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Cameroon City Shuts Down Over Language Issue

The streets were empty Monday in the Cameroonian city of Bamenda, as residents honored a call to strike over the increasing use of French in English-speaking parts of the country.

A client and her attorney argue outside a courthouse in Bamenda as bystanders listen in. The client, Ashu Gerorgette, wants her lawyer to defend her in court, after she was accused of illegally occupying a piece of land she inherited from her father.

But the attorney refuses, citing the ongoing strike by Cameroon’s English-speaking lawyers.

“As we speak now somebody is constructing on the [piece of] land and I do not have any power to stop him,” Georgette said. “I have been waiting for the court to render justice, but my lawyer does not come.”

Strike started in September

Lawyers in the English-speaking southwest and northwest regions of Cameroon called the strike in September, to protest what they called the overbearing use of the French language.

English speakers constitute 20 percent of Cameroon’s population, and the constitution says English and French inherited from colonial times are equally important.

But most official documents are only in French, and judges, administrators and teachers with little understanding of English are often sent to work in English-speaking regions.

Teachers, youths join the protest

The lawyers have been joined by teachers and supported by young people. Protests in November led to clashes with the military that left several people dead, hundreds missing or wounded, and scores under arrest.

The government opened up negotiations, but the striking teachers and lawyers stormed out.

The leader of the striking lawyers, Bobga Harmony, says they will resume talks once authorities release youths who were arrested for burning police stations, vehicles, and Cameroon’s national flag during the protests.

“We maintain our disposition as civilized learned men to dialogue, and dialogue does not mean you are giving up your position,” Harmony said. “You simply market your position to the understanding of the other side and any other side who seeks peace will buy it rather than accuse infants of terrorism in a situation where that word has no place.”

Arrested protesters missing

Harmony says the whereabouts of some of the arrested protesters is not known.

Rights activists like Joseph Chongsi of the Center for Human Rights and Peace Advocacy, have called on officials to reveal where the protesters are being held.

“Cameroon’s government should without delay, set up an independent and impartial investigative commission to ensure thorough, prompt, effective and impartial investigation of all suspected cases of death especially those in custody,” Chongsi said.

In an address on December 31, President Paul Biya said he was open to talks with the protesters, but warned he will never accept any attempt to destabilize what he called Cameroon’s hard-earned national unity.

VOA

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48 comments

  1. It is understandable that President Biya does not want to be saddled with the break up of the “one and indivisible” Cameroon. This is where men and women of good will are needed to advise him on the best way forward. How can this thorny problem be resolved without loss of face?

    In modern democracies such things are not handled by decree. Popular vote – also known as referendum – may provide a win-win solution that leaves both sides of the divide satisfied.

    • The Title of this report is misleading! This fight is not about Laanguage as VOA is trying to insinuate. This fight is about the Restoration of the sovereign Independent and Statehood of the Southern Cameroons under illegal annexation and colonial occupation by LRC which is a crime under international law. The teachers and lawyers demand are just part of the problems that have emerged as a result of the illegal annexation and occupation. It is the Southern Cameroons problem that has given rise to the problems faced by the Anglophnes (Southern Cameroonians)

      • BIYA MUST GO ( BMG) Reserved

        i am 100% with you.
        Language is only an element of the palaver.

        SELECTED GRIEVANCES THAT ARE 100% SPECIFIC TO ANGLOPHONES.
        1. No Anglophone has ever been and will ever be President of the republic.( Ahmadu Ali, 2008)
        2. No Anglophone has ever been appointed to the post of Secretary General at the Presidency, Minister of Finance, Territorial Administration, Secondary Education, Delegate General for National Security, ,Ministers of the Armed Forces, Foreign Affairs, etc. Fact is: these key ministries (‘ministeres de souverainete’) are the ministries that are considered as strategic in the functioning of any state
        3 .No Anglophone has ever been Ambassador to France and the United Nations, let alone to Nigeria, South Africa or the US, which are english speaking countries.
        4. No Anglophone has ever been at the helm of SONARA
        5. Non-CPDM Anglophones are personae non gratae in the Senate.
        ——————–
        6. The unilateral changing of the name of the country to “Republic of Cameroon” is considered provocative to MOST Southern Cameroonians.
        7.All the 3 branches of the state ( Executive, legislature, judiciary) are headed by Francophones
        8. The 11th day of February is historically known as plebicite day and NOT the so-called “Youth day”
        9. The 20th day of May is historically known as the day of abolishment of the federal system of government and NOT the so-called “National day”
        10 .The reunification was NOT between “Anglophones” and “Francophones”. It was between West Cameroon and East Cameroon as “equal partners”.
        11. SONARA and PAMOL are located in Fako and Ndian divisions respectively. However, both companies are registered in Douala and therefore pay royalties to the Douala City Council.
        12. etc,etc,

        Of course, there are other Groups who also feel marginalised in Cameroon. Other forms of marginalisation experienced by Cameroonians include:
        * Gender marginalisation
        * Ethnic marginalisation
        * religious marginalisation
        * tribal marginalisation
        * social marginalisation
        * etc.
        However, these groups are NOT victims of SYSTEMIC marginalisation. Simply put, the marginalisation is NOT pertaining to a system. That is where they differ with the marginalisation of the Anglophones. The latter is systemic in character.
        The truth of the matter is that the Anglophones are the only Cameroonians who are subjected to SYSTEMIC marginalisation. Simply put, the marginalisation of the Anglophones is relating to a system. The Anglophones are the only Cameroonians who have been excluded from the leadership of any of the branches of Government(Executive, legislature, judiciary).That is why it is considered as unique. The list of grievances that are 100% specific to Anglophones is proof of this Statement of fact.

        • BIYA MUST GO ( BMG) Reserved

          The Anglphone PM and so-called “Head” of Government. is NOT a leader of any branch of the state. He is appointed and dismissed by the Head of the executive branch.

        • BIYA MUST GO ( BMG) Reserved

          ****THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE POWER OF THE STATE****

          1. Executive arm of government
          Head is from LRC

          2. The legislative arm of government

          2.1 Lower House
          Head is from LRC

          2.2 Upper House
          Head is from LRC

          3. The Judicial arm of government
          Head is from LRC

          The above-mentioned distribution of the powers of government raises questions about the participation of Anglophone Cameroonians in the decision-making and power-sharing processes in the country.

      • BIYA MUST GO ( BMG) Reserved

        AtangaNA Nji Claims that there is no Anglophone Problem because the francophone head of the executive branch has appointed an Anglophone ex-convict and form three Dropout as Minister. How Foolish Can One Man Be?

  2. A quand un combat pour notre propre langue? Ce qui est dramatique est que les deux systemes ne forment pas les camerounais. Les pays asiatiques ont aussi ete colonises mais on repris le control de leur destin. Ici nous nous combattons pour la grandeur et necessite des langues des l oppresseurs. Faut lire ce lien ci dessous et me dire comment vous pouvez etant africain ne pas vous poser de question. Tous les continents ont un prophet aumoins chacun , une religion , une culture partages et venere par le reste du monde et surtout en Afrique , qu avons nous? Notre generation malgre tous ses avantages technologiques enterre encore plus la fierte africaine. Elle n en a meme pas.

  3. Ont repris ……langues des oppresseurs

    • Cher compatriots, require CE probleme en question purement de langue est malheureux, etant Donne qu’une langue est in vehicle de communication design ideas. Lorsqu’on communique, on passe unmessage, n’est-ce pas? A quoi bon un language qui n’arrive pas a passer cemessage? Croyez-vous qu’il est normale de favoriser uneleve francophone en lui donnant un message en Francis qu’il comprend tres Bien alors que son compatriots Anglophone be peux pas pretended au meme droit de recevoir son education en anglais?

      Pouvez-vous imaginer un fair play supprimant le Francais et l’anglais en substituant Deutsch (l’allemagne) a leurs places puis qu’il est hors question de substituer plus de 200 patois?

      • Ops! Clearly my Android and I are not quite on the same page given that my efforts at correction are swiftly reversed.

        • Download and add a French keyboard. Your corrections won’t be reversed and even enable word completion to help with suggestions. Nice comment though

        • Thanks ibikeys. I appreciate the tip.

      • Je crois simplement qu on ne pourra jamais dominer ce monde en utilisation l instrument de l oppresseur , la Chine ,la russie, la corree le japon dubai ont tous ete sous domination mais sont aujourd hui au premier rang. Le systeme colonial etait pour former des sous administeurs a leur service jamais pour se former a l auto construction . Pose toi juste une question, comment se fait il qu un pays ou 70/100 de la population vit de l agriculture n a aucune politique moderne d accompagnement des agriculteurs? C est aventagieux de connaitre la langue de son rival ou partenaire ,on ne perd rien mais faut choisir une ou des langues obligatoires de chez nous pour en faire nos premieres langues. Qui dans ce forum connait un seul ecrivain camerounais qui publie en langue locale? Qu est ce que ca te fait de voir que meme nos langues sont ecrites et traduites par des blancs ? Je crois que dans un siecle on aura peut etre des noirs de peau mais ils seront sans culture ni ame encore plus complexes qu aujourd hui , parce que sans culture on a rien a transmettre. Et l assimilation ils le fond chez nous sans que les moutons precheurs a la gauloise et la Shakespeare ne s en apperceivent. 50 ans seulement apres la colonisation on revendique tous fierement notre appartenance a l heritage coloniale. Certains meme ecrivent que les Duala Manga belle , Uhm Nyobe sont morts pour la republique pas pour eux mais prient devant la croix du roi juif Jesus qu ils croient est mort pour eux. Comment Sarkozy ne viendra pas dire une autre fois ” l homme noir n est pas encore entre dans l histoire” quand nous meme resumons notre histoire a l apres 1ere guerre mondiale

  4. Sparrow Hawk Thailand

    What unity is Paul biya talking about? To roundup youth who were diligently donating blood and lock them up in Y’de?, or shooting, beating, raping and humiliating peaceful protesters?, or forcefully and unlawfully taking off wigs from members of the judiciary arm of government, lawyers? Is that the peace the ailing illegal dictator is talking about?
    Of the graduates from Anglophone Cmr, 1/3 are lining up to process passports and visas to travel abroad while those left back home probably due to lack of means are left with no choice than to be bike riders or farmers… And the corrupt and frustrated govt has the guts to impose that our children return to school to enrich the ministry of education while jeopardizing their futures?
    He is claiming being open to dialogue yet filling the dialogue room with armed military personnels…did the protesters say they want to dialogue with the military?
    How can you be intimidating people with guns and expect them to say a word contrary to what you wanna hear?
    I was of the opinion that biya is quite diplomatic and democratic. Not until this situation arose, then he’s proven to be the contrary. Biya is a real disgrace to statesmanship and democracy. If LRC will face economic problems or even recession because of the actions of the Anglophones, then I’d rather wish it even gets worse. The glass has been filled to its brim, no more could be contained. To hell with Biya and his bunch of lunatics.
    “God bless Southern Cameroon’s efforts”

  5. It started with language but detail analysis shows it more than language but if we limit only to language the course is very justifiable because to strife peaple must communicate & dialogue in a language they understand & not a language impose on them . Just as the east cameroon adopted French/it system and proud to use it , so we from West Cameroon adopted English and their system of education and law and are very happy to use it as foundation on which to build our institutional structures,. We don’t like French system nothing has ever come from it. Na by force or na badluck , any how Biya and his ministers shall give in or break, when we in the west start doing protest infront of their children house here which they pay with stollen then !!!!!!!!

  6. I can see where Biya is standing: refuse everything that they want and if they
    joke any further, wage a full scale war and force them into submission.
    Even that, will fail. Reason: David did not use a gun or a bomb.

  7. Anyone struggling to reduce this cause to a language problem should be able to explain why it’s ok for dissenting voices to accept French without any resistance. I commend the teachers and lawyers. We all owe them profound gratitude. Extrapolating this cause to the arguments of Nfor Ngala, Justice Ebong, Dr Anyangwe, Chief Ayamba, Gorji Dinka, Molah Njoh, we realize other lawyers/teachers have been fighting this good fight for more than 30 years as they’d sacrificed and lost everything. At the his moment, the occupiers should be able to spot that the teachers and lawyers argument correlates with that of the scnc because all parties suffer the same injustice; an identity problem. Therefore labelling a lawyer or a teacher traitor like they are doing Akere Muna and George Nyamdi is a lack of leadership foresight in resolving this problem. No one fears anyone even though we have to respect each other even if we cannot live together. The struggle continues……

    • At this stage of this revolution, the political opinion of people like (my hero) John Fru Ndi, are in sharp conflict with the revolutionary ideals of this movement, and therefore must be discounted. This time around, the blood of those who have been sacrificed must be made weighty, and compensated with absolute success, instead of a paltry and sketchy political dispensation as was the case in the 90’s.
      The next phase of this fight must be geared towards total economic boycott of all goods that are branded as made, or (fabrique au Cameroun). We must begin to hurt some of the sources of their pocket book, the Bamilikes who have been sitting on the sidelines.
      Next, if not simultaneously, we have to find a way to forestall the transitioning of our resources for the economic benefit of La Republic, and its cabal of criminals masquerading for a government.

  8. Hell ****** no… there is nothing like a city shutdown over language issues.. i think you should rephrase the heading of your article. this is a marginalization issue not a language issue.

  9. BIYA MUST GO ( BMG) Reserved

    All i can say is

    Unstoppable Momentum. Nothing more, nothing less.
    “ALUTA Continua, Victoria Ascerta” (The Struggle Continues, Victory is Certain)

  10. When shall we defend our own languages with an african language like kiswahili serving as lingua franca?do we know that speaking and working with the enemies language is a sign of total submission?why do some Africans give their children aryano names?why do some Africans worship the ancestors of our enemies neglecting ours?

    • THERE IS GOD OHHHHHH United States

      Next time TYPE what you just wrote above in KISWAHILI and stop using the language of your oppressor or better yet go home and stay way from your oppressor. By the way reading and quoting your oppressors day in and out is not doing you any justice but rather reinforcing your slave mentality. we will take u serious when u start quoting Mansa Musa in your write ups and not Charles DE Gaulle. MBAB KUNYA…..!!!

  11. This is resistance by the people of former British Southern Cameroons against a grand plan to frenchify their culture and territory. Affected areas are currently language, the courts and education. The francophone dominated government calls it harmonization and effects its plans by stealth, pro-francophone decrees and appointments, expediently bypassing parliament. Very undemocratic, in bad faith and dishonorable.

  12. The labour market in most of Africa is a buyers’ market, and sooner or later, dissenters will succomb, due to lack of alternative opportunities.

    BTW. If those structures are a reflection of the quality of instruction, then we have bigger problems than language. Maybe the diaspora should rather contribute money for a lick of paint, instead of encouraging people to take to the streets.

    • Mtcheew. No one encourage no one to the street. Ghost town means staying at home. At times it’s better to find out than make outrageous and ignorant comments on things we know nothing about it.

  13. Why do anglophone journalist and TV personalities insist using a similar cadence and style of delivery as their francophone counterparts?

    • Where creativity is lacking or not encouraged, plagiarism takes over. Look no further than this very forum where there are replicas of pennames already being used – Bah Achos, Paul Byas, etc. It is so much easier to copy and use what someone else is using than to toil and bring a novelty into life.

      Beyond names there is the manner of speaking, bizarre linguistic phraseologies often transposed with no attempt to find a correct translation. Look at how many street names are the products of stranger improvisations simply because locals are too complacent about naming them.

  14. BAH ACHO

    Please start writing in swahili or ur native language to show us the example, in as much as we all hate colonisation, the language of finance , commerce and technology is English which we need inorder develope and their system is better than the french system,
    lset not fight with each other because we give course to Pinguiss his Biya brother continue their opression, History shows Britain was an oppressor but when they gave independence to their colonies it was true independent as compared to france.

    • FIRE….how did Japan Vietnam north and south Korea develop their economies with original asian languages spirituality and technology? The fact you think English is the language of technology and finance is prove you are still in the box like a rat controlled by the slave psychology planted in you under pretext of education.there is Japanese technology Korean technology German technology.all in their languages.talking about african technology in an african language is not a crime.it will become reality.

      • The naive one is you , Sir! Japan, Germany, South Korea, and now Vietnam git their original technology from America immediately after the 2nd World War. It started with Germany and Japan, and Taiwan got it from Japan. Indians got their electronics prowess from Taiwanese. I live nearer to and interact with business executives from these countries and these are the facts. Groping in darkness and harping about technology in their original languages is not strange coming from a propagandist par excellence .

  15. Ngia Chi, I did beg you to chain your ngong dog. Njah Etu don born ndon. Where does he copy those axims from???? Brother I know we are in a world of all types of freedos, but I take God name beg you, if you no get thing to talk, just close your beak.

    • Kitts:

      Nja Etu really born ndorn!!! His only competence is to boldly make wrong outlandish claims.

      Have u heard about the expression “half book.?” It fully applies to NDAAGRE.

  16. Some of us indulge in goalpost shifting par excellence. We say anglophones are marginalised because they have never held key positions in government. When it gets pointed out that successive anglophones have been prime minister, we say the post is inconsequential. I’m sure if there had never been a anglophone prime minister, that position would have been added to the list of grievances.

    Is the public service the only venue for anglophones to express their genius? Why don’t they show their financial acumen, by operating private banks, instead of waiting for a position at the ministry of finance?

    • To blame others for goal post shifting and then fall back on the same flaw is risible, painfully risible.
      You may wish to educate yourself about the fact that there was once a private Anglophone bank prior to all of the sad experiment. Find out what happened to that Anglophone bank. Do not stop there. Investigate also what happened to the personnel and equipment of the PWD (Public Works Department).

      • @John Dinga,
        It is often said that one should avoid meeting one’s heroes, for fear of disappointment. The problem is, you are imprisoned by cognitive bias: you are so convinced anglophones are infallible, that you have lost your sense of impartiality.

        Many of the defaulting debtors of the defunct Cameroon Bank, were anglophones. What about others such as: NISCAM bank; Amity bank …If we attribute the failure of every anglophone commercial establishment to francophone conspiracy; how do you explain the failure francophone owned finance houses like Cofinest or CBC bank?

        If we want to talk about bad governance, let’s talk about it objectively, instead of giving the impression that anglophones are all angels who can do no wrong.

        • We have had francophone PMs, is there any reason why an anglophone has never been the minister of Defense, Finance, Interior, Sec at Presidency, Limbe Kiddy?

        • Let us assume for the sake of fairness that your claim about the “defaulting debtors of the defunct Cameroon Bank” is true. Are you going to dispute the fact that Cameroon Bank was a thriving enterprise prior to the fraudulent unification when its entire managerial composition were of Anglophone extraction?
          Is it not also true that post the unfortunate union, most of the managers of the then Cameroon Bank were replaced by a swarm of unscrupulous Francophoneswho freely engaged in shoddy transactions with equally disreputable “business” men of both extractions?
          The argument is in effect that under Anglophone control, such enabling circumstances never occurred. The experience of bank failures was alien. Can the same claim be made post the aforementioned illegal unification: an interval during which many banks have openly been looted almost entirely by the same crop of thieving crooks from across the Mungo?

        • The bottom line is, La Republique is a jinx, a fowl that was hatched from an egg of impunity.

        • Thanks DE Pimento, thanks Mayanka76
          I appreciate your inputs. I surely do.

          We live in a world where we have to toil with prevaricators crossing the Mungo, spending a few weeks or months in their various sheltered capacities and then discombobulating our world with “Mais qui est Anglophone et qui est Francophone?” And as if that were not enough, here comes ours who rises up to catalogue my so-called cognitive bias, imprisonment, lost impartiality and all the lexical gymnastics that would give the Pinguisses and their collaborators a field day at my expense. Wow!

        • Ba Dinga:

          Atanga Njis come in all shades and colors. However, I surprised that LimbeKid’s take on events surprises you.

    • LimbeKid:

      What you said about Cameroon Bank is not correct. I happen to have lived with the last GM of Cameroon Bank. I will not disclose his name, but I will just say he (a trained lawyer of bakwerian extraction) died in 1988. Needless to say, the biggest debtors of Cameroon Bank were businessmen from the North.

      Did anybody claim Anglophone were infallible? Anglophone s want to take control of their destiny, and you seem to have a problem with that.

  17. Sparrow Hawk Thailand

    We should stop blabbering. The truth is that Anglophone Cameroonians are well marginalized. It’s a fact that even our oppressors know.. I went to the Ministry of Higher Education and was sent right back the queue because I was speaking English. The person attending to us warned me severely “Voici Yaoundé. Je ne comprends rien en anglais. Si vous ne voulez pas parler le français, vous devriez sortir d’ici”. There’s no argument to our marginalization. Francofools are our number ONE enemy to progress.