The Africa Report | Created with great pomp in 2017 and presented as a solution to the socio-political crisis shaking Cameroon, the ‘Commission pour la Promotion du Bilinguisme et du Multiculturalisme’ [Committee for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism] is struggling to bring a deeply divided country together.
Peter Mafany Musongue slowly made his way to the Yaounde Convention Centre. On 21 January, the former prime minister of Cameroon attended a meeting there along with the other 14 members of the Commission pour la promotion du bilinguisme et du multiculturalisme [National Committee for the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism] (CNPBM), an institution he has headed since its creation in 2017.
As he settled into meeting room “A”, where the biannual session took place, Musongue was aware that his citizens have a long list of demands. Especially since, for the year 2021 alone, its budget amounts to about 3bn CFA francs (€4.5m) – a substantial budget in a context of crisis, in which resources are scarce. The adoption of this package is, moreover, the main item on the agenda.
“This budget will allow us to carry out our three main programmes,” said Musongue in a brief statement to the media at the end of the session. “The programme on bilingualism, which is to be extended and implemented throughout the country, the programme on multiculturalism and living together and, finally, the one on governance and institutional support.”
“No effects on the ground”
A plan of action that should give a boost to activities in the field and silence criticism. There are indeed prominent public voices denouncing the organisation’s wait-and-see approach, given the fact that the social climate is deteriorating as the days go by. The events that occurred during the 2018 presidential election were a continuation of the problems that have affected the country since the Anglophone crisis began in 2016.
Musongue himself acknowledges a resurgence of “intra-community stigmatisation.” “In the political field, frightening expressions such as ‘supremacists’ or ‘ethno-fascists’ are used to label certain individuals or groups […] On the economic front, odious rhetoric is directed against certain tribes that are depicted as ‘land thieves’ and ‘invaders.’ This worrying phenomenon can lead to uncontrollable acts of violence,” he said in a forum at the end of 2020.
Presented three years ago as the solution to these divisions, the CNPBM is struggling to break a cycle that has plunged the country into a climate of anxiety and where violence is ongoing. “We don’t feel the effects of this committee on the ground,” says Peter O., a resident of Yaoundé. “Since its members were installed, hate speech between communities has increased. Even the Anglophone crisis, which was at the origin of its creation, is still ongoing.”