Saturday, April 6, 2019

The strange course of secessionist leaders at the University of Buea

Cho and Ebenezer Akwanga, who are now leaders of armed groups in western Cameroon, had launched at the University of Buea (UB) a union advocating the "argument of the force" to claim the Anglophone independence vis-à-vis Yaoundé. After its ban, other leaders of the armed separatist movement, who are fighting against the Cameroonian army deployed in force in the Southwest and North-West regions, have since passed through the Buea school: Mark Bareta, who became a propagandist pro-separatist on social networks, Tanku Ivo Tapang, former exiled journalist in the United States.  

"At the University of Buea, we think, we can think about our history, and when we look at it, we see that it does not go, it There are problems "in English-speaking Cameroon, said an anonymous research student at the largest English-speaking university in the country.   A professor of political science, on condition of anonymity, lists these "problems": the omnipresence of Francophones in positions of responsibility, the non-respect of a referendum of self-determination in 1961, the contempt of Francophones vis- to English speakers.

For several months, the crisis has turned into armed conflict in the two English-speaking regions, separatists attacking the symbols of the state, even killing members of the security forces, the army responding with strength.   English-language claims have always been at the heart of UB's debates since its creation in 1993. "We do not talk about it in class, because we can have francophone professors, but between us, always," says the student. Master.   In response, the university has "an authoritarian rather than democratic governance, to ensure political control and loyalty" in Yaoundé, according to the work in 2009 of Piet Konings, Dutch researcher at the University of Lieden (Netherlands) .


Each year, 12,000 students - a majority of English speakers - pass the portals of the large campus nestled in the heart of the city.   In 2006, the creation of a department of medicine in Buea degenerates into riots that cause two deaths and wounded in the city.  

While only English speakers were admitted to the entrance examination of the new department, Yaoundé, on the basis of "national unity", then refuses these results and imposes Francophones among the admitted, causing revolt.   Despite a stated quota policy to avoid the marginalization of the English-speaking minority, "Yaoundé has never really wanted English speakers," according to John, a master student of political science whose first name has been changed.  

Marginalization, "we see it everywhere, in every trade".   "At the University, as everywhere else in Buea, many positions of responsibility are held by French speakers, who are often members of the ruling party," said the professor of political science, who says he feels "a lot of frustration among (his) English speaking pupils ".  

"Pandora's box"  

In 2016, new events at the university are seen as triggers of the current crisis.   In late November, a peaceful march to demand the payment of a bonus promised by President Biya and the reinstatement of a student union banned in 2012, is violently repressed by the authorities. "For the first time in the history of the university, in 2016 the police entered the campus, girls were raped, others humiliated, people were arrested at home," says John. The images of the repression quickly became viral. According to the International Crisis Group (ICG), the media coverage of these "blunders" has helped to "push the population through" and open "the Pandora's box of the Anglophone problem".   "For a long time, we have kept this frustration for ourselves, but with the events of 2006 and those of 2016, we think that too much is too much, there will be a revolution at UB and in English-speaking Cameroon" wants to believe John.   For the separatists, the university has become a symbol of their fantasized state, of which Buea would be the capital.

But today, the huge campus is quiet. Students prepare on the flanks of Mount Cameroon for an inter-university sports competition, others drink beer and palaver in the bars adjoining the university.   "The separatism at the university, it's crazy, like Bareta who introduced it, they manipulated students," enrage Blaise, a former student and former classmate Mark Bareta. "They made student unions political platforms," ​​he pleads, adding, "Buea University is not war, it's knowledge!"

 Source: AFP