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For the past 4 years, people in Cameroon have killed one another over colonial languages, English and French. The fight appears to be centred around the issue of who is a better colonizer between the British and French. Very trivial issues are often cited in this conflict than meets the eye.

The Anglophone would say we are the most educated and better part of Cameroon whereas, the Francophone side claims that they are the one’s anointed and destined to rule the country. Meanwhile, all of this is happening under the careful watch of a tired and discredited government of President Paul Biya, Africa’s longest serving president.

The man is aged and lacks plans to offer the people of Cameroon basic human needs. In addition, he runs a corrupt ridden government and has failed dismally to stop this brewing civil war which has the potential to escalate into a serious and damaging war. Instead, he is seen siding with the Francophone against the Anglophone.

This kind of behaviour is not only appalling, but irresponsible for a head of state who should be much wiser given the long period he has been in power. He should be seen to be embracing both sides and telling them to unite as one people. Unfortunately, this is the curse that we have in Africa.

Instead, he is seen arming the Francophone at the expense of the Anglophone a development that should be condemned by the international community. The United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) should call Mr. Biya to order or ask him to step down if he has run out of ideas to rule. He should be warned that in no uncertain terms will he as head of state side with one side in this conflict.

Besides, Mr Biya is ailing, he is barely seen in public these days, if seen, it’s always a sorry sight as he is often helped to walk by his aides. What is wrong with African leaders, is it not right time to say goodbye especially when one is ailing like that? When is he going to write his memoirs for the benefit of African scholarship?

The more than four-year-old Anglophone conflict began when government forces used deadly force to suppress peaceful protests by lawyers and teachers against perceived marginalization by the country’s majority Francophone government. In response, dozens of armed separatist groups then formed to fight for an independent nation called Ambazonia.

Some 4,000 people have so far been killed in the conflict, with more than 700,000 people forced to flee their homes. Rights groups have accused both separatists and government security forces of committing abuses.

Schools have been a main point of attack since the beginning of the conflict when separatists called for a boycott on education to draw attention to the increased use of French in the classroom and reliance on monolingual French-speaking teachers.

In September, police in Cameroon killed a schoolgirl aged 5 years in Southwest region’s capital, Buea. This resulted in widespread protests. We urge the government of Cameroon to sit down with its people and solve this problem amicably. No one language should be made superior over others in a multilingual society.

They should be reminded of what happened here in South Africa when the former apartheid government tried to force on the people of South Africa to learn Afrikaans. Every language should be made to feel important like any other and never vice-versa. This should be a simple issue to solve but we know that it might not be that simple.

Mr. Biya could be exploiting this gap to prolong his hold on power, a development which could end up exploding on his face if not careful. Dictators use different strategies to stay on in power and one of them is precisely this of dividing the people and stay own while projecting to the world that you are the harbinger of peace of which the country cannot do without.

Its high time the UN and AU should step in and ask Biya to provide leadership and ask him to stop playing games with people’s lives.


Dr. Mustafa Mheta

Senior researcher/Head of Africa Desk

Media Review Network

South Africa