Cameroon: Conflict Profile
From a geographical point of view, Cameroon is located under the armpit of Africa. It is bounded by Nigeria to the West, Chad to the North, Central African Republic to the East and with Equatorial Guinea, Republic of Congo (Congo Brazzaville), and Gabon to the South. Cameroon lies between latitude 10 and 13N (North) and longitude 8 and 17E (East). Cameroon is often considered as “Africa in miniature”. It comprises all major climates and vegetation of the African continent, such as coast, desert, mountains, rainforest and savannah.
The country is endowed with many mineral resources. Soils and climate on the coast encourage extensive commercial plantation of cash crops such as tea, banana cocoa, coffee, rubber, and palm oil. The South West region has the biggest parastatal corporation, the Cameroon Development Corporation (C.D.C.) which is the second employer in the country after the government. Apart from this, an estimated 75% of the population is rural and depends on subsistence agriculture for their livelihoods. The cultivation of crops is still highly manual. Mechanical farming is still a luxury to most small scale famers. Much of Cameroon’s export is on agricultural products and the E.U. is a main importer of Cameroon’s production. Other resources Cameroon enjoys are petroleum, timber, copper, and cotton, along with diamonds, that have recently been discovered in the Eastern part of the country. Cameroon is a major supplier of stable food in countries such as Gabon, Nigeria, and Equatorial Guinea, who rely at times mostly on these supplies in their markets. Food stuffs like Yams cassava, plantains, potatoes, maize, and beans, are marketed to these neighboring countries. Agriculture thus remains the main source of revenue for over 75% of the population.
In Cameroon the average rural drinking water access rate is estimated at 45% compared to 77% in urban areas. The population with access to adequate sanitation services is estimated at 13.5% in rural areas compared to 17% in urban areas. Hence, Cameroon is still far from meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets in this area. The government in 2007, in a bid to address this problem, adopted a rural drinking water supply and sanitation (DWSS) policy and a 2008 -2015 action plan, with a view to attaining an access rate of 80% for drinkable water supply (DWS) and 60%for sanitation in rural areas.
The population of Cameroon was 19,522,000 in 2009, according to the UN population census. The population is almost evenly distributed between the urban and rural areas, although recent trends show that there is a steady rise in rural exodus. The urban population growth rate stands at 58% of the total population with an urbanization rate of 3.3% annual rate of change. The largest cosmopolitan cities are Douala Yaoundé, and Garoua. Douala is the economic capital and about 75% of the industries are located there. The Cameroon population as of 2009 was estimated to be growing at an annual 37.2 per 1000 and the crude death rate is at 15 per 1000. Population trends show Cameroon has a very young population. For instance, 40.6% of the country’s’ total population is younger than 15 years, while 55.9 % of the people are of ages between 15 and 64. Only 3.6% of the population is of ages above 65 years. The infant mortality rate as per 2010 stood at 94 per 1000, while life expectancy at birth for the total population is 54.4 years. However, female expectancy stands slightly higher than that of the males, with and expectancy of 54.9 years, against 53.21 years for males. AIDS prevalence among adults as per 2007 was rated at 5.1%. Besides the prevalence of AIDS, major infectious diseases among the Cameroonian society as of 2009 statistics includes food and water borne diseases, such as bacterial and protozoal diarrhea, hepatitis A.E, and typhoid fever. Schistosomiasis is very common among water borne diseases. Respiratory problems include Meningococcal meningitis, while the most common disease as the result of animal contact is Rabies. Like many African countries, Cameroon has more than 250 ethnic groups. These ethnic groups can be regrouped into five regional –cultural Divisions.
- The western Highlands (Semi- Bantu), including the Bamileke Bamum and the many Tikar groups in North West, which constitute about 38% of the total population
- Coastal tropical forest peoples. This category includes predominantly the Bassa, Douala, and the many other indigenous groups of the South West region that constitute approximately 12% of the total population.
- The Kirdi who are the non-Islamic people of the Northern desert and the central highland. This category makes up about 18% of the population.
- The Southern tropical forest peoples. This category includes predominantly the Beti, Bulu, Fang, and the Baka pygmies. They all make up about 15% of the Cameroon population.
- The Islamic groups of the Grand North of the Sahel and central highlands including the Fulani. This category makes up about 14% of the population.
Administratively, it is divided into 10 regions, among which the Grand North, made of three administrative regions, is predominantly Muslim. The other seven regions practice predominantly Christianity or African Traditional beliefs. From a religious perspective, about 20% of the country’s total population is Muslim, 40% Christian, and 40% are of indigenous beliefs; however, these categories are not neatly divided, as traditional beliefs are often mixed among either Christians or Muslims. Even the Christians and the Muslims in some regions are to an extent intermingled. The percentage of illiterates in Cameroon varies significantly according to region, ranging from 44.3% in rural areas to 12.2% in urban areas. Over all, illiteracy rate is higher among women than men. Some regions have higher illiteracy rate than others. For instance, the Northern part has a record of high illiteracy rate with 60% and 68% for Adamawa and Far North Regions respectively.
Cameroon’s administrative seat is Yaoundé in the Center region. The administrative framework of Cameroon is built on a supposed decentralized unitary presidential Republic. The president is the Head of State and Head of Government, with shared constitutional powers with the Prime Minister. The executive powers are controlled by the government, who co-share the legislative powers with the National Assembly at the same time. With the increased pressure from the civil society in 1990, multiparty politics was re-introduced in the 1990s, which led to the country’s first multi-party presidential and legislative election. The presidential prerogatives in Cameroon include the right to appoint and dismiss cabinet members, judges, generals, regional governors, prefects, sub prefects and also the head of Cameroon parastatals. He also holds the right to object to some laws not found worthy, to declare the state of emergency and to endorse state spending without consulting the National Assembly. The judiciary in Cameroon is far from being independent, since it is closely checked by the executive branch under the Ministry of Justice. The powers of the Supreme Court to assess the constitutionality of any law can only be operational with due permission from the president. Despite the much talked about decentralization of powers to local areas through local government, it is more of a myth than a reality, since almost all employees of such local government are automatically employees of the central government through the ministry of territorial administration and decentralization, from which the local government also get their funding. However, it is also important to know that traditional rulers, courts, and councils still play a major role in the exercise of government functions. Traditional courts still play a major role in domestic property and probation laws. Tribal laws and customs are honored in the formal court system as long as they do not conflict with national laws.
The strength of the opposition in Cameroon is represented in the Social Democratic Front (S.D.F.) that has contested for two decades. However, their best attempt to victory was in 1990, when they claimed they won the presidential election but were deprived of that victory by the CPDM regime. Cameroon today has about 260 registered political parties. While Cameroon has failed to organize a transparent election in the past years, many critiques have been sharp to raise their voices if the much disenchanted opposition could dismantle the unpopular ruling party in Cameroon. The frustration and failure of the opposition has been very evident in the several abortive attempts to present a unique candidate for the presidential elections. This abortive attempt is, to many, the last straw on the camel’s back especially in a country where the constitution rules out any re-run of elections. Each of such attempts has been marred with scandals of sellouts and traitors within the opposition.
While Cameroon has a very weak civil society with weak trade union labor movements, youth associations, farmers’ groups or women’s organizations, the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) has stood out clear in their challenge of the legitimacy of the regime. This opposition comes exclusively from the former British Southern Cameroon. They have used protest and other means to demand what they call “the francophone domination”. This partly explains why the Anglophone regime plays host to the strongest opposition party and also the strongest pressure groups or social movement, the SCNC. Cameroon faces many of the serious problems confronting other under developed countries, such as stagnant per capita income, a relatively inequitable distribution of income, a large top civil service, endemic corruption and an unfavorable climate for business since 1990. All these have made more than 48% of the population live below poverty line. Cameroon suffers a chronic unemployment rate of 30% with a labor force that is predominantly agriculture in a nature with about 70%, with only 13% and 17% for industries and services respectively. Total electricity consumption as estimated in 2008 stood at 4/883 kWh, which has affected the industrial production growth rate at 4% partly as a result of power failure or shortage. The majority of the rural population is cut out from electricity supply.
Manifestation of Conflict in Cameroon
The manifestation of frustration in Cameroon has cut across all ages and sex groups that constitute the civil society. This has often been by way of outright cry and demonstration by the general public to expose some of the igneous and ill faith administrative decision. The pre and post presidential election demonstrations in 1992, and the subsequent Ghost town and the declaration of a state of emergency in some major cities, mostly in the Anglophone region like Bamenda and Kumba, are just a few of such manifestations.
Also the student strikes among the major state universities against what they student union calls poor governance and excess corruption within the university milieus like that of the university of Buea in 2005, and the 2008 civil demonstration against skyrocket food and fuel prices , or the increasing famer grazers’ problems in the North West as a result of lack of alternatives and the population’s turn to the scarce land resource for livelihood, are all sharp pointers that the country has not been heading in the right direction. While the foundation of peace in Cameroon is greatly shaken and threatened by the numerous administrative and Ethno-regional lapses and conflicts, be it the Grand North against the Centers or from the Sawas or the Anglo–Bami alliances or the Association of South West Chiefs (Swela) against the Northwest Fons under the umbrella of NOCUDA , the greatest threat to any peace in Cameroon remained and continue to be the Separatist advocates of the English Cameroon , the Southern Cameron National Council (S.C.N.C). The autonomous Anglophone movement SCNC created in 1995 to redress the Socio-Economic, political marginalization, has been immersed so far in several public protests and international litigations that threatened rigorously the much acclaimed national unity and integration, which in recent times has become the state rhetoric. The state, in response to these threats, partly in an attempt to foil the growth of this separatist group, has created retaliation policies such as “divide and conquer” politics, putting the elites from the two Anglophone Regions at loggerhead. Such ill intended politics have not only led to internal squabbles between North West and South West, but have regrettably manipulated land disputes, which in itself is a major source of conflict among some Ethnic Groups in the North West region, which is an opposition strong hold. All these are state attempts to suppress the rising voices against the gross injustices and a failed regime where only a few elites are privileged.
There is no peace without justice. Preaching peace, while at the same time creating, tolerating, or denying blatant injustices, is by definition contradictory. Nor could any community boast about peace outside of an institutional framework based on laws. In Cameroon, the attempt to make peace an absolute term by reducing it to the absence of war or of conflicts on large scale, and ignoring its necessary link with justice, is misleading.
The bases of conflict manifestation in Cameroon can be better understood from the context of the Greek Philosopher Aristotle, in his distinction of corrective justice and distributive justice. The former, corrective justice consists of treating everybody the same way, for example before the courts. The latter, distributive justice aims at equity, to treating each according to their needs. At the heart of this notion of justice lies the value of equality in terms of rights and dignities. The issue here is that the arbitrary as obtained in Cameroon is not equitable.
The basis of every manifestation in Cameroon springs from the fact that all other things being equal, people are not treated the same. Most conflicts in Cameroon, since after liberalization in the 1990s, constitute an element pointing to the conflict of interest. When and where such conflicts ever arose, the trend has been that the dominant party with the resources – which has always been the state or the dominant actors, always prevailed.
In a Cameroon faced with absolutely corrupt leadership coupled with an unbreakable inner circle, most of the population, especially youths, has begun to manifest high political apathy, withdrawing almost completely from political life as actors. They have been used only as cheer members of the crowd all along. This alienation has sporadically shown signs of a spark of violence in the past, with current trends that show such moves could be repeated. What should be noted is that their mind set is evolving, especially as they gain inspiration with each passing day following the world’s trajectories, like the recent Arab Spring that just swept away old dictators in North Africa and the Middle East. Also, the gaining of social media access to better articulate the grievances cannot be undermined.
The threat of any major crisis in Cameroon is buried on deep rooted politics of hatred and exclusion. This is characterized by persistent power struggle, a shadow democracy which is for the benefit of, at most, a few elites and their cronies. The population is carefully rendered poor to induce loyalty. Bad governance has made people to lose hold their own destinies.
Corruption, which has become a cankerworm, is widely manifested in the administrative and commercial services in all the nooks and crannies in Cameroon. Corruption is in itself a form of violence, as it transgresses the rule of law and violates Human Rights, since by its very nature it prevents the free use of the public services. This breeds deceit, the absence of public competitive spirits, and impunity, which affect all levels of the society.
Many of these new social orders in Cameroon are an embraced culture borne by acute poverty and, to an extent, greed. They are also caused by economic insecurities and betrayal of the few state elites, further made worse by the deficiencies in the exercise of public authority. This idea was well captured by the late Pope John Paul II, when in a visit to Brazil in 1980 he stated that “a society that is not socially just and does not strive to be so puts its own future at risk.”
Succinctly, the indicators of total dissatisfaction in Cameroon cut across the following burning issues;
- In 1999 the SCNC faction then led by Justice Ebong Alobwede took hostage of the Cameroon Radio and television (CRTV) Buea and declared the independence of the Federal Democratic Republic of Southern Cameroon. These actions took tensions high and close to threats that an open confrontation was imminent, but the imbalanced nature of power between the parties helped the government to suppress such a move. While tensions were still running high, the SCNC was invited for a commonwealth meeting for indigenous people in Durban South Africa that same year, but unfortunately, because of disunity, they could not make it.
- Deep separatist threats considering the vast ethnic diversity and the complex colonial cultures that sharply divide the country.
- High level of poverty
- A regrettable level of corruption across all section of the society
- Inequalities at a terrifying rate
- The erosion of every foundation of basic Human Rights in Cameroon.
- Absolute pessimism for any jobs for youths and the future generations
- Poor Education and agricultural policies in an agricultural oriented economy like Cameroon
- A deplorable health situation for citizens, especially the rural population.
The situation is further worsened when we consider the global version of peace expressed as a condition for deep satisfaction in terms of Human Rights, the capacity of economic creativity and sanitation. Education has the potential to build a truly sustainable development for a people, and an openly expressed satisfaction on how they are governed.
- The rise in petty and serious crimes mainly due to increasing social inequalities that has broken any hopes for peace.
- The population is increasingly disinterested and disappointed by everything related to politics.
- Insecurity is further worsening by the crippling economic situation of the country with a staggering 30% unemployment rate.
- Social services like portable water and electricity are a luxury and are very unaffordable to the majority, especially in rural areas. Basic needs of most Cameroonians are no longer met.
- The youths, with the help of all their family members at times, keep immigrating to any place they think will offer them opportunities.
- Fear as basis of decision making and as the driving force behind initiatives is taking over an ever larger place among potential stake holders in the society.
- Insecurity is experienced by the individual and by the community, but is being perceived and interpreted and analyzed through the regional and ethnic prisms, with the central theme of finding victims. Politicians from all the geopolitical regions are active catalyzers in enforcing these tendencies.
- There is constant manipulation of the civil society to the advantage of the few privileged ones.
Proximate causes of conflict
- The English region is endowed with natural resources in soils and climate which encourages extensive plantation agriculture of rubber, bananas, palm oil and tea. The English zone hosts the biggest parastatal, the CDC. This region is also rich in timber and petroleum products. It is expected that this region will go through a meaningful development. Unfortunately, this region has been left underdeveloped for the past 42 years. Rural areas have remained enclave without farm to market roads. This has tremendously affected rural productivity, which has as a result forced rural dwellers into abject poverty and mass rural exodus, as they cannot easily market their farm products.
- The Anglophones are equally frustrated that while oil resources come from their region, all oil related public corporations like SNH, SONARA, SCDP, and HYDRAC are predominantly found in French Cameroun and mostly staffed by Francophone Cameroonians.
- The increased frustration of the Anglophones have been the Francophone dominated state in the executive legislature and the judiciary with an increased monopolization of key post by members of the presidents’ ethnic group who appear to be bolder in staking out claims on state resources. A few elitist groups that constitute the minority, who often share the same ethnic origin with the president and other major ethnic groups, have confiscated state resources for their economic gains.
- Anglophones argue that even in situations where they are nominated, they are often designated to play subordinate roles, irrespective of meritocracy or competence. Till date, ministries such as those in charge of territorial administration, Armed Forces, Education, Finances, Industrial development and Foreign Affairs amongst others have never been headed by an Anglophone.
- The stagnated nature of the Anglophone problem in Cameroon is equally due to the divided nature of those that are masterminding the course of events. While almost pursuing the same goal, they have used very different channels like SCNC, SCAPO, SCYL, and ABAZONIA REPUBLIC. While some may be truly pursuing the need to redress the marginalized nature of the Anglophones, some are equally motivated by greed. This has made it easier for the state to penetrate their midst. These moves usually have seen sons and daughters of the two Anglophone regions appointed against each other to display anti regional sentiments. The continuous existence of these factional groups, each seeking to bring change, represent danger in Cameroon.
- Advocates of these different ideological groupings seeking to redress the political and economic exclusion have become targets and victims of the regime. Arbitrary arrest and detention has always characterized any of such peaceful protests.
- The main channels of grievances have been political parties who are more inclusive in nature with a wider interest than the other social movements the SCNC which advocate for outright secession. Other groups include Civil Rights groups, most of which have been championed by traditional rulers (Chiefs and Fons).
- The birth of the S.D.F. revived an Anglophone spirit of nationalism which had been passive for years, a revival that turned the Anglophone Community into a breeding ground for protests, and agitations advocating for equality in economic and political dispensations. The year 1991/1992 witnessed series of riots that culminated with the Ghost town that was declared in Bamenda as a result of strike actions orchestrated by S.D.F. demanding a national conference; and after, with the people’s frustration on the 1992 presidential elections, where the S.D.F. scored 86.3% and 51.6% in NW and SW provinces respectively. A later proclamation of a C.P.D.M. victory in an election that both the national and international observers proclaimed as an opposition victory sowed the seed of frustration and bitterness, which led to another series of violence.
- While the Anglophone problem has not blown to a full scale war with the use of arms, the intra-regional conflicts, somehow promoted by state propagandas as a strategy to foil united efforts against it, have seen serious human and material destruction with the use of local guns and machetes.
- Ethnic conflict that have characterized the region saliently motivated by political lineages since 1990 right up 2007 include the Babanki-Bambili , the Bambui-Fengi, the Awing-Baligham, the Mbessa-Oku and the Bawock-Bali Nyonga conflict. Each with a finger to point at the insurgence of the politics of ethnicity orchestrated by the regime in power.
- This occurs especially where the regime has failed and the people struggle for limited available resources.
- The ever declining level of democracy which has failed to guarantee any transparent election since the advent of the multi-party system has contributed to increasing the tension because their people do not see any change through the ballot box. This is made possible through the abusive use of the executive powers, rendering the National Assembly a rubber stamp with a caged judiciary who are all dependent on executive orders.
Root causes of conflict
As said, the notion of nation in Cameroon is very weakly constructed, with the genesis traced from the colonial trajectories of the two Cameroons that continued in the Ahidjo regime and reactivated in the new Biya era. This became very visible with the re- introduction of multi-party politics in 1990. The political and economic equation is therefore characterized by “divide and conquer” policies, leading to the proliferation and fragmentation of ethno–regional gaps.
The inequalities that resulted from the fusion between the dominant Francophone and Anglophone minority and a clamp down on opposing voices, especially minority groups and the ability of the state to exploit these vulnerabilities of regional fracturing, clearly mark the genesis of regional politics in Cameroon. The use of such “divide and conquer” policy became even more prominent when Ahidjo, in a bid to weaken a joined Anglophone against his unitary government reforms, decided to divide the Anglophone into two provinces, taking well into consideration their pre-colonial ideological lines. The president, just like his predecessor, continuously attempted with some degree of success to divide the Anglophones against themselves, often capitalizing on the existing contradictions between North West south West elites.
An outstanding cause of the Anglophone problem has been the evolution of the appellation of the union in 1961 and how it is referred to today. The United Nations mandate territory in 1919 changed to UN Trust Territory in 1946 after the Second World War.
In 1961, the two Cameroons through a UN supervised plebiscite voted to unite, which led to the new federal Republic of Cameroon. The year 1972 marked the beginning of the problems, as the union received a constitutional modification through a hijacked referendum in total violation of the federal constitution’s article 47, which rendered null and void any action that threatened the integrity of the federated state, being Southern Cameroon and la Republique du Cameroun. The appellation changed to United Republic of Cameroon. The final blow to their right to self-determination came in 1984 with the restoration of law 84/01. The succeeding president, Paul Biya engineered the Cameroon parliament to dissolve the 1961 federation and return to Cameroun, its original appellation before the union, under the name “LA REPUBLIQUE DU CAMEROUN“. This was the name of French Cameroun when they gained their independence in 1960 from France. This act stripped off the southern Cameroonians of their right to self-determination, which the Anglophone patriots fought vigorously through international bodies to uphold, as they piloted the southern Cameroonians into the 1961 federal institutions. Such a change made it clear that Anglophones were denied that common sense of belonging which they used to enjoy in their autonomous state in the 1950s. There is a distortion of historical evidences and facts to attest to the younger generations that two states formed a federal government in 1961, and that the union no longer exists simply because La Republique returned to its original appellation from before the union, changing the two stars in the country’s flag that represented the two states into one star to prove the existence of a fake unitary state, which in effect is the complete assimilation of a people against the original rules of engagement.
Briefly, what can be traced as root cause of the existing tension between the two Cameroons has been the erosion what could be considered as core Anglophone values, as the advocate for:
- A constitutional framework which guarantees and protects the basic rights of citizens including the right of assembly, association, free speech, and the right to information.
- A political system with checks and balances, transparent and accountable to institutions that ensure that rights are enjoyed by all and all are equal before the law.
- An economic justice system that ensures affordable access to health housing, education and opportunities to be productive.
- A secure environment that ensures the dignity of individuals, their right to dignified livelihoods and security.
- A Development framework that takes into cognizance the protection of the environment and people-centered development. It is important to note that each society or community develops some particular values which seem to guide their behaviors and reactions usually within a particular period of time; such values combined over time provides you a judgment of what is considered to be good. The above mentioned values and principles which exemplify the English Cameroonians as a colonial heritage from the colonial master are now all fading away. The need to uphold this remains imperative. Amongst others is the desire to keep this unique heritage of language and culture which is now being marginalized or eroded away by the Cameroun Republic, (Buea Declaration, 1993).
- These are all values that Anglophones uphold, which unfortunately today have fallen below standards and in some cases became completely extinct, with absolute marginalization of the minority.
Major Stakeholders in Cameroon Conflict
The Social Democratic Front (S.D.F.)
- Judging from the accumulated grievances of the Anglophones in the union regarding La Republique of Cameroun, it becomes rather obvious why the first veritable political party, which reigns till today surfaced in this part of the country as a result of a protracted economic and political exclusion and suppressions.
- In 1990, the Social Democratic Front (S.D.F.) emerged under the leadership of John Fru Ndi, launched in Bamenda, which saw the death of six innocent people, and the party triumphed against the will of the regime.
- This party had as part of the agenda to redress the Anglophone prejudices.
- The birth of the S.D.F. revived an Anglophone spirit of nationalism which had been passive for years, a revival that turned the Anglophone Community into a breeding ground for protests, demonstrations, agitations, advocating for equality in economic and political dispensations.
- It was as a result of the above reason that there was a total acclamation for the party especially in the 1990 presidential elections where S.D.F. scored 86.3% and 51.6% in NW and SW provinces respectively. A later proclamation of a C.P.D.M. victory, in an election both the national and international observers proclaimed as an opposition victory, sowed the seed of frustration and bitterness, which led to a further series of violence.
- However, this party was later seen to have spread its influence beyond a regional party, as it gained national acclamation and sympathizers. This was largely a result of the popularity of the National chairman Fru Ndi who presented himself as a state man who was in touch with the rich, poor, women, youths, and the elderly alike.
- Even though this party has lost the momentum and charisma it once possessed in the 1990s, partly because the people seem to lose confidence in a leadership which has hardly changed for over 20 years, they still remain the main opposition party in the country, as reflected in the representation at the national assembly.
Their main source of recruiting and mobilizing militants has predominantly been through political rallies and campaigns, with an exclusively civil leadership.
- Their defeat in the presidential elections of 1990 led to serious demonstrations, looting, and destruction.
- The year 1991/1992 witnessed a series of riots that culminated with the “ghost town” that was declared in Bamenda and other major Anglophone cities as a result of strike actions orchestrated by S.D.F. demanding for a national conference.
Position and interests
- Despite the enormous efforts of the S.D.F. to bring to the limelight what today is referred to as “the Anglophone problem” it was later seen to be more of a national rather than an Anglophone party to pursue the common interest of the English speaking Cameroonians. This was evident in the party’s growing interest in Francophone Cameroon.
- The party acknowledges the legitimacy of the Anglophone problem, which is very unique from other minority crises in the country based on their colonial legacies. However, the S.D.F. believes that the quest for autonomy is not an inclusive solution to the problem of poor governance and leadership in Cameroon as there are also other Ethnic minorities even within the Francophone regions still suffering heavily from marginalization.
- They advocate for a ten state federation, where every region in the country will autonomously be responsible for the socio economic empowerment of her people, with some residual powers reserved to the federal government. They believe that this will improve administrative efficiency, accountability, and, above all, economically empower the masses more.
- This party has attempted a coalition several times with other political parties, though it has often ended up in fiasco because of difficulties to establish a common leadership, partly due to the invisible hand of the government as they break through the oppositions.
The Southern Cameroon National Council (S.C.N.C.)
This movement came up shortly after the S.D.F. had agreed to go beyond the Anglophone problem.
- Subsequently the Anglophone problem came to be represented by associations that were created by the Anglophone elites in the aftermath of political liberalization in 1990.
- All this was the Anglophones’ attempt to lay on the table an agenda to redress the violation of the Foumban conference and the socio economic and political marginalization of the Anglophones as second class citizens. The gross marginalization and inequality in allocation of state resources, the frustration of political exclusion culminated therefore to the AACI and AACII respectively.
- The refusal of the Cameroon government to yield to negotiations based on the Anglophone agenda resulted in the birth of the SCNC which took a resolute stand to demand for their independence from La Republique du Cameroun.
- The political slogan still standing today is “the force of argument and not the argument of force”. This invariably portrays their readiness to enter into any dialogue with the government of Cameroon.
- While a good number of Anglophones hold political power, the SCNC as an Anglophone movement does not hold political power. Their activities constitute a threat to any peace in Cameroon which so far has only been held back by the power inequality between the government and their minimal resources.
- The movement has recruited members mostly through advocacy campaigns, conferences both home and abroad to motivate Anglophone sons and daughters to join the cause.
- While there are other very burning issues that threaten peace in Cameroon, they stand out to be the most threatening in the few past decades.
- 1996, the SCNC set the 1st October, by the former Ambassador Fussong, who was chairman at the time, as an independence day, which since then has been celebrated, and which often meets with violent clashes with state militia leading to casualties.
- In 1998, a delegation of two at the UNPO led by Prince Ndoki Mukete proved beyond any doubt to members that the Anglophones had a genuine case; however due to financial crisis that entangled the organization nothing could be done about the Anglophone case until later in the future.
- In 1999 the SCNC faction led by then Justice Ebong Alobwede took hostage of the Cameroon Radio and television (CRTV) Buea and declared the independence of the Federal Democratic Republic of Southern Cameroon. These actions took tensions high and close to a threat of an open confrontation, but the imbalanced nature of power between the parties helped the Francophone part to suppress such a move. While tensions were still rising, the SCNC was invited that same year for a commonwealth meeting for indigenous people in Durban South Africa, but unfortunately because of disunity they could not make it.
- In 2002, the Southern Cameroon People’s Organization (SCAPO) was created; they later in the same year tabled the Anglophone problem before a high court in Abuja seeking that their case be redressed in the UN General Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Human Rights charter.
- In 2003, all liberation movements attempted a coalition in Tiko to form a common front to lead the cause
- In 2004, based on the attempted coalition, a delegation led by SCNC/SCARM represented the Anglophone course at the UNPO and was given membership after a lengthy presentation and deliberation of their case.
- In 2005 the University of Buea witnessed a serious student crisis, which was aimed at redressing corruption and upholding the standards of the then only Anglo Saxon university in the country against francophonization.
- They have led demonstrations and protest matches in Cameroon and even out of the Cameroon, in Europe and North America. They have protested each time an occasion presents itself.
Position and interests
While the SCNC, as a movement, seems to represent the umbrella association that champions the quest for secession, other interest groups among the Southern Cameroonians have demonstrated to be quite at odds with this position.
- The SCAPO, SCYL, SCARM, represented mostly by SCNC at their international offensives hold the position of outright separation and independence of the Southern Cameroon.
- Another category is Anglophones whose roots are traceable in the French Cameroon, but who migrated to Southern Cameroon, escaping the UPC uprising during the decolonization of the French Cameroon in the early 1950 and 1960s. This category, however, constitutes a separate opinion, and seems to demonstrate weaker sentiments for the call for secession from the French Cameroon.
- Some South Westerners express skepticism for the call for an autonomous Southern Cameroon for the fear of North West domination. This category, even if discontented with the present union with the Francophone side, seems to rather cherish a ten state federation.
- The issue becomes even more complex when we look at the stands of Anglophone elites who serve within the present regime, who constitute uniquely a different unit among the Anglophones. The positions of these Anglophone elites and how they support the varying opinions is quite flexible, determined mostly by the envisaged benefits to the individual in question and not necessarily the collective interest. So far this category stands for the state rhetoric of a decentralized unitary state.
- While these positions may vary greatly, one thing remains obvious: despite their variation, they appear to have a common interest, at least most of them, which is to check against the Anglophone socio-economic marginalization and political exclusion which is right now very pathetic. They want to have a fair share of the state resources.
- Their call for outright independence only came up after all attempts to redress these problems had proven abortive.
The South West Elite Association (S.W.E.L.A) and North West Cultural and Development Association (N.O.C.U.D.A)
These are principally civil society groups within the two Anglophone regions that are predominantly made of the Elites, Chiefs in South West, and Fons in the North West, respectively.
- These groups represented mostly by chiefs and Fons have used these mediums to negotiate for the state limited resources, to whom they are believed to have an inalienable right to rule and maintain internal cohesion, on behalf of their followers.
- They are normally believed to serve as a check of excessive state incursion in the people’s traditional values guided by their native rules.
- These elite groups have also been used as regional instrument to canvas for state appointment for their sons and daughters into the government.
- These movements have also tried to preserve their regional autonomy amongst themselves. The South West elite association for example has continuously strived to check against what they called North West domination.
Position and interest
It is important to know that these are principally the mediums that the state has often penetrated to divide the Anglophones against themselves capitalizing on the existing contradictions between North West and South West elites.
- In this respect, following the AAC, some members of the South West chiefs’ conference and South West Elite Association (SWELA) had to establish their position as they tried to dissociate from the deliberations and resolutions of the AACS and the Buea declaration and eventually the SCNC.
- In a similar manner, the North West Culture and Development Association, (N.O.C.U.D.A) tried to dissociate the region from AACS’ claiming it was the brain child of the South West Elites.
- Leaders of these groups have constantly maintained a close relation with the ruling elite, as they use this medium to send motions of support to the regime and to pledge their unalloyed support to the regime.
- Leaders of SWELA mostly advocate for a ten region federation so that each region remains autonomous. South West, according to this school of thought, will be free in this way from the North West domination.
- On the other side, there is also another faction, more critical of government policies and supports the opposition. They advocate closer co-operation between the South West and North West elite as a necessary precondition for an effective representation of Anglophone interests.
The Central Government
This represents the legitimate government for Cameroonians across all cultural or ethnic lines. Even if their legitimacy comes through discredited and highly criticized elections and electoral laws, they remain to execute the functions of the state to both Anglophones and Francophones.
- The government, as stated before, has not sat back to watch the opposition and other social movements embark on moves to discredit their leadership.
- They have undertaken “divide and conquer” policies mostly in the opposition strong holds.
- Cameroonian politicians are exploiting cultural differences by engaging in political discourses that are pro ethnic, and that favor economic inequalities and social justice based on regional terms. Membership in such systems like that obtained in Cameroon is fashioned along regional consciousness and the labeling of non-members as outsiders.
- This approach has continuously characterized the relations between the English speaking regions that are constantly torn apart by the divided political strategies of the current system.
Position and interests
- While the French Cameroonians may sympathize in varying degrees with the Anglophone predicament, they are undoubtedly united against secession.
- The government of Cameroun backs the view against secession on grounds therefore, from the idea of a onetime German Cameroon, claiming to maintain the German territorial frontiers as it was before the First World War.
The very rich nature of the Southern Cameroon which is, so far, the economic life wire of the country with about 61% of the GDP, coming predominantly from the South West Region alone, one will undoubtedly attempt a conclusion that the need to secure these resources is the main reason for the state to be so reluctant to engage in any meaningful negotiations with the opposing camps.
Secondary actors may not necessarily be directly involved in the conflict, however they have a high degree of interest, and influence over the conflict in Cameroon. While the African Union, (AU) and the UN are international organizations that could considerably influence the course of events in Cameroon, France and Britain cannot be excluded considering their involvement in the political dynamics of the country – by this I mean their rule as colonial masters and the continuous relation that they have maintained with the country. The SCNC still believe that Britain should be able to ask the UN to grant their independence as some extremists of the movement still prefer to see themselves as UN trust territory rather than in their present status.
With the surmounting tension and pressure for political liberalization and a fair share in the national cake to the Anglophones, more civil actions began taking place. The EMIA-EMA group was formed, in which they tried to create a balanced constitution that would on the one hand give adequate protection of the Anglophones against the francophone domination and on the other hand take care of the division between the South Westerners and the North Westerners in Anglophone Cameroon. Despite all this, EMIA-EMA constitutional proposals came against the determined francophone majority, who refused to have a federal system of government. The failure of EMIA-EMA accord to yield any meaningful result precipitated the summoning of the All Anglophone Conferences, (AACI&II) in Buea and Bamenda in 1993 and 1994 respectively. This was aimed at taking a common Anglophone stand for the purpose of adopting a common Anglophone draft constitutional reforms and many other issues that were a stake in this part of the country. A constitution was drafted, which was to provide for political, financial, and economic autonomy of the two federated states, for the regions inside both states and the communities inside each region. They advocated as usual for separation of powers between the three arms of government, and a senate and a national assembly for each federated state. They spoke of a rotating presidency for the federal Republic, to propose that after a two consecutive mandate of five years each, an Anglophone was to succeed the throne. It was as a result of the refusal of this option that the Anglophones embarked for the zero sum option on 1995, which was the demand for total independence for southern Cameroon. It is important to note that the shift from federalism to secession was an extension of what happened at the second all Anglophone conference in Bamenda from 29th of April to 2nd of May 1994. The refusal of the government to engage in any meaningful dialogue with the Anglophones sowed the seed for Southern Cameroonians to request the restoration of the autonomous status as they once were, before joining the French section in the 1961 plebiscite. Delegates vowed to end the summoning of Anglophone conferences, then to transform the AAC to Southern Cameroon constituent assembly to seek their independence. Today, it is now known as Southern Cameroons National Councils, (S.C.N.C.). This movement has secured a place in the unrepresented people organization, (U.N.P.O.) and since 1995 several Anglophone delegations have been sent to the United Nations, a visit which was first made by Foncha and Muna who themselves were architects of the union in 1961 with French Cameroon. Their call was for a return of the trust territory, a status they enjoyed before the union.
To sum up:
- That absolute independence as the Anglophones have come to demand today has been as a result of the failure of any meaningful dialogue with the state of Cameroon.
- The core cause and motivation for tension has remained undisputedly the economic marginalization of the Anglophones with little access to economic empowerment, which has rendered the masses poor.
- On the other hand, to access a fair share in the nation’s wealth, the need for political power becomes a prerequisite if the Anglophones are to have a relatively strong bargaining power to equitably partake in the state resources.
- Another element that has promoted tension has been the role of some key actors on both sides. Some individuals have exploited the existing conflict by promoting and fueling tension for their own selfish gains.
- They manipulate the civil society and keep them relatively very poor to induce loyalty. It is through these techniques that they have promoted ethnic cleavages, all in an attempt to confiscate the limited resources to their selfish interest between them and their few cronies.
Peace Efforts and Outcomes
The main approach that has been solicited, ever since the Anglophone problem began, has been dialogue; unfortunately, this has not been reciprocated by the regime. Mbide Kude, the then vice national secretary of the SCNC accused the government of shying away from dialogue; “we are open to dialogue with the government, as the SCNC, not as individuals” The visit of then-UN secretary Kofi Annan to Cameroon in 2001, where he urged the government to dialogue, was an ample recognition and attempt to engage in dialogue, which failed. He said in a briefing before leaving Cameroon, in a press conference “I leave Cameroon with the impression that there is only one Cameroon, multilingual and multi ethnic. I encourage a dialogue of these stake holders. In every country there are problems of marginalization. The way it has to be solved is by dialogue and not by walking away” Previous statesmen like Adamou Ndam Njoya and Haman Garga Adji who had both served ministerial appointments, and are today presidential aspirants and leaders of political parties, had both agreed that if voted to power, they were to renegotiate with Southern Cameroon if real unity was to be achieved. In the same light, a 14-men delegation from Southern Cameroon also presented a case file at the African commission on human and peoples’ rights in accordance with its provisions of article 54. After a thorough hearing of both parties, the commission ruled that the state of Cameroon had violated articles 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7(1), 10, 11, 19, and 29 of the charter. However, contrary to the complainant, they had not violated the articles 12, 13, 17(1), 20, 21, 22, 23, (1) and 24 of the charter. Among many recommendations, the Banjul verdict recommended the Cameroon government to enter into dialogue with the complainants in particular SCNC and SCAPO to resolve the constitutional issues as well as grievances which could threaten national unity (The Banjul verdict 2009). This was yet another failed attempt to seat both parties at the table for dialogue, which has kept angers still high and threatened any peaceful co- existence of the parties.
All in all, the following can be noted in this direction;
- The year 1995 significantly took the struggle abroad when the main architects of the reunification John Ngu Foncha and Solomon Tandeng Muna joined the SCNC camp, acknowledging that the union they advocated for in 1961 was no longer working as they had decided. They led a team to the UN in New York. Their mission gave an international recognition to the Anglophone course.
- The SCNC had advocated for dialogue with the state of Cameroon from its conception; this is evident in their slogan which is the “the force of argument and not the argument of force”
- In 2002, the Southern Cameroon people’s organization (SCAPO) was created; later in the same year they presented the Anglophone problem before a high court in Abuja seeking that their case be redressed in the UN General Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Human Rights Charter.
- In 2004, based on attempted coalition between the different Anglophone groupings seeking autonomy, a delegation led by SCNC/SCARM represented the Anglophone course at the unrepresented nation and people’s organization (UNPO) and was given membership after a serious presentation and deliberation of their case.
- As seen above, there is also the most recent Banjul verdict of 2009, which was a result of the case file that the SCNC presented before the African Union against La Republique du Cameroun, who is a signatory to AU’s provisions.
- Since then, the Anglophones, through different mediums and forums, have kept the pressure on the regime each time the occasion present itself, which equally meets with a determined regime to lend deaf ears to negotiations. The most recent peaceful demonstration was in 2011, Buea, which led to the arrest and detention of over three hundred activists, keeping some senior citizens like Mola Njoh Litumbe under house arrest.
Peace structures and processes in place in Cameroon
- There are several methods of dispute resolution that could be identified in Cameroon. The first and the most commonly used are the court systems in dispute resolution.
- The civil and common laws system constitute the legal frame work all over Cameroon, with civil law being predominant in realistic reflection.
- There is a general lack of trust in the country’s dispute resolution mechanisms.
- While there are models of laws, there are several hurdles at the level of enforcement and execution, and the system is plagued by complaints of unfair sentences
- Unreasonably lengthy proceedings and poor execution of sentences due to excessive corruption, bureaucracy.
- Private law firms in Cameroon practice arbitration, mediation, and conciliation on an ad hoc basis and some have had some degree of success in resolving disputes between the government and the private sector and also among individuals.
- Ethnic meetings and other forms of association including religious gatherings all have an instituted system of conflict management within their midst. The point to note here is that unlike the courts that attempt to establish a win-lose situation, the other local conflict resolutions kits in Cameroon seek to maintain relations between disputants peculiar to a typical African justice system, thus a win-win emphasis.
- There is also the resolution of conflict, which is major under the indigenous system of governance. This role is taken up by the elders or chiefs and this is usually meant to maintain social cohesion.
- It is often like arbitration, since it could be initiated by any person who thinks that the peace of a given community is threatened. The hearing is done publicly and the final say rests with the chief and his elders.
- Given that the main legal instrument of the country is an organ of the government, this makes for acute power in balance between the Francophone dominated government and the SCNC, who advocate for Southern Cameroon autonomy.
- There is also the heterogeneity among the Anglophones on their support for autonomy which cannot therefore be under minded, since internal difference between their camps differ on the importance of their goals or on group approach in pursuit of their objectives. Some seem to have promoted a latent conflict for personal egoistic interests as some use this position to negotiate their way into the government or to seek foreign assistance.
- Any negotiation from the regime will indirectly mean an endorsement of economic empowerment for the man in the grass route and also for more transparency and accountability. This will directly affect the few who have exploited this situation for their selfish motives.
- The way the liberation movement are acting now only dissipates energies and scarce resources and minimizes their image in the eyes of the international community, who see them as people who are inexperienced, uncoordinated and do not know exactly what they want for their people. However, worthy of note is that no matter their differences, they have some reached a certain level of compromise on some issues, like the frontline role of the SCNC, the need to liberate southern Cameroon, and most especially trying to act as a team on the international front.
- While the call for independence was a zero sum option as a result of failed attempts to redress the socio-economic and political exclusion of the Southern Cameroonians, and to negotiate a more inclusive constitution that protects the political rights of Anglophones, economically empowering the masses could reduce the impact of the call for an independent southern Cameroon.
- In any discussion around the bases for consensus between the parties, we should consider that Cameroon was once one whole, in the German era right up till 1916. This territory also reunited after the 1961 plebiscite, a status that operates till date, and that arguably justifies that one cannot talk of a pure conflict situation without considerable areas of cooperation, which remains very strategic if a true and constructive conflict mechanism is to be developed to diffuse the tension. The government still represents the legitimate authority of the people across the national territories, with a single citizenship and workforce. These elements by their very nature variably require some degree of cooperation as a prerequisite, or of exchange for some services.
Peace building synergies (closing the gap)
- The first phase should attempt reconciliation among the different positions held by Anglophone elites in regards to the Anglophone problem. The aim here is to move the different factions or schools of thought away from their different positions, by identifying and establishing a common interest that cuts across their ideas. In this way, one will be building a common Anglophone front with common Anglophone interests that reflect the will of the majority among the Anglophone community at the base.
- The second phase should aim at bringing the two main parties (the Anglophone and the Francophone) closer to a dialogue to reconsider the status of the union that lasted since 1961. While the first phase involves negotiations among the Anglophone elites, this second phase requires the need for a neutral third party who will play the role of a Med/Arb (mediation and arbitration).
- The third phase should focus on strategies that could be applied in strengthening and fostering the spirit of nationalism in Cameroon. This necessitates the building of a shared sense of belonging across cultural values and linguistic boundaries.
Emphasis on capacities and vulnerabilities
- A true assembling force for any conflict in Cameroon does not lie in any charisma of the leaders but rather in the legitimacy of the problems as truly perceived by the people.
- More recently, the University students have stood out strong as a recruiting ground and a forum where some of the pressing issues like corruption marginalization are addressed. This can be exploited by the actors to pose a real threat to peace if things are not done the right way.
- Some of these movements have taken their fight abroad to include the communities in the Diaspora, which is a boaster to their efforts to sustain their positions.
- Most of the southern Cameroonian separatists have thrown their weight behind SCNC on diplomatic offensives to avoid confusion on the internationals scene, as too many groups claiming to represent the movement may be more discrediting.
- There is a very fine line between loyalist of the SCNC and their secessionist act and those who oppose the government through the opposition of the Anglophone origin. It appears all it requires could be a good leadership and time.
- However, the power inequality with the state and also the limited resources from these opposing groups has been a limiting factor that has kept the conflict suppressed for the past years.
- Also conflicting interests among the opposing actors themselves without a clearly defined vision has accounted for their failures; they all have been marred with leadership lapses that have discouraged greatly their membership.
- Greed and selfish interests have taken precedence over legitimate grievances of the population.
- Regional and ethnic cleavages have marred any meaningful progress among the major stakeholders.
Emphasis on priority issues, relevant attitudes and structures of peace in Cameroon
Like in the words of Bishop Samuel Kleda of the Douala Arched Diocese in his address to the Christians during the last 2011 presidential election in Cameroon, he warned that peace is the plenitude of life and integrates all dimensions of a human person; it can neither be built on the violation of rights and justice nor on the opulence of some and the hunger of others as the case is obtain in Cameroon.
In a synopsis, any durable peace in Cameroon must consider the following cardinal issues for the wellbeing of all Cameroonians;
- The aspiration of lasting peace in Cameroon must be rooted in a vision which transcends peace as the absence of war.
- The powers must allow themselves to be guided by the principles of the common good, the respect of human dignity, the preferential option for the poor.
- It is about time to strive to get into the path of sustainable development which will symbolize peace; it is therefore the duty of all involved to eliminate that which is susceptible of provoking conflict in Cameroon.
- The conditions necessary to build peace in Cameroon will be giving the people economic empowerment, then elimination of discord among the actors involved, which can foster war, beginning with injustice, and reducing the gross economic inequality among the regions.
- The regime must strive beyond cultural divide to build social cohesion among Cameroonians.
- Much of the ethnicity politics that has reduced Cameroon to a serious tension, feeds into the superimposition of western Democracy which does not match its history and state formation, and does not represent the appropriate frame work for governance .This is principally due to the absence of class formation, within which a given class interest is formed and canvassed among the electorates by way of political parties.
- In the absence of this class formation, ethnicity becomes the vehicle for political mobilization, resulting in conflicts, violence and civil wars if poorly controlled at their early stages.
- A constitutional framework which guarantees and protects the basic rights of citizens including the right of Assemble, Associate, free speech and the right to information.
- A political system with checks and balances, transparent and accountable with institutions that ensure that rights are enjoyed by all and all are equal before the law.
- An economic justice system that ensures affordable access to health, housing, education, and opportunities to be productive.
- Identify existing governance structures at the grass roots, (traditional and faith based), evaluate the trust the communities bestow on such institutions and, where credibility is high, ensure programs to strengthen these institutions.
- Community based organization providing services at such levels using local actors should be identified and trained in both new and local techniques, ensuring also that programs are designed and implemented to strengthen their capacities.
- In a broader context, sustainable peace could be further consolidated by implementing the following measures:
a. Establish an independent non-partisan entity made up of identified respectable Cameroonians selected from both cultural backgrounds of English and French. Such a platform could focus on diverse issues in promoting National reconciliation. One of such attempts could be erecting monuments of fallen Cameroonian patriots across the two regions. The idea here is that such structures should be able to reflect national sentiments irrespective of whether the individuals were of French or English origin.
b. A similar entity could be established at the regional level, which should serve the purpose of an advisory council, using distinguished citizens within the region who are apolitical and non-partisan. These groups could strive to:
v Blend traditional and modern approaches to mediate regional issues
v Promote trust and confidence among groups, which may be developed from their shared cultural values.
At a district level, build up similar units using community elders and elected council members. They should be able to promote community dialogue. Mobilize stake holders to ensure local ownership of peace building and communal spirit.
In bid to enforce and empower local media as a veritable partner of change, they should be able to understand the plight of the people and constructively present the views of the people in a way that does not reignite division on ethnic or regional lines. Therefore they should be encouraged on the following guides:
- How to access information
- Conflict news gathering
- Professional ethics
- Communication techniques
- Creating Citizen Information Bureau and
- Forum for citizens’ debate
Emphasis on empowering existing structures of peace across Cameroon
- Resources should be directed to empower existing civil structures at the grass roots
- Provide a framework for people to work together and achieve goals that are beyond their individual capacities. This may include functional capacities like planning, management, and service delivery.
- It could also include technical capacities relating to elections, conflict management, mediation, and negotiation, taking into consideration traditional approaches, harmonizing them with modern tools in dealing with local issues.
- Such formation processes should aim at building a civil participation which should be able to influence public policy processes and hold the government accountable.
- Promotion of local communication channels that effectively translate local echoes in strengthening the demand for state accountability and transparency.
In conclusion, Cameroon can run the risk of remaining a time bomb which at worse could escalate to a full conflict led by secessionists. Such an outcome could reignite other minority cases which could be avoided at this level. Furthermore, a win-win situation could be establishing federal structures that will guarantee some degree of autonomy to some the regions. This will enhance chances of including the people in a participatory leadership in Cameroon.