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HomeLivres imprimésCONNAISSANCESAnglophone lawyers and teachers strikes in Cameroon (2016-2017) A multidimensional Perspective

Anglophone lawyers and teachers strikes in Cameroon (2016-2017) A multidimensional Perspective

Auteur  : Kashim I. Tala,  Kingsley L. Ngange
Année de parution  : 2019
Bref résumé
‘‘Scholars interested in the subject of Peace and Conflict, especially within Anglophone Cameroon in particular, and Cameroon in general, will find very useful ideas in this book. Such ideas can be exploited as fertile fields for further research that will address the Anglophone problem, and by extension, the Cameroon problem. So, anyone preparing for a career in Peace and Conflict research should take this book seriously. Students, especially those interested in Peace and Conflict studies, will find this book useful. Ph.D candidates may use this book as a veritable ground to frame their subject matter in such a way that indicates what is missing and suggestions on what might be helpful in filling the gaps in knowledge. People who have interest in knowing the origin, evolution and outcome of the Cameroon Anglophone Problem, will also find this book very useful.’’
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Kingsley L. Ngange & Stephen N. Ndode

We appear to live in an incredibly violent world. Not a day appears to go by when we do not hear of some new atrocity: individuals beheaded, planes shot from the sky, suicide bombings of all descriptions, mass killings, and calls to even more escalated violence (Ray & Esteban, 2017:3).

These introductory remarks by Ray and Esteban demonstrate the complexity of modern society, grounded in one form of crisis or another. The comments show that society is in perpetual state of flux, with wider implications for man to be alert to processes leading up to crises and organized violence, public opinion, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviours on such actions, policy implications, and necessary actions to contain the conflicts.

Conflict is a human process (Gates, Hegre, Nygard, & Strand, 2012). As a human process therefore, the challenge is to draw a clear line as to whether conflict depends on man or man depends on conflict. At different stages and settings, different types of conflicts occur: intrapersonal conflicts, interpersonal conflicts, man against society, society against man, man against nature, family conflicts, inter-group conflicts, intrastate conflicts, interstate conflicts, and global conflicts (Folarin, 2014). These various conflicts can be broadly categorized under micro, meso, and macro conflicts; taking on different forms: armed struggle, war, revolution, terrorism, mutiny, protest, and insurgency (Folarin, ibid.). All of these are processes that require systematic approaches if one is to look ambitiously towards the direction of conflict resolution.

Likewise, peace is a universal concept and also a human process. During conflicts, people expose their grievances against self, others, an institution, or system. This implies that an individual or group disagrees proportionately with another individual or group, leading to tension (College of Nurses of Ontario, 2017; UNHCR, 2015). This is the same issue with Cameroon wherein lawyers and teachers staged legitimate strike actions in October and November 2016 respectively, demanding the amelioration of their working conditions. The situation got sour when the strikes were hijacked by the ‘civil society’ (business persons, bike riders, drivers, in fact, a mob), following the creation of the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium in December 2016. This made it extremely difficult to contain what could have otherwise been an easy process to manage. This book gives a multidimensional perspective of the lawyers and teachers strikes in Cameroon (2016-2017): historical, educational, legal, journalistic, and economic among others.

Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes in Cameroon (2016-2017): A Multidimensional Perspective” is a timely publication. The book comes at a time when many historical processes and facts in Cameroon have been distorted by individuals and institutions. This lost value in scientific documentation has resulted to misunderstandings and increased confusion in many circles on how Cameroon has survived through good, bad, and ugly historical epochs.

Currently, the world is facing a wave of social unrests as denizens are increasingly demanding their rights to independence and total freedom. Examples abound: the Middle East, Catalonia, Algeria, Sudan, Ethiopia (Eritrea), Cameroon, etc. Such demands have often met with stiff resistance from the central government, resulting to radicalization and prolonged protests. This is a classic case of the Cameroon Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes which is well documented in this publication. This volume analyzes the socio-political and economic issues in the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon: the North West and South West regions.

From the inception of the strikes in 2016, there have been several wanton arrests, shutdown of Internet services in the two regions, self-exile of supposed leaders of the strikes, civil disobedience (Ghost Towns), shutdown of all activities, destruction of properties, trial of the arrested leaders, dragging of religious leaders to court, boycott of lawyers from the courts, and boycott of teachers from schools. Except for some government secondary schools and higher institutions, lay private and religious schools did not function smoothly for quite some time. In late 2017, the struggle turned into an armed confrontation between the forces of law and order and several separatists armed groups in the two English-speaking regions. This resulted to a declaration of war on the so called ‘terrorists’ by the President of the Republic in 2017.  Since then, there has been continuous violence in many parts of the North West and South West Regions, arrest and extradition of secessionist leaders from Nigeria to Cameroon in January 2018, killings, beheading, maiming of the hands and legs of civilians, arson (like the burning of the General Hospital in Kumba in February 2019) by the separatists, kidnap of government officials, students, ordinary citizens, and other important personalities with the consequent extortion of huge ransoms.

The government on its part made some attempts to resolve the strikes by organizing dialogue missions, signing of Presidential Decrees giving in to most of the demands of the lawyers and teachers, visits of foreign officials/missions, release from jail of some union leaders and over 250 rioters who were arrested in connection with the strikes, etc. The government has created key institutions as means to contain the strikes and the Anglophone problem. These include the Ministry of Decentralization and Local Development, the Bilingualism and Multiculturalism Commission headed by former Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musonge, National Commission for Disarmament and Rehabilitation, and English units in some judicial (like the Supreme Court) and educational circles.

Konings and Nyamnjoh (1997) trace the history of the Cameroon Anglophone problem to 1961 when the “political elites of two territories with different colonial legacies agreed on the formation of a federal state” (pp. 208). The federal constitution which was drawn later in July 1961 was to serve as an instrument for protecting and preserving the cultural heritage and identity of each territory. However, as Konings and Nyamnjoh (ibid.) note, contrary to the high expectations of the Anglophone leaders, the 1961 union turned out to be a transitory phase to the total integration or assimilation of the English speaking state into a strongly centralized, unitary state.

The assimilation process has been gradual and can be seen in state polices and some particular events. Fochingong (2013) brings out this process in four stages. The first stage was to harmonize certain practices like the extension of the system of regional administration into West Cameroon; thereby, clearly ignoring the federal character of the country, the change of the currency in West Cameroon from pound sterling to the French Franc CFA and change of traffic system from left-hand drive to right-hand drive that existed in French Cameroon.

The second stage was the extension, in 1966 to West Cameroon, of the one-party system that was existing in French Cameroon at the time of reunification. The 1972 referendum which dissolved the federation in favour of a unitary state was the third stage.

The fourth and final stage according to the author was effected by Presidential Decree N° 84-001 of 4/2/84 changing the name of the country from the United Republic of Cameroon to the pre-Reunification appellation of East Cameroon, La Republique du Cameroun thereby removing the last visible symbol of the 1961 union.

According to some Cameroon Anglophone scholars, these stages have been buttressed by a subtle and systematic policy of “francophonising” the Anglophones and obliterating anything Anglophone – erasing all cultural and institutional foundations of Anglophone identity (Fonlon, 1969; Kofele-Kale, 1986; Nyamnjoh & Rowlands, 1998; Takougang & Krieger, 1998), as cited in Fochingong (2013:226).

Since the 1984 Presidential Decree, many other developments have been noted and publicly denounced as deliberate attempts to bury the Anglophone identity and assimilate the English speaking minorities. In 1993, in order to preserve the Anglophone General Certificate of Education (GCE) examinations, Anglophones protested and demanded for a Board to manage the GCE examinations. This finally came through but with a prize of human loses and injuries. Earlier in 1983, Anglophone students had boycotted classes and demonstrated against a Government promulgated order to modify the Anglophone GCE to make it similar to the French Baccalaureate (Fochingong, 2013).

The main grievances of the lawyers and teachers strike actions in 2016/2017 centered on preserving the Common Law system practiced in Anglophone Cameroon and the Anglo-Saxon system of education, which, according to the leaders of the strikes, were under threat of extinction. As noted by one of the leaders, Tassang Wilfred, over Equinox TV, the Anglophone legal and educational systems can only be guaranteed under a federal system of governance. That is why the teachers had to include the return to a federal system of government as one of their demands. From there, federation became a major talking point in the lawyers and teachers strikes.

The denial of an Anglophone problem in some government circles during the early days of the lawyers and teachers strikes did not also help matters. It only increased aggression and further frustration on the part of aggrieved Anglophones. Konings and Nyamnjoh (1997) note that the Government’s continued denial of any `Anglophone problem’ in Cameroon, and its determination to defend the unitary state by all available means, including repression, could lead to an escalation of Anglophone demands past a point of no return (pp. 229). This statement is almost coming to pass as the struggle only grows exponentially as the days go by. The use of the new media in mobilizing people to agitate and the activities of the diaspora Anglophone community demonstrate the uncontrollable manner in which the initial lawyers and teachers strikes are deeply rooted.

On the question of marginalization, it is important to note that it can be discussed at four levels: Francophones against Anglophones; Anglophones against Francophones; Francophones against Francophones; and more importantly, Anglophones against Anglophones. Unfortunately, the “Cameroon Anglophone Crisis” is silent on the other three levels of marginalization except Francophone marginalization of Anglophones. It will be important at some point to review the other three levels, especially the silent and disturbing subject of some Anglophones (majority in terms of population) marginalizing other Anglophones (of the minority) since 1959 following political moves towards independence and especially after the 1961 Plebiscite vote.

This book is organized into seven distinct chapters, including the introduction and conclusion. Each perspective is handled by competent authorities: Chapter one – The Anglophone Problem in Cameroon: Origin and Evolution, 1959-2016. In this chapter, the author successfully traces the history of Cameroon, documenting that such history is what has put Cameroon into the situation it finds itself in today. Historical accounts, seen in the illustration of facts with key dates and figures, give this chapter a sharp view that every reader can easily follow through to understand the chronology of events leading up to the current Cameroon Anglophone crisis.

Chapter two is entitled, Major Events and Actors of the 2016/2017 Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes: A Journalistic Perspective. Here, the author, a renowned journalist in the Cameroon media landscape, who followed the evolution of the strikes meticulously, narrates the major events in an objective and journalistic manner. This is supplemented by vital press releases and other documents issued during the strikes as evidence (attached as appendix in this book). This chapter is purely a journalistic account.

In Chapter three, Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes: A Legal Perspective, the author successfully traces the legal implications of the strikes. The author, amongst other things says Cameroon has suffered as a child of mixed making; not knowing where to belong to – English or French. Such quagmire, the author asserts, has manifested over the years, leading to multiple grievances that found themselves in full manifestation as the Lawyers and Teachers Strikes.

Chapter four is entitled, Prolonged Strikes in the Anglophone sub-system of Education: An Educational Perspective. Here, the authors portray the educational aspect of the strikes, and list the consequences of children going to school amidst tension, and some children not going to school at all. This chapter is particularly important as it explains that the teachers’ strike was originally hinged around educational demands.

Chapter five analyses the Dialogue Process of the Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes and the Measures Taken. Here, an appraisal is given of the meetings that took place between the conflicting parties. Measures put in place by government to resolve the strikes are also discussed elaborately.

In Chapter six- Role of the Mass Media in the Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes, the author underscores that the mass media, especially social media like Facebook and WhatsApp played a very negative role during the strikes. The author establishes that even traditional media like The Post Newspaper that was content analyzed played more of an inflammatory role. The author concludes by decrying these roles, stating that such poor reporting is against the norms of peace journalism.

Chapter seven – Socioeconomic Consequences of the Anglophone Lawyers and Teachers Strikes. Here, the author identifies the implications of the manifestations of the crisis, like ghost towns, and how such dreadful moments killed economic activities in the North West and South West regions.

These diverse and detailed chapters give the book a multidimensional perspective. The authors have used their varied competences to give maximum input into the events. This is more foundational as the authors lived the strikes.

It is hoped that readers will find this book an interesting piece that can provoke further academic debates, published research, and key policy recommendations.