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Tuesday, 21 May, 2002, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
English speakers mourn in Cameroon
Cameroon's secessionist's want autonomy
Cameroon's secessionists want autonomy

Cameroon marked the 30th anniversary of the unification of the French- and English-speaking provinces on Monday, but not everybody was celebrating.

Some Anglophone activists belonging to the militant Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) argue that English speakers are marginalised in majority French-speaking Cameroon.


Most Anglophones are unemployed because vacancies are usually occupied by Francophones

Anglophone housewife
The highlight of the anniversary celebrations was a high-profile military and civilian march-past in the capital, Yaounde, presided over by President Paul Biya.

Those who could not be in Yaounde followed the celebrations live on state radio and television.

While that nation was celebrating, SCNC activists were in mourning for the lost sovereignty of English-speaking Cameroon.

Divided on split

A statement released by the chairman of the SCNC, former ambassador Henry Fossung, described the celebrations as a non-event, saying 20 May was the day Anglophones became slaves to Francophones.

English speakers say their provinces are less developed than other areas.

They also complain about what they see as their total absence from the vital decision-making organs of the country.

Anglophones are however divided on whether seceding from Cameroon - the policy advocated by the SCNC - is the best solution to the problem.

"The only solution to the problem is secession since Yaounde authorities do not want to dialogue," one Anglophone told me.

Another housewife was more direct: "I wish that Cameroon should have two separate states because there is a lot of favouritism in the country - most Anglophones are unemployed because vacancies are usually occupied by Francophones."

Divorce

Opponents of secession say the way to solve the problem is to decentralize the system of government into autonomous regions.

Protesters hoist the federal flag
Protesters hoist the federal flag

On the few occasions that the Yaounde authorities have spoken about the problem, they have denied that Anglophones are marginalized in Cameroon and accuse separatists of making a lot of noise for nothing.

In 1972, English-speaking Cameroonians overwhelmingly voted to discard the then federal system of government to form a single country under former President Ahmadou Ahidjo.

With Francophones outnumbering Anglo-phones by 4 to 1, the SCNC now claims that the union was unequal and their leaders were deceived into it.

They now want a divorce.

See also:

02 Oct 01 | Africa
23 Oct 00 | Africa
23 Jul 01 | Africa
07 Sep 01 | Country profiles
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