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Conflict in Cameroon is extracting a heavy toll on ordinary people

PRI | The Confederation of African Football has let Cameroon’s President Paul Biya know that his nation will no longer host the 2019 African Nations Cup competition. The decision is a humiliation. Once a powerhouse of Africa’s football, Cameroon’s reputation has dropped significantly.

CAF’s decision serves as a reminder that the country is sinking, and something must be done.

Until a few years ago, Cameroon was a nation on the move. Despite its many political, economic and social problems, the country was peaceful, attracted people from all over for tourism, business and education.

For example, the University of Dayton had, over two decades, run immersion programs in the country, and so did many other American universities. Cameroon was also an international centre where major conferences, symposia, and cultural activities took place.

The nation was a major banking center, as well as host to Nigerian businessman Aliko Dangote’s many activities, and more recently the proposed site of car assembly plants to be constructed by Indian and Chinese businesses. And the list goes on.

But the Anglophone conflict has taken its toll. A peaceful protest which began three years ago against the marginalization of Anglophone Cameroon quickly turned violent as some called for the region’s complete secession from Cameroon to form the Ambazonia Republic.

As a result, Cameroon’s military and the Ambazonia Defense forces have been locked in a deadly embrace with no end in sight.

Already in the 7th term of office as president, Paul Biya’s obsession with a military solution to the crisis has exacerbated tensions, as well as the misery of ordinary people.

Beneath CAF’s rationale that Cameroon was ill-ready, ill-equipped and ill-prepared to host the games was a sense that the country is deeply insecure. The cities of Limbe and Buea in the heartland of Anglophone Cameroon were going to host the games. But routine kidnappings, attacks, road closings, and killings in the region would have undermined the essence of the games.

CAF’s announcement coincided with the failure of a last-ditch effort by His Eminence Cardinal Christian Tumi to broker peace and convene an All Anglophone Conference. But the culture of threats and Cameroon government’s failure to grant a permit for the conference to take place meant that it was doomed.

Ordinary people have called on Cardinal Tumi not to give up. The conference, they note, must go on. Many Cameroonians are desperate for a peaceful solution to the conflict.

As the brickbats fell, conditions for communities in the Anglophone region continue to deteriorate. And while debates continue to rage about the rights and wrongs of widely publicized suggested solutions such as federalism, decentralization, and secession, ordinary people continue to chafe in their daily lives.

What’s being lost
As the warring factions stand eyeball to eyeball waiting to see who will blink first, few are asking how the outcome of the struggle will change the lives of ordinary people in the region.

Yet the impact has been enormous. There are immense economic and social consequences which have transformed communities and their way of life.

Cameroonians who would go home for Christmas holidays and other festivities no longer do so. Their spending stimulated the economy. In email correspondences and responses to questionnaires with people in Kumba and Buea, local people are noting that Cameroonians living in other countries are no longer coming home for their holidays. As a result, businesses — such as hotels — are barely holding on.

There has been more profound economic consequences. The region’s main agribusiness facility, the Cameroon Development Corporation, the heart of the region’s economy, is in ruins. Plantations which produce palm oil are no longer operational. Workers at banana plantations are brutalized and rubber processors have been repeatedly attacked. Families that depended on cocoa for a livelihood now face a life of destitution.

Another disturbing aspect of the conflict is the gradual erosion of key parts of people’s culture. Funeral celebrations are a significant aspect of Cameroonian culture. But in conversations with people, it appears these festivities are disappearing. Irrespective of where people reside, Cameroonians typically prefer their burial sites to be in their village of origin. But not anymore. Increasingly, people are buried anywhere possible.

Visits to burial sites of friends and family members have turned into a deadly experience. For example, going to Lewoh in Lebialem, is unthinkable because of the violence.

And there is more. In communities in Anglophone Cameroon, basic services such as trash collection no longer exist. Trash is piling up in the cities. And corpses can be seen on roadways. Businesses that traditionally operated in the evenings have been bankrupted.

The list of hardship goes on. School buildings remain empty. And both refugees and internally displaced people are nowhere close to returning to their homes.

Time to re-assess
The recurring accusation is La Republique — The Republic of Cameroon — has caused these problems. But it’s not all the fault of La Republique. Given that some of the attacks are undertaken by Anglophones, they have become accomplices to the violence. No wonder ordinary people are increasingly asking more direct questions about the benefits of the revolt they were promised.The Conversation

Julius A. Amin is a professor in the department of history at the University of Dayton.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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13 comments

  1. Now LRC knows there is an Anglophone problem-CAN2019 gone and billions in lost revenues from Nigeria and elsewhere! Cameroon soon to dropped as world Producer or Bananas, Coffee, timer and pal oil to name but a few thanks to the Anglophones crisis. Those who borrowed millions for CAN 2019 would have to face the Banks that produced and package those loans based on projected profits from CAN2019 and more. Cameroon is FINISHED! Sooner no money to pay the Killers (so-called army) of Southern Cameroonians

  2. The long arm of the conflict will leave no place in Cameroon untouched, all because of decisions centered around an old fool in a hearse to the graveward.

  3. English in Courtrooms and classrooms was the initial request in 2016 from the Anglophones to a hypercentralized Yaoundé tribal government in a constitutionally bilingual country!
    As is the case in Napoleonic African plantations with enabled dictators the only solution to a simple request is militarization, war, destruction etc.
    The Chinese in 50yrs have worked hard to build an economy to the extent that they are the new colonizers of Africa.
    In 57yrs Equatorial Africans have been unable to improve a Federation left behind by colonialists but have decided to regress to Re-colonization by Francophonization of Anglophones who have rejected their attempts.
    500,000 refugees internally
    100,000 refugees in Nigeria
    20,000 killed
    10,000 jailed
    200 villages burnt

  4. Crises big and small provide humanity an opportunity for learning and growth. Whether this is true in Cameroon remains to be seen. All Cameroonians take seriously the idea of having children, married or not. But only a small number bother about parenting those children to face the challenges of the world. For them, the notion of “a burnt child shuns the fire” does not exist.

    And so from the lowest to the top, crises multiply in number and size. It would take too much energy and time to illustrate the mess at the top. One step below, there is a man, Gilbert Baongla Biya??? popularly known as the son of the head of state and notorious for finger pointing at wrongdoing. But Gilbert has just been evicted from an apartment for owing 36,000,000 francs in back rents!!!! It was a court order. Aha

    • One Paris-based landlady achieved the monumental task of convincing the courts to put aside laisser-faire and evict her recalcitrant tenant! Imagine if such a thing could extend to other landlords.

      Currently, Buea is swarming in household trash and its nauseating stench because HYSACAM will not clear garbage. HYSACAM too has its defence – its vehicle was set ablaze.

      Should parenting not teach a child the limits of personal interests over collective ones, the consequences that accompany an act?

  5. SEPARATIST aka SECESSIONIST

    Le Cameroun est définitivement devenu la risée du monde entier

    = Cameroon has definitely become the laughing stock of the whole world.

    Dictator Biya and his LRC citizens should be ashamed of themselves.

    The humiliation is beyond repair.

    There will surely be ZERO AFCON21 because of Dictator Biya’s sh*thole UNWINNABLE war.

  6. What does Paul biya stand to loss?? His best days are far gone and he is a shadow of the man he use to be.. why will he fix a situation when he is knocking on heaven or hells door .. this situation will only be fixed by this generation not our ancestors who cause of money dont want peaceful transition.. berceau de Nos ancetres ..sounds so true

  7. Old Mr. Biya/ co, take responsibility for what is ongoing in the country.
    But they might not answer for it.

  8. When will those Amba Boys realize that the Army and police should not be their target but Biya? Go to Yaounde, thats where you need to win your fight.

    • You are a big lazy dejected idiot. Why did the Free State of Antwerp pick up arms to fight German Soldiers instead of going after the Kaiser in Berlin? What kind of a man remains passive when his home is being razed to the ground? You should be more concerned with the terrorist threats in your Belgian enclave set at all time maximum running your long nose chatty chatty mouth here all day long.

      • SEPARATIST aka SECESSIONIST

        @Observer,

        Thanks for setting the records straight.
        Korup Forest thinks that his marriage to a Cameroonian lady is a licence to disseminate rubbish about Amba boys.

      • You like to pick and choose your history but things do not work that way, my friend. Have you ever heard of the famous Nazis from Belgium under the command of Leon Degrelle? Were those Nazis fighting against the Germans???

        • Rass Tuge as usual with a skewed argument holding no leaning whatsoever. Wasn’t Ahidjo and his numerous Fulani militias the biggest collaborators of French Cameroun subjugation and complete eradication of the UPC uprising? Do you know how Djam Yaya, Baba Sule, Oumarou Garoua, Semengue, Mpai etc ran their underground cellls to sustain the French hegemonistic empire? The biggest collaborators to Nazi occupied France was the Vichy regime dominated by French people which controlled France as a puppet government for the Nazis. Marshal Philippe Petain, Louis Ferdinand Celine and Pierre Laval were the heads of the regime responsible for the deportation of 76,000 Jews to the extermination camps built by their government. Where they to be exonerated by your logic?