By Tikum Mbah Azonga
This paper is an adaptation of an earlier one I delivered on the Cameroon National Radio Station on the 3rd of October 2002, two days after the day the SCNC usually causes a stir in the country as it accentuates its call for an independent state for the once Southern Cameroons. The paper was one of the daily political commentaries I delivered on the 6.30 a.m. prime time national and world news on Cameroon Radio Television (CRTV), Yaoundé, between 2002 and 2005.
A certain aphorisms hold that there is no problem without a solution. In fact, another goes even further by intimating that there are problems because their solutions exist. The real challenge therefore lies in finding the solution and implementing it.
The Anglophone problem as it has come to be known is really one that far from being dismissed as irrelevant should be examined with the greatest attention. It would be a disservice to our great nation, Cameroon, if the authorities were to sweep it under the carpet or simply paper over the cracks. Fortunately just at a time when it could have been reached, Fons of the North West have offered to officially take up the matter with the authorities.
But the Fons did another thing that was praiseworthy .They condemned both violence and secession. This political commentator adds his voice to that of the Fons, having come face-to -face with the horrors of war when he covered those in Angola, Mozambique, Chad and the Western Sahara. The casualties of war are as incalculably colossal as the adverse effects of secession. So any thought of violence and or secession must be crushed, with the last iota of breath buried and a requiem mass said over them. That is a figure of speech.
While the government studies the files from the Fons and deploys as well as employs its own channels to get an insight into the problem, there are certain measures that can be taken quickly at little cost, yet be appreciated by those feeling the pinch of the threat of secession.
The vexatious issue of religious studies at the GCE is a case in point. For years now official institutions such as universities and public competitive examination organizers have excluded religions studies when considering Advanced Level subjects. The consequence is that the work students and teachers spend years doing is suddenly and inexplicably treated with scorn and derision. Of course, Anglophone students are the ones who bear the brunt of the policy because they are the ones who do Religious Studies as a subject at the Advanced Level. Yet no tangible reason has ever been given by government for this state of affairs. Is it not a paradox that of all the subjects on the curriculum, Religious Studies is the one that can consolidate the policy of building a corruption free and upright Cameroon? Given this, it is difficult to argue with compatriots who feel they are being intentionally victimized because that subject is part of their own culture. The accordance of Religious Studies its rightful place among other subjects is therefore a necessity because such a move would go some way towards addressing the question of Anglophone marginalization..
Another bone of contention is the issue of official bilingualism in Cameroon. Our constitution is crystal clear about the question of bilingualism. Part 1, section 1 (3) of the constitution states: “The Official Languages of the Republic of Cameroon shall be English and French, both languages having the same status. The state shall guarantee the promotion of bilingualism throughout the country’’.
Despite those lofty assertions, the reality on the ground is otherwise. Daily, we read and here public official announcements, adverts and public tenders only in one language- French – which is the language of the majority spoken by about 80 per cent of the country’s population. And no one seems to care. Unless the government takes urgent steps to enforce the stringent implementation of bilingualism, this problem will persist.
One way of addressing the issue could be to give official translation a ministerial department of its own. The promotion of national languages could then be part of the package with provincial and divisional services being set up. It would be up to the government, of course, to do the fine tuning. If these measures are implemented, they will not only reduce the tension created by the SCNC and its quest for secession but would also augur well for national unity. A stitch in time saves nine.