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Cameroon – French Hypocrisy Renewed

October 9, 2017

Linguistic and social discrimination in Cameroon’s Anglophone western regions

Cameroon – The Crisis Deepens

Since I began working on the translation below, a number of days ago, more information has emerged concerning the repression which the Cameroonian government in Yaounde has unleashed in the Anglophone provinces of Cameroon to crush the movement there for cultural-linguistic-political rights. As usual, the news from Cameroon has hardly made a dent in the mainstream media here in the USA. Officially 17 people have been killed, hundreds wounded by the security forces (advised and armed largely by France). Unofficially, social activists claim that the number killed is between fifty and a hundred, with reports of many still being dragged from their homes, disappearing into custody. There are 300 U.S. Special Forces in the country, working, it is claimed, to counter incursions into Cameroon by Boko haram terrorists operations in the northern border region with Nigeria. Recently Cameroonian military at a base in Cameroon from which the US Special Forces work has been accused by Amnesty International of torturing hundreds of captures members of Boko haram.   It is not clear what role these American military are playing to support the Yaounde government in the Anglophone uprising; their involvement has yet to be confirmed, although there are rumors that they are involved too)

Cameroon – French Hypocrisy Renewed

by Odile Tobner.

(Note this commentary appeared at the website of “Survie” – a French-based organization that monitors the machinations of France in Africa. Odile Tobner is the organization’s president. It can be reached at http://www.survie.org. Below is my own personal translation into English. For the original French text, click here. For more background, click here)

The actual death toll will probably never be known as a consequence of the violent repression and deaths of scores of Anglophone protesters in Cameroon. It continues to mount. Rather than show alarm, French diplomacy blithely comments that “it is following the situation with interest.” This, despite the fact that France is intimately involved with Cameroon’s repressive apparatus. It has nearly been a year now since demonstrations broke out in Cameroon’s anglophone provinces in the west and northwest of the country bordering eastern Nigeria.

These protests were triggered by the systematic mistreatment people in these regions have suffered from the Yaoundé Francophone dominated government for decades, since the federalized state of Cameroon was fused into a french dominated centralized state in 1971. Adding oxygen to the social flames the Biya government continues to respond with increasing repression, only intensifying the opposition.

Furthermore, stonewalling the crisis, the government stubbornly refuses to address the movement’s grievances either for reform or independence. Although in September, the government released some of the opposition leaders that had previously been arbitrarily detained or arrested, this has done nothing to dampen the opposition.

Defying the Curfew

In defiance of the repression, on October 1, 2017, the date which marks the absorption of anglophone Cameroon into the centralized state and the termination of its federalized status, the opposition proclaimed the independence of “Ambazonie.” In response the central government in Yaoundé announced a curfew over the weekend and beefed up the presence of the country’s security forces in the region. But pro-independence demonstrators took to the streets anyway, unfurling their blue and white flag. Police and units of the Cameroon military responded with deadly fire against the crowds.

By last Sunday (October 1) according to Amnesty International, at least 17 demonstrators had been killed (22 according to Rassemblement pour les Droits de l’Homme en Afrique Centrale, 30 according to the SDF – Social Democratic Front). These number only accounted for deaths in the Cameroon’s northwest region, one of two effected provinces. Hundreds of wounded need to be added to this deadly balance sheet in a country where health services are virtually non-existent and where the number of arbitrary arrests remains unknown.

In 1992, the SDF, the country’s main opposition party, won Cameroon’s first multi-party election. But the Biya government had the results declared invalid. From that time on the party has only been little more than a weak, shadow, symbolic opposition. The current social movement owes little to nothing to the SDF which has remained silent all year even if now it is trying show some leadership. Instead, new organizations and new leadership have emerged to take the lead, among them Agbor Balla, a lawyer, just released from six months imprisonment.

Cameroonian President Paul Biya remains at his residence, outside of Cameroon, in Geneva Switzerland. He seems not to appreciate – virtually he has no idea – of the situation’s seriousness, which he thinks he can control using his old methods, in a word, repression, as was the case in 1991 when 300 were killed, in 2008, 150 were mowed down. Times have changed though, information from France’s former African colonies is no longer filtered through a compliant Paris dominated press. While the Cameroon crisis has not garnered (in Europe) the kind of media attention of Spain’s crisis in Barcelona, still it has leaked out in short snippets here and there in the mainstream.

Anglophone speaking regions of Cameroon are in pink, the Francophone regions in light blue

Is France Preoccupied?

On the eve of October 1, 2017, the UN Secretary General published a statement expressing “deep concern” over the situation unfolding in Cameroon in Bamenda and Douala. The statement called for “a genuine and inclusive dialogue between the Government and the communities in the South-West and North-West regions is the best way to preserve the unity and stability of the country.” The day after the last demonstrations (in Anglophone Cameroon) were violently suppressed, France’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded rather coldly that “France is following the situation in Cameroon that resulted in several deaths over the weekend. We call on all parties to reject violence.” In contrast to several governments that have strongly condemned the Cameroonian government’s violence, these statements minimize its actions. The French state is, frankly, indecent.

We call on France to demand that [Cameroonian President] Biya to end the shooting of citizens protesting for the denial of their civil and political rights. We call on France to suspend all forms of aid that contribute to the repression, whether advisers or equipment. Why is it that at this critical moment our [France’s] ambassador in Yaounde would boast that “given its regional importance Cameroon enjoys the presence of 24 “cooperants” [French version of Peace Corps]. Prior to the opening of a military front in the country’s extreme north in the name of fighting terrorism [there have been Boko haram incursions there], Michel Terrot, member of [France’s] Parliament noted in a report issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that in 2011, French security cooperation with Cameroon amounted to more than 3.95 million Euros ($4,633,547).

This aid was used to fund the permanent placement of 17 cooperants, based in Yaoundé; 300,000 Euros were used to provide logistical assistance…The total budget allocated for defense activities taking place in Cameroon was 754,000 Euros…This sum does not include the payment for an advisor to the [Cameroonian] Ministry of Defense or the funding of other high level members of the French military present in the country. To date there has been no public information released concerning this security cooperation, France preferring to “carefully monitor” a situation which it observing unfold from within the Cameroonian security apparatus itself.
We expect the United Nations to listen to the appeal of the [Cameroonian] people, embracing its just cause against the tyranny imposed by the Yaoundé government’s sanctions, that it (the UN) is well aware of.

 

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