Opinion: For Anglophone Cameroon, ‘help’ from abroad is but a pipe dream

Whenever I talk to fellow Anglophone Cameroonians about the ongoing political crisis gripping the non-French-speaking section of the country, I get the impression of a shared belief that it won’t be long before foreign powers step in to ‘rescue’ Anglophones from ‘oppression’ by what’s now derogatorily referred to as La République du Cameroun.

The conditions seem ripe for thinking – and talking – about a revolution: a minority population that feels marginalized in a country ruled by a soon-to-be 84-year-old who’s been in power for 34 years.

Time we took our country back. Let’s raise a stink. Let’s take to the streets, and hurl some rocks while we’re at it. Let’s show them we’ve had it up to here, and can’t take it anymore. Right?

How we get carried away, and disregard history. Revolution is a false hope best captured in this quote  by Jack Palance’s character in the classic Western, The Professionals:

“La Revolución is like a great love affair. In the beginning, she is a goddess. A holy cause. But… every love affair has a terrible enemy: time. We see her as she is. La Revolución is not a goddess but a whore. She was never pure, never saintly, never perfect. And we run away, find another lover, another cause. Quick, sordid affairs. Lust, but no love. Passion, but no compassion. Without love, without a cause, we are… *nothing*! We stay because we believe. We leave because we are disillusioned. We come back because we are lost. We die because we are committed.”

Disillusionment awaits, especially for those among us who believe that with the brutal crackdown on Anglophone activists, it is only a matter of time before the international community commands the Biya regime to cede to Anglophones’ separatist or federalist requests.

Look no further than what unfolded in Cabinda, and you may be forgiven if you’ve never heard of Cabinda.

Cabinda is a 2,807 square-mile exclave on the mouth of the Congo River, hedged between the two Congo republics. Here’s its tortured history, according to Wikipedia.org:

  • 1885: Treaty of Simulanbuco grants Cabinda to Portugal as a protectorate. Article 2 of the treaty states that “Portugal is obliged to maintain the integrity of the territories placed under its protection”.
  • 1933: Portuguese constitution further distinguishes between Angola, the colony, and Cabinda, the protectorate.
  • 1956: Portugal unilaterally transfers the administration of Cabinda to the (Portuguese) governor-general of Angola.
  • 1960: The Movement for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda (MLEC) is formed.
  • 1974: Following a military coup in Portugal, the new regime immediately grants independence to all colonies. Civil war breaks out in Angola, with three guerilla factions.
  • 1975: Treaty of Alvor between the three Angolan militias, without consent from Cabinda citizens, reconfirms Cabinda as part of Angola. Pro-Cabinda independence activists declare “Kabinda Free State” and begin a separatist insurgency.

Since the 1960s, efforts by Cabinda separatists to garner international support for their cause have been met with indifference. The heavily forested territory is rich in timber, coffee, cocoa, rubber and oil palm. But more importantly, vast oil reserves lie offshore. Cabinda accounts for nearly 60 percent of Angola’s oil production, but the region is one of the poorest in Angola.

The international community has historically frowned upon separatist movements. The reasons for that appear fairly simple: most countries have disaffected minority populations of their own, and supporting a minority cause in another country would certainly legitimize a minority struggle within its own borders.

Would Chad, Gabon, Congo or the Central African Republic sympathize with Cameroon’s Anglophones? Certainly not. How about Nigeria, which is already dealing with a revival of Biafra secession activism? Not a chance.

That leaves the West. The US may issue lip service condemnations of police brutality now and then, but that will be it. The UK is worried about, and dealing with, Brexit. France is battling terrorism and ultra-right conservatism.

Help won’t be coming. Forget about the revolution. I’ll borrow another line from The Professionals; this time from Burt Lancaster’s Bill Dolworth character:

“The revolution? When the shooting stops, and the dead are buried, and the politicians take over, it all adds up to one thing: a lost cause.”




1 Comment

  1. Mr. Atume – I don’t know if Cameroon Report is an arm of the Government of Cameroon or you’re some France-backed online news outlet. But let me clarify a little detail to you:

    We don’t need help from outside Cameroon to win this struggle. We may be making noise outside Cameroon to bring attention and put shame on President Biya for malhandling this situation. But here’s what I believe – and we all do in NW & SW:

    This matter is being fought on the ground in NW and SW and it will be determined and won on the ground.

    I agree with you – no foreign powers will come to the help of NW & SW. Every country and company has their interests and we’ve realized that we the people of NW and SW have to fight for ours. The Ghost Towns don’t depend on the US, or the UN. They didn’t ask us to do them. And they can’t stop us either.

    And guess, the collective will of the people of the NW and SW will win this battle. We can not go back. Our leaders have been locked up, our youth have been KILLED, our childen’s futures are being thrown away. You really think we are waiting on anyone to come help us?

    We are more than capable to fight this battle. Watch.

    And by the way, to prove you’re not some France-inclined news outlet or overly sympathetic of the Francophone-majority regime in Yaounde or simply don’t care about the plight of the people of the NW and SW – be true to your profession and approve this comment. I commented on another post and sure enough – the reply was not [yet] approved. Guess what? I published the response to that post on my site. You can check it out here:



1 Trackback / Pingback

  1. Response to Atume Mehele’s article on Cameroon Report: We’re our own ‘help’! – Formerly 'Lettres à Etoudi'

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.