Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

The Refusal to Belong: Limits of the Discourse on Anglophone Nationalism in Cameroon

Academic journal article Journal of Third World Studies

The Refusal to Belong: Limits of the Discourse on Anglophone Nationalism in Cameroon

Article excerpt


Over the decades, Anglophone nationalism has been built on the premise that Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians differ linguistically, culturally, politically, and socially. Anglophone nationalist leaders have based their arguments on the fact that, because of failed integration, Anglophone Cameroon should become a separate entity from Francophone Cameroon. However, Anglophone nationalist leaders have failed to realize that since the reunification of the two Cameroons, so much more has taken place between the communities in terms of intermarriage, investment, migration, and lifestyle issues that the dichotomy between the two has become blurred. This article explores the limits of the discourse of Anglophone nationalism, by showing that Anglophones and Francophones have more in common than they would like to acknowledge. This article is about the paradoxes of a politics of separation in contexts in which what people do historically and objectively share might be much more decisive than what they perceive as differences. The scope of the article is limited to the elucidation of these paradoxes. It is not the writer's intention to write a treatise about nation building as such. The shift of perspective of looking at the politics of not wanting to belong is the kernel of this article.

The focus is on life-style issues such as Cameroonian music, media, food, dress and fashion, language and sports, and finally, Anglophone and Francophone views on the Anglophone debate. The subjects for this study include students in four state universities, Anglophone and Francophone elites of different political affiliations, ethnic groups, and persons representing different social classes, gender and age groups in Cameroon and in the Diaspora.


According to William Idowu "every African state is a multicultural, multinational and multilingual state." (1) These African states consist of several ethnic groupings that are different in terms of size, culture, historical ancestry and a common experience and exposure to years of colonial rule. During the era of colonial rule, to secure their hold in many African territories, colonial administrators devised various models, which include direct and indirect rule. In this approach to colonial administration, colonialists forged an alliance with particular local groups, and the effect of this policy was the deepening of existing social and geopolitical divisions, or in some cases, the creation of new ones. (2) Whether or not the divisions occurred by malevolent design, the effects are manifold. For instance, in the case of Rwanda and Burundi, colonial policy engendered a habit of ethnicity that has prompted civil wars, finally culminating in the genocide of 1990. Colonial penetration and the administration of the African continent involved the demarcation of borders, which in itself contributed to a sense of geo-ethnicity. (3) During the early years of colonial rule, borders were not firm or well policed. This was true where territories were adjacent parts of the same colonial empire. The problem or" borders increased with decolonization, as colonial administrative lines were transformed into international boundaries that separated sovereign African states. Decolonization was accompanied by an emphasis on group identities and solidarities, as individuals and groups sought to gain the greatest possible political and economic advantage during the transfer of power.

According to Nantang Jua, Cameroon, which is often referred to as "Africa miniature,' underwent a triple colonial heritage that can be blamed for her tribulations today. Initially, Cameroon was colonized by the Germans, then it was ruled by the French and the British in the wake of the First World War as League of Nations mandates, before mutating into United Nation trust territories following the Second World War. (4) The incorporation of the two Cameroons into the French and British colonial empires had some significant consequences for future political developments and a lasting effect on the construction of Anglophone and Francophone identities. …

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