Since November 2016, the African nation of Cameroon has been embroiled in civil unrest marked by demonstrations and boycotts against the Francophone-dominated government of President Paul Biya.
Recent news reports point to many civilian deaths through police action, while others, including journalists, lawyers, and civil society leaders, have been arrested and placed on trial.
The Cameroon administration recently began the use of French in courts and classrooms in the Anglophone regions of the country as a way to promote bilingualism and national integration. This action sparked demonstrations led by teachers’ and lawyers’ unions.
In an attempt to control the situation, the government authorized the shutdown of internet service to the Northwest and Southwest regions, the two English-speaking parts of the country where the trouble began. The administration has taken other measures to preserve order, such as the creation of a commission on bilingualism and culture to be chaired by the president.
Around the world, the country’s diaspora has targeted British and French embassies and consulates, saying their colonial masters are complicit and doing nothing against human rights abuses and the oppression of minority Anglophones by the Biya administration.
The English-speaking Cameroonians in the Northwest and Southwest regions also say they have been marginalized for too long and want a return to the two-state federal system the country formed when East and West Cameroon came together in 1961. Others are calling for the secession or separation of the country’s Anglophone regions to form a country which they have named Southern Cameroons or Ambazonia Republic.
While the situation has received plenty of international media coverage, it’s difficult to say what comes next in the country of about 25 million people. The country has generally enjoyed peace, but there are fears the current situation could escalate and threaten stability in the Central African region.
Why a Cameroon Rally in Colorado?
In Colorado, the Cameroon diaspora of more than 500 (many of them U.S. citizens) is spread around South East Aurora, Centennial, Denver, Boulder, and Colorado Springs. The community wants to make their voice heard about the situation in their native country.
Community leader, Lucas Nkwelle, a teacher with the Aurora Public School system, said he recently met with Denver Mayor, Michael Hancock, and other city officials to seek solutions to the situation in Cameroon.
Nkwelle said his community will gather at the Aurora Public Library on Sunday, February 26, for a town hall meeting to express their concern about the current situation in the country.
The leaders have also sought help from former Aurora city councilman, Ryan Frazier to address the situation in Cameroon.
Meanwhile, in an interview granted to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) for the program “Focus on Africa,” government spokesperson and communications minister Issa Tchiroma Bakary said many of the accusations made against the administration are untrue.
Bakary told BBC’s Audrey Brown the government is open to dialogue and negotiations with the Anglophones, so long as their demands are within the laws and constitution of the country. He said while the internet is a “marvelous tool,” the government shut it down in the Anglophone regions because it was being used “to incite hatred, political upheaval, riots” in the country.