By Julie Ngalle
Cameroon is known and referred to as “Africa in miniature” due to its climatic, geological, cultural, human and geographical diversity. But, this status and the country’s political stability have been highly threatened by the fragile and corrupt government led by Paul Biya for the 33rd consecutive year. This precarious political situation has amplified the population’s struggles with identity crises and cultural shocks, which can be attributed to the unhealed scars from their colonial past and more recently the rise of terrorism within the country.
In late 2018, Cameroon was hit by yet another political trouble as a civil war broke out in the Western parts of the country known as the “English speaking” regions which represent one-fifth of the country’s population.
It all started two years ago when teachers and lawyers started protesting and reclaiming their rights due to the lack of civil and political consideration from the government towards this part of the population. The quality of education was indeed much lower than in the rest of the country and the legal system was barely implemented in these regions. President Biya and his government being Francophone, they failed to prioritise those complaints, most of which were completely ignored. This lack of consideration led to the birth of many separatist groups who claimed independence from the government, such as the revolutionary “Amba-boys”. The increasing violence of the protests meant their discontent was soon heard all over the country and the government later undertook military action against these groups which had now been recognised as terrorist units.
The level of violence and terror rose to unprecedented levels, with schools being burnt down, children being kidnapped and held hostage, and many killed when found not supporting the same ideas as the separatists. This meant that military intervention had to escalate as well, leaving most of the Anglophone population dead or fleeing the country. In December 2018, it was reported that in certain areas, up to 90% of the population had fled.
Some argue the situation is turning into a genocide, others say the Cameroonian leaders should be held accountable and tried for crimes against humanity. It is undoubtedly not a humanly acceptable and politically sustainable situation. Questions also arise concerning possible international intervention but this, like always, is a very controversial debate.
A certain number of questions emerge from Cameroon’s current political situation, questions that we can apply to many other similar cases. Given the importance of political debates that have ensued from this conflict, and the fact that international intervention has been actively discussed, we are left to wonder why this situation is not something we hear about more. Should the political instability of many countries in the same or worse situations than Cameroon be discussed and covered more by the media? Is it up to us to find out more? Or should there be a definite separation between regions or countries, the information they share and the support they give each other? There is, of course, no right or wrong answer to these questions but one thing that is certain is that it is by covering these topics that we can inform people and help them decide how involved and interested they choose to be.
Julie is a second year politics and economics student. She writes here in personal capacity and not as Head of Marketing of Incite.