The current struggle in Southern Cameroon, which started as a “protest by lawyers and teachers demanding better provision for the use of English in addition to a call for inclusion” from the Anglophone minority which makes up about 20% of the country’s population, has escalated since 2016. On the other side of the sensationalized “Cameroon Burning” headline/coverage, is the complexity of colonial history. To best understand the “burning”, the conflict ought to be traced to colonialism and its devastating impact.
Most, if not all conflicts in Africa today have colonial roots. Thus, as befits the colonial approach “the division between Cameroon‘s French-speaking majority and its English-speaking minority” has roots in the colonial era (the British and French legacy).
Though Cameroon was colonized by Germany it was “split into British and French areas after World War One. After French-administered Cameroon gained independence in 1960, the two parts of the country formed a single nation the following year. This followed a referendum, when British-run Southern Cameroons voted to join the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon in 1961, while Northern Cameroons voted to join English-speaking Nigeria. Even then, some English-speakers felt they had been forced into the new republic”.
Following the referendum, Cameroon became a federation of two states – one English-speaking, the other French-speaking – under one president.
“A decade later in 1972, another public vote saw Cameroon dropping its federal form to become a unitary state. Ever since, many Anglophones have complained that their regions were being neglected and excluded from power”.
Watch: Fru Nkimbeng and Dr. Patrice Nganang discuss the conflict in Southern Cameroon.
By: Amira Ali