Monday, March 9, 2020

Just Published: Nation at Risk: A Personal Narrative of the Cameroonian Crisis by Peter Wuteh Vakunta, PhD. i-Universe, Inc., Bloomington.  2012. 206 pp. Paperback $14.00. ISBN 978-1-4697-9974-2

I am obligated to concede that the overall tenor of my remarks in Nation at Risk: A Personal Narrative of the Cameroonian Crisis could easily be misconstrued as requiem for what we now know as the Republic of Cameroon. So, let me caution from the outset that this is not the intent of this book, the sole purpose of which is to shine the searchlight on the dysfunctional government of Cameroon under President Paul Biya, a minuscule man and matching mind, endowed with a gargantuan ego. Those who wish to comprehend the apocalypse toward which the Cameroonian nation is being propelled by the rogue governance of Mr. Biya will do well to study the mind of the man at the helm. Mr. Biya enjoys playing at and for power. The diabolism inherent in the phenomenon of power is something he relishes.  Yet, the politics of power is for him, an intellectual challenge. Thus, manipulation, divisive tactics, cajolery, patronage, double-talk, exploitation of weaknesses, blackmail, backstabbing, occultism, cronyism, influence peddling, and the cultivation of apparent detachedness form the armory of this wily politician nicknamed L’homme Lion or Lion Man.

The thought behind the crafting of this book was nourished by the fervent belief that change is the offspring of  audacity and strength of character necessary to break out of the mold of conventional reasoning, the temerity to pose intriguing questions that have never been asked before, the perspicacity to imagine things as they have never been fathomed before , the courage to challenge the status quo, the rebelliousness needed to express new thoughts at the risk of being pilloried, and the desire to be free from the  shackles of mental servitude that confines people in perpetual paranoia of offending people at the helm.

I subscribe to the aphorism that a modicum of measured resistance, controlled defiance, and reasoned disobedience are recipes for positive change in the community of humans. The fear to offend the untouchables of our society inhibits our ability to engage in constructive criticism in which resides the capacity of a society to change and evolve. Our reluctance to hold our leaders accountable hinders our ability to rise up against abuse of power, injustice, corruption, and impunity. For thirty years, Cameroonians have been victims to one man’s Machiavellian dictatorship; they have seen how one man—Mr. Paul Biya—surrounded by a cabal of tribesmen has hijacked the entire governmental apparatus with the aid of the military and stayed in power anti-constitutionally. Like all global dictators, Mr. Biya has learned the ropes of despotic governance quickly: once in power, put people of your tribe in key positions: military generals, ministers, beef up your personal protection, that way, you cannot be overthrown by a coup d’état, bribe the military by means of disproportionately elevated salaries given that soldiers are the mainstay of a dictatorship. This is the dictatorial blueprint the tenets of which serve as Mr. Biya’s governmental modus operandi.

Armed with a mix of nihilistic contraptions, Mr. Biya has developed a callously thick skin; he no longer feels accountable to the people of Cameroon. Elections are rigged with impunity year in year out, opposition party leaders are cowed into submission through torture and blackmail, the nation’s wealth is brazenly misappropriated by Mr. Biya, his wife, Chantal Biya, and close circle of cronies, nicknamed ministers who live in opulence. In contradistinction, impoverished Cameroonian rank and file are left to their own devices in a land bereft of good roads, urban transportation system, hospital supplies, home industries, and schools. The youths are at daggers drawn with a leadership that has failed to acknowledge their existence.  The average Cameroonian finds it hard to understand why their president has mortgaged the nation’s natural resources—crude oil, forest products, land, and minerals. Little wonder, a critic of Mr. Biya’s regime, George Ayittey, has painted the following portrait of him:

A suave bandit who has reportedly amassed a personal fortune of more than US$200million and the mansions to go with it, Biya has beaten the opposition into complete submission. Not that he’s worried about elections—he has rigged the term-limit laws twice to make sure the party doesn’t end any time soon (Ayittey, 2011:15).

The impotency of Cameroon is a reflection of Mr. Biya’s sense of failure as a statesman. Power has corrupted him absolutely, and all the more disastrously because he has come to identify Cameroon and her natural resources with his own personal wealth. Mr. Biya has no compunction about reducing Cameroon to a wasteland, as long as he survives to preside over a mere name. Totally lacking in vision and moral rectitude, he is like a mole trapped in a warren of tunnels.

Interestingly, Mr. Biya has no idea what country he is governing. Beyond the reality of a fiefdom that has dutifully nursed his insatiable thirst for power and transformed him into a tin-god, he has only superficial knowledge of Cameroon.Consequently, he is incapable of grasping what is being conveyed to him about the legitimate grievances of a marginalized constituent of the fragmented country he rules—Anglophones— these people who speak with the resolute voice of self-determination. In Mr. Biya’s mind, these people could not possibly be part of the Republic of Cameroon that he knows. It is only by eliminating Anglophones entirely that Cameroon can become the entity that Mr. Biya recognizes.

When the French pressured Cameroon’s first postcolonial Head of State, Mr. Ahmadou Ahidjo,    to grant Mr. Biya occupancy of the presidential palace at Etoudi in 1982, I admonished that Mr. Biya would prove more ruthless than his predecessor. There were many who thought then that I was being overly alarmist. Now, of course, we know what stuff the man is made of, and the worst I am afraid, is yet to come.  Mr. Biya will be satisfied only with the total annihilation of every aspect of Cameroon that he cannot mentally grasp.  He will find peace and solace only in silencing the voices whose language he cannot comprehend.

In sum, Nation at Risk: A Personal Narrative of the Cameroonian Crisis is a compass intended to give Cameroonians a sense of direction as they grope around in search of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.  It behooves Cameroonians of all creeds to come to the realization that people deserve their leaders. Most importantly, they must rethink the sagacious words of Edmund Burke who once said: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."[i] The didactic value of this book resides in its comprehensibility to people from all walks of life and social strata eager to know what makes Cameroon tick. The language is free of verbal sophistry. Casual readers and professionals with a genuine interest in the geopolitics of Cameroon would find this book a delight to read.

In Nation at Risk, Peter Wuteh Vakunta, a prolific writer in his own right, has successfully pieced together a compelling narrative of the many facets of the crisis that has plagued Cameroon during the more than three-decade presidency of Mr. Paul Biya. Lucid and captivating, this landmark volume provides a seminal contribution to readers’ appreciation of the social, political, economic and cultural events that have shaped Cameroon's history from the time of independence from colonial masters to date. Vakunta’s penetrating analysis of the lackluster governmental modus operandi of President Biya is a must read for all Cameroonians and friends of Cameroon who feel deeply about the future of this often forgotten African nation.

Dr. Peter Ngwafu Ajongwa , Associate Professor of Public Administration and Political Science & Director, MPA Program at  Albany State University.

The Task of the Cameroonian Intellectual

By Peter Vakunta, PhD

At a time when the Republic of Cameroon is squirming under the pangs of misgovernment, bastardization of political power, lethal tribalism, and endemic corruption, it is germane to pose the following thorny questions: what does it mean to be an intellectual in Cameroon today? Are Cameroonian intellectuals merely servants of special interest groups or do they have a greater social responsibility?  As I see it, the Cameroonian intellectual has the choice either to side with the downtrodden and marginalized or with the powerful. Without fear or favor, the genuine intellectual has to have the courage to blow the whistle on blatant human rights violations. Most importantly, the intellectual must have the forum in which to talk back to authority, the more so because unquestioning subservience to authority in Cameroon and elsewhere in contemporary society is tantamount to a threat to an active and sane intellectual life.  In this essay, we will endeavor to address these issues as eloquently as possible.

Celebrated literary and cultural critic, Edward Said, sees the intellectual as a  scholar whose role it is to speak the truth to power even at the risk of ostracism, imprisonment or death: “Real intellectuals…are supposed to risk being burned at the stake, ostracized, or crucified”(7). Thinking along the same lines, Jacoby (1987) defines the intellectual as “an incorrigibly independent soul answering to no one” (quoted in Said, 72).  Both Said and Jacoby agree that the intellectual is supposed to be heard from, and in practice ought to be stirring up debate and if possible controversy.

In light of the status quo in Cameroon under the presidency of Mr. Paul Biya, it behooves the intellectual to speak the truth, ruffle feathers and rock the boat without caring whose ox is gored.  We must caution that speaking the truth to authority should not be construed as some sort of Panglossian[i] idealism. Speaking the truth to the powers-that-be amounts to carefully weighing the options, picking and choosing the right one, and then sagaciously articulating it where it can do the most good and trigger desired change. The Cameroonian intellectual’s voice may be lonely, it nonetheless, has resonance because it associates itself the aspirations of a people, the common pursuit of a shared ideal—the Summum Bonum.

Said observes that “the hardest aspect of being an intellectual is to represent what you profess through your work and interventions, without hardening into an institution or a kind of automaton acting at the behest of a system…”(121). He further notes that the intellectual who claims to write only for himself or herself, or for the sake of pure learning , or abstract science is not be, and must not be believed. To my mind, nothing is more reprehensible than the intellectual frame of mind that induces avoidance, the turning away from a principled position which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You shy away from appearing politically ‘incorrect’; you are scared of seeming untowardly polemical because someday you hope to earn a big prize, perhaps even a ministerial appointment or ambassadorship in your home government. In the eyes of a bona fide intellectual, these habits are corrosive par excellence. If anything can denature and neutralize an intellectual it is the internalization of such nefarious habits.

Personally, I have encountered these corrupting habits in one of the toughest unresolved problems plaguing the wellbeing of Cameroonian polity—the Anglophone Problem, where fear of speaking out about one of the thorniest national questions in Cameroonian history has hobbled, blinkered and muzzled many who know the truth and are in a position to serve it.  The Cameroon Anglophone Problem manifests itself in the form of vociferous complaints from English-speaking Cameroonians about the absence of transparency and accountability in state affairs, in matters relating to appointments in the civil service, the military, the police force, the gendarmerie and the judiciary.

In short, the Anglophone Problem raises questions about participation in decision-making as well as power-sharing in a country that prides itself on being Africa in miniature. The Anglophone Problem is the cry of the disenchanted, the socially ostracized and the oppressed people of Cameroon. Anglophone Cameroonians incessantly lament over the ultra-centralization of political power in the hands of a rapacious Francophone oligarchy based in Yaoundé, the nation’s capital, where the Anglophone with limited proficiency in the French language is made to go through all kinds of torture in the hands of supercilious-cum benighted Francophone bureaucrats who look down on anyone speaking English. [ii] Richard Joseph talks of “the neutralization of Anglophone Cameroon” on page 82 of his seminal work, Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo (1978).

Despite the abuse and vilification to which outspoken advocates of self-determination for Anglophone Cameroon may be subjected, the truth deserves to be spoken, represented by an unafraid and compassionate intellectual. The Cameroonian intellectual need not climb a mountain or rooftop in a bid to declaim.  The genuine intellectual must speak his or her mind quietly and clearly where they can be heard. Most importantly, they should present their views in such a manner as to drum up enough support for an ongoing process, for instance, the cause of justice for marginalized Anglophone Cameroonians.  Informed Cameroonians know that the statutes and constitutional stipulations on official bilingualism in Cameroon, for instance, is a sham. Arguing along similar lines, Ayafor posits: “There has been unrelenting efforts and frustration at the fact that language policy has not contributed to national integration through linguistic fusion” (2005, 140). Unlike most other African countries which give pride of place to indigenous languages, French and English, languages of predatory imperialists, remain official languages in Cameroon in stark contradiction of the national constitution which stipulates: ‘The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavor to protect and promote national languages (Article 1.3: 5).

No intellectual can speak up at all times on every single issue plaguing national life. But, there is a compelling duty to address the constituted and authorized powers of one’s own country, which are accountable to citizenry, especially when those powers are exercised in a manifestly abusive, arbitrary, and disproportionate manner. For the Cameroonian intellectual, there is no sitting on the fence; there a reality to be faced, namely that Cameroon is an extremely diverse nation with over 236 indigenous languages and cultures, an abundance of natural resources and accomplishments, but it also harbors a redoubtable set of internal inequities and inequalities that cannot be ignored, not the least of which are unsound regional development paradigms and human rights abuses. Cameroon is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted and proclaimed in 1948, reaffirmed by every new member state of the UN. Cameroon is also a signatory to solemn international conventions on the treatment of workers, women, and children. None of these documents says anything about less equal ethnic groups, tribes or peoples.   The aforementioned instruments stipulate that all human beings are entitled to the same freedoms. Of course, these rights are callously violated on a daily basis in Cameroon. Joseph decries human rights abuses and oppression in Cameroon as follows: “Not only has the political system been devised to deprive the citizen of any real say in the choice of his governors, he has also been divested of any control over their actions…confronted with concerted abuse by agents of state… the people of Cameroon are legally powerless”(115).

Faced with this state of affairs, the onus rests with the Cameroonian intellectual to raise moral questions as they involve one’s homeland, its power, and its mode of interacting with its citizens.  This does not mean opposition for opposition’s sake. What it means is asking questions, making distinctions, and committing to memory all those issues that we tend to gloss over in our rush to collective judgment. Arguing along similar lines, Said maintains: “The intellectual today ought to be an amateur, someone who considers that to be a thinking and concerned member of a society one is entitled to raise moral issues at the heart of even the most technical and professionalized activity as it involves one’s country…”(82). There has been a  lot of idle talk lately about something called ‘political correctness,’ which Said qualifies as “an insidious phrase applied to academic humanists, who, it is frequently said, do not think independently but rather according to norms established by a cabal of leftists…”(77). The caveat is that blind adherence to this dogma is likely to curtail individual and collective freedoms.  The corollary is that the intellectual does not represent an inviolate icon but a personal vocation with a slew of issues, all of them having to do with a hybrid of emancipation and civil rights issues.

In a nutshell, intellectualism in Cameroon should be deemed fundamental to the attainment of knowledge and basic freedoms. Yet, these constructs acquire meaningful interpretation, not as abstractions but as experiences actually lived by the individual intellectual. This is true of intellectuals in Cameroon as it is of intellectuals elsewhere.  Thus, the fundamental task of the Cameroonian intellectual is explicitly to rationalize local problems,  universalize national crises, assign greater scope to the sufferings of his or her people, and last but not least, to associate those experiences with the suffering of underprivileged global citizens. This does not imply being an arm-chair critic of the home government at all times, but rather of thinking of the intellectual vocation as maintaining a state of constant alertness, of a perpetual willingness to not let half-truths blind us from seeing reality through a broad prism.


[i] Person who views a situation with unwarranted optimism. [cf. Dr Pangloss , a character in Voltaire's Candide (1759)]
 [ii]  Ample light has been shed on this issue in my book Cry my Beloved Africa(2008)
Works cited
Ayafor, Isaiah, Munang. “Official Bilingualism in Cameroon: Instrumental of
Integrative Policy?” In Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium
on Bilingualism.Ed. James Cohen et al., Somerville: Cascadilla Press, 2005.
Cameroon, Government. Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. Yaoundé.
Government printer, 1996.
Jacoby, Russel. The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe.
New York: Basic Books, 1987.
Joseph, Richard. Gaullist Africa: Cameroon under Ahmadu Ahidjo. Enugu:
Fourth Dimension Publishers, 1978.
Said, W.  Edward.  Representations of the Intellectual. New York: Vintage
Books, 1994.
Vakunta, P.W. Cry my Beloved Africa: Essays on the Postcolonial Aura in
Africa: Bamenda: Langaa, 2008.
Voltaire. Candide. Paris: Haitier, 1986.
About the Author
Professor Vakunta teaches at the United States Department of Defense  Language Institute, POM-CA

Genesis of the Ambassonian Revolution

Genesis of the Ambazonian Revolution

Genesis of the Ambazanian Revolution is a walk down memory lane. It encapsulates the events that preceded the uprising of English-speaking Cameroonians against the government of President Paul Biya in 2016. This write-up is construed as a requiem for what used to be known as the Republic of Cameroon. The overriding objective of this article is to shine the searchlight on the manner in which the dysfunctional government of Paul Biya constitutes the raison d’être of the unsightly genocide that is ongoing in Cameroon.  Those who wish to comprehend the apocalypse toward which the Cameroonian nation has been propelled by the rogue government of Mr. Biya would do well to study the actions of the men at the helm of government in Cameroon. Paul Biya and his henchmen have toyed with power to the detriment of nationhood. This is a compelling narrative of the many facets of the unresolved perennial socio-political problems that have snowballed into what has been christened the Anglophone Crisis, or the Ambazonia Revolution. This captivating write-up provides readers with an insight into the social, political, economic and cultural events that have spurred English-speaking Cameroonians to take up the cudgels to do battle with their oppressors. It is a riveting account of the manner in which Paul Biya’s lame-duck government has systematically underdeveloped Cameroon to the point of no return. 

You might have read Animal Farm, the 1945 classic written by George Orwell. Many in my generation had to read this book in order to sit for the London General Certificate of Education (GCE) examination. Over the years I have come to see the relevance of the message in Orwell’s novel even more as I ponder the ongoing Anglophone Crisis in Cameroon. The plot of the book is centered on the dissatisfaction of farm animals who felt they’re being mistreated by Farmer Jones. Led by the pigs, the animals revolted against their oppressive master, and after their victory, they decided to run the farm themselves on egalitarian principles. However, the pigs became corrupted by power and a new tyranny was established. The famous line: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” (92) still rings true to date and reminds me of the fate of Ambazonians in that eerie farmland code-named La République du Cameroun. The socio-political status quo in Cameroon at present is a parody of Animal Farm. The novel is a replica of what has come to be referred to as the Anglophone Question, in other words, the Anglophone Crisis.
The Anglophone Question
After fighting together to free Cameroon from French and British hegemony, French-speaking Cameroonians now tend to lord it over their English-speaking compatriots. There is no gainsaying the fact that there exists a generation of English-speaking Cameroonians who now find themselves at a historical crossroads and would like to know where they belong. Many Anglophone Cameroonians are now asking themselves why they are condemned to play second fiddle in the land of their birth. The unfair treatment meted out to English-speaking Cameroonians by arrogant, condescending francophone compatriots in positions of power is a time bomb that needs to be defused before it explodes to do irreparable damage. Unfair discrimination sows seeds of discord regardless of where it is practiced. Prejudice, in all its shades and colors, is deleterious in all parts of the world. A celebrated American literary icon, Maya Angelou (1986) once said: “Prejudice is a burden which confuses the past, threatens the future, and renders the present inaccessible.” (p.5)
The cohabitation between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians has been branded a marriage of convenience by scholars and students of post-colonial politics in Africa. In fact, the uneasy co-existence between these two linguistic communities has been likened by some critics to the attitude of two travelers who met by chance in a roadside shelter and are merely waiting for the rain to cease before they continue their separate journeys in different directions. No other metaphor could better depict the frictional coexistence between Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians. More often than not, the perpetrators of this macabre game of divide and rule are the French-speaking political leaders who take delight in fishing in troubled waters. They divide in order to conquer to the detriment of the wretch of earth[i], or the proverbial man in the street. In so doing, they stoke the flames of animosity and whip up sentiments of mutual suspicion and distrust between Anglophones and Francophones at the expense of nation-building. Many of them have been heard to make statements intended either to cow Anglophones into submission or to incite them into open revolution such as the Ambazonian revolution which we are witnessing today. These self-styled leaders have mounted the podium a zillion times to chant to the entire world that there is no Anglophone Problem in Cameroon. This type of hogwash has now come to bite them in the butt. Nemesis has uncanny ways of getting at its culprits. The plain truth is that there is a palpable feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction among Anglophones in Cameroon. Questions that remain unanswered as we trudge through the Anglophone conundrum are numerous: Are Anglophone Cameroonians enjoying equal treatment with their Francophone counterparts in the workplace? Are Anglophone Cameroonians having their fair share of the national cake? Do they feel at home in Cameroon? These and many more interrogations constitute what has been labeled the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis.
The Cameroon Anglophone Question manifests itself in the form of complaints from English-speaking Cameroonians about the absence of transparency and accountability in matters relating to appointments in the civil service, the military, the police force, the gendarmerie [ii] and the judiciary. In short, the Anglophone Problem raises questions about participation in decision-making as well as power-sharing in the country. This is not a figment of any Anglophone Cameroon's imagination. It is real, tangible and verifiable. The Anglophone Question is the cry of an oppressed people, lamenting over the ultra-centralization of political power in the hands of a rapacious oligarchy based in Yaoundé, the nation’s capital, where Anglophones with limited proficiency in the French language are made to go through all kinds of odds in the hands of cocky Francophone bureaucrats who look down on anyone speaking English. The Anglophone Crisis stems from the supercilious attitude of French-speaking Cameroonians who believe that their Anglophones compatriots are less intelligent, sloppy and worse still, unpatriotic, and therefore, should be asked to seek refuge in another country! This francophone bigotry compounded by superciliousness has given rise to the rampant use of  derogatory slurs such as” les Anglophones sont gauches[iii], “c’est des ennemis dans la maison[iv], “ce sont les biafrais[v] and so on.
The outcome of this anti-Anglophone sentiment is the Ambazonian War which the world is witnessing today. Francophone Cameroonians have the misconception that Anglophone Cameroonians are unreliable and untrustworthy, and thus, undeserving of positions of leadership. This explains why key ministerial positions are the preserve of French-speaking Cameroonians. Such ministries include: Defense, Finance & Economy and Territorial Administration. It should be noted the current Minister of Territorial Administration, Paul Atanga Ngi, is a rarity in Cameroonian body politic. Mr. Biya chose Atanga Ngi because he hails from Bamenda, the hotbed of Anglophone rebellion in Cameroon. Ngi is there to perform Biya’s dirty job. This notwithstanding, Anglophobia has also led to the appointment of Francophones with no working knowledge of the English language to ambassadorial positions in strategic countries such as the United States of America, Great Britain, Germany, Nigeria and South Africa where they wind up making a complete fool of themselves linguistically and culturally speaking. The presidency of the Republic and its ancillary organs are “no-go” zones for most Anglophone Cameroonians. Although political appointments in this country ought to be done in conformity with the constitutional “regional balance paradigm”, it is common knowledge that distrust of English-speaking Cameroonians has made the implementation of this constitutional stipulation a dead letter over the years. It should be noted that the relegation of Anglophone Cameroonians to the periphery in matters pertaining to political appointments has nothing to do with competence. In fact, the cream of Cameroon’s intelligentsia are Anglophones thanks to the existence of world-class Anglo-Saxon secondary schools such as Sacred Heart College in Mankon, St. Joseph’s College in Sasse, Our Lady of Lourdes in Bamenda, Cameroon Protestant College in Bali and a host of others that have churned out well-groomed administrators, scientists, technocrats, and more. These colleges are trail-blazers and cradles of the solid general education that English-speaking Cameroonians identify with.
Sadly enough, the administrative system in Cameroon does not reward merit. In fact, the requiem for meritocracy was sung in this country the very day the colonizers left for Europe. Giving reward to those who deserve it has no place in Cameroon. Corruption and nepotism are the yardsticks used in the selection of candidates to work in the public service and other workplaces in this unfortunate geographical expression called Ngola[vi]. Little wonder, the Berlin-based watchdog, Transparency International, has declared Cameroon one of the most corrupt nations in the world. In the same vein, Marilyn Greene (2005)Press Fellow from the United States of America, in an interview with Jeff Ngwane Yufenyi in the November 23, 2005 edition of the Post, pointed out: “Corruption is a plague affecting everyone from top government officials to poor folks in the street.”(1) She made the statement in Bamenda as a reaction to the outcry on corruption in Cameroon at the opening of a two-day seminar on Media Excellence in Cameroon. Corrupt practices affect the manner in which revenue from natural resources is used in Cameroon. Statistics indicate that about sixty percent of Cameroon’s wealth in natural resources is located in Ambazonia, the English-speaking part of the country. Yet the Francophone region takes the lion’s share of the national budget intended for building roads, hospitals, schools and other social amenities.This state of affairs has been described by some critics as jungle justice. We are where we are today in Cameroon, saddled with an Elephant in the house because of mutual misunderstanding between la Répulique du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons [vii].
Open hostility toward Anglophones reached its acme many years ago when English-speaking Cameroonian students protesting against discrimination on the basis of the language of instruction at the University of Yaoundé went on strike and chanted the “We shall overcome” rallying song. Francophone members of government with limited proficiency in the English language accused them of singing the national anthem of a foreign country, namely Nigeria, and told Anglophones students to go and live in Nigeria if they were not happy in Cameroon. In other climes, these officials would have been asked to resign without further ado. Not so in Cameroon where nonsensical statements such as the aforementioned actually earn accolades. In a similar vein, the Anglophone clamor for the decentralization of the political system in Cameroon has been branded by some narrow-minded Francophones as an Anglophone-Bamileke [viii] conspiracy to overthrow the government of President Paul Biya Mbivodo. Political myopia is one of Cameroon’s cankers. There has been unbridled attempts by French-speaking Cameroonians to whip up anti-Anglophone sentiments in order to score political points. The Cameroon GCE Board imbroglio that bred fire and brimstone in the early 1990s is a case in point. The saga to create a separate examination board for the General Certificate of Education Examination for Anglophones brought Cameroon to a virtual standstill because French-speaking Cameroonians could not fathom how Anglophone underdogs could have the temerity to demand equal treatment with their overlords. There is no gainsaying the fact that the colonial linguistic legacy that makes Cameroon a bilingual (English and French) post-colony is a divisive factor.
The Language Question in Cameroon
The question of language policy in Cameroon remains a bone of contention. There is no language policy put in place to prevent the marginalization of linguistic minorities. The interpretation of the letter and spirit of the law is left to the whims and caprices of French-speaking judges who are ignorant of how the Anglo-Saxon judicial system works. It should be noted that one of the events that triggered the outbreak of the Ambazonian War was a strike led by Anglophone lawyers [ix]. The disparity between the Anglo-Saxon Common Law system inherited from Great Britain and Francophone Napoleonic legal system has resulted in several instances of miscarriage of justice in Cameroon.  Miscarriage of justice was self-evident, for example, during the infamous Yondo Black trial way back in the 1990s when an Anglophone witness was deprived of his right to testify on the grounds that the presiding judge could not understand English. One wonders what has become of the pool of translators and interpreters who are vegetating at the Presidency of the Republic and other ministries in Yaoundé.
The Cameroon Radio & Television (CRTV) is another case in point. It has been so “french-fried”[x] that ninety-five percent of the programs are broadcast only in French to the detriment of English-speaking Cameroonians. Programs in English obtained from overseas are rapidly translated into French to serve the needs of the Francophone majority. The language of training and daily routine in the military, police and gendarmerie is French. This is the root cause of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon. There is no turning a blind eye to it. It will come back to haunt not just the present generation of Cameroonians but also posterity. It may even affect Africa as a whole because Cameroon is, indeed, Africa in miniature. The onus is on Cameroonians to face reality and seek a lasting solution to this perennial problem. Of all the burning issues that remain unresolved in Cameroon in the wake of independence, the language question is the thorniest. The imbroglio has degenerated into the well-known identity crisis among English-speaking Cameroonians, a crisis which this writer has captured in a poem titled “Identity Crisis”:
I don’t quite know who I am.
Je ne sais pas au juste qui je suis.
Some call me Anglo;
D’autres m’appellent Frog.
I still don’t know who I am
Je ne sais toujours pas qui je suis.
My name c’est Le Bamenda;
My name is L’Ennemi dans la maison;
My name c’est le Biafrais;
Mon nom is underclass citizen;
My name c’est le maladroit.
Taisez-vous! Shut up!
Don’t bother me!
Ne m’embêtez pas!
Don’t you know that je suis ici chez moi?
Vous ignorez que I belong here?
I shall fight to my dernier souffle
To forge a real name pour moi-même.
You shall call me Anglofrog!
Vous m’appelerez Franglo!
Shut up! Taisez-vous!
Don’t bother me!
Ne m’embêtez pas!
Vous ignorez que I belong here?
Don’t you know que je suis ici chez moi?
I shall fight to my last breath
To forge a real lingo for myself.
I’ll speak Français;
Je parlerai English
Together we’ll speak camfranglais;
C’est-à-dire qu’ensemble,
We’ll speak le Camerounisme,
Because ici nous sommes tous chez nous
A bon entendeur salut!
He who has ears should hear![xi]
More than forty years after accession to political independence, it is unimaginable that there is no reliable indigenous language policy in Cameroon.  Unlike most other African countries which give pride of place to their indigenous languages, French and English, languages of colonial masters, remain the official languages of Cameroon in stark defiance of the national constitution (1996) which stipulates:
The State shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country. It shall endeavor to protect and promote national languages (Article 1.3: 5)
In this regard, Cameroon stands out as a sore finger in the African linguistic landscape. The question that begs asking here is why Cameroon, which boasts two hundred and forty-seven indigenous languages, does not have an official indigenous language policy. How come we are still dressed in borrowed robes many decades after independence? How can we talk of a Cameroonian national identity without an indigenous language policy? Are Cameroonian policy-makers oblivious of the fact that language conveys the culture of a people? Language does not only serve as the cultural repertory and memory-bank of a people; it is also an embodiment of continuity and change in the historical consciousness of a community of speakers of the language. Each native language in Cameroon reflects the concerns, attitudes and aspirations of its speakers. In other words, our indigenous languages carry with them the habits, mannerisms, and identity of its native speakers. Don’t Cameroonians have the right to articulate their own cultural identities? They cannot portray their cultural identities by speaking in foreign tongues; by bowing to assimilation.  Bjornson (2001) has described assimilation in Africa as: “The adoption of European tastes, languages, customs, and colonial government policies by Africans.”(p.19) Arguing along similar lines in his world acclaimed song Redemption Song (1980), late Bob Marley urged colonized peoples the world over to “emancipate themselves from mental slavery.” Language is the soul of a people. Language transports culture. If you destroy a man’s language, you have destroyed the man. Sadly enough, Cameroonians relish borrowed cultures to the detriment of their indigenous cultures. We continue to speak in foreign tongues many years after the departure of our banana-skin former masters. This is attributable, in the most part, to government lack of interest in promoting indigenous language education.
This leaves us with the irksome feeling that we have not yet liberated ourselves from mental slavery. Is it not true then that a true slave is not necessarily the one in chains? The acculturation that has taken deep root in Cameroon has had as a corollary the denigration of our traditional values. How many times have you heard mind-boggling comments like “this man na kontry, he no sabe tok gramma”[xii] in reference to someone who strives to promote his mother tongue by speaking it as often as he can? Confiant et al. (1993) perceive this self-abnegation as an anomaly and points out that the tragedy of the colonized is the servile manner in which he tries to “portray himself in the color of elsewhere.”(p.80) Franz Fanon (1964:15) describes Africans who behave in this manner as people having “black skin” but wearing “white masks.” To fight cultural imperialism, it is incumbent on Cameroonians to defuse what Ngugi wa Thiong’o (1986) calls the “cultural bomb”. He maintains:
[…] But the biggest weapon wielded and actually daily unleashed by imperialism against that collective defiance is the cultural bomb. The effect of a cultural bomb is to annihilate a people’s belief in their names, in their languages, in their environment, in their heritage of struggle, in their unity, in their capacities and ultimately in themselves.”(p.3)
Language experts have pointed out that multilingualism is indispensable in today’s global village. In fact, monolingualism, they argue, is now an anachronism in the contemporary multicultural societies in which we live. Bilingualism is an added advantage to the bilingual individual and to the nation as a whole given that what is acquired in one language is transferable to the second language.  This is an enriching acquisition. It broadens the mindset of individuals in the linguistic community, and lubricates social intercourse. Studies have shown that multilingual individuals exhibit a higher degree of cognitive ability than monolinguals. Surprisingly, Cameroon’s bilingual education system has proven to be a nonstarter on account of tribal hostility and bigotry. The linguistic question is an offshoot of the animosity that separates Anglophones from Francophones in Cameroon. Revolting disdain for the English language has led French-speaking Cameroonians to downplay the use of English as an official language although the constitution of the Republic of Cameroon (1984) is explicit: “The official languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status.” (Article 1.3: 5)
It needs to be pointed out that the second fiddle role that has been assigned to English-speaking Cameroonians by French-speaking members of government has made the implementation of the nation’s bilingual education program a stillborn. There seems to be a deliberate attempt on the part of Francophone Cameroonians to undermine and eventually destroy the Anglo-Saxon culture in Cameroon.  Among their many grievances, Ambazonians are protesting against linguicide (linguistic genocide) in Cameroon. It irksome to realize that in some English-speaking towns and cities in Cameroon such as Buea, Tiko, Kumba, Bamenda, Bali, Nso and Nkambe one  finds billboards with inscriptions written in French only.  Tiko, a town in the South-West province is a case in point. At the entrance into this town, there is a billboard that reads: “Halte Péage!” [Stop Toll Gate!]How do the powers-that-be expect the average man who has never been exposed to French to understand what this inscription means? The case of Tiko is not an isolated one. There are myriads of such billboards throughout the national territory.
Similar linguistic hotchpotch is found at the Nsimalen Airport in Yaoundé. At Nsimalen commuters find some stomach-churning gibberish that reads: “To gather dirtiness is good.” This is a word-for-word rendition of the French: “ramasser la saleté c’est bien.” The French in this sentence leaves much to be desired.  But it is even more annoying to realize that there is no English language translation of the notices posted on the billboards. The creators of this unintelligible stuff know very well that in bilingual countries the world over, all official communication: billboards, memos, letterheads, road-signs, application forms, court forms, police documents, health forms, driver’s licenses and hospital discharge forms are all written in the official languages of the country in question. Failure to do so is tantamount to a violation of the constitution, an illegal act punishable by law in any country where there is rule of law. I have no doubt at all in my mind that diplomats accredited to Yaoundé find our official language policy and its implementation utterly ludicrous. More often than not, one finds on billboards inanities such as: “Not to make dirty is better”. This incomprehensible inscription is meant to be a translation for: “Ne pas salir c’est bien.” If the situation were not so grave one would be laughing but the language question in Cameroon brooks no laughter.
Public authorities, namely mayors, governors, divisional officers, police officers and gendarmes are expected to maintain zero tolerance in upholding Cameroon’s bilingual policy. Breaches of official language policies ought to be punished. It should be noted that there is a pool of translators and interpreters at the Presidency of the Republic spending time on trivialities. Why not use them to perform this important task? These technocrats who were educated with money collected from Cameroonian taxpayers should be made to serve the nation by translating official documents aimed at public consumption. Let myopia, bigotry and blind allegiance the powers-that-be not deter them from valuing the priceless work that translators and interpreters are capable of doing for the nation.
Personally, I couldn’t care less how much cosmetic surgery French-speaking Cameroonians want to perform on the language of Voltaire. As a matter of fact, psycho-sociological factors have made me totally callous to the mastery of Voltaire’s mother tongue beyond the ability to ask for water to drink when I am on a visit to the world of La Francophonie.[xiii] If I have acquired a smattering of French it is because it enables me to put an additional loaf of bread on the dining table. What I do care very much about is the need to do justice to every indigenous language community in Cameroon. I care very much about my own mother tongue, Bamunka that occupies its own spot in the linguistic landscape of Cameroon. It is the duty of each and every Cameroonian to prevent the demise of their own indigenous language, the more so because language abuse has become the hallmark of formal education in Cameroon. The importance of indigenous languages has been stressed by scholars in the field. It is noteworthy to point out the views of Nkrumah on the role of autochtonous languages as an indispensable part of our heritage. In his speech titled “Ghana is Born,” Nkrumah sees the use of European languages in Africa as one of the problems compromising the freedom, equality and independence of African countries. He thus suggested the following blueprint:
It is essential that we do consider seriously the problem of language in Africa[…] Far more students in our universities are studying Latin and Greek than studying the languages of Africa. An essential of independence is that emphasis must be laid on studying the living languages of Africa for, out of such a study will come simpler methods by which those in one part of Africa may learn the languages in all other parts.(Quoted in Kwame Botwe-Asamoah, 2005, p.747)
In this discourse, Nkrumah not only saw the danger in neglecting indigenous African languages,  but he also underscored the significance of the linguistic factor in African unity, the more so because as Ngugi (1986) points out, ”Every language has a dual makeup; it is both a mode of communication and a bearer of culture.”(p.13) Asante (1988) has a point when he posits that “If your God cannot speak your language, then he is not your God.”(p.4)Years ago, I read some material that lent credibility to Asante’s charge of linguistic abuse in postcolonial Africa. The offensive document that I read was the C.A.P examination in Cameroon. The following is an excerpt culled for Francis Nyamnjoh’s (1996:114) book:
Each candidat should pick by bilot a sujet. Each sujet is mark over 40 marks. For each port, candidat shall establish the working mothed card. Fill in the analysis car in annexe B.
Anyone in his right mind reading this except should be wondering what on earth is going on in Cameroon. One wonders how Anglophone learners are expected to succeed in an examination in which the phraseology of the questions has been tinkered beyond intelligibility. The unintelligible stuff cited above was meant to serve as an examination that would determine the fate of thousands of Anglophone students who had spent four years studying at technical colleges nationwide. Little wonder they fail in drones. The good thing about this conundrum is that Anglophone parents and teachers are not willing to allow this sort of linguistic bastardization to go on forever. This rape of the English language speaks volumes about the disrespect that Francophone educators and decision-makers have for English-speaking Cameroonians. When the erstwhile Minister of National Education, Robert Mbella Mbappe, was confronted by some irate Anglophone parents and teachers over the tinkered nature of the aforementioned examination and called for the need for an independent Examination Board for Anglophones, here is the response he gave to the representatives of TAC and the SONDENGAM Commission: “You can do whatever you like with your so-called GCE board, none of my children studies in Cameroon.” (Op cit, 114) It is hard to believe that these words are coming out of the mouth of a Minister of National Education, paid with taxpayers' money. In another country, he would have been asked to step down from his position without ceremony.
In this article, we have endeavored to show to what extent the language question has fueled the flames of discontent among English Speaking Cameroonians and engendered the ongoing fiery Ambazonian War. It is one of the root causes of the Cameroon Anglophone Crisis. It would amount to living in fool’s paradise to dismiss the legitimate complaints of English-Speaking Cameroonians as the ranting of a few disgruntled individuals as some French-speaking Cameroonians have claimed so far. When all is said and done, Cameroonians must ask themselves the inevitable question: Is there light at the end of the tunnel as far resolving the Anglophone Crisis is concerned?  As far as this writer is concerned, the response is in the affirmative. What needs to be done at this juncture given that the smoldering flames of discontent have metamorphosed into a bush-fire, is to cease acting the ostrich. Paul Biya and his cohort must take giant steps toward addressing the Anglophone Crisis by all means necessary. If convening a national conference would serve this purpose, there is no reason why Cameroonians cannot be given the opportunity to sit down and talk this problem through. Cameroonians are living in what some perspicacious observers have termed “pre-independence nostalgia.” In other words, post-colonial Cameroon has gotten to a point where some Cameroonians think back wishfully about the days of colonial administration! 
Nearly sixty years after gaining political independence, it is a shame to realize that Cameroon is still tied to the apron strings of France. By now, Cameroon should be in a position to assert itself and conceive a framework that would lead her toward lasting peace and prosperity.Most importantly, Cameroon needs capable leadership. Paul Biya is a senile lame-duck president and should be overthrown pronto. The people that govern Cameroonians today are absentee landlords with no vision at all. Under an enlightened leadership endowed with goodwill, Cameroon should be a terrestrial paradise.
All in all, I have argued throughout this article that the root cause of the ongoing imbroglio in Cameroon stems from the linguistic and cultural dichotomies that distance Anglophone Cameroonians from their Francophone compatriots. I further contend that on account of the Anglophone Question, Cameroon has remained an open sore on the African continent for far too long. Cameroonians of all walks of life cannot continue to turn a blind eye to this problematic status quo. In the words of Ngugi (1986): “They must discover their various tongues to sing the song: ‘A people united can never be defeated.” (3) In order to salvage Cameroon from the brink of collapse, Cameroonians at home and in the diaspora must take a number of realistic measures:
·    Cameroonians have to get rid of the colonial mentality and assume the posture of architects of their own destiny. The belief that international goodwill will solve our perennial problems is a fallacy. We must be prepared to look one another in the face and say: look, this is where we went wrong; it is time to correct mistakes of the past and move on toward seeking a long-lasting solution to the Anglophone Question.
·    Cameroonians must make sure that their hard-won political independence is not a sham. To put this differently, political independence must be backed by economic freedom. This is the point Ngwane (2004) underscores when he wonders: “Of what use is political freedom without economic emancipation?”(14)Ngwane’s question is not an idle one. 
·    Last but not least, the question of Ambazonian autonomy, in other words, total independence for  the Republic of Ambazonia must be on the table for discussion sooner rather than later. Time is against Cameroonian stakeholders.

Works cited
Angelou, Maya. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings. New York: Random House, 1986.
Botwe-Asamoah, Kwame. Kwame Nkrumah’s Politico- Cultural Thoughts and Policies: An   African-Centered Paradigm for the African Revolution. New York: Routledge, 2005.
Cameroon. Constitution of the Republic of Cameroon. Yaoundé: Government of Cameroon,
 Confiant, et al. Eloge de la créolité. Paris: Gallimard, 1993.
Marley, Bob. Complete Lyrics of Bob Marley: Songs of Freedom. London: Omnibus, 2001.
Nyamnjoh, Francis. The Cameroon GCE Crisis: A Test of Anglophone Solidarity. Bamenda:
            Langaa, 2008.
Orwell, George. Animal Farm. New York:  Harcourt, 1946.
Wa Thiong’o, Ngugi.  Decolonizing the Mind. London: Heinemann, 1986.


[i] Reference to Franz Fanon’s book titled The Wretched of the Earth (1963)
[ii] Police force in the French-speaking region of Cameroon and other francophone countries.
[iii] Anglophones are clumsy
[iv] They are enemies in the house.
[v] They are Biafrans
[vi] Native name of Cameroon.
[vii] Southern Cameroons is the name given to the southern part of the  territory under British administration in West Africa. Since 1961 it has been part of the Republic of Cameroon, where it makes up the Northwest Region and Southwest Region. Since 1994, pressure groups in the territory have sought independence from the Republic of Cameroon, and the Republic of Ambazonia was declared by the Southern Cameroons Peoples Organization (SCAPO) on 31 August 2006.
[viii] Though francophone, the Bamileke have more in common, culturally-speaking, with English-speaking compatriots than they do with French-speaking Cameroonians.
[ix] Common law lawyers of Anglophone Cameroons were said to have written an appeal letter to the government over the use of French in courtrooms in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon. In an effort to protect the English culture, they began a sit-down strike in all courtrooms on October 6, 2016. It all began with a call for sit down strike from all court actions after a meeting of Presidents of the lawyers’ associations from the Northwest and Southwest regions held on the 6th of October 2016. The lawyers blamed the failure of government authorities to respond to their demands and appeals. This culminated in the decision to launch protest marches in Bamenda in the Northwest and Buea and Limbe in the Southwest.
[x] Tailored to meet the needs of French-speaking Cameroonians.
[xi] Poem published in the author’s poetry anthology, African Time and Pidgin Verses, Duplico, 2001.
[xii] This man is uncivilized; he can’t speak English.
[xiii] La Francophonie is an international organization of French-speaking countries and governments. Formally known as the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF) or the International Organization of La Francophonie, the organisation comprises fifty-five member states and governments and thirteen observers. The prerequisite for admission is not the degree of French usage in the member countries, but a prevalent presence of French culture and French language in the member country’s identity, usually stemming from France’s interaction with other nations in its history.