Cameroon: How Long Will the Union Hold? (Economy in Brief)

Article excerpt

Discontent between English-speaking and French-speaking Cameroonians has been simmering for 41 years right after the British-administered Southern Cameroon decided to join the French-speaking La Republique du Cameroun and the country became the United Republic of Cameroon on 2 June 1972--but united more in name than reality.

The discord resurfaced on 20 May, the independence day. As the majority celebrated, English-speaking separatists urged fellow Anglophones, who make 25% of Cameroon's 15 million population, to consider it a day of mourning for the loss of their sovereign identity.

Since unification, Cameroon has undergone a lopsided constitutional evolution viewed by Anglophones as a calculated attempt to stamp out their identity, annex and plunder their territory, which today accounts for 80% of the country's GNP (petroleum, the main source of the country's revenue, derives from the Southern Cameroon).

The grievances include the exclusion of Anglophones from certain strategic public offices, and the sidelining of the English language in official business.

Anglophones also lament the lack of investment in the southern region, where the standard of living, they complain, has dropped below preunification levels. "Unity means loving and sharing with one another, but ever since the Southern Cameroon joined French Cameroon, all development investments have only benefitted French Cameroon," said Sylvanus Keti, an insurance broker. "After 30 years of unity, there is no proper roads linking the northern and southern parts of Southern Cameroon," he added.

Fundamental differences between French Cameroon, with its colonial background of assimilation, civil law and a unitary system, and Southern Cameroon with its Westminster-style parliament and common law system, have led to conflicting views. …