Like an outbreak of fever, the “Anglophone problem” has become entrapped since the beginning of October 2017. There have been breaks, attempts of seizure, and the destruction of public buildings in the North West and South West regions. The conducts of the initiators and their accomplices have been resolutely radicalised, to the extent where some are locked into a logic of “all or nothing” depending on whether they are in favour of partitioning the State or followers of a return to federalism, which the country experienced more than a decade after its independence; more than half a century ago.
In any case, it is now clear that we have definitely emerged from trade unionists claims; the foundation on which the first strikes of Lawyers and Teachers were based, to settle on a resolutely political field. Here, the main actors proceed with masked faces, making it difficult to bring everyone on board or discuss, even to a minimum, those issues that divide or for which the Cameroonian people agreed on in the yesteryears.
In the face of this radicalisation, voices raised here and there, advocating and chanting for dialogue as the exit channel from the crisis. But, by the way, which dialogue are we talking about? One that has hitherto been running or a fictitious dialogue that never would have taken place? Are we struggling to impose another form of dialogue, even though recognisable platforms have been created through the distinguished impetus of the Head of State, and the government, whose watchword has been – dialogue?
To those who must have forgotten, let us recall that from the beginning of these movements, the Government, on high instructions from the Head of State, chosed the path of reconciliation with the various leaders and proponents of the demands. As guarantor of the welfare of all Cameroonians, President Paul BIYA went beyond expectations by expressly sending high-level envoys to the North West and South West regions. On the front line was the Prime Minister and Head of Government, an illustrious son of that part of the country. Mr. Philemon YANG initiated dialogue with the active forces of the aforementioned regions in a peer to peer discussion, with some excerpts that went viral on the social media.
Many laudable actions were subsequently taken by the President of the Republic, in an effort to strengthen the dialogue thus initiated at the dawn of tensions. It is important to highlight some of these measures. On 29 November 2016, an Ad Hoc Committee was set up with the task of thoroughly examining the concerns raised by Anglophone teachers’ trade unions and formulating appropriate solutions. The GHOGOMU Committee, comprised of 25 personalities, including three members of the Government, representatives of teachers’ unions from the two regions concerned, and parents of students. It was responsible for a wide range of measures related to issues of students’ admission in Anglo-Saxon universities, the assignment of Anglophones in Francophone schools, the representation of Anglophones in teaching and support staff positions, the respect of the principle of regional equilibrium, the duration and award of diplomas in the Anglophone sub-system of secondary education, etc. In this forum of dialogue and consultation, a certain trade unionist called TASSANG Wilfred, who was a member, later thought he had to slam the door and leave Cameroon to fill the social media with secessionist calls alongside supporters of the partition of Cameroon.
The same spirit of dialogue and debate prevailed during talks linked to the demands of Lawyers. On 22 December 2016, an ad hoc committee led by Jean Pierre FOGUI, Minister Delegate to the Ministry of Justice, was charged with the examination of the concerns of Anglophone lawyers. During a series of meetings, the first which took place on 27 and 28 December 2016, a number of recommendations were made and decisions were taken in relation to the key claims such as: the restitution of confiscated gowns and wigs of lawyers; the prosecution of law enforcement officers who allegedly violated lawyers; the transfer of Francophone judicial personnel who do not master the English language; the establishment in the Supreme Court of a special section to handle appeals in English; the creation of a common law department at the National School of Administration and Magistracy (NSAM), etc.
Moreover, following the presidential instructions designed to promote a better administration of justice in the North West and South West regions, working groups were set up under the aegis of the Minister of State Laurent ESSO and Ministers Jacques FAME NDONGO and Michel Ange ANGOUING. Objectives: Strengthening the capacities of English-speaking staff, determining the content of training programmes at NSAM, and the curriculum of law-related educational programmes for a judicial career.
In order to demonstrate his commitment to inclusive and sustainable dialogue, President Paul BIYA created the National Commission for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism (NCPBM) on 23 January 2017. This institution is headed by Peter MAFANY MUSONGE, former Prime Minister, Head of Government (South West origin). According to the decree creating the NCPBM, renowned personalities collaborate together, within a republican framework “to promote bilingualism, multiculturalism in Cameroon, with a view to maintain peace, consolidate the national unity of the country and strengthen the will and the daily practice of living together.” The Commission may also play the role of a “mediator”. The North West and South West have three members each. This is an indication that the social unrest had a major impact on the choice of men.
Beyond that, there are many other initiatives that need to be raised. Like that of GARGA HAMAN ADJI, who met various actors of the crisis in the North West and South West on the demand of President PAUL BIYA in January 2017. As a reminder, GARGA HAMAN ADJI is the National President of the Alliance for Democracy and Development (ADD), a political opposition party with which the ruling CPDM has sealed no political agreement. His involvement as a mediator clearly reflects the will of the Head of State to stand above partisan considerations and appeal to all Cameroonians of goodwill to find a way out of this crisis.
Moreover, in the series of actions aimed at maintaining dialogue, it should be noted that in March 2017, the Prime Minister, Head of Government visited the North West again to exchange views with the elites and the populations on grievances to which the government quickly acceded.
Likewise, the heads of the ministerial departments in charge of education (Basic Education, Secondary Education and Higher Education) have made a remarkable presence on the ground and maintained dialogue with the educational community.
How can we overlook those governmental missions sent to some foreign governments, the UN and the Cameroonian diaspora last August? These missions, whose aim was to disseminate the right information on the real situation in the North West and South West regions, which, for some, was disrupted by activists hostile to dialogue.
These are enough reasons to satisfactorily demonstrate that President Paul BIYA is a man of peace, and he is more acquainted with the virtues of dialogue. A serene atmosphere, in the present case, is only possible when all the pre-requisites have been fulfilled. Among them are: well-identified and sufficiently representative negotiators; and issues that would not jeopardize the foundations of the State.
Speaking on the subject as part of his message to the Nation on 31 December 2016, the Head of State clearly declared: “It is not forbidden to voice any concerns in the Republic. However, nothing great can be achieved by using verbal excesses, street violence, and defying authority. Lasting solutions to problems can be found only through peaceful dialogue.… And that, in strict respect of our Constitution and our Institutions.”
Obviously, dialogue, now perceived as a genuine and unique panacea to the current Anglophone crisis, has never failed. How could it be otherwise when one knows the quasi-visceral attachment of President Paul BIYA to this value, which he has embraced as his credo, throughout his magisterium!
The Head of State’s trait; a man of dialogue, enamoured with peace and kneaded with wisdom, composure and serenity, has been acknowledged through the award of many distinctions related to conflict resolution. For example, on 6 June 2014 the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) decorated President Paul BIYA for his “peaceful resolution of conflicts”. This award was granted at the Unity Palace by the former President of South Africa, Thabo MBEKI, in the presence of Barrister Akere MUNA, then President of PALU, and Mrs. Huguette LABELLE, President of Transparency International.