Since October 2017, Cameroon’s Anglophone regions have been experiencing a chaotic security shift. The insecurity at work is the result of the domestic armed conflict with diffuse and indiscriminate characteristics between clandestine armed gangs and government forces. People, like combatants, are exposed to subversive attacks. The death toll of more than 4,000 people and nearly one million displaced indicate the depth of the breakdown in security in the area.
One of the declared causes of this crisis is the excessive centralization of decision-making power at the top of the state and, in turn, the lack of local democracy. Thus, one of the factors structuring insecurity in the Anglophone area is partly the precariousness of democracy. The precarious security context makes it possible to update the eternal debate on the link between democracy and security. But this is particularly about the consequences of democratic failures on security stability.
In concrete terms, we are trying to demonstrate that while democracy, through freedom of expression, the self-determination of minimal management of social components and permanent consensus, remains fundamental in the control of the internal security order of countries, its deficit, which we describe as precarious, can only lead to the disruption of the security balance. The analysis is based on a few lines of thought, among which we find: the crisis of territorial governance, the illegitimacy of the territories’ representatives, the authoritarian management of community problems, and the brutal response to social protests.
Test of the Governance Crisis of the English-Speaking Regions
“Daughter of democracy” (Defarges, 2003, p. 19), governance refers to the participatory ideal of outsiders in the conduct of public affairs with a view to inclusive and more transparent management because “modeled from below” (Ibid, p. 39). In the case of territories, it relates to their recognition as stakeholders in the conduct of the affairs of States, especially in plural societies. The territorial blocs in question are, however, perceived in their sociological consideration insofar as their physical contours follow, with a few exceptions, the delimitation, albeit complex, of the primordial identity constitutions of society, which may be ethnic, ethno-regional, sociocultural, or politico-linguistic. With regard to the English-speaking territories, it is mainly a sociocultural and political-linguistic identity acquired by the populations during the British “colonization” within a single territorial and political bloc distinct from British Southern Cameroon.
The consideration and care for these territories have always been at the center of the stakes of the multiple transformations of the State of Cameroon, especially since their demographic weight (21% of the population) and economic weight (about 20% of the national GDP) have remained significant in the definition of national choices. Whether at the Foumban Conference of February 1961, the Tripartite of 1991, or even more recently, the Great National Dialogue 2019, in these moments of “thinking or rethinking the State” collectively, their fate has been the major issue.
However, until the security implosion in 2017, these various reflections had not always been able to empty the question of the governance of these regions, allowing the thesis of the marginalization of this community by the alleged French-speaking imperial Jacobinist tendencies to continue to run within English-speaking opinion, especially when we know that since 1961, the supreme power of the state has always been led by French-speaking nationals (Presidents Ahidjo and Biya). A marginalization whose forms of violent conjuration and denunciation – via the secessionist armed struggle –record precisely the crisis of governance of the two English-speaking territories.
The Test of the Crisis of Legitimacy of the Representatives in the English-Speaking Regions
The disillusionment with the democratic management of the regions previously noted has been reinforced by the crisis of the democratic legitimacy of the political elite of the Anglophone regions in the dynamics of national integration from the “top,” both in the bureaucracy and in the institutions of representation. With regard to integration through the institutions of representation, including electoral choices, the crisis of legitimacy of the elite seems more significant because of the blocking of the popular expression of Anglophones, as is the case with the rest of the national body politic. This democratic obstruction has always resulted on the ground in the stifling of the electoral system and the curtailment of political freedoms. Consequently, the results in terms of the final choices of men in elected office do not really respond to the expression of the communities.
The political fee, in this case, is paid only to the networks that contributed to the undemocratic election of the elite to the detriment of the voting population to whom the elected representative would have campaign promises and his reappointment at the next election. The causes of the communities in this dynamic crisis of political legitimacy are not fiercely carried by these elites, leaving the populations orphaned in their socio-economic tribulations and reinforcing the feeling of abandonment whose most assimilated form of representation is the marginalization of Anglophones. These two variations of the crisis of legitimacy – bureaucratic and political – of the elite will open the floodgates of the insecurity of the secessionist struggle.
Indeed, according to the “Vacuum theory” (Dupont et al., 2007, p.9), they will favor the eruption of the insecure extremist separatist leadership as an alternative to the defense of the Anglophone cause following the indifference and sometimes the dedifferentiation of the classical elite. Among the most prominent in this insecure extremist leadership is Dr. Sako Ikome Samuel of the Interim Government whose armed factions are the Ambazonian Restoration Forces- and The Reds Dragons; Cho Ayaba of the Ambazonia Governing Council with the Ambazonia Defence Forces as its armed wing; Ebenezer Akwanga of the Ambazonian People Liberation Movement, whose armed wing is the Southern Cameroons Defence Forces; or Fontem Neba of the Southern Cameroons Liberation Council.
Security Tested by the Undemocratic Management of the Anglophone Problem
The security crisis in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon is primarily an “Anglophone problem.” In other words, the so-called “Anglophone crisis” is the violent expression of the “Anglophone problem,” the Gordian knot of which is the feeling of marginalization of Anglophones since the annexation of the territory of the former British Southern Cameroon to that of former French-speaking Cameroon in October 1961. The security implosion triggered since November 2017 is affirmed to this end as the culmination of the process of condensation of a badly negotiated ill-being for several decades due to the failure to take into account the real will of Anglophones in the management of their territories as well as that of the state as a whole.
The triumph of the ideas of the French-speaking president Ahidjo at the expense of those of the Anglophones led by John Ngu Foncha at the end of the Foumban conference of 1961; the end of the federation in 1972 in favor of a unitary state in violation of article 47 of the Constitution of the federal state; the unilateral transition, in February 1983, from the “United Republic” to the “Republic” of Cameroon by a simple decree are all illustrations that flesh out the accusations of chronic authoritarian grabbing of the political fate of the English-speaking community.
The start of the democratic transition in 1990 did not mitigate the Anglophone grievances. The spirit of the national tripartite discussions to reform the state and thereby correct “the Anglophone problem” would be perverted, for example, by the authoritarian reflexes of the authorities. The draft consensual Constitution of 167 articles of the “Owona Commission,” the result of these discussions, was rejected in favor of simply revising the old 1972 60-article 1972 Constitution to the chagrin of Anglophone protesters. (Kouomegne, 2013, p. 62) Fabien Eboussi Boulaga would speak of a “mode of conspiracy elaboration.” (Olinga, 2003, p. 33) The Great National Dialogue of 2019 also offered another illustration of the non-consensual management of the “Anglophone problem.” The date of the meeting, the definition of the agenda, the casting of participants, the definition of the commissions, the themes, and the commissions, and the orientation of the exchanges were managed unilaterally without minimal consideration of the will of the Anglophones in general and of the secessionists, the other party to the armed conflict, in particular.
The breakdown of the security order currently operating in the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon is, in a sense, only the result of the precariousness of the democratic order. The gagging of the democratic expression of the territories and the populations living there has led to the erection of other forms of expression, the most critical terrorist struggle with very important security implications.
The lack of representativeness of the elites of these two territories and the authoritarian management of the “Anglophone problem” and its modes of expression will further pave the way for the almost total collapse of the local security order after having long maintained within Anglophone opinion the thesis of the neutralization of the Anglophone community through cooperation by the dominant Francophone order.