Cameroon: Clashes between protesters & security forces as Anglophone tensions rise
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The Cameroonian city of Bamenda was calm on Tuesday morning, a day after skirmishes broke out between protesters and security forces. Demonstrators took to the streets on Monday following the start of a teachers’ strike against a perceived lack of educational provision for Anglophone children. Security forces were deployed to the north-western city and fired tear gas to disperse demonstrators who joined teachers in voicing their grievances with the Francophone administration.
"Yesterday was the start of a sit-in strike declared for teachers and students of the English sub-system of education in Cameroon in the two Anglophone regions, the south-west and the north-west,” said Tassang Wilfred, Secretary General, Cameroon Teachers’ Trade Union (CATTU).
Teachers in Bamenda are angry that the government has been deploying Francophone teachers to teach Anglophone children, according to Wilfred. "Francophone teachers don't master our system of education, there's a pedagogy problem."
There are differences in the curriculum under the Anglophone and Francophone system, the CATTU head told RFI. In sciences, for example, Anglophone pupils start taking lessons in biology, chemistry and physics four years earlier than their Francophone counterparts.
"The government, through tribalism and nepotism, is beginning to recruit even Francophones, people who have studied in the French sub-system, to teach Anglophone children the English language and this is outrageous," said Wilfred, by telephone from Bamenda.
Q&A: Tassang Wilfred
French and British troops forced the Germans to leave Cameroon in 1916 and the country was then divided up into French and British administrative zones according to the 1919 London Declaration. The British zone represented some 20 per cent of the country before Cameroon became a federal country, comprising both the British and French zones, gaining independence in 1961.
"We have a law here in Cameroon that manages education - the 1998 law on the orientation of education - and this law has spelt out clearly that the two sub-systems of education are independent and autonomous, but government has been violating this law," said Wilfred.
The teachers strike and industrial action by lawyers in the city acted as the catalyst that brought people out on the streets on Monday, according to Fred, a protester who wanted to remain anonymous.
Lawyers went on strike, unhappy with the government’s lack of recognition for the Anglophone legal system, Fred told RFI. Members of the secessionist Southern Cameroon National Congress group took to the streets, calling for independence as well as other Bamenda residents who are angry about high prices, a lack of jobs and what they see as discrimination of Cameroonian Anglophones.
The strike call by teachers and lawyers quickly gathered momentum, said Fred in a series of messages. “Little did they know that they can’t control the entire population, especially those who feel extreme bitterness towards the government,” he said.
“The government has failed in every way, people are mad and pouring out their frustrations,” the young protester added.
The teachers union met with local officials and religious leaders on Monday evening, according to union leader Wilfred. He said they are expecting representatives of the Yaoundé-administration to come to Bamenda and hold discussions about their concerns.
Until the union can meet the government they will continue to call for teachers to stay at home, according to Wilfred, while urging parents to keep their children off their streets to help prevent any further clashes with security forces.
"Cameroon is a bilingual country, it is a bijural country, but the government is violating all these aspects of our culture and our nationhood to the disadvantage of Anglophone children," said Wilfred.