With the help of social media, the crisis in Cameroon is getting more attention now than years ago when it first began. In America, the upcoming election season has bolstered interest in civic engagement, as nearly 70 percent of Americans are displeased with the current political system, according to a recent poll by The Wall Street Journal. Now imagine living in a country where civilian protests and activism incites government violence, intimidation and is nearing genocide of its own citizens. This is the reality in Cameroon and it’s time for the world to take notice.
As with most countries, a lot of present-day issues stem from aged practices that are simply outdated and rarely benefited the good of all its citizens. The unrest in present-day Cameroon is rooted in the establishment of Kemerun in 1884 after their First World War. Kemerun, was created as a protectorate which by definition is a dependent territory that operates with some level of independence, while being protected either diplomatically or militarily by a stronger state. As a result, there were vast differences among the colonial territories. One used English as the primary language and followed British political structure and ideology while the other spoke French and followed France’s governing practices. Further separation occurred after the territories began to seek independence and one sought to join Nigeria. Ultimately, the UN rejected the notion of granting full independence and it was decided that reunification with the established Republic of Cameroon would occur.
The failure to define and adhere to a clear and concise agreement to reunify the territories as requested is the root of today’s crisis. Since the 1990’s, there have been protests and movements in stark opposition to further assimilate the English speaking territory under the French territory rule. However, from 2016-2017 tensions rose again and turned violent after regional lawyers went on strike in response to the refusal of the justice system to use Common Law practices. The failure to provide a judicial system and its texts in both languages led to political distrust and public outrage. After the lawyers organized a peaceful protest with demands to implement Federalism, French officers turned violent on the crowd. The fallout has included teacher strikes, school closures, riots, the burning of villages, militarization of the region, displacement of over 60,000 people, the government shutting access to the internet for over 90 days and failed negotiation attempts to come to a peaceful resolution. For years, the violence and protests have continued and reveals not only major governmental failures, but the contrast between the ideologies of the elite and marginalized peoples.
According to reports, “In February 2020, government officials and allied militia members slaughtered 21 civilians, including 13 children in Ngarbuh village in Northwest Cameroon. So far in 2020, fighting has killed an estimated 285 civilians.” Violence has remained constant in spite of cease fire requests in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While there have been some international efforts to aide in resolution including attempts by the Trump administration, Human Rights and Genocide Watch groups, the crisis is showing no signs of slowing.