Negotiating an Anglophone Identity: A Study of the Politics of Recognition and Representation in Cameroon

Negotiating an Anglophone Identity: A Study of the Politics of Recognition and Representation in Cameroon

Negotiating an Anglophone Identity: A Study of the Politics of Recognition and Representation in Cameroon

Negotiating an Anglophone Identity: A Study of the Politics of Recognition and Representation in Cameroon

Synopsis

This is a significant and timely book on the politics of belonging. It captures, with fascinating detail and insight, the current widespread disaffection with the sterile rhetoric of nation-building that has characterised much of postcolonial African politics. Until the liberation struggles of the 1990s, dictatorship only paid lip service to democracy with impunity, often by silencing those perceived to threaten national unity. Since then, individuals and groups have reactivated claims to rights and entitlements and nowhere more so than in Cameroon. The book articulates the experiences and predicaments of the countrys Anglophone community trapped in a marriage of inconvenience pregnant with tensions and conflicts.

Excerpt

As in other parts of the world, political liberalisation in Cameroon has been marked by the construction and mobilisation of ethno-regional identities that pose a major challenge to the post-colonial nation-state project (cf. McGarry & O'Leary 1993; Rothchild 1997; Zognong & Mouiche 1997). The unitary approach to the nation-state project was the predominant choice of African leaders in the decades following independence (Wunsch & Olowu 1990). Usually this amounted to a continuation of the colonial state's nation-building programme, the primary concern of which had been to integrate the diverse ethno-regional groups into the state and place them under one centralised authority. It was seen as a sine qua non for avoiding administrative chaos and civil war and for achieving rapid development in Africa (Olukoshi & Laakso 1996). Today it is generally agreed that this approach fostered political monolithism and authoritarianism at the expense of constitutionalism. Alternative constitutional arrangements - notably federalism, which according to Elaigwu & Orunsola (1983: 282) 'basically emanates from the desire of people to form a union without necessarily losing their various identities' - were either ignored or consciously violated by African leaders or, as in Nigeria, they experienced an increasing concentration of power in the federal centre (Thomas-Woolley & Keller 1994; Woodward & Forsyth 1994; Olukoshi & Agbu 1997). In the . . .

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