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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Anglophone Crisis: These 5 Things You Need to Know

Cameroon experiences almost daily violence between soldiers and separatists in its two English-speaking regions, a legacy of the turbulent history of this former German colony, shared after the First World War between France and the United Kingdom.

After the defeat of Germany in 1918, the League of Nations (SDN, ancestor of the UN), placed four fifths of the German Kamerun under French tutelage, and the western part bordering Nigeria under British tutelage. 

The French side becomes independent in 1960. A year later, a part of Cameroon under British tutelage (the northern predominantly Muslim) opts for its attachment to Nigeria and the other part for its attachment to the French-speaking Cameroon, to form a Federal Republic to From October 1, 1961. 

In 1972, a referendum ended federalism. 

English minority 

Cameroon is largely francophone and comprises ten regions, two of which are predominantly English-speaking, the North-West (capital: Bamenda) and the South-West (capital: Buea). Anglophones represent about 14% of the country's 23 million inhabitants.

The authorities extol the reality of bilingualism. The country is a member of the Francophonie and the 

Commonwealth 

Nevertheless, many Anglophones consider themselves marginalized, even victims of discrimination, and denounce an inequitable sharing of wealth. 

Contested "unity" 

In the 1990s, English-speaking claims multiplied in favor of an independence referendum. In 2001, protests banned on the 40th anniversary of unification degenerated, with several dead and arrested separatist leaders.

The current tensions emerged in November 2016, with teachers lamenting the appointment of French speakers in English-speaking regions, or lawyers rejecting the supremacy of Roman law at the expense of the Anglo-Saxon "Common Law". 

Most of the protest leaders demand a return to federalism and, for a minority, the creation of an independent state, the "Ambazonia". 

Repression and violence 

As early as December 2016, demonstrations in the English-speaking area resulted in the death of first civilians. Others will be killed in protest marches that are severely repressed by the police. On 17 January 2017, several English-speaking leaders were arrested on charges of "acts of terrorism". President Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982, lifts charges in August. 

On 1 October, at least 17 people are killed on the sidelines of a symbolic proclamation of independence by separatists. "We are no longer slaves of Cameroon," declares Ambazonia's "president", Julius Ayuk Tabe.

At the end of 2017, a radical fringe of separatists takes up arms. They attack the security forces as well as the symbols of the administration such as schools, which they set on fire. They also kidnap policemen, civil servants and businessmen, sometimes foreigners. 

'Civil War' In April 2018, the Social Democratic Front (SDF), one of the main opposition parties to Paul Biya, believes that the crisis has "degenerated into open civil war". In October 2018, an American missionary was killed in Bambui, a suburb of Bamenda. On November 5, 79 students from a high school in Bamenda were kidnapped, the largest kidnapping since the beginning of the conflict. They will be released two days later. 

On December 1, 2018, Yaoundé launched a disarmament program in conflict zones in the far north and the English-speaking regions. 

To date, armed clashes between separatists and security forces have killed more than 2,000 people, according to Human Rights Watch. More than 530,000 people have had to leave their homes, according to the UN.

On August 20, 2019, Julius Ayuk Tabe and nine of his supporters are sentenced to life imprisonment for "terrorism" and "secession". 

Since then, thousands of people have left the English-speaking regions, fearing an escalation of violence after the separatists' call for "dead cities" days. On the day of September 2, the call is widely followed and very little schools have reopened to date.