As election looms, Cameroonians split along linguistic lines

By Reinnier Kaze ,AFP

YAOUNDE — A surge of violence in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions, both longtime opposition bastions, has spotlighted the simmering anger of the anglophone minority as the nation heads for a key presidential election. Angry protesters torched the national flag and hoisted a separatist one in its place in northwest Bamenda last week, where “at least two” people were killed in clashes with the police, authorities said. The opposition alleged four people had been killed and a police station was set ablaze in the second clash in the city between police and protesters in just over two weeks. A fifth of Cameroon’s population, estimated at over 22 million, are anglophone — a legacy of the unification in 1961 of two colonial-era entities previously run by France and Britain. For years, Cameroon’s two anglophone regions — in the neighboring northwest and southwest regions — have complained of discrimination under the regime of 83-year-old President Paul Biya, in power since 1982. The next presidential vote is due in 2018. Other unrest has been reported in the southwestern towns of Buea and Kumba. “The government doesn’t want to listen to the population,” said SDF spokesman Denis Nkemlemo.

“They send the security forces to repress them.” Anglos versus Francos An exporter of oil that is rich in timber and agriculture, the central-west African country is among the most prosperous economies of sub-Saharan Africa, measured on a per-capita basis. But the anglophone minority has long complained that wealth has not been shared out fairly, and that they have suffered discrimination at the hands of the francophone majority. The current crisis was triggered by a strike by lawyers demanding that the anglophone regions use Anglo-Saxon common law as their judicial benchmark. Teachers then went on strike. On Monday, a consortium of journalist associations from the southwest condemned the lack of translated material from “seminars, workshops and meetings” that they attend and threatened to walk out of government press conferences if handed “French documents without an English version,” thus “obscuring the event.” Both French and English are official languages.