English speakers live under cosh in Cameroon
At least one person was killed and many others injured as Cameroon was engulfed by violent protests over several days last month over the use of the French language in courts and schools in English-speaking parts of the west African country.
Since the controversial merger of the country’s French and English-speaking areas in the 1960s following the withdrawal of their respective colonial masters, Cameroon has been a nation of 10 semi-autonomous regions, eight of which are Francophone and use French civil law while the rest are Anglophone and are based on British common law.
This marriage of convenience has witnessed numerous setbacks over the years, including a massive insurrection in the early 1960s put down with the aid of French military might. Although the latest protests do not directly involve France, they seem to stem from a 2008 amendment of Cameroon’s constitution to allow dictator Paul Biya to run for yet another term in 2011.
Biya, who has ruled since 1982, has responded to opposition by trampling on the rights of those who would act against him or his policies. Such violations include the state employment of court staff with knowledge of British common law in Bamenda, the base of Cameroon’s largest opposition political party, the Social Democratic Front. English speakers are also widely excluded from top civil service jobs.
The international community must recognise these moves for what they are – efforts to deny the people of Cameroon of their rights as citizens and as humans.