Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Fabrice Ondoa Highlights Resentment Of Two English-Speaking Provinces Turns Spotlight On Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis

Fabrice Ondoa Highlights Resentment Of Two English-Speaking Provinces Turns Spotlight On Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis.

His English was shaky however his message was unmistakable. Speaking after Cameroon’s triumph on the African Cup of Nations, goalkeeper Fabrice Ondoa declared his solidarity with the English-speaking minority in his linguistically divided nation.

“My brothers, I am from Bamenda. For you, for you,” he mentioned, dedicating the staff’s victory on the soccer match this month to the anglophone metropolis within the north-west of the nation.

His feedback, aired on a Cameroonian TV channel, went viral, placing a national spotlight on a deepening crisis triggered by a authorities crackdown on activists and protesters in English-speaking components of the west African nation, together with Bamenda.

Like 80 per cent of his countrymen, Mr Ondoa is a French speaker in a rustic that has been divided alongside linguistic traces since colonial period French- and English-administered territories had been cobbled collectively shortly after independence in 1960.

For years, the anglophone minority has alleged discrimination in school rooms, courtrooms and state places of work, whereas accusing the federal government, dominated by French audio system, of treating it like second-class residents. Those frustrations boiled over in latest months into protests on a scale not seen because the early 1990s.

The authorities of Paul Biya, who has been president since 1982, has responded by arresting dozens of individuals and imposing a digital blackout on the nation’s two English-speaking provinces, South-West and North-West, by shutting down the web for weeks. Two had been killed in Bamenda on Friday when police fired right into a stone-throwing crowd, in keeping with Amnesty International.

“If this crisis continues to be mismanaged, we’re probably going to get to a point where, in the eyes of many Cameroonians, the legitimacy of this government will be zero,” mentioned Christopher Fomunyoh, regional director on the Washington-based National Democratic Institute.

The authorities’s heavy-handed response was in peril of sidelining moderates and pushing anglophone areas into open resistance, he mentioned.
Fabrice Ondoa, Cameroon’s goalkeeper © Reuters

English is spoken in simply two of the nation’s 10 provinces, whereas each the capital, Yaoundé, and the biggest metropolis, Douala, are predominantly French-speaking.

The unrest started in October, when attorneys in Bamenda went on strike and marched to courthouses after the federal government failed to answer their request for it to cease dispatching French-educated and French-speaking judges to preside of their courtrooms. Teachers joined the attorneys’ strike in November because the protests grew.

A gaggle of English-speaking attorneys, together with Nkongho Felix Agbor-Balla, head of Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium, had been arrested for main protests and can stand trial in Yaoundé earlier than a French-speaking navy tribunal this week. They face expenses of treason and terrorism, which carry the dying penalty.

Mr Fomunyoh, who is typically talked about as a possible presidential challenger to Mr Biya, mentioned the extent of discrimination in opposition to English-speakers was “staggering”.

Of Mr Biya’s cupboard of greater than 60 ministers, just one with a portfolio — forestry — comes from English-speaking Cameroon, he mentioned. By sending French audio system to show in anglophone components of the nation, the federal government seemed to some that it was attempting to eradicate English altogether, Mr Fomunyoh mentioned.

The web crackdown has additionally paralysed what had been a thriving on-line economic system, opponents say.

Colong Valery Nyiwung, a tech entrepreneur and software program engineer primarily based in Buea, a tech-savvy metropolis in English-speaking Cameroon often called Silicon Mountain, mentioned his enterprise had been badly disrupted because the web shutdown.

He now has to commute almost 50 miles on unhealthy roads from Buea to Douala simply to remain on-line.

“I have lost contracts mostly from clients abroad for lack of internet,” he mentioned. “Those I retained are complaining as a result of slow response time.”

News of Cameroon’s web crackdown is rippling abroad. Edward Snowden, the US whistleblower, used the hashtag #BringBackOurInternet to publicise Mr Biya’s warning that irresponsible use of social media was punishable by regulation.

Olivia Mukam Wandji, a civil society activist in Yaoundé, mentioned the web clampdown had rallied from throughout the linguistic divide.

“Everyone can relate to the frustration and unfairness of being cut off from a tool like the internet,” she mentioned. “So this issue has brought people who didn’t want to take a stand on political and linguistic debates to denounce the injustice of what we call ‘digital apartheid’.”

For many, the message of unity from Mr Ondoa captured the national temper.

“His speech alone touched more hearts than all government declarations combined,” Mr Fomunyoh mentioned.

Unless Mr Biya recognised the grievances of a long-repressed minority, he mentioned he feared the “whole country could unravel”.
Fabrice Ondoa Highlights Resentment Of Two English-Speaking Provinces Turns Spotlight On Cameroon’s Anglophone Crisis
Source: Financial Times

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