Hate Speech Fanning The Flame Of Conflicts In Cameroon

The current conflict that has rocked the two English speaking (Anglophone) regions of Cameroon have now taken another twist with public officials, using hate messages and speeches to address an already shaky situation. This has fanned the flames of the conflicts that radical and extremist propaganda views have triumphed over conciliatory approaches to end the conflict which has been ongoing for about a year.

The latest of such inflammatory messages came from the Governor of the South West region which is one of the Anglophone regions of Cameroon. In a recent interview over a local branch of the state radio, the Governor went as far as to address the protesters as “Dogs.” Governor Okalia Bernard went further to announce that these “Dogs” should stay in their houses, for if they are come out to the streets again, the armed forces would not spare their lives.

This has inflamed the situation with the social media, which is already becoming a major media arm in the communities heralding the information, calling on Anglophones to be more radical and determined. It has limited any chance of dialogue between the Anglophones, who currently see no reason to communicate with the pro-Francophone government, as the Governor is a Francophone who was appointed by the President to lead an Anglophone region. It has reawakened the call for an independent Anglophone nation, otherwise known as Southern Cameroons, and nursed hatred among people who once lived together. Even worse, with the government’s intransigent attitude towards such highly placed officials, even when they err, it has made the aggrieved Anglophone population believe that it is a systematic plan by the government to annihilate them in a Rwandan genocide style.

Worthy of note is the fact that in 1994, Hutu supremacists addressed Tutsis as “cockroaches” which must be exterminated. This led to one of the greatest human-made disasters in modern times. Despite the much talk of a “never again” Rwanda, the government of Cameroon is yet to fully understand the consequences of using hate speech on a people.

The current Anglophone crisis in Cameroon started last October when Lawyers of English expression (Common Law) downed their tools in protest of the persistent use of French language in English courts. A similar reason was advanced by Teachers’ Trade Union when they also joined the strike in November 2016. As the strike action tarried, it became a general movement by the Anglophone community demanding for a two-state federation as a solution to marginalization from successive pro-francophone governments. With the government’s poor handling of the situation and excessive use of force, the demands moved from a two-state federation to complete restoration of independence of the Former British Trust Territory of Southern Cameroons, also known as Anglophone Cameroon. In his address to the youths on February 10, 2017, the President also branded Anglophone activists as “extremists.” A similar term (terrorists) was later on coined by Communication Minister, Issa Tchiroma. Rather than calming down the situation, these messages have instead pushed the Anglophone community to the wall especially when incessant calls for dialogue are rejected by the government.