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The Cameroon Anglophone Problem: Chants of Secession & Government Crackdowns

The history of British and French colonization in Cameroon created a long standing problem known today as the “Cameroon Anglophone Problem.” In recent years, tensions have exploded resulting in government crackdowns and threats of secession.

Since 2016, Cameroon has struggled to control an outburst of a deep-running crisis that is now threatening to tear the country in two. In what has come to be known as the Cameroon Anglophone Problem, the English-speaking Cameroonians want to secede from their French-speaking counterparts.

There have been reported waves of protests where millions of dollars in property have been destroyed. At least twenty people have also lost their lives in the protests.

The Cameroon government along with their president Paul Biya have tried to hold negotiations to address the crisis. Efforts have been unfruitful and instead often end in chaos, leading to more protester deaths. In some instances, the police have been accused of killing the protestors due to excessive force in trying to quell the protests.

Cameroon Anglophone Problem

Paul Biya at US Embassy, 2006

Colonization Creates “Cameroon Anglophone Problem”

The source of the Cameroon Anglophone Problem has been blamed on a history of colonization passed down from the differing colonizers of Cameroon. During the first World War, French and British forces seized the colony from the Germans, after which the French occupied the northern region while the British settled in the southern region. Due to the influence of the colonists, these regions became Francophone and Anglophone districts, respectively.

The population of Cameroon stands at about 23 million people; the Anglophone speakers forming the minority, totaling to only about 20% of the total population. As a result, they have felt marginalized and suppressed by their Francophone counterparts, who enjoy the power of the majority.

In 1960, when Cameroon gained independence, the United Nations offered the two sides a merger based on equal federation. Soon after, Ahmadou Ahidjo, the then president, rejected this agreement and reorganized the state without considering the Anglophone population. Efforts of resistance by Anglophone speakers were met with brutal force, inadvertently initiating the Cameroon Anglophone Problem.

Imposed Francophone Culture

Recently, the government appointed magistrates who could barely speak English, solely speaking French. Angry, the Anglophone lawyers sought an explanation from the government that never came. As this happened, teachers and university students in the Anglophone regions went on strike protesting the imposition of French culture and language.

Following the rising unrest, the government shut down the internet in the Anglophone regions in 2017; this was accompanied by a crackdown on activists and opposition members who were mainly from the Anglophone region. The brutal government response only made the situation worse, and though some of those arrested were later released, the protesters began calls for secession.

Cameroon to hold elections in late 2018, will President Biya offer compromises to appease the Anglophone activists?

Later this year, Cameroon is expected to hold national elections. The elections have stirred dialogue, with Anglophone elitists and activists only seeing it as a campaigning strategy by President Biya, their president for the past 35 years. Many citizens anticipate no genuine intention of the president to actually addres their issues.

Will the decades long Cameroon Anglophone Problem settle into a compromise or will Anglophone activists intensify their calls for secession?


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Alex Muiruri

Alex is a passionate writer born and raised in Kenya. He is professionally trained as a public health officer but loves writing more. When not writing, he enjoys reading, doing charity work and spending time with friends and family. He is also a crazy pianist!

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