Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Yaoundé: The fate of Paul Biya is played out in the national dialogue

Cameroon is caught in a secession crisis that has been worsening for more than three years ago in its English-speaking regions. Ambazonia.

On September 10, Paul Biya, President of the country, announced his intention to engage in a national dialogue to resolve the crisis. It was the first time that Biya publicly acknowledged the disruption in the country's English-speaking regions, where people make up about one-fifth of the population.

Many Anglophones see the Biya government and its military and the police as responsible for the development of the crisis in its current form: More than a third of people living in the West and West - West of the country, where most English speakers live, now need humanitarian aid. The conflict killed 2,000 people and left more than 500,000 internally displaced. In the most affected areas, 40% of health centers and 80% of schools are still closed. Occasionally, classrooms have been converted into databases for armed separatists and children fear gunfire on their way to school.

Cameroon's ability to pull itself together depends on the government's willingness to sit down with the negotiators on both sides to the table, to take the deep historical roots of the English-language grievances and to engage seriously in the Anglophone proposals to put an end to the crisis. So far, the Cameroonian state has focused on restoring the status quo before the conflict, with minimal concessions on issues critical to unrest: language policy, education and legal reform, and representation of Anglophones in government. Yet what is most English-speaking Cameroonians want is substantial regional autonomy and a credible commitment to attack both historical injustices and perceived structural discrimination in everyday life. Without these elements, the potential benefit of a national dialogue - getting a ceasefire.

Cameroonian public opinion in English will determine the evolution of the armed separatist movement. One of us, Claire Hazbun, conducted field research in November and December 2018, exploring the preferences and experiences of a group of English speaking Cameroonians living in Yaounde, the capital, including many new ones. have been displaced by the conflict. This survey is not statistically representative of the opinions of Anglophones, but it provides important information on how to understand the crisis and what solutions they might accept. On the whole, the facts show a growing loss of confidence on the part of the Cameroonian and moderate Anglophone leaders willing to work with Biya. S '

Cameroonian public opinion in English will determine the evolution of the armed separatist movement.

Separatism has found supporters in some English-speaking circles for decades, only in the margins. But now, at least in this key population, the idea has become more and more popular. Four of them said their preferred result would be total secession.

Unfortunately, Biya's last speech revealed a persistent inability - or reluctance - to recognize the enormity of the problem. According to him, the crisis concerns teachers and lawyers who oppose French language policies. However, the problem is much deeper.

More than two-thirds of the people interviewed in Yaoundé felt that the grievances linked to historical marginalization were the main cause of the Cameroonian secessionist movement. A number of Anglophones spoke of impending injustices, such as their inability to return home or the murder of a family member, but many of them easily reported deeper historical problems. They blamed the government for the biased allocation of development resources for francophones and the erosion of Anglophone regional autonomy since independence. A common sense is the sense of structural discrimination of the Francophone majority in almost every sector of life.

Before independence, Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon was administered as an entity distinct from the British and French. After the First World War, the former German protectorate of Kamerun was split into separate mandates managed by the two powers. The French-speaking region gained independence in 1960 and the English-speaking region in 1961. The two parties were then united in 1961 as the Federal Republic of Cameroon, after the British-administered Cameroon chose to join French Cameroon rather than the United Kingdom. Neighboring Nigeria.

The federal system allowed for some local autonomy - with a president, a prime minister and control over certain regional aspects, such as customary courts and primary education. Importantly, many of these powers were conferred by convention and not incorporated in the constitution. This reality allowed the postcolonial government of President Ahmadou Ahidjo to systematically dismantle the federal character of Cameroon, culminating in the declaration of a unitary state in 1972.

In 1996, Cameroon adopted a new constitution that provided for a decentralized system of government. However, the Biya administration has only selectively implemented this feature of the constitution, preferring to centralize power. Biya's concentration of presidential authority in the face of growing economic difficulties, combined with experiences of structural discrimination and perceived and real disparities between French and English speaking regions, exacerbated the grievances expressed by English-speaking Cameroonians.

Source: camerounweb.com/foreignpolicy.com