a 50th anniversary of the union with a bitter taste in the zone

This Friday, May 20, marks the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the two federated state systems: Western Cameroon and Eastern Cameroon. The year 1972 is thus the birth of the United Republic of Cameroon. A date with special resonance in the English-speaking part of the country, ravaged by clashes between the central government and separatist groups. In Bamenda, the capital of the northwest, the atmosphere is heavy.

In the streets, the army prepared this day with parades. But after years of war, the atmosphere is not festive.

For John, a 74-year-old pensioner, Cameroonian unity no longer exists: “President Biya has declared war on the Anglophones. He is killing our children, burning our houses. There is no going back. We will only solve the crisis with the independence of the English-speaking regions. . ”

On Monday, a separatist group introduced five dead city days in English-speaking regions. The streets of Bamenda are therefore deserted. The separatists threatened with death those who dared to leave.

Hanson, a 33-year-old trader, calls for dialogue: “We are at war. Bamenda is a ghost town. It is not seen in Douala or Yaoundé. We have so many official documents written only in French, officials, soldiers, police who can not “You do not necessarily need a separation. We need to have a dialogue and find a system that is accepted by everyone.”

Many have fled the region, such as Dr. Nick Ngwanyam, who now lives in Douala. Moderate, he does not want separation: “The nation must remain united as a family, but in your house you can not have unity without love, without trust, without respect. You can not force people together by beating them. Those in power try to instrumentalize the situation and set the two groups against each other. It was greed that destroyed everything. ”

For several days, the defense forces have been widely deployed and promised a day under close surveillance in Bamenda.

• Cameroon: is the Cameroonian Union a failure?

May 20, 1972 – May 20, 2022, it has been fifty years since Cameroon celebrated its unity. The day is celebrated every year as a national holiday, to strengthen the reunification between English-speaking Cameroon and French-speaking Cameroon. But for five years, this day, which is meant to unite the nation around this ideal of unity, has become a point of tension and crystallization of the differences between English-speakers and Francophones.

as reported from Yaoundé, Polycarp Essomba

Unity: the Cameroonian obsession. This is how we can sum up the pursuit of this ideal in this country embedded in the heart of Central Africa. Even long before independence, the subject was topical, carried by the nationalists of the Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC) and whose galleon figure was Ruben Um Nyobe. For the latter, moreover, this question took precedence over another equally important question, namely independence.

It must be said that after the First World War, Cameroon, formerly under German colonization, was placed under dual French and English surveillance, divided into two major distinct linguistic blocs and cultural influences: eastern Cameroon under French domination on the one hand and southern. Cameroon under British control.

The desire for reunion between brothers and sisters in these two blocs will finally come true in October 1961, a little less than a year after independence. This option will be strengthened on 20 May 1972 following a referendum changing the country from a federal state to the United Republic of Cameroon. And to end this result, this date is set up as a national holiday.

A fiftieth anniversary celebration that paradoxically has lived with irredentism fed by feelings of marginalization, carried by part of the English-speaking public. Tooth shrinkage has really never been lacking within the English-speaking elite. Reduced according to her to subordinate roles in the distribution of positions of power and in the administration of the young state. Anglophones, minorities and representatives of about 20% of the country’s population have since continuously condemned what they consider to be a process of assimilation or even integrated francophonization of Cameroon. The consequence today is the brutal outbreak of the so-called English-language crisis in 2016, with much more than the desire for independence and a very suspicious armed conflict over the ideal of unity.

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