The Anglophone crisis, widely said to be the most neglected humanitarian crisis in the world, began in 2016 – when the teachers’ and lawyers’ strike against attempts to annihilate the Anglo-Saxon culture.
Matters since degenerated into a full-blown armed conflict between separatists and state forces in the two Anglophone regions – the North West and South West.
The conflict has led to massive numbers of internally displaced people fleeing to French-speaking parts of the country. Anglophones in Francophone Cameroon have been expressing a general feeling of being treated like strangers in a “foreign land” and not feeling at home or comfortable as they should be in their own country.
Sandrine tells Mimi Mefo Info that she does not feel at home in Yaoundé, especially given that she is made to feel like a second class citizen in her own country.
She says, “As a student in the French part of Cameroon, I really do not feel at home. I’m from an Anglophone community where we are each other’s keeper. Here, everyone minds his/her own business. Nothing you do here interests anybody and the inferiority complex is really high especially in class at the University of Yaoundé. Anglophone students are made to look like the rebels. They make us feel like strangers in class. Even when French speaking lecturers come into to lecture, they are no consideration for we the Anglophones who only have French as our second language. When a teacher mistakenly asks a question to an Anglophone student, the other students in a mockery way just tell the teacher “c’est un Anglo” and the teacher just changes his attention or laughs and walks away.”
For Aristide who has lived in Yaoundé for close to 20 years working as a professional builder, he is yet to be accepted fully as a member of the community by his francophone countrymen.
“I have never felt myself as part of the people here. The arrogance of the people here towards Anglophones like me is sickening and every time I think of it I get more annoyed. When the Anglophone crisis started in the North West and South West regions with the call for secession, I was not at first in favour of separating from the francophone majority in the West,” he said.
He regrets that some francophones go as far as referring to him as “Ambazonien”, a stigma which pushes him to think that those who have been asking for separation of the North West and South West Regions from the rest of Cameroon are right.
“I started wishing that the fight for separation should one day work. Not to talk of the annoying way in which all Anglophones living here in Yaoundé are called, “Les Bamenda”. The other time, I was even denied a contract because the person offering me the building contract realised I was an Anglophone. All this to me is sickening. Even when I speak French, as poor as my French language may be, they make it a point of ridicule,” Aristide tells Mimi Mefo Info.
“In Anglophone Cameroon we do not laugh at strangers. It is the opposite. When an Anglophone knows you are new in the area, what they do is try to make you feel comfortable and not laugh at you. When a francophone speaks funny English beside me I do not laugh at him. That is because I know English is not his first language and he has made an effort to learn and express himself in it. So indeed, I don’t cherish living in the French part of Cameroon. The only thing that has kept me going here is the job I do otherwise I’m out of here.”
Although many Anglophones asked that their identities be concealed for fear of reprisals characteristic of the Yaoundé regime, John Paul who lived in Douala says Anglophones are yet to be loved and accepted as Cameroonians with equal rights.
“I went to Douala for just a brief time last year for my first time and that was when suddenly realised in Cameroon we are living in two different worlds. Never have I been out of the North West before. I couldn’t even speak French nor fully understand it. Whenever I went into a store to buy, they would address me in French and I would respond in English,” John Paul who hails from Muyuka said.
“I most often did not hear what they said but they usually mocked me for not knowing French. Sometimes I would hear them say a ton of things in French but the only word I got was “Anglo” and “Bamenda”. That attitude irritated me to the very core. I would even say I prefer being in the South West in the midst of war than in such. I never for one day felt at home while I was there.”
Yvette says her student days in Yaoundé for two years were hell. “The place is nice but the people there are not. They are not welcoming at all. When they know you are an Anglophone, they start using you to crack their jokes.
“That what I realised we are to them. Even when you speak to some of the in English, they respond in French saying “we do not understand that your dialect”. They have conditioned their minds to think that nothing good can come from us Anglophones. It really made me feel bad and very unwelcomed there.”
(C) Mimi Mefo Info