Cameroon: DIVIDED WE STAND: The language of Annexation and Poverty

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Thu May 31 15:36:27 UTC 2007

DIVIDED WE STAND: The language of Annexation and Poverty

*Innocent Chia*

*Dividing a people to conquer is so old a political ploy, it predates modern
history. Yet most every leader makes the solemn public promise to unite
those people under their leadership.
[image: Tiko_1959a]  *
*The Glory Days: An Elder & Fyffe Ship being loaded with Banana exports at
the once bustling Tiko seaport in 1959.*

*As far as the politics of the West-Central African country of La Republique
du Cameroun goes, its two life presidents (the late Ahmadou Ahidjo and Paul
Biya) are responsible for systemic dogmas that preach national unity or
national integration but practice just the opposite. *

While President Ahmadou Ahidjo preached "l'Unite Nationale", his goal was to
bring about a systemic neutralization and assimilation of the Southern
Cameroon's minority. His successor, President Paul Biya turned it several
notches up with sermons on "National Integration".

The reality, however, is that of La Republique du Cameroun's hegemony and
annexation attempts over Southern Cameroon. It is true that the success of
any policy requires human resources. Our last essay was a cursory look at
some of the Southern Cameroonian surrogates, yes-men that will do everything
that the slave master asks of them in order to share a slice of the spoils.
Above all, the power of the purse has been La Republique's most powerful
tool and our focus today.

According to a 1960 Trade Report from the Nigerian Federal Ministry of
Information, the Victoria and Tiko seaports ranked 4th and 5th (after Lagos,
Port Harcourt, Sapele and Calabar) in the amount of cargo that was loaded
out of Nigeria ports, and accounted for all imports and exports to West
Cameroon. (Ngenge T.S. 2003. "The Institutional Roots of the 'Anglophone
Problem' in Cameroon," in CAMEROON: Politics and Society in Critical
Without contest, Ngenge states that "the Victoria and Tiko seaports
contributed to the development of Southern Cameroons". He adds:

But when the United Republic (of) Cameroon was created in 1972, the two
ports were neglected as the government made it a policy that all
transactions should be through the river port of Douala. Imports and exports
became concentrated in the Douala river port, which subsequently accounted
for 92% of all maritime traffic….While attention was paid to the seaports of
Kribi, Campo and Garoua riverport, those of West Cameroon, including the
Mamfe riverport, were abandoned. The move to reduce the ports of Tiko and
Victoria to disuse or third class was publicized in the 1976-1981
Development Plan. In this Five-Year Development Plan, 18,426 million francs
CFA were obtained from external sources, were allocated to the development
of the Douala riverport. The seaports of Kribi and Campo had 536 million
francs CFA and 168 million francs CFA  for their development. (pg. 75).

Relocating the business of the seaports to a relatively impoverished La
Republique was just the beginning of economic and financial strangulation
for West Cameroonians. It was, as well, a systemic ploy to ensure complete
dependence of an otherwise well structured, thriving and independent system.
So, along with the port went other businesses, including CAMBANK, R&W King,
Printania, Glamour, Emens Textiles, Cameroon Commercial Corporation, UTC,
Socopsa and PMO. Meantime, Power Cam, SONAC, Standard Bank of West Africa,
Alliance Company and Renault Motors. These business that were located in
Victoria shut their doors altogether. Ngenge further lists other companies
that closed shop in Tiko; Peugeot, Volkswagen and Opel motor companies.
Above all, he notes:

The after-effect of the collapse of the West Cameroon economy was the exodus
to French Cameroon of young Anglophones in search of economic opportunities.
Many of these would-be-workers had been schooled in the English system and
did not have a strong command of French. Consequently, they were at a
disadvantage in the labor market, which became very tight in the 1980s as
the economy contracted and the central government was compelled to implement
structural adjustment measures, which, among other things, meant freezing
government hiring.(Pg. 77).

There is also no doubt in my mind that the minimization of economic
prosperity, to dependence and subsistence, in Southern Cameroons by La
Republique set the stage for the corrupt patron-client relations now common
currency in the country. Attaining this goal also meant the infiltration of
reputable institutions in Southern Cameroons. The Mutengene Police Academy
was once known for its no-nonsense graduates that upheld the law. Its
language of instruction was the English language. Hardly is it a shadow of
itself today. The majority of the courses are now taught in French. This is
not so because the instructors are necessarily of that expression. In large
part, it also has to do with the fact that the majority of its students are
conveniently from La Republique and French is their first official language.

As for those candidates that are of the English expression, their troubles
mirror what obtains in other professional schools and universities in the
country. In these schools, over 80% of the course work is taught in French.
Teachers/lecturers/professors who may have studied in America or England,
and are even from Southern Cameroons, are forced to teach in French,
excepting those in the English Language Department. But even here, as the
story goes in what is supposed to be the "Anglo-Saxon" University, former
University of Buea Vice Chancellor Dorothy Njeuma convened to have a special
tutoring program for its French speaking students. Whereas, English speaking
students are literally forced to learn how to read and speak the French
oppressor's language in comparable schools and campuses across the nation.

There are a couple of salient consequences from such a cacophony: 1) Lost
meaning in the process of communication and, 2) Emergence, persistence and
proliferation of the sub-culture of unpublished works (poly copies) by the
teaching staff that has decided to cash-in on the misery of the Southern
Cameroonian student.

Hence, once many a Southern Cameroonian has gone through this system, the
brain washing is almost complete. The language of choice becomes French.
This explains why most police officers shamelessly speak their half-baked
French on street corners, continuing in their unending enterprise of
petty-bribes from motorists and passengers. It also speaks as to why the
late Bernard Eding, General Manager of the National Oil Refinery (SONARA),
answering a question on why the refinery had very few Anglophone employees,
even though located in Southern Cameroon, replied that Anglophones had not
acquired the technological skills required to work at SONARA. (pg. 80).

The situation is no different today. This is not because Anglophones lack
the technical and technological training and expertise. It also has to do
with the fact that even those positions that would have been reserved for
Southern Cameroonians have been given to English speaking Francophone
Cameroonians that are gradually and systematically filling the classrooms in
English speaking schools.

Taking these jobs, however, does not translate into them speaking English at
the work place. Not even when the job is to serve a predominantly Southern
Cameroonian population. We need to look no further than the Senior
Divisional Officers, the Divisional Officers and others. Even when assigned
to work in a Southern Cameroon hinterland, the official language in which
they address the populace is in French. Is there any communication? Does it
matter? Or, is it all part of annexation and spitefulness of a people that
are identified within their own territory as "Biafrans" and "enemies within
the house"? The example is set from above. Ahmadou Ahidjo uttered four words
in Eglish: "I do so swear". Paul Biya is towing the line. Even Southern
Cameroonian Ministers struggling to be the best slaves must make their
speeches in stitched French. Oh, what spite!

Talking about spitefulness, it was the turn of Charles Nana, (MBA graduate
from the University of Chicago with an impressive resume including stints at
General Electric and other consulting gigs) to show off the deep-seated
disdain that even an English-educated Francophone Cameroonian has for
Southern Cameroons and the desire of her people to prosper. On a local
Chicago yahoo group for Cameroonians, Charlie Nana's reaction to the working
blueprint of Southern Cameroon Peoples Organization (SCAPO) on its
website<>was to dismiss it as a pipe dream.
Indeed he wrote: "
*Il est permis de rêver*" (It is OK to dream). And yes, it may all be a
dream to him.

What is most significant is the failure to demonstrate what type of fiber he
is made of. At the very least, the rest of us would have been thrilled to
see a thread of critical and pragmatic thinking at variance with SCAPO's
blueprint. Finally, that one who is an otherwise prolific English language
contributor on several media should resort to such cheap shots in French is
beyond any words.

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