence on 1 January, 1960 and became the Republic of Cameroun. British Northern Cameroon on the contrary voted to join the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The accession of independence and reunification of British Southern Cameroons with the Republic of Cameroun in 1961 led to the establishment of the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The constitutional arrangements that later ensued known as the Foumban Constitutional Conference gave birth to the Anglophone Problem
The 1961 Federal Constitution which was drafted at Foumban in 1961 laid the foundation of the Anglophone problem. Although it was approved by John Ngu Foncha (Prime Minister of Southern Cameroon and leader of the Anglophone delegation) and Ahmadou Ahdjo (President of the Republic of Cameroun and leader of the Francophone delegation), the constitution triggered the discord that has led to the clamour for separation by the Anglophones. The establishment of a loose federation was seen as the best option for British Southern Cameroonians since it would preserve the cultural identity and language of the two states. Moreover, the federation was to guarantee the evolution of a bicultural society in which the distinctive characteristics of the two Cameroons would be protected and preserved. Unfortunately for the Southern Cameroonians, their expectations were the exact opposite of what took place at Foumban: a centralized federation was created at the expense of the autonomy of the states. British Southern Cameroons‘ fate was sealed by articles 5, 6, 15, 47 and 59. Articles 5 and 6 deprived the states of control over various institutions such as administration, national defence, foreign affairs, higher education and scientific research. Articles 15 invested much power in the hands of the president at the expense of the states.
The President of the Federal Republic could when circumstances so required proclaim by decree a state of emergency. Article 47 stated in part that: ―Any proposal for the revision of the present constitution which impairs the unity and integrity of the Federation shall be inadmissible.‖ The other section of the said article 47 also stipulated that the president of the Federal Republic could revise the constitution after consultation with the deputies of the Federal Assembly. Article 59 holds that the constitution shall be published in French and English, the French text being more authentic. It is instructive to note that among other things the constitution failed to mention anything on revenue allocation in spite of the fact that West Cameroon would give up its sources of income and other revenue. This made West Cameroon to be entirely dependent on the federation especially Ahidjo as the Head of State.
1.2. Statement of Problem
Although the Industrial Revolution and nationalism shaped European society in the nineteenth century, Imperialism (the domination by one country or people over another group of people) dramatically changed the world during the latter half of that century.
Western imperialism oppressed black Africans in different ways; first as slaves and later as colonies. After brutally and inhumanely treating black Africans, the imperialists left the continent with long lasting chronic negative consequences which left Ali Mazrui as cited in Ayittey (2002:2) to conclude that ―almost everything wrong that has gone in Africa is the fault of colonialism and imperialism‖,.
One of the major colonial legacies which served as sources of many African problems is boundary. The borders of African states were made in the Berlin conference of peaceful partitioning of Africa by those who were strange to the continent based on their interest without taking into account the very interest and realities of African people They simply divided the continent to avoid intra-European war without analysing the culture, language, ethnicity, and nature of indigenous black Africans. Thus, they arbitrarily divided the boundary of states across the continent.
As a result of this, different heterogeneous groups having different language, ethnicity and culture were merged together and at the same time people having common language, ethnicity and culture were also disintegrated Like in Rwanda (Hutus, Tutsi and Twas) where the imperialist created and left in the minds of the citizens the idea of the ―us‖ and the ―they‖ that made them to see themselves as a better people while in the meantime saw the others as people from a distinct community, who are divided by their difference, culture and origin-the same is the case in Cameroon. Worst still, this has exacerbated to what we have now as the Cameroon Anglophone Conflict because this differences, heterogeneity and or identity have not been effectively and efficiently been managed which this has led us to the situation (conflict) we find ourselves.
On the management part, the government has not constructively explored the rich diversity she finds within her confine. The effects of imperialism still hover around up till date. The divide created during the partition still maintains up till date. The two systems of colonial rule still maintains up till now. While the British practices indirect rule, the French practiced Assimilation. The effect of this has resulted into two different cultures. The problem that these cultural diversity have caused is that the government have not fully recognized and utilized these as her strength but rather has further contributed to creating the divide among the citizens while at the same time struggling to assimilate the minority culture into the majority and if possible to erase such cultures. For example, on education, the government has continuously been deploying French speaking teachers to the English speaking regions who mostly are not to teach French related courses and/or subjects but rather English related subject and courses that they for themselves cannot fully express themselves, which is seen to the Anglophone Cameroonians as part of the assimilationist agenda. Also, the continuous deployment of French speaking judges and magistrates of civil law background to administer and pass judgement in common law courts with little mastery of the common law court system and the inefficient practice of bilingualism has left the common law judicial culture and English language to a second and/no position in Cameroon. This has strengthened the gap and continues to create the awareness of divide between the people of the Francophone and Anglophone in Cameroon. From the above the researcher posse the following research questions