Sunday, 29 January 2017

Opinion: Crackdown on Anglophones in Cameroon is hopelessly misguided

SO FAR, the government of Cameroon has taken steps to cut off internet in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon, grounding several businesses and its OWN operations in the region which are reliant on internet, and banned the Anglophone civil society consortium which it was in dialogue with, making it the most despicable and self inflicted economic crisis in those regions.

This shows the government is power wise and economic unwise.

The stream of arrests of Anglophone magistrates and its Supreme Court judge Ayah Paul Anine, then banning of the Anglophone civil society consortium and arresting its leaders Barrister Agbor Balla and his Secretary Dr Fontem by orders issued from anonymous authorities confirms that, contrary to the "one and indivisible Cameroon", the government is sticking to the most extreme and on the very issue it is being accused of; which is the marginalisation of the existence of the Anglophone identity as part of the Republic structure.

The actions by the government to manage the Anglophone question as a ad hoc issue have further galvanised the Anglophone population particularly in the English-speaking regions to continue to peacefully protest the systematic marginalisation, and there is no doubt some will face legal challenges as best suits the government especially as the old trick of divide and rule is dwindling.

But over and above the content of arrests confirm the discriminatory agenda and the very manner at which Anglophones are again systematically disregarded.

The Art of dialogue method is to aim very high, and then just keep pushing and pushing and pushing for consensus - and in the process expect resistance.

It is natural to be firm in leadership and to go in strong with something to give away in good faith.

Upon all the dialogues between the government officials and ministers with the teachers, lawyers and the consortium of Anglophone civil society, the outcome have been fruitless because of the constant attempts by the government to sweep the issues under the carpet using unconventional means, back hand and bullying tactics in an inconceivable and more bluntly, frankly primitive.

This approach was on display again in the President of the Republic of Cameroun end of year speech in which he was lambasting the Anglophones of being manipulated by people from outside and calling the Anglophones "extremists".

That is the opposite of how dialogue is usually done—and, again, removed any lingering hopes that for once the government would be more cautious giving the sensitivity of the Anglophone Question.

Many Cameroonian experts over the years have been ringing the alarms bells that the fragile peace in the Cameroons is hanging on a thin thread and will be disastrous in politics and diplomacy, and lead to impasse.

We can now decide if we thought whether those experts were right.

The bridge to somewhere

In normal times, millions of children in Cameroon are not in school and those who do attend often fail to learn anything.

According to one study of several schools in Cameroon, primary-school pupils especially in government-run schools, receive less hours of teaching each day; teachers are absent from class about half of the time. Even when they show up, theirs is a confused pedagogy, lecturing to nonplussed pupils.

Only about a quarter of secondary-school pupils in Cameroon would reach the basic level of attainment on standardised international tests.

The prospect of change ought to be embraced. Instead, it is being fought.

Written by George Tah Meh
Journalist and Media Lecturer

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