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.”