The death of Ghanaian pastor, Issac Attoh in Cameroon on the 14th of July, 2018 was the first known Ghanaian casualty in a protracted conflict that has besieged Cameroon for ages, always referred to as the Cameroon Anglophone Problem.
Whilst many people consider Cameroon to be an entirely French-speaking country, it is actually a bilingual country, much like Canada, with French and English as its official languages.
Cameroon was first colonized by Germany, but after Germany lost the First World War, it was shared between Britain and France in 1918. British Cameroon was administered as part of Nigeria till 1953, and then, as a separate territory. At Independence in October 1961, British Cameroon was made to choose between Cameroon and Nigeria by the UN.
The Federal Republic of Cameroon came into being in 1961, as a union between two equal states, one French and the other English. In 1972, Cameroon became a unitary Republic. Ten years later, Paul Biya, who is still president of Cameroon, came to power. The union of these two states was followed by a systematic effort by the French population in Cameroon to assimilate the Anglophone population, and to get rid of their systems and culture, one of which is respect for liberty and freedom.
Since reunification, Anglophones have felt marginalised and have often decried uneven economic development, unequal access to employment, discrimination, disrespect and subjugation.
Persistent efforts were made to wipe off the English educational system as well as the common law system which was widely practised in English Cameroon.
In presidential appointments, Anglophones were mostly left out of top positions and since reunification, no Anglophone has ever been a minister of justice, defence, health etc.
It was only in 2017, that an Anglophone became the interior minister. Out of 700+ cabinet ministers that Biya has appointed since coming to power in 1982, only 71 have been Anglophones. Even the government or and divisional officers (DCEs) in English Cameroon are mostly Francophones, who barely speak the language of the people or understand their problems.
In Anglophone universities, vice-chancellors are even appointed by the president unlike in most Anglo-Saxon educational systems. Whilst universities neither have autonomy nor have control over the admission processes into prestigious specialities such as medicine. As a result, admissions procedures of Anglophone universities favour francophones. English teachers have also decried the posting of teachers trained within the French educational system to teach in English schools.
In 1992, the All Anglophone Conference, seeing the plight of Anglophones called for a return to federalism. Not long after, a secessionist movement was born but received little support from Anglophones who still hoped for a change within the system.
Meanwhile, Anglophone areas remain intentionally underdeveloped and deprived, despite contributing enormously to the country’s economy and hosting a chuckle of resources such as petroleum, timber and minerals. Anglophone areas are also the hub of banana, rubber, coffee, tea and cocoa exportation.
In 2016, after years of periodic protests, hell break loose after students, teachers and lawyers demonstrated against marginalisation. The heavy crackdown on these protests led to the arrest of several protest leaders. Thousands were arrested and tens killed. This crackdown galvanised support for the erstwhile sublime secessionist movement. After a year of violent protests and a brutal crackdown, Anglophone Cameroon was heavily militarised. Paul Boys declared a war on Anglophone Cameroonians calling for succession and described them as terrorists.
On October 1, Sissiku Ayuk Tabe made a symbolic declaration of independence of Ambazonia. The protests that followed led to the deaths of hundreds of civilians, forced disappearances and a refugee crisis.
In January 2018 the leadership of the Anglophone secessionist movement was arrested in Nigeria and deported to Cameroon.
A new radical leadership came into place led by Samuel Ikome. He emphasized on civil defence, a directive which saw the proliferation of several armed groups across Anglophone Cameroon and the start of a guerrilla-style insurgency.
The cycle of violence that followed led to the displacement of thousands of people. The military has been accused of killing over a thousand people, and of burning entire villages that have led to the displacement of over 180,000 people and a refugee crisis, as another 30,000 flew into Nigeria.
A recent BBC documentary provides evidence of the coordinated burning of seventy entire villages by the Cameroon military, and action which has left several entire towns and villages deserted and claimed the loves of the aged, who were too weak to escape.
During this crisis, hundreds of people are arrested each month, and are tortured in several government torture centres in Cameroon. The entire Anglophone regions have been militarised, and most people live in fear of arrest or torture by the police mostly for no reason at all.
The separatists have also been accused of violence, and are responsible for the deaths of over a hundred Cameroonian troops, the abduction and execution of state officials as well as the execution and torture of their collaborators.
It is expected that October this year will be a bloody period because scheduled elections by the Cameroon government fall just within a week of planned celebrations of the independence of the English speaking regions of Cameroon. In anticipation of this climax, several Anglophones have made plans to leave their homes.
Despite calls for an end to violence by both sides and the initiation of dialogue, the crisis continues and the once stable country is slowly but surely being plunged into a full-scale civil war.