Cameroon government sets up commission to promote bilingualism

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For the past four months, the two English-speaking regions of western Cameroon have been protesting marginalization by the Francophone elite on their language and British traditions, staging a campaign of general strikes, demonstrations and the occasional riot, according to the report by Telegraph.

The government tried to stop the riots leading to death of protesters and also shut down the Internet for the past two months in the English-speaking regions.

English speakers have complained of being shut out of jobs, denied fair political representation and deprived of revenues from oil, much of which is extracted from former British territory.

“ After independence in 1960, the British Cameroons were wooed into union with the much larger French Cameroons by a promise that they would be equal members of a federal, bilingual state — a pledge broken when the federal constitution was abandoned in 1972.” Says the Telegraph

The Anglophone Cameroonians make up less than a fifth of the county’s 23m people. They dress up their judges and lawyers in powdered wigs, have British common law and the GCE, O-and-A-level syllabus setting it apart from the Anglophones in the country.

November 2016, a group of lawyers staged a small protest outside the courthouse in Bamenda, Cameroon’s largest Anglophone city, to demand the withdrawal of judges who spoke no English and had no understanding of British common law. The protest was broken up with tear gas. This inspired a movement that led to Anglophone teachers protesting the state attempts to replace them with French speakers with no knowledge of English or the GCE syllabus.

Cameroon President Paul Biya on 15th March 2017 signed a decree appointing members of the National Commission on the Promotion of Bilingualism and Multiculturalism, to promote bilingualism and multiculturalism in Cameroon while consolidating peace and unity.

Former Prime Minister, Senator Peter Mafany Musonge was appointed President of the 15 member Commission.  It is responsible for submitting reports and opinions to the President of the Republic and the Government on matters relating to the protection and promotion of bilingualism and multiculturalism.

The Commission will also monitor the implementation of the constitutional provisions making English and French two official languages of equal value, and in particular their use in all public services, parastatals and any organization receiving grants of State. It must also carry out any study or investigation and propose any measures to strengthen the bilingual and multicultural character of Cameroon according to Cameroon Tribune.

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