FORCES AT PLAY
REFRAME HOUSE for the VICTORIA RELIEF FOUNDATION
INTERVIEW WITH TAH JAVIS
"The truth is there are six realities..."
Tah is a journalist that has been covering the Anglophone crisis from its inception. He has described the opposing forces currently at play in the war in Cameroon as follows:
1) The separatists: those who want complete independence from French Cameroon. They also refer to it as "restoration".
2) Those who want an effective decentralisation, a transfer of power to several local offices or authorities, rather than a single one, yet still under an indivisible Cameroon umbrella.
3) Those who would like to see a two-state federation, like it was decades ago. The U.S.A is an example of a multi-state federation, where the laws of California are different to the laws of Washington, D.C.; but they all pledge allegiance to the federal government. "A federalist wants to stay under the union between French Cameroon and the English Cameroon within the context of a certain level of autonomy, where they determine how they manage their resources, customs and traditions."
4) Those who would rather a ten-state federation. Similar to the above, but with each currently existing region in Cameroon having autonomy, while still operating under the Cameroon umbrella.
5) The school of thought who wants a four or six-state federation that reflects the sociological make-up of the country, while remaining united under the country of Cameroon.
6) The con-federalists, who believe that a permanent union of states with a centralised federal power is the best way forward. In this instance, the member states become the most powerful authority, and the federal government will subordinate to them.
"These are the schools of thought, let nobody fool you. The majority of Anglophones are angry with the Biya regime, but not all Anglophones want separation. And not all of the Anglophones are advocating for decentralisation or want it. In a chaotic environment, people, out of fear, they choose to align with what [guarantees] their safety."
"If you say you’re for decentralisation in the North West and South West regions [Anglophone], the separatists can get you, and they can harm you. Your house can be burnt down by the separatists if you are standing for decentralisation or you are standing for federalism. So, out of fear, people will tell you that they are for independence, but they are not for independence. The same thing too when you come to the other [Francophone] areas. [...] They are afraid that if they talk about separation, the government will arrest them and see them as terrorists. So, they go ‘hey let me just say I am for decentralisation.'"
"Those for federation too were treated like terrorists. So people were afraid to say they stand for federalism. 'Why would I not just say I am for separation?'" Thousands of civilians live in fear of standing for their beliefs, and are caught in the cross fire between the (7) French military, and Anglophone separatists who are using violence to achieve their goals.
"So you see, (8) the aspect of fear and safety has a big role to play into the general picture. What people see on the outside is different to the reality."
Additionally, there is (9) the government, headed by president Paul Biya, who has been in power since 1982. They have firmly stated that they do not want separation "because they feel they’ve have made a lot of concessions. [...] [The Biya regime has created] disarmament centres for ex-fighters where they will not arrest, but rather transform you back into society. The Biya regime has created a multiculturalism commission to harmonise the languages. [...]They’re [slowly] loosening the hostile nature of communication[...]. Then again the president of the republic has never spoken a word in English."
Finally, (10) journalists like Tah are trying to continue reporting on the war, while many receive constant threats. Many, like himself, have been imprisoned and tortured.