In 1961, Southern Cameroons joined Cameroon through a referendum, but pro-independence groups; fighting for separation argue that UN resolution 1608 that defined the unification plan was not accurate.
Until about a year ago most Cameroonians living in the urban areas did not know the names of many villages in the English speaking regions of Cameroon.
These villages whose populations are suffering as the result of the Anglophone crisis is now part of history of this once peaceful Central African Country.
It all began in 2016 when thousands of teachers and lawyers in English speaking regions of Cameroon began protests against the government for imposing the French language in their schools and courts.
Cameroon has never been the same again after these protests.
The English speaking in Cameroon make up about 20 percent of Cameroon’s estimated 24.68 million population.
They have long accused the central government of discriminating against their regions, arguing that they are excluded from employment, and forced to speak French despite English being one of the Country’s official Languages.
When lawyers staged a peaceful protest on the streets of Bamenda and Buea, they were roughly manhandled by government security forces.
Teachers soon came out in support of the lawyers.
Early 2017, the government banned trade unions that had led the strikes. Many of their members – some of whom were engaged in discussions with the government – were arrested and jailed on charges of terrorism and attempts to change the form of the state. The government also shut down internet and other communication services in Anglophone regions to stop people from sharing information.
After pressure from the international community, President Biya reinstated communication services three months later. He also ordered the release of some strike leaders and scrapped the charges against them. But he didn’t call for a resumption of talks, which had begun between the government and the banned trade unions.
Disappointed and marginalized English speaking Cameroonians took to the streets to commemorate what they consider their independence day on October 1 2017. They raised the flag of Ambazonia in various towns and cities. Security forces were deployed and at least 17 protesters were killed, according to Amnesty International.
For about two years now, the Cameroonian military has been accused of beating and arresting people suspected of being separatists, torching homes and killing unarmed protesters.
On their part, separatists have taken up arms and have also turned to violence. They have been accused of burning markets, launching attacks from civilian bases, beheading soldiers and kidnapping people they suspect as traitors.
As a result of the violence in the Anglophone regions, up to 400 ordinary people have been killed since a year by both the security forces and the armed separatists, says Amnesty International.
Amnesty International has also recorded more than 260 security incidents since the beginning of the year, ranging from clashes between armed separatists and security forces, kidnappings of members of the general population and the killing of security forces by armed separatists.
The UN estimates the fighting has caused the displacement of more than 160,000 people inside the country, with an estimated 40,000 who have fled to neighbouring Nigeria.
In December 2018, president Biya signed a decree to pardon and release nearly 300 people arrested in connection with the unrest in the Anglophone regions.
Could the New PM heal the nation?
Cameroon’s story is similar to that of Ethiopia’s.
A crisis which began in the East African nation late 2015, led to security forces killing more than 1,000 people and tens of thousands detained. Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has been widely praised for introducing sweeping reforms aimed at ending political repression.
In April 2018, Abiy Ahmed succeeded Hailemariam Desalegn as the country’s Prime minister, the first from the Oromo ethnic group.
Dion Ngute: Cameroon’s Abiy Ahmed?
On January 4, President Paul Biya appointed Dr. Joseph Dion Ngute the New PM of Cameroon, to succeed Prime Minister Philemon Yang.
The new PM has been Minister Delegate at the Ministry of External Relations in Charge of Relations with the Commonwealth since 1997.
Some Cameroonians hope he finds a solution to the Anglophone crisis.
President @PR_Paul_Biya appoints Dion Ngute as the new Prime Minister of #Cameroon. Hope he finds a solution to the Anglophone Crisis. Dialogue is needed to get the country moving. The business climate needs to be improved. Give the guy a chance to make friends out of skeptics. pic.twitter.com/vqEHOwUxZL
— NJ Ayuk (@nj_ayuk) January 4, 2019
Senior Cameroonian journalist Elie smith thinks if Dion Ngute is open to dialogue, it could help.
“Given that he comes not only from the restive region, but his village is victim, he could be inclined to give a listening ear. But sadly, Prime ministers don’t decide but if he is open to dialogue it could help,” he told Gina Informs.
Under the current constitution of Cameroon the Prime Minister is a relatively powerless position.
“The Prime Minister of Cameroon is stripped of any power of initiative because he is constitutionally obliged to implement those policies defined by the president. He has no determining authority in defining the policies that guide the nation,” – Dibussi Tande 2009.
Dion Ngute participated in the negotiations which led to the transfer of authority over the Bakassi Peninsular from Nigeria to Cameroon in October 2002, Valerie Viban, a Cameroonian Enthusiast sees his appointment as a move to pull out the unifying card.
“On the perspective of agenda setting, it looks like this may be an expected outcome. That Dr. Dion himself a seasoned diplomat and conflict management expert should appear as a move to pull out the unifying card. Given that he has a sound mastery of the supposed Anglophone crisis, one could be hopeful that maybe he shall call the shots for dialogue. However that will be rushing to a quick conclusion,” he said.
“Even though the post says Head of Government, successive evidence has proven that it’s a shadow government without any power since the institution is centered on one deity-the head of state. The prime ministry in Cameroon has no power to act,” he went on.
“No matter how good the intentions or hopes of Cameroonians are with the new prime minister, I must say he is not the biblical Moses and hence no water will be drawn from a rock! I think even deep in him now he knows it and even wishes he could do otherwise.”
According to a Cameroonianpolitical analyst Ako John, his appointment will calm down the tension in Ndian, Southwest Region.
“Dion Ngute, is coming in at a critical moment when the Anglophone Cameroon is in pieces. His presence will have no impact but for the fact that he is coming from an oil rich Bakassi area. This will surely calm down the tension in Ndian while at same time raise opposite concerns in the North West region for losing a top government official.
“The solution to the Anglophone problem rests with the head of state not the prime minister. So Dion Ngute’s appointment is like a rolling stone that gathers no mud. In all, no real change expected on the ground.”
Notwithstanding, It would be very imperative if the new PM Contributes his own quota by taking the North and South West Regions out of the political jungle, finding a lasting solution to the ongoing flare-up in the English speaking regions of Cameroon remains the major challenge to Mr. Dion Much awaits the new head of government.