While there is only one Cameroon there are two ethnic groups living within the nation. One the French cultural group is much larger than the other and runs the government while the English cultural group has been fighting for years for their independence, trying to create their very own nation called Ambazonia. In Cameroon, 80% of the population speaks French while the other 20% speaks English. These Anglophones say that they are marginalized and neglected by the French-speaking government. Some people just wanted reforms and changes to happen within the French-speaking government, but full on civil war has erupted instead.
Cameroon wasn’t always like this. The two groups lived in peace and harmony for decades. Protests started in 2016 with teachers and lawyers peacefully protesting. They were frustrated that the government had assigned French speaking judges and teachers to work in English speaking courts and schools. The government started jailing activists fighting for these causes, which made more extreme voices take up the cause. Felix Nkongho, an Anglophone human rights lawyer who helped organize several of the peaceful protests and was jailed, said “‘The movement now had to fall in the hands of people who were more extremist, who were not only clamoring for the rights but wanted independence.’” They want to create a new nation, Ambazonia.
Ever since 2018 relations have turned violent between the Anglophone separatists and the Cameroon government. Most people killed in these conflicts are civilians. The fighting has killed around 3,000 people and displaced 600,000. There are massacres happening in the Anglophone regions against civilians. On February 14, 2020, at least 21 civilians were killed in Nghabur village by military and Fulani militia forces. Fulani is a nomadic community that came from Nigeria over 100 years ago and settled in the North and Southwest parts of Cameroon. Their cattle have been stolen by rebels fighting for the Anglophone separatists so tensions have grown high between the two groups. In the attack, people were either shot while running in the street or dragged back into houses which were then set on fire. Survivors of the attack say that there were no separatists in the village and that it was an unprovoked attack. The military denied the testimonies of eyewitnesses and stated that they had information proving it was a separatist base. However, the Ambazonian forces state that they had no people in the village.
There are peace talks going on between separatist leaders, who are in jail, and the government. Most of the separatist leaders are from a group called the Ambazonia Interim Government (IG). This comes after 285 civilians were killed in 190 incidents since January 2020 in the Northwest and Southwest regions. Mr. Biya, Cameroon’s President, vowed that he would “eradicate these criminals” when one month earlier the Northwest and Southwest regions claimed their own nation. Sisiku Ayuk Tabe who is a separatist leader said, “We call for a nonviolent revolution. We call for a non-violent protest. We call for a non-violent march. This is what we are demonstrating to the world and we have resisted Mr. Biya’s army of occupation in our land, but this is a moment that we must continue to stand firm.”
Cameroon is a prime example of what excess nationalism looks like. Two groups of people believe that they have the right to land to support their own nation. Yet they are not two nations, but one group of people who want to split from the other due to fundamental language and cultural differences. This had led to violence that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands. As can be seen in many other nations in the world, language and cultural barriers can lead to civil war and unrest unless the majority government actively works to accept and integrate them into their government.