and Deconstruction: Anglophones or Autochtones?
Studies Centre, Univ. of Leiden
of Sociology, Univ. of Botswana
While the politics of belonging has a strong tradition in the post-colonial
state in Cameroon, the current wave of democratisation in the 1990s has
compelled the Biya regime to re-conceptualise "belonging". Finding it
hard to win free and fair elections in the new multiparty system, the
Biya government has tried to perpetuate itself in power by encouraging
the resurgence of local identities which were likely to support the regime,
notwithstanding the fact that this strategy obviously undermined its professed
policy of national integration. It has also stretched the conventional
idea of minorities to such ambiguous proportions that historical minorities
like the Anglophones have seen themselves denied the status of minority
in the 1996 constitution, while every small ethnic grouping which appears
to distance itself from the opposition has met with government support.
This paper examines the systematic efforts of the government to deconstruct
the Anglophone identity - an identity which has its historical foundation
in the British colonisation of the ex-Southern Cameroons and has been
reactivated during the current democratisation process, posing serious
problems to the Francophone-dominated state. One major government strategy
has been to fuel the existing tensions between South Westerners and North
Westerners in the Anglophone territory, tensions largely based in large-scale
north-western settlement in the coastal plantation area and in the perceived
domination of the South West by the North West economically and politically
since the end of the 1950s, and to stimulate new alignments like SAWA.
The paper argues that the national government has been quite successful
in this endeavour, evidenced by the decline or inertia of initially powerful
political opposition movements based on Anglophone alliances.
AND THE POLITICS OF BELONGING
When in May 1990 the Anglophones dared to challenge and embarrass the
one-party state by launching the Social Democratic Front (SDF) in Bamenda,
they were, perhaps without knowing, providing the Biya regime with a more
compelling reason than ever not only to consider Anglophones as "les ennemis
dans la maison", but also and more importantly to intensify strategies
for neutralising Anglophone identity. The fact that the SDF rapidly rose
to prominence and credibility as an opposition party in Anglophone Cameroon,
coupled with the fact that its slogans and the charisma of its leader
John Fru Ndi commanded nation-wide appeal, heightened the panic in government
circles and hardened attitudes towards Anglophones and Anglophone identity.
At first, the government did not quite know how to react nor whom to scapegoat.
A study of pro-establishment anonymous tracts, pamphlets and declarations
in the media between 1990 and 1992 shows that initial government attempts
to contain the spread of the SDF and opposition politics in general, were
not well thought out.
While the first government strategy was to lump all Anglophones together,
and to play up the idea of Anglophone ingratitude to all the state had
done for them and their region, subsequent reactions sought to apply a
divide-and-rule strategy by making a distinction between the supposedly
conciliatory coastals of the South West Province and the unpatriotic,
ungrateful, power-monger grassfielders of the North West Province whom
the state identified with their equally troublesome cultural kin - the
Bamileke of the Francophone Western Province. Thus, the official rhetoric
shifted from the collective condemnation of "les Anglo-Bami" to simply
condemning "les Bamendo-Bami". Subsequent developments would show that
the government found it increasingly rewarding and politically expedient
to tempt the South West elite away from Anglophone solidarity with strategic
appointments and the idea that their real enemy was the North West elite
and not the state or the central administration. Infiltrating and hijacking
the South West Elite Association (SWELA), then subsequently encouraging
a merger with the elite association of the native Douala to form the Grand
SAWA movement, was part of government's strategy to weaken Anglophone
solidarity through divide and rule championed by elite associations (Nyamnjoh
and Rowlands 1998) and the politics of the belly (Bayart 1993).
All of this contributed to the promulgation of the January 1996 constitution(1),
which promised protection for minorities at the same time that the state
was clamping down on the activities of the Southern Cameroons National
Council (SCNC), mouthpiece of the critical wing of the Anglophone minority.
Such double standards would leave few in doubt as to why the new constitution
was deliberately vague on the notion of "minority", or the fact that the
notion has since been manipulated to discourage solidarity on the basis
of shared interests and predicaments. In his analysis of similar constitutions
elsewhere in colonial and contemporary Africa, Mamdani (1996) has noted
that such constitutions limit the population not to a civic but to an
ethnic space. They also define identity for the populations concerned
not by where individuals are born or live, but by their ethnic ancestral
area. Such constitutions thus oblige everyone to follow the customs of
their ethnic group and to emphasise culture, not rights. Also, by recognising
"social identity exclusively through the line of the father", states with
such constitutions, ensure that no degree of inter-marriage or integration
could ever put together ethnic groups that the state is determined to
have asunder (Mamdani 1998). The Cameroonian state insists on patriarchal
identification by ethnic area, district and province of origin in
national identity cards, birth, marriage and other civic certificates.
Its constitution, like the others, enables ethnic areas to make the distinction
between what Mamdani has termed "ethnic citizens and ethnic strangers".
A point with which Mono Ndjana, one of the most faithful ideologues of
the ruling Cameroon People's Democratic Movement (CPDM), agrees when he
defines "l'autochtone" as "un citoyen ethnique de l'ethnie locale"
and "l'allogène" as "un citoyen ethnique de l'ethnie d'ailleurs",
stressing that in every African country "chacun est à la fois autochtone
et allogène, selon sa position dans l'espace" (Mono Ndjana 1997b:
The 18 January 1996 constitution (preamble and article 57, paragraph 3)
states unequivocally that:
The State shall ensure the protection of minorities and shall preserve
the rights of indigenous populations in accordance with the law.
The Regional Council shall be headed by an indigene of the Region elected
from among its members for the life of the Council .... The Regional Bureau
shall reflect the sociological components of the Region.
and release were hardly an accident. The ruling Beti being a minority
ethnic group under threat of losing power in a genuine democracy, the
Anglophones and Bamileke having proved themselves the most threatening
opposition in the first five years of multipartyism, and the regime having
rejected a "one man one vote" democracy (Mono Ndjana 1997b: 102-103) through
repeated riggings, the 1996 constitution was a foregone conclusion. It
would serve the government perfectly in neutralising both the Anglophone
and Bamileke opposition, while at the same time diverting attention from
failed economic and social policies by scapegoating grassfielders as ruthless
land-grabbing, tax-evading settlers, who were making it impossible for
government to deliver. Its promulgation preceded the municipal elections
that the opposition SDF party won in some key urban constituencies, including
Douala. The fact that it immediately occasioned government-condoned demonstrations
by the native Douala, the SAWA(2), was even more telling. The
protests led to the creation of the SAWA movement of the coastal
peoples, presenting themselves as an "autochtonous" minority that had
suffered political and economic marginalization from dominant and hegemonic
"settlers" or "allogènes" from the Grassfields (Tatah Mentan 1996;
Wang Sonnè 1997; Zognong 1997; Jua 1997; Yenshu 1998; Nyamnjoh
and Rowlands 1998); yet also playing into the hands of political opportunists
keen to stretch their movement to include groupings as remote from the
coast as the Bayang of Manyu Division. Their aim was to fight exploitation
by "unscrupulous" and "ungrateful" grassfields settlers, and to play up
the idea that as minorities, they needed peace, protection, social order
and development. The SAWA demonstrated against the Bamileke in particular,
who alone accounted for 70 per cent of the Douala population, and who
had provided for only one indigenous mayor out of the five councils in
which the SDF had won the municipal elections. This was seen as evidence
that the Bamileke were ready to use their numbers to exclude the indigenous
minorities in a multiparty context (Wang Sonnè 1997)(3)
In the South West Province, the pro-CPDM governor Oben Peter Ashu blamed
the settler population, which outnumbered the indigenes in most urban
areas of the province, for the poor performance of the CPDM in some key
municipalities, and intensified his crackdown on the SCNC and any event
organised to celebrate Anglophone identity by scholars and activists.
A scheduled launching of Francis Nyamnjoh's The Cameroon GCE Crisis: A
Test of Anglophone Solidarity was banned at the last minute, and
the author, Asong Wara (organiser) and Christian Cardinal Tumi (chief
launcher) threatened with detention, for 15 days renewable, should they
proceed despite the ban. Subsequent bannings were brought to bear on the
launching of Charles Taku's For Dame Lynda Chalker & Other Anglophone
Cameroonian Notes, and of Christopher Nsalai's Look Up to the Mountain
Top: Beyond Party Politics. Grassfielders in the South West Province
were likened to scabies, a stubborn skin affliction commonly referred
to in Pidgin-English as "Cam-no-go" [meaning an illness that wouldn't
be cured or a visitor that wouldn't leave]. In Kumba for example, Chief
Mukete organised thugs of Bafaw youths to defend the regime against the
"settler vote" in an election the SDF opposition was set to win. His action
would be hailed subsequently by Nerius Nemaso Mbile, an old and experienced
politician, at a joint conference of South West chiefs and elites in July
1999, and other traditional leaders urged to emulate him(4)
Although its preamble still pays respect to the age-old ideology of nation-building,
the constitution appears to place more premium on ethnic identities and
to allow for an interpretation by government that promises reward to all
elite ready to sacrifice the quest for national citizenship or power in
favour of ethnic citizenship and power. Indeed, from the way politics
has been practised since the promulgation of the constitution, it would
appear that civic identity and inter-ethnic or national constituency,
are limited to the CPDM president, the only person with a meaningful right
to seek power at a central or national level. Challengers who are not
discouraged by an unfavourable electoral code (Tolen 1997) and the invidious
manipulation of electoral rolls, are eventually vanquished by a post-election
rigging machinery perfected over the years, since 1992. This, in part,
explains how from a modest score of 39.976 % in the first multiparty presidential
elections in 1992, Paul Biya would in the 1997 election score 92.57%,
reminding one strongly of the one-party era when elections were a mere
formality for the incumbent and such scores as 99.99% commonplace. Also,
by opting for ten regions along the lines of existing provinces, the constitution
proved the Biya government's committed disregard for federalism and its
determination to keep Anglophones divided (1996 Constitution,
Article 61, paragraph 3), in addition, of course, to living up to the
French-inspired aversion for decentralised government among Francophone
Unsurprisingly, the constitution has been much criticised, especially
by radical Anglophones and the Bamileke. Both the constitution and the
advantage taken by the SAWA of it, have been interpreted differently by
various groups, using media that were either for or against (Tatah Mentan
1996). While the SAWA and the Beti, supported by Cameroon Tribune, Le
Patriote and L'Anecdote, hailed it as a necessary and timely step
to protect minority groups from the asphyxiating grip of expansionist
and dominant migrants such as the Bamileke and groups from the Bamenda
Grassfields, others, articulating their case through the critical anti-government
press of mainly Bamileke and Anglophone origin, saw it as a recipe for
national disintegration (Tatah Mentan 1996; Nkwi and Nyamnjoh 1997; Zognong
1997; Jua 1997). Indeed, since 1996, various groups have taken advantage
of its ambiguous promise of protection for minorities to fan the flames
of division and differences with others as a pretext for access to power
and resources at national and regional levels (Konings and Nyamnjoh 1997;
Nyamnjoh and Rowlands 1998; Eyoh 1998a and b; Nyamnjoh 1999; Geschiere
and Nyamnjoh forthcoming). And critical Anglophones have seen in this
outcome a trivialization of the notion of "a minority", and blamed the
CPDM government for championing the politics of divide-and-rule to the
detriment of the Anglophone cause and nationhood. Some have interpreted
the new constitution as a conspiracy by the state to marginalize the Anglophones
even further (Tatah Mentan 1996: 186-194; Jua, 1997), a concern which
John Ngu Foncha had already voiced in his letter of resignation from the
CPDM in 1990, when he wrote: "The Anglophone Cameroonians whom I brought
into the union have been ridiculed and referred to as "les Biafrais",
"les ennemies dans la maison", "les traîtres", etc., and the constitutional
provisions which protected this Anglophone minority have been suppressed,
their voice drowned ..."(5) .
The 1996 constitution thus denies the Anglophone claim to minority status
by stressing ethnic purity and indigenous cultural traditions, while downplaying
the community's colonial heritage. It re-discovers the colonial practice
of seeing ethnic communities as "permanent crystalline structures" (Ardener
1967: 297-299), and thus can afford to question the idea of an Anglophone
identity that unites people beyond so-called tribal boundaries. The constitution
has also often been used by the regime and its allies to endorse the idea
of democracy as an ethnic or group right rather than as an empowerment
of the individual (and the guaranteeing of his/her civic rights regardless
of ethnic origin) as stipulated in its preamble. For, as Mono Ndjana,
the CPDM ideologue argues, every ethnic group is entitled to "sa place
au soleil, sans chercher à ôter les autres du même
soleil" (Mono Ndjana 1997b: 103). This view effectively denies the idea
of a Cameroonian citizenship, since even metropolitan areas
like Douala and Yaounde, created by colonialists and cosmopolitan from
the outset, have under the new constitution been claimed by this or that
autochtonous group to a degree quite unprecedented. Little wonder therefore,
that the appointment of André Wouking, a Bamileke, as Archbishop
of Yaounde in July 1999 (to succeed Jean Zoa, a Beti, who
died in 1998), should be greeted with indignation by Beti elite, clergy
and christians, at the same time that it was hailed by the Bamileke
press as a good lesson in national integration by the Pope to President
Biya, champion of the rhetoric of national integration(6) .
To those who sought protection as minorities, the price to pay would increasingly
be stated in no uncertain terms: Vote the CPDM, the only party, according
to Mono Ndjana (1997b: 96), with "une assise assez importante ou un pouvoir
d'attraction suffisant". Which is exactly what the Prime Minister, Peter
Mafany Musonge, himself a SAWA, told SAWA chiefs at a meeting in Kumba
on 8 March 1997. In fact, since his appointment in September 1996, Musonge
and the pro-CPDM SWELA and SAWA elite have constantly admonished the coastal
people to throw their weight behind President Biya and the CPDM. As Musonge
put it during a reception in Buea following his appointment, "President
Biya has scratched our back, and we shall certainly scratch the Head of
State's back thoroughly when time comes", meaning that the SAWA should,
together with him, resolve to manifest their total support and allegiance
to the President who appointed him(7) . A promise they were
shown to have kept at the 1997 presidential elections, after which Biya
would again reward him with a re-appointment as PM. The fact that political
parties created by SAWA indigenes at the beginning of the 1990s had all
failed to take root by 1996(8) , meant that SAWA opposition
politicians who had failed to make it at a national level through party
politics found in the SAWA movement a singular opportunity to stage a
political comeback. In his paper on this movement, Wang Sonnè (1997:
187-195) draws attention to the example of Jean-Jacques Ekindi of the
Mouvement Progressiste (MP), who, after 4 years in political wilderness,
enthusiastically accepted to coordinate the SAWA movement, supported by
the very CPDM from which he had resigned in 1991 and the leader of which
he had challenged resolutely at the October 1992 presidential elections.
This perspective by no means denies the SAWA movement a cultural content
or legitimacy, but it draws attention to how a political elite could seek
to manipulate a cultural movement for political ends. For more on elite
associations and politics in Cameroon, see Nyamnjoh and Rowlands (1998).
ANGLOPHONE IDENTITY IN CAMEROON
The 1996 constitution and the politics of belonging in the 1990s might
have institutionalised and intensified the sense of divisions among Anglophones,
but this by no means implies that the Machiavellian designs of the
Francophone-dominated state for asphyxiating Anglophone identity started
then. Indeed, the manipulation of ethnic and regional rivalries to divide
and rule the Anglophones, among others, is a long-standing strategy in
national politics (Bayart 1979). As we have argued elsewhere (Konings
and Nyamnjoh 1997), contrary to Anglophone ex-pec-tations upon re-unification,
federalism, far from providing for equal partnership between Anglophones
and Francophones and guaranteeing cultural continuity for the former,
turned out to be nothing more than a comma in a long sentence of assimilation
of the Anglophone minority (see also Benjamin 1972). Gradually,
the poignant sense of cultural erosion and devaluation of most things
Anglophone this brought about, resulted in an Anglophone consciousness
with every potential for crystallising into a grand Anglophone ethnie.
The feeling of being "marginalised", "exploited", and "assimila-ted" by
the Francophone-dominated state and even by the Francophone population
as a whole, has inspired novelists, playwrights, poets, musicians, journalists,
academics, the clergy and the entire Anglophone community (Nyamnjoh 1996a;
Lyonga et al. 1993). Most Anglophones, like their outspoken Arch-bishop
Paul Verdzekov of Bamenda, are acutely aware of the active pursuit by
the state, of "an unwritten policy of absorption and assimilation" of
Anglophones. They have a deep feeling that their only chance of being
accepted as bona fide Cameroonians seems to rest with their total Frenchification
or francophonisation(9) . A feeling which is lent added
credence by arrogant declarations now and again by Francophones in high
office. In one such declaration, the former Vice-Prime Minister in-charge
of Housing and Town Plan-ning, Hamadou Mustapha, said: "A un moment donné
effectivement, on a commencé à oublier que les Anglophones
étaient là; on a eu l'impression que les Anglophones s'étaient
déjà francophonisés"(10) . It is hardly
surprising, therefore, that the government, in its interpretation of a
constitution purportedly protective of minorities, should not provide
for an Anglophone minority.
In an earlier article on the Anglophone problem (Konings and Nyamnjoh
1997), we discussed at length some of the strategies employed by successive
Francophone-dominated governments since independence to marginalise Anglophones
and weaken or deny them a sense of identity. From the outset, Ahidjo,
Cameroon's first president, was never enthusiastic about federalism as
a lasting solution to the bi-cultural colonial heritage of the country.
He saw federalism merely as an unavoidable transit on a journey to the
total assimilation of the Anglophone minority into a strongly centralised
state à la française. To achieve this objective, he employed
several tactics which included: playing Anglophone political factions
off against each other and eventually uniting them into a single party,
the Cameroon National Union (CNU) created in September 1966; dis-appointing
from positions of responsibility key Anglophones committed to federalism
in favour of those amenable to the unitary state; creating "clients" through
gran-ting top posts in the federal institutions and in the single
party to representatives of significant ethnic and regional groups in
the Anglophone region; and resorting to overt repression of dissent. Through
these and other tactics he succeeded in abolis-hing the federation in
favour of the unitary state, which he achieved through his "glorious revolution
of 20 May 1972". To reduce further the danger of any united Anglophone
action against the unitary state, Ahidjo decided to divide the erstwhile
Federated State of West Cameroon into the South West and North West Provinces.
This decision, masterfully informed by the internal contradictions within
the Anglophone community between the coastal/forest people (the South
West Province) and the grassfields people (the North West Province), would
exarcebate those divisions which in future would serve as the Achilles'
heel of most attempts at Anglophone solidarity.
Upon succeeding Ahidjo, Biya proved he was just as keen in obliterating
Anglophone identity and in zombifying the Anglophone elite, as the former
was. His government has thus employed similar strategies (perfecting some
and adding new ones) in containing the Anglophones and their identity.
The so-called Bamenda Proclamation, adopted by the Second All Anglophone
Conference (AACII) held at Bamenda from 29 April to 1 May 1994, mentions
some of the most important strategies used. It says that "rather than
address the issue", the Biya government has preferred "to feign ignorance
of the Anglophone problem... to seek by diverse manoeuvres to create division
within the Anglophone nation with the aim of giving the false impression
that there is no general consensus within it on constitutional reform...
and to accuse the All Anglophone Conference and its affiliated organisations
unjustly and falsely of having adopted a secession of Anglophone Cameroon
as their goal".
The Biya government has often tried to trivialise the Anglophone-Francophone
divide, preferring to stress a common colonial identity under Germany,
and the idea of national integration which the 1972 revolution invented.
Meaningful though this argument would be to any country with a clear sense
of vision, it fails, in the Cameroonian context, to convince the Anglophone
minority, by coming short, in practice, of institutionalising mechanisms
for weakening the strong grip on the state by Francophones and their French
colonial heritage. At present, Cameroon claims to be a bilingual and multi-cultural
state, which is said to be a safe guarantee for the preservation of the
differential linguistic and cultural heritage of the post-German colonial
era. In practice, the experiences of ordinary Anglophones belie such claims,
especially as little is done to disguise the superiority accorded the
French language and Francophone cultural values over everything Anglophone
In reply to the Anglophone demand for a return to the federal state as
the best guarantee of their identity, the Biya government has often stressed
that the unitary state was the result of a massive vote of the Cameroonian
people voluntarily expressed during the 1972 referendum. Like Ahidjo,
Biya has tabled arguments in favour of the present dispensation, and has
rejected federalism as costly, weakening to state power, and divisive;
even if his politics of belonging does not appear to be any less divisive
or costly. Declining to discuss a possible return to federalism
which he sees as a ploy by radical Anglophones to obtain secession for
their area, Biya (with the support of most Francophone elite and media,
regardless of political persuasion) has conceded to a certain degree of
decen-tralisation within the unitary state, the so-called ten-region option
based on the present ten provinces in Cameroon (1996 constitution, article
61, paragraph 1)(11) .
Like his predecessor, Biya has attempted, with significant success,
to divide the Anglophones, often capitalising on existing contradictions
between the North West and South West elite. One of his divisive
tactics has been to appoint South Westerners to key posi-tions in the
South West, in response to South Westerners' com-plaints about North West
domination over their province (Konings and Nyamnjoh 1997; Eyoh 1998a
and b). Biya has also sought to use his Anglophone allies for the defence
of the unitary state in exchange for rewards in the form of appointments,
sinecures and a blind eye to corruption and/or embezzlement by those in
high office. And in turn, the allies have tended to blame the leaders
of various Anglophone movements for their "demagogic and irresponsible"
calls for federalism or secessi-on, and to dispute their claims of being
"spokesmen" of the Anglophone community, blaming them, as did Prime Minister
Peter Mafany Musonge in November 1996, for leading "hostile campaigns
at home and abroad to foster division and hatred" among Cameroonians(12)
. They equally challenge claims of Anglophone marginalisation, preferring
to talk instead of "self-marginalisation", and to invite Anglophones to
consider themselves as fully fledged Cameroonians with the same rights
and responsibilities as Francophones (Nyamnjoh and Rowlands 1998: 335).
This has often led to severe confrontations between the two camps and
to mutual accusations of betrayal. But to most ordinary Anglophones, it
is simply hard to fathom how, just for a few appointments and sinecures,
their elite are all too eager to serve as gatekeepers and scavengers for
a government that denies them an identity and disrecognises their predicaments
as a community (Nyamnjoh 1999). More and more the youths are quite critical
of those elite who spend their active years in the service of fear and
repression, just to turn around upon retirement to seek fame through "dubious"
identification with the Anglophone cause.
Following the organisation of the All Anglophone Conference (AAC) on 2-3
April 1993, there were attempts by certain representatives of the South
West Chiefs Conference and of the South West Elite Associati-on (SWELA),
who were known to be closely allied with the regime in power, to dissociate
the South West Province from deliberations and resolutions of the AAC
and from the Buea Declaration. There was also a meeting of a previously
little-known North West Cultural and Development Association (NOCUDA)
at Bamenda on 14 May 1993 to dissociate the North West Province from the
AAC, branding it a South West affair. This mee-ting seems to have been
organised by North Western members of the CPDM, who again, in 1994, would
actively work against the holding of AACII in Bamenda, in a bid
"to kill the Anglophone dream"(13) .
On 23 September 1993, nine representatives of the South West Chiefs Conference
undertook a mission to Yaounde to pledge their unalloyed allegiance to
President Biya. They told him that "they were alarmed at the numerous
demonstrati-ons, blackmail, civil disobedience, rebellious attitudes and
recurrent activities designed to destabilise the state and the government".
They strongly condemned any attempts at partitioning Cameroon on the basis
of Anglophone and Francophone cultures. They asked the Head of State to
transform the present ten provinces into ten autonomous regions. At the
end of the meeting, they drew his attention to the fact that the South
West Province had been discriminated against after reunification in the
distribution of "strategic posts".(14)
Following the military brutalities in the South West during the 1993 government
anti-smuggling campaign, a split occurred in the South West Elite Association
(SWELA) founded in 1991 to promote the socio-economic and cultural development
of the South West Province and combat North West domination over the South
West. The split gave birth to a pro-CPDM faction keen on maintaining
close links with the Biya regime and on showing strong anti-North West
senti-ments. The group was composed of older and younger CPDM barons,
and opposed to a return to the federal state. Like the CPDM government,
it championed the ten-state option, which would retain the present separation
between the South West and North West Provinces and thus safeguard South
West autonomy. Another faction of SWELA, with Martin Nkemngu of
Lebialem Division as Secretary General, was more critical of government
policies and often allied to opposition parties, principally the SDF,
an "active member" of which Martin Nkemngu declared he was(15)
. It advocated closer co-operation between the South West and North
West elite as a necessary precondition for an effective representa-tion
of Anglophone interests. It strongly supported the Anglophone demand for
a return to the federal state - a stance heavily criticised by the pro-CPDM
faction which saw Nkemngu and the entire Lebialem Division as grassfielders
and therefore North Westerners in disguise. But to show how powerful
the pro-CPDM SWELA was, its Secretary-General, Caven Nnoko Mbele, was
appointed Government Delegate for the Kumba Urban Council following the
January 1996 municipal elections, while Martin Nkemngu, Secretary-General
of the pro-SCNC SWELA, was transferred from Buea where he was provincial
chief for CAMNEWS, to Yaounde as an ordinary staff of the official publisher,
Since 1994, a number of southwestern and northwestern chiefs and
members of the CPDM have repeatedly condemned the call for an independent
Southern Cameroons state, appealing to the Head of State to employ every
available means to defend the unitary state (Konings 1999b). Current
obsession with autochtony as well as the acute sense of differences between
the two provinces since the appointment of Musonge as PM, have pushed
North West Fons to create associations of their own to lobby for power
and resources for their province(16) . Similarly, in May 1999,
Peter Abety, Minister for Special Duties at the Presidency, launched,
almost single-handedly, a North West Development Association (NOWEDA)
which is yet to prove itself in any way.
Paradoxically, the "Anglophone problem" has enhanced the chances of the
Biya loyalists among the Anglophone elite to be appointed to government
posts which used to be reserved for Francophones only. Obviously,
Biya's decision to enhance the position of Anglophones in the state
apparatus, is a strategy to belie Anglophone charges that Anglophones
only play second-fiddle in the Francophone-dominated unitary state and,
simultaneously, to attract new members of the Anglophone elite into the
"hegemonic alliance" (Bayart 1979). In 1992 the North Westerner, Simon
Achidi Achu, and the South Westerner, Ephraim Inoni were appointed respectively
Prime Minister and Deputy-Secretary General at the Presidency of the Republic.
They, and other highly placed Anglophones, tend to be members of the Anglophone
delegations which are regularly sent by Biya from Yaounde to the Anglophone
provinces to contest the claims of the leadership of the Anglophone movements
and to defend the unitary state. It should, however, be noted that Biya's
new policy of allocating prestigious positions within the state apparatus
to his Anglophone allies, has also encouraged internal competition among
these privileged allies, particularly between South Westerners and North
Westerners (Nyamnjoh 1999). Compared to the North Westerners, South Westerners
have felt under-represented in the highest government offices and have
always maintained that South Westerners replace North Westerners in the
choicest jobs(17) . So when Peter Mafany Musonge was appointed
in September 1996 to take over from Simon Achidi Achu as PM and more South
Westerners maintained in key cabinet positions than North Westerners,
"the South West people ... went wild with excitement and jubilation and
loudly praised the Head of State", for having at last listened to the
cry of despair of South Westerners, who for over thirty-six years, were
"confined to the periphery of national politics and socio-economic development"(18)
. In the words of Musonge himself, this being "the first time in our history
as a united nation that a South Westerner has been appointed prime minister",
South Westerners had to "come together to galvanise the second political
awakening in the South West Province", and to "strengthen our position
and bargaining power". At his CPDM congress in December 1996, Paul Biya
further strengthened the position of the South Westerners when he admitted
more of them into the Central Committee of the party than he did North
Westerners; and the 22-member Political Bureau formed after the congress
included two South Westerners (John Ebong Ngolle and Dr Mrs Dorothy Njeuma)
and one North Westerner only (Tamfu Samuel Ngeh). These developments were
interpreted by North West CDPM barons as an indictment of them by the
head of state, for failing to contain the SDF and radical Anglophones
amongst them. The subsequent creation of a North West Development Association
(NOWEDA) by Peter Abety and of the North West Fons' Union (NOWEFU) and
North West Fons' Conference (NOWEFCO), would be interpreted as an attempt
by these barons to get their act together, and begin retrieving lost advantages.
Pro-CPDM South West elite have exploited the massive labour migration
from the North West to their province where a plantation economy was established
during the German colonial era (Konings 1993; 1998), to amplify the differences
between the two provinces. Increasingly, they have tended to accuse the
large-scale "settler population" of North West origin, of exploitation,
land-grabbing and ingratitude to welcoming indigenes. They have not hesitated
using the settler presence to explain all political disturbances in the
South West Province, even going as far as insi-nuating that poor performance
at elections by the ruling CPDM and secessionist tendencies among Anglophones
could be attributed wholly to the "settler" opposition and dissidents.
Hence, Fon Njifua of Fontem's declaration at the joint conference of South
West Chiefs and Elites in Buea, July 1999, that no true South Westerner
"sympathises" with the SCNC, even though Ndoki Mukete, a South Westerner
and SCNC chairman, was in the hall(19) .
The Biya government, like Ahidjo's, has also relied on a strategy of repression.
Lack of unity and severe repression precluded the Anglophone elite from
openly expressing its grievances about Francophone domination until 1982,
when Biya took power. In the wake of his introduction of a limited degree
of liberalisati-on, the Anglophone elite began voicing its long-standing
grievances. In 1983, the Biya government issued an Order modifying
the Anglophone General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination by making
it a group certificate similar to the Baccalauréat, instead of
the single-subject examination that it was. The publication of this
Order sparked off an Anglophone students' boycott of classes and demonstrations
brutally repressed by the police at Yaounde University and in the urban
centres in Anglophone Cameroon (Nyamnjoh 1996a), informed or not by student
protests elsewhere on the continent. In February 1984, the Biya government
changed the official name of the country from the "United Republic of
Cameroon" to simply the "Republic of Cameroon" - despite vehement Anglophone
protests that this was the name of inde-pendent Francophone Cameroon prior
to reunification. The new name appeared to deny that the Cameroon state
was composed of two distinct identities. Biya argued that the name change
was not only a demonstration of the political maturity of the Cameroonian
people after almost twenty-five years of independence, but also a sign
that the people had finally overcome divisions caused by seventy years
of European colonisation (Biya 1987: 6). In Anglophone circles, however,
Biya's unilateral name change seems to have given rise to two different
interpretations. Some Anglophones consider this action as the boldest
step yet taken toward their assimilation and disappearance as a distinct
founding community. For them, the new name was clear evidence that,
as far as Biya was concerned, the Anglophone territory and people had
lost their identity and had become an indistinguishable part of the former
Republic of Cameroon, thus carrying out to its intended conclusion Ahidjo's
designs to absorb and assimilate the Anglophone minority into the Francophone-dominated
state. Other Anglophones argued that by this action La République
du Cameroun(20) had unilaterally seceded from
the union and thus lacks a constitutional base to continue ruling the
former Southern Cameroons. They are often inclined to appeal to the United
Nations to assist its former Trust Territory in peacefully separating
from La République. This view was first expressed by the
eminent Anglophone lawyer and first president of the Cameroon Bar Association,
Fon Gorji Dinka. On 20 March 1985, Dinka addressed a memorandum to Paul
Biya entitled "The New Social Order". In this memorandum, he declared
the Biya government to be unconstitutional and called for the Southern
Cameroons to become independent and to be rebaptized as the Republic of
Ambazonia. Dinka was arrested and imprisoned without trial until January
1986, which transformed him into an Anglophone martyr(21) .
In the same year at the same time (i.e. during the Bamenda Congress of
the single party), two memoranda were submitted to the participants by
members of the North West and South West elite resident in Douala.
These documents drew the attention of the participants to the Anglophone
plight and highlighted that the Anglophone elite felt sidelined from political
In 1993, the Biya government, through the Vice Chancellor of the University
of Buea, Dr Mrs Dorothy Njeuma, did not allow the convenors to hold the
AACI on the premises of the University of Buea. In 1994, it attempted
to obstruct the organisation of AACII, using the idea that Anglophones
had come "together in Bamenda to declare secession" as an excuse for repression.
Leaders of the Anglophone movements tend to be harassed by security forces,
threatened with arrest, and subjected to travelling restrictions, although
such state repression is not always effective thanks to sabotage and tip-offs
by some servants of the regime sympathetic to the Anglophone cause. In
general, repression has increased with mounting threats of the proclamation
of an independent Southern Cameroons state. SCNC rallies and demonstrations
are officially banned in the Anglophone provinces. Repression was particularly
severe in the aftermath of an attack of the Southern Cameroons Youth League
(SCYL) on some military and civil establishments in the Bui and Mezam
Divisions of the North West Province on 27-28 March 1997.
The SCYL emerged in the mid-1990s as one of the many Anglophone associations
that operated under the umbrella of the SCNC. Being composed of "young
people who do not see any future for themselves and who would prefer to
die fighting than continue to submit to the fate imposed on Southern Cameroons
by La République"(23) , the SCYL aimed at becoming
the militant wing of the SCNC. Its original leadership was largely made
up of Anglophone members of the former University of Yaoundé students'
union, the so-called 'Parlement', which was engaged in several violent
confrontations with the university authorities and the Biya government
during the period 1990-1996(24) . The SCYL became soon dissatisfied
with the SCNC whose leadership continued to adhere to a strategy of peaceful
dialogue with the Francophone-dominated state for either a return to a
federal state or outright secession, manifest in its motto: "the force
of argument" - nothwithstanding the Biya government's persistent refusal
to enter into negotiations with the SCNC and its vehement repression of
SCNC activities. The SCYL leadership cut its relationship with the SCNC
in November 1996 and placed itself under the umbrella of a newly established
Southern Cameroons Independence Restoration Council (SCIRC). It now aimed
at creating an independent Southern Cameroons state through armed rebellion,
manifest in its motto: "the argument of force". Still in the process of
preparing for action in both Anglophone provinces, it was unexpectedly
faced with the detention of its chairman, Mr Akwanga Ebenezer Mbongo,
following his attempted theft of explosives from the Razel Company at
Jakiri in the night of 23-24 March 1997. It immediately reacted by attacking
some military and civil establishments in the North West Province on 27-28
March 1997. According to official reports, three gendarmes and seven unidentified
assailants were killed in these operations. Government repression of this
ill-planned revolt was out of proportion. It ruthlessly killed, tortured,
raped and arrested several local men and women, forcing even more of them
to go into exile. Above all, it seized the opportunity to clamp down on
the SDF and SCNC, accusing both organisations of being responsible for
the uprising(25) . A considerable number of SCNC members
were arrested and imprisoned in Yaoundé. Since the uprising, the
government has regularly accused the SCNC of importing weapons and inciting
the Anglophone population to armed rebellion. On 29 December 1999, Southern
Cameroons "independence fighters" captured the radio station at Buea and
broadcast a recorded message, read by Justice Fred Ebong, who has been
closely connected with the SCYL, proclaiming the independence of the Southern
Cameroons. On 7 January 2000, they hoisted the United Nations and Federation
flags in Victoria (Limbe). Justice Ebong and other "suspects" were subsequently
detained and political activities were proscribed in the South West Province(26)
. In March 2000, Justice Ebong, still in prison, was elected chairman
of the SCNC.
MEDIA AND ANGLOPHONE DISEMPOWERMENT
One of the instruments which the Francophone-dominated state has relied
on to implement their various strategies for disempowering Anglophones
in Cameroon, has been the media. By seeking total ownership and control
of the broadcast media while using draconian laws to stifle the private
press, the state has, over the years, stunted Anglophone freedom, weakened
solidarity among Anglophones, and dealt their sense of identity a crippling
blow. Government media policies and practices and how they affected
the Anglophones prior to 1990 have been well documented (cf. Nyamnjoh
1989; and 1990); so also has the particularly difficult legal environment
wherein the private press has operated since 1990 (cf. Nyamnjoh 1996b
and c). In this section therefore, we focus on how the government has
employed the state media - broadcasting especially, to deny Anglophone
identity and solidarity, while tacitly encouraging the rise and proliferation
of ethnic and regional print media.
RADIO & TELEVISION (CRTV) AND ANGLOPHONE IDENTITY
With the launching of the SDF in 1990, the Anglophone journalists in the
official media, in general, tended to distance themselves from the sort
of pro-establishment journalism defined by government and largely taken
for granted by their Francophone colleagues. The history of turbulence
in the official media was principally the history of government's attempt
to streamline the Anglophone journa-lists. The launching of the SDF led
to much witch-hunting against the Anglophone journalists in CRTV,
whom management identified with the new ("illegal") party. The witch-hunt
was quite understandable, for while Zacharie Ngniman, Antoine-Marie Ngono
and other Francophone journalists presented the unsigned and undated communiqué
from Minister Henri Bandolo as if this were verified information, Julius
Wamey, on his part, insisted that his broadcast was the go-vernment's
version of events in Bamenda. Relations between CRTV authorities and critical
Anglophone journalists only grew worse following the institutionalization
of multipartyism, leading to claims in the private press of an "anti-Anglophone
campaign" mounted by government and CRTV management. Much of this has
been well documented (cf. Nyamnjoh 1996b), but here are a few examples.
Cameroon Post(27) reports on a meeting the
Minister of Information and Culture held, the first week of June 1991,
with CRTV journalists, during which the minister "implicitly" accused
English language programmes of being sympathetic to the opposition. Specifically
cited were "Luncheon Date" - later on modified drastically by order of
the minister, "News Focus", the 7.30 p.m. news and "Cameroon Calling"
from which Anembom Munjo, Wain Paul Ngam, Asonglefac Nkemleke and Julius
Wamey were subsequently suspended. The minister also attacked TV News
Editor-in-Chief Eric Chinje "for reporting the resignati-on of CPDM Wouri
Section President Jean Jacques Ekindi without announcing the non-resignation
of Mifi Section President Joseph K. Tanyi". The minister implied that
this was part of the Anglophone journalists' attempts to sabotage the
CPDM government. The suspensions were interpreted by the journa-lists
as "part of a campaign launched by the Information and Culture Minister
and CRTV General Manager Mendo Ze to stop the tide of Anglophone journalists'
objectivity on CRTV". The minister insisted on the necessity of CRTV journalists
to respect the corporation's editorial policy, a euphemism for asking
all journalists to see things the government's way. Julius Wamey was accused
of having "falsely" claimed during a CRTV news flash that the South West
Chiefs meeting in Kumba had called for a national conference, and that
students mar-ching in Bamenda had done same. The governor of the North
West Province, in a telex to MINAT, was reported to have wondered "why
government media organs are being used by journalists who are partisan
to the SDF".
In a "confidential" letter to the General Manager of CRTV, Prime Minister
Sadou Hayatou was said(28) to have cal-led for severe
sanctions against Anglophone journalists who were using the official media
to "try government". The Prime Minis-ter was reported to have accused,
among others, "Cameroon Calling" and the English news of having "more
and more exhibi-ted reckless abandon ... in their analysis which have
of late seemed like an arraignment of government action". In his
letter he complained that "newscasters on radio and television have tended
to express their personal standpoints as if they were those of government".
He concluded by instructing the General Manager to "verify this situation
and where necessary address a severe warning to such personnel who should
not turn a public service into a private media with a tendency to
teleguide government action".
While some Anglophone journalists in the public media, their disillusionment
notwithstanding, identified with the PR role expected of them by government,
others opted either to leave the system entirely (e.g. Boh Herbert, Charlie
Ndichia, Eric Chinje, Victor Epie Ngome, Orlan-do Bama, Larry Eyong-Echaw,
Ben Bongang and Julius Wamey), or to distance themselves from official
rhetoric whenever they could (e.g. Ebssiy Ngum, Wain Paul Ngam and Asonglefac
Nkemleke). According to The Diasporan(29) , of
the nearly 50 repor-ters and announcers who started or joined television
in its first three years of existence, 27 (of whom 21 Anglophones) had,
by April 1994, "departed in bitterness and disillusionment to seek better
climes". Those who opted for government PR journalism, claimed that all
the government and its acolytes did was well and in the best interest
of Anglophones and Cameroon in general, and that the radical opposition,
the All Anglophone Conference (AAC) and the Cameroon Anglophone Movement
(CAM) were void of true patriots and motivated only by selfish, regional,
or tribal self-interests. These, CRTV management would encourage with
appointments to key positions, and eventually, the impression would be
created that the critical journalists were from the North West Province
while their pro-establishment counterparts were from the South West Province.
Selective appointment of South West journalists to strategic positions
would further drive this message home.
However, the critical journalists were convinced that the radical opposition
and extremist pressure groups they supported stood for "the truth" and
the best interest of Anglophones and of Cameroon, and that the government
and its acolytes were dissemblers motivated by selfish ambitions,
the greed for power and other selfish pursuits. Many Anglophone journalists
in CRTV who rapidly distanced themselves from their role as government
spokesmen or mouthpi-eces following the launching of the SDF, thus rechanneled
their energies in the service of the marginalized Anglophone commu-nity.
But using the official media to articulate societal problems and aspirations
met with stiff resistance from the authorities (Nyamnjoh 1996b).
In general, Anglophones feel CRTV does not cater for their interests.
According to Philip Ndi(30) , this is because "there is nobody
who actually represents the Anglophones at CRTV", and "decisions are taken
arbitrarily and nobody raises an eyebrow". He argues that "many decisions
are taken not only to frustrate Anglophone journalists but to minimise
and discredit their efforts".
As an institution, CRTV has seldom been comfortable reporting the truth
about any Anglophone movement, initiative or programme of action. An example
of CRTV's unprofessional journalism in this connection is that of the
3 p.m. radio news of 27 April 1994 concerning the second All Anglophone
Conference (AACII). An announcement was read to the effect that the AACII
scheduled to hold in Bamenda from 29 April to 1 May had been postponed
by the convenors. It was purported to have been signed by Dr Simon Munzu,
Dr Carlson Anyangwe and Barrister Sam Ekontang Elad. A claim the three
refuted. The AAC spokesman, Dr Simon Munzu, prepared a disclaimer for
broadcast by CRTV, but this was rejected. CRTV was even unable to provide
Dr Munzu with a copy of the announcement alleged to have been signed by
him and his colleagues(31) .
Anglophones are of the consistent impression that CRTV is there not so
much to respond to their aspirations, but rather to stifle initiative
and sense of identify in them. The choice to construct the FM transmitter
for the South West Province in Douala instead, was criticised by Anglophone
interest groups (e.g. SWELA) and by the media, and taken as another proof
of government's bad faith towards the Anglophones. To some, the Francophone
authorities were so concerned with the oil in Limbe that they feared what
might happen if Buea, given the prevailing trend of sentiments among critical
Anglophone leaders and public, were to be cut off from the rest of Cameroon
and made capital for a seceding West or Southern Cameroons. So many people
thought that the government wanted to be in control of access to radio
technology, to be able to cut off transmission should the need arise(32)
To Anglophones, it is clear from the content and language of programmes,
that television is preponderantly for Francophones. French is the dominant
language and French interests seem not only more important than English
interests, but are even superior to Cameroonian concerns and priorities.
It is possible and indeed quite regular that newscasts on CRTV are shifted
(displaced) from their normal time slots in order to make way for
the transmission of French football encounters. Hardly has any English
league match been retransmitted in a similar manner, and it is not often
that local matches or Cameroon's own international encounters get televised
Thus faced with such resistance, critical Anglophone journalists in the
official media, thanks to the December 1990 communication law, used the
English language private newspapers, some of them under pen names, to
insert Anglophone problems, concerns and aspirations on the national,
political, cultural and economic agendas. Together with their counterparts
in the critical English language press, the liberation journalists of
the official media were eager to expose the contradictions and inconsistencies
in the policies and actions of the Cameroonian leaders-hip. They argued
that until government started addressing the problems of the Anglophone
minority in Cameroon, it will remain an obstacle to the country's economic
progress and social justice. They criticised the rigid suppression by
go-vernment of contending social forces, especially those of Anglophone
origin. They blame most of Cameroon's current socio-political and economic
crises on the lack of accountability of successive Francophone-dominated
governments, and present the Anglophone and the rigour and selflessness
in public service in "the good old days" of Southern Cameroons as the
model. They identified with, and were proud of, the achieve-ments of the
anglo-saxon culture world-wide. In their view, the anglo-saxon culture,
"has been tested and its validity adequately proven", and all Anglophones
must take advantage of this identity, "rather than seeking to be Francophones
only to wind up ridiculous cultural mulattos to be jeered at and patronised"(33)
. And in this endeavour, their "heroes" received com-mendation from the
Cameroon Association of English-Speaking Journalists (CAMASEJ)(34)
However, the rising tides of the politics of belonging, the failure of
the opposition to make a striking difference and the weakening of the
leadership of the SCNC, have combined with the arrogance and confidence
of those in power, to silence many a journalist that was once critical
in CRTV. Many have left and, of those who have stayed on, most have chosen
to conform. Once again, the policy of divide-and-rule has triumphed, and
Anglophoneness has ended the loser.
MEDIA AND ANGLOPHONE IDENTITY
If, in the first three years of the current democratic process one could
identify a consensus on the Anglophone problem in the Anglophone press,
this is much less the case today. The increased importance of regional
and ethnic politics has indeed been matched by a redefinition of editorial
policy on the part of some existing papers, or by the creation of new
mouthpieces to take care of ethnic interests. Papers such as The Weekly
Post, The Star Headlines and The Oracle have been created
to focus on regional issues of interest to the South West Province and
SWELA, and to define themselves essentially in opposition to the grassfielders
(both the "settlers" in the diaspora and those still in their North West
and Western Provinces of origin). With the advent of the Grand SAWA movement,
they have now extended their interests to include what the movement stands
for in general. Newer papers such as Elimbi, Muendi, The Beacon and Fako
International (Mendi me Fako) have been created to attend more specifically
to the political ambitions of the SAWA elite in the Littoral and South
West Provinces, and to oppose Grassfields hegemony as a matter of policy.
Since 1996, little escapes criticism or comments by this press, including
inter-tribal wars in the North West, which it uses to deride the war mongering
nature of grassfielders and their penchant for fighting over land. During
elections, the press sought, through the rhetoric of "ethnic cleansing",
to solve problems of political representation, and to encourage a widespread
antagonism to "strangers" as parasites and "traitors in the house" (Collectif
Changer le Cameroun (C3) 1994; Eboussi Boulaga 1997; Jua 1997). They sought
to achieve, through a language of ethnicity, the necessary level of fear
that any kind of mixture with "dubious settlers" will in the end be damaging
to the interests of the minority.
As Wang Sonnè (1997: 188-189) notes, the first issue of Elimbi
on 26 March 1996 coincided with the launching of the SAWA movement. Initially
a bi-monthly, Elimbi became a weekly in November 1996, as the politics
of belonging heated up. It described itself as "a regional newspaper"
that targeted the people of the coast, paying attention in particular
to the activities and news of the coastal elite. But Elimbi's most striking
feature was "the production and dissemination of ideas hostile to the
Bamileke". In February 1997 (eve of the March legislative elections),
the proprietor of Elimbi, John Mandengué Epée, a native
Douala businessman who, a couple of years back, had initiated a libel
case that ended in the imprisonment of Paddy Mbawa of Cameroon Post, launched
a monthly - Muendi, with the mission of further defending SAWA identity
and intensifying the anti-Bamileke feeling in Douala.
The grassfielders also used the private press to fight back. In a similar
manner, existing papers redefined their editorial focus, while new ethnic
or regional papers sprung up. The Bamileke and North West elite used established
papers, most of which they owned and/or controlled, to riposte the attack
by the SAWA press, interpreting the January 1996 constitutional changes
as an impediment to the democratic process. The sheer volume of diatribes,
commentaries, opinions and reports related to "autochtonie" and "allogènie"
(indigene/settler) in grassfields newspapers such as La Nouvelle Expression,
Le Messager, The Post and The Herald, were an indication of how absorbing
the politics of belonging had became since 1996, with equally blatantly
ethnic papers like Ouest Echo and Nde Echo leading the show. Paradoxically,
although about belonging, the Anglophone problem in Cameroon has
become drowned by a press and government obsessed with a different kind
of belonging(35) .
The reactivation of Anglophone identity during the political liberalisation
process, manifest in the emergence of both the SDF, the first opposition
party in the country, and several Anglophone organisations and associations,
posed a serious threat to the regime in power and the unitary state. Little
wonder that the Biya government was keen to neutralise the Anglophone
danger and to deconstruct the Anglophone identity which tended to unite
people in the Anglophone territory across ethnic-regional boundaries based
on a common colonial heritage.
In this study we have shown that the regime has been quite successful
in this endeavour, employing several strategies. One strategy has been
the regime's persistent refusal to enter into any meaningful negotiations
with the Anglophone leadership about either a return to the federal state
or peaceful secession and its concomitant resort to outright repression
of Anglophone movements and actions. Faced with this government strategy,
the Anglophone leadership, in turn, has proved incapable of reconsidering
its own tactics, clinging instead to its motto: "the force of argument".
As a result, it has dismally failed to deliver the promised goods. It
is now evident that the Anglophone struggles have lost their initial momentum
and that the Anglophone movements are more and more subject to inertia
and internal schisms. Particularly the Anglophone youth has increasingly
advocated the "argument of force".
Another government strategy has been to establish control over the
state media, punishing any journalist who dared to propagate Anglophone
identity and solidarity, and to tacitly promote the rise and proliferation
of ethnic and regional print media.
Again another government strategy has been to capitalise on the existing
divide between the coastal/forest and grassfields people in the Anglophone
territory, which is mainly rooted in the increasing resentment of South
Westerners about large-scale settlement and economic and political domination
of North Westerners in their region. In the ongoing struggles for economic
and political power during the current political liberalisation process,
South West ethnic-regional identity has been boosted by the 1996 constitution,
which promised state protection for "autochtonous" minorities, leading
to growing resistance of "autochtonous" South Westerners against "dominant
and exploitative" North Western "settlers", "strangers", or "cam-no-goes"
in their region and various forms of "ethnic cleansing". The regime also
appears to have promoted the construction of new ethnic identities, in
particular the Grand SAWA movement - an alignment of the ethnic-related
coastal elite in the South West Province and neighbouring Francophone
provinces on the basis of common feelings of exploitation and domination
by grassfields "settlers". The emergence of the SAWA movement had another
devastating effect on the Anglophone identity, the Francophone-Anglophone
divide becoming cross-cut by alliances that oppose coastal versus grassfields
elites. Of late, however, one may observe certain cracks in Sawa solidarity.
First, there is a growing feeling among the Littoral elite that they have
gained less than the South West elite in terms of political nominations.
Some Douala leaders, like Jean-Jacques Ekindi, have even warned the South
West elite that they do not want to see Bamileke domination replaced by
South West domination. Second, without the North Westerners to blame or
scapegoat since the appointment of Musonge as PM in September 1996, the
South West chiefs and elites are finding it increasingly difficult convincing
their peoples to stay committed to President Biya and the CPDM with promises
and good intentions alone. This was evident at a joint conference of chiefs
and elites in Buea in July 1999, where the idea of reviving SWELA was
examined with little enthusiasm or support from Caven Nnoko Mbelle and
Martin Nkemngu, its rival secretary generals of the early 1990s(36)
. It is thus possible yet that more and more of the disenchanted Anglophone
masses would see through the smokescreen of divisions of convenience mounted
by their elite under the patronage of a monolithic state at odds with
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For a discussion of the various factors contributing to the promulgation
of the 1996 constitution, see Melone et al. 1996.
(2) "The term Sawa ... is generally employed by the Douala
to refer to themselves as coastal peoples. It has also been extended to
embrace related peoples such as the Bakweri, the Pongo, Malimba, Dibombari,
the Bodiman, the Ewudi (all closely related to the former). Other distant
peoples in the Littoral Province and the South West Province (e.g. the
Mbo of the Mungo Division, the Bakossi, the Bassa of Douala city, the
Yabassi, the Bakundu, Balondo, Balong, Mbonge and Bafaw) have also come
to identify themselves with this appellation" (Yenshu 1998).
(3) It should be noted that anti-Bamileke sentiments have a
long history in the Cameroonian post-colonial state. Such anti-Bamileke
feelings were even expressed within the Catholic Church. For example,
in 1987, Douala priests strongly protested against the appointment of
a Bamileke auxiliary bishop in the Douala Archdiocese. See Collectif Changer
le Cameroun (C3) 1992. The political liberalisation in the early 1990s
and the 1996 constitution only helped to exacerbate these sentiments.
(4) See The Herald, 21 July 1999, pp.1, and 3-4, for a detailed
report on the conference which was held at the University of Buea on 17
(5) Dr J.N. Foncha's Letter of Resignation from the C.P.DM.,
reproduced in Mukong 1990: 155.
(6) See Cameroon Tribune, 19 July 1999, pp.8-9, for reactions
to the appointment titled: "Yaoundé: l'archevêque qu'on n'attendait
pas"; and La Nouvelle Expression, 21 July 1999, p.6, for the article "Archidiocèse
de Yaoundé: déjà des cloches dissonnantes". In an
interview with the Editor-in-Chief of Cameroon Tribune, Paul C. Ndembiyembe
(a Beti), André Wouking expressed shock and indignation over the
behaviour of a Beti priest who refused to say mass at the Yaounde Cathedral,
on 18 July 1999, "to mark his disapproval" of the appointment of a Bamileke
as archbishop of a "Beti" diocese. See Cameroon Tribune, 23 July 1999,
(7) See Cameroon Post, 12-18 November 1996, pp.1 and 3; The
Herald, 11-12 November 1996, pp.1 and 3; The Star Headlines, 20 November
1996, pp.1-7. For a critical commentary on the "politics of back-scratching"
which former PM Simon Achidi Achu and his successor PM Peter Mafany Musonge
sought to promote in their regions and elsewhere in appreciation of appointments
by Biya, see Rotcod Gobata in Cameroon Post, 26 November - 2 December
(8) Examples include Yondo Black's Mouvement Social pour la
Nouvelle Démocratie (MSND), Jean-Jacques Ekindi's Mouvement Progressiste
(MP), Mola Njoh Litumbe's Liberal Democratic Alliance (LDA) and Samuel
Eboua's Mouvement pour la Démocratie Populaire (MDP).
(9) See Paul Verdzekov, Archbishop of Bamenda, A Talk at the
Presentation of a Book Entitled: The Cameroon GCE Crisis: A Test of Anglophone
Solidarity, Monday, 1 July 1996.
(10) See Jeune Afrique Economie, No.207, 20 November 1995,
(11) In an interview granted to Jeune Afrique Economie
in 1999, Biya indicated his willingness to organise a referendum on the
Anglophone problem "if the need is there", stressing that only a small
minority of the Anglophones were clamoring for secession. For a summary
of this interview, see Isaha'a Boh Cameroon -Bulletin No.417. Contrary
to Biya's view, we showed in an earlier article (Konings and Nyamnjoh
1997) that the Anglophone problem can no longer be perceived as an elitist
problem. This can be substantiated by the widespread support for a number
of actions organised against the Francophone-dominated state by the various
Anglophone movements. This was particularly manifest during the "sensitisation
tour" organised by the SCNC throughout the Anglophone territory in July-August
1995 following the return of its delegation to the United Nations. Large
crowds attended the SCNC rallies, praising the delegation for its historic
mission to the United Nations and pledging their support for the SCNC's
new strive for total independence of the Southern Cameroons. When security
forces tried to prevent the SCNC delegation from entering Kumba in the
South West Province, thousands of people chased them away, thus securing
a triumphant entry of the delegation into the town. For these SCNC rallies,
see "SCNC Hits Kumba: 75000 jam town green", in The Herald, 3-6 August
1994, p.1, and "As Elites Condemn Military Operation: SCNC plans operation
storm Mamfe", in Cameroon Post, 14-21 August 1995.
(12) See The Herald, 2-3 December 1996, p.1.
(13) See Cameroon Post, 20-27 April 1994, pp. 2-3; Cameroon
Post (Special), 29 April - 1 May 1994, pp. 1-12; Cameroon Post, 29 June
- 6 July 1994, pp.6-7; The Herald, 29 April - 1 May 1994, pp.1-2; Cameroon
Post, 29 June - 6 July 1994, pp.6-7; The Messenger, 2 May 1994,
pp.1 and 2.
(14) The Herald, 3-10 November 1993, p.6.
(15) See Cameroon Post, 29 October - 4 November 1996, pp.1
(16) Quite typical of the politics of division particularly
characteristic of the 1990s in Cameroon, there are two factions of the
Fons' conference: The North West Fons' Union (NOWEFU) led by Fon Abumbi
II of Bafut, and the North West Fons' Conference (NOWEFCO) led by Fon
Doh Gah Gwanyin of Balikumbat, the lone CPDM parliamentarian of the province.
The latter is said to have manipulated members of government and the Governor
into thinking that his faction was more popular, thus straining relations
between Governor Kouambo Adrien and NOWEFU. However, President Biya and
Prime Minister Musonge apparently endorsed NOWEFU when they both sent
representatives with messages of encouragement to the NOWEFU general assembly
that met on 5 June 1999 in Bamenda. A development which Fon Doh did not
appreciate. See The Herald, 16 May 1999, pp. 1-2; 7 June 1999, pp.1-2;
and 11 June 1999, p.2.
(17) For example, following the January 1996 municipal elec-tions
which, according to official results, Prime Minister Achidi Achu (North
Westerner) lost at his home constituency of Santa, while Minister of Higher
Education Peter Agbor Tabi (South Westerner) won in Mamfe, the latter
did not conceal his ambition to take over from Achidi Achu as Prime Minister.
See The Herald, 1-3 April 1996, pp.1 and 3; and 11-14 April 1996, pp.1
and 2; Weekly Post, 5-11 June 1996, pp.1 and 4. In March 1996, the
southwestern political analyst and journalist, Churchill Ewumbue-Mono-no,
not only predicted that the next Prime Minister would be Anglophone and
South Westerner, but even had the prescience to name Peter Mafany Musonge
as the most likely successor: "like Achidi Achu who left Bamenda to become
Prime Minister, Musonge could also leave Limbe to the Star House". SeeCameroon
Post, 24-30 September 1996, pp.1 and 3.
(18) See "Significance of P.M. Musonge's Appointment" by a
South West elite, Kome Epule, in The Star Headlines, 20 November 1996,
(19) cf.The Herald, 21 July 1999, p.3.
(20) Reference to the incumbent regime as the government of
La République du Cameroun, the name adopted by Francophone Cameroon
at independence, has become a key signifier in the replotting of the nation's
constitutional history as a progressive consolidation of the recolonisation
of Anglophone Cameroon by the post-colonial Francophone-dominated state.
See Eyoh 1998b: 264.
(21) See Fon Gorji Dinka's The New Social Order, dated 20 March
1985, addressed to H.E. Comrade P. Biya at the Bamenda CNU party congress
(22) These documents can be found in Mukong 1990.
(23) See Mr Fidelis Chiabi, chairman of the former Anglophone
Youth Council, in Cameroon Post, 1-2 February 1994, p.7.
(24) For the "parlement" at the University of Yaounde, see,
for instance, A.D. Lisinge, The Philosophy the behind University Crisis
(no date and publisher indicated).
(25) In a report that was full of factual errors and based
on spurious evidence, Jeune Afrique Economie supported the Biya
government's allegation that the SCNC was responsible for the revolt.
See Jeune Afrique Economie, No.239, 14 April 1997, p.8. The journal's
support of the Biya government's allegation is not altogether surprising.
Titus Edzoa, a former Secretary-General at the Presidency, once revealed
that the journal was used for public relations purposes by the regime.
To this end, the regime had funded the journal to the tune of FCFA 1.5
billion (or US $ 3 million).
(26) This account is based on various SCYL reports and our
interviews with some SCYL leaders.
(27) Cameroon Post, 6-13 June 1991, p.1
(28) See Cameroon Post, 30 July - 6 August 1991, p.3.
(29) SeeThe Diasporan, 14 April 1995, which devotes its front
and central pages to television in Cameroon, "a revolution that ate its
children". The articles or testimonies are by Eric Chinje, Julius Wamey,
Melissa Nambangi and Orlando Bama, all of whom are former CRTV journalists
living and/or studying in the USA. The Diasporan is US-based and has as
Editor-in-Chief Julius Wamey.
(30) The Herald, 13-20 January 1993, p.4.
(31) For more, see Cameroon Post, 29 April - 1 May 1994, p.2.
(32) For more on the FM affair, see The Herald, 3-5 January
1994, p.3; Cameroon Post, 24 November - 1 December 1993, p.13.
(33) Cameroon Post, 27-30 May 1991, p.6.
(34) See Le Messager, 28 February 1992, p.10.
(35) It is, however, noteworthy that the editorial line of
the Francophone Grassfields newspapers, such as La Nouvelle Expression
and Le Messager, in respect of the anglophone problem does not essentially
differ from the government's position.
(36) See The Herald, 21 July 1999, pp.1-4, for the resolutions
of, a critical report and an editorial on, the joint conference of South
West Chiefs and Elite which was held at Buea on 17 July 1999.
The ideas and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author
and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO.
Les idées et opinions exprimées dans cette article sont
celles de l'auteur
et n’engagent pas la responsabilité de l´UNESCO.