The ongoing movement by lawyers of the English speaking regions of Cameroon (common Law lawyers) has been going on for more than two months now while that of teachers has been ongoing for the third week now, protesting men are women are calling for amongst other things, assimilation of common law by civil law and assimilation of Anglophone educational system, whether the term “Anglophone” should even be used in the first place is a debate for another day.
But the strike actions which started peacefully by pockets of lawyers who break away from the Cameroon bar association largely dominated by French colleges about three months ago, did not take too long to be a massive movement that is crumbling one half the country. The government never expected it to go this far and coming at the same time with ongoing women AFCON being staged here at home, government officials were passive and knew the bubble was soon going to burst, but it never did, if anything, it kept getting bigger and bigger
When the lawyers took to the streets to demonstrates peacefully, the government looked at it as an embarrassment and security forces were massively deployed to crack down on the lawyers, that was a political blunder as images went viral on social media, many criticised the government for the heavyhanddedness and the men and women of law vow to keep on despite the crackdown, teachers join the movement a month later, others protest erupted in Bamenda and so it goes, schools started shutting down one after the other, communiqués and mixed reaction from the government as the prime minister and his ministers were speaking with different voices. The US state department issued statements calling for restraint and so did opposition party join the train, not to long they added federalism to their list of demands, but how did we get here
In a series of PR stunt by some members of government, minister Laurent Eso of justice ministry, government spokesman Issa Tchiroma and Mr. Paul Atanga Nji, they all denied the existence of any problem, the justice minister even say the associations out of the bar association are illegal and told lawyers “if you don’t respect yourself , no one will respect you” during a meeting with lawyers representatives from the bar council to try resolve the disputes, though striking lawyers were not in attendance. Minister Chrioma of communication label them as people under political manipulation even though he himself could not have believed what he was saying and went ahead to say there is no problem, the one who generated firestorm is Minister Atanga Nji, minister of special duties at the presidency and an Anglophone elite by birth, who slam teachers and lawyers for the strike, says there exists no problem and added they have been paid to destabilize the country, his statements on state TV generated an avalanche of criticism on social media and mainstream media with many calling him “traitor”, he however attempted to roll back some his comments days later on CRTV but the damage had already been done. While government ministers engaged in PR outings, their boss and prime minister was busy trying to resolve the dispute through dialogue, holding meetings with representatives at Ayaba hotel in Bamenda as protests leaders refuse to make the journey to Yaoundé.
On her part, the VC of university of Buea, issued a communiqués with her team of Deans and Directors, declaring there is no strike in the university and says academic calendar of activities has not changed hence continuous assessment will go on as planned, in her attempts to shun the door of dialogue by not even accepting there existent of a problem, students took the campus for a peaceful match, they had grievances ranging from extra 10,000 frs the university had billed them for late registration, their 50,000 frs presidential grants which many were left out of the list and had seen as corruption from university authorities, and were also bent to ensure no class goed on, the VC, Nalova Lyongoa nd south west governor Mr. Okalia Bilai responded heavily, as police and gendarmes beat up students, rob them in mod, break their student residential houses and arrested over 300 of them and locked them up. The public went into an overdrive and they were release, the list of presidential grants beneficiary was expended with a new communiqué and the penalty for late registration was immediately cancel, many were still unsatisfied as they call for the two officials to be sacked.
But at this stage, the tone if protest has changed, international media and right groups accused the government of violating human rights of students and protesters, the main opposition party SDF embark on support matches around major towns in Anglophone Cameroon and reiterated their support for protesters and say nothing but federalism will solve the burning issues.But as the government continue to delay and refusing to accept their demands, the list of wants might just get bigger with time .