Every morning, I wake up from my bed, feeling less of a Cameroonian. Sometimes, I regret being born in a bilingual country like Cameroon where we are the minority. Yes, Anglophones are the minority in a French-dominated Country, Cameroon. Many at times, I have wished to be born in All English country where attention is not divided between two groups of people separated by language. I have for so long, lived with this pain inside, especially when some French speaking Cameroonians referred to us as "anglo-fools" instead of the right term "anglophones." I can't explain how bad I feel, whenever I travel to a French speaking town, and no one wants to hear me out because I am speaking English. You feel like you are an outcast, when in trying to put your problem through to someone in an office in French speaking Cameroon, and he turns to his friend and ask "Ca cest quel genre de langue?" This has happened to me a few times and it leaves me, in most instances in a pool of regret of why I was born a Cameroonian. Don't get me wrong, I love my country Cameroon, what I don't like is the open discrimination and marginalization caused by the two languages that divides us rather than unite us.
In the midst of all these insecurities that I feel inside, one thing for sure makes me proud to be a Cameroonian. One thing makes me feel Cameroonian. That one thing, is nothing else than football. Come and see how all Cameroonians unite and mobilizewhen Cameroon's indomitable lions or lionesses are participating in an international football encounter. You need to see our towns, our bars, our streets, our attires, our moods -- our everything portray a show of patriotism, oneness, love for our country Cameroon. You need to see how Cameroonians celebrate victory and 'mourn' defeat. Within the feather of any defeat, lies the pain of poor performance and the thought of “why was I even anxious in a country that discriminates against us, and a national team that most often have over 90% of its team members, francophones?”
Anglophones make up 16% of Cameroon's Total Population.
France and Britain jointly assumed rulership of Cameroon in 1916 after the Germans were defeated in World War I and ripped off their foreign colonies. While France administered Cameroon in French, Britain administered their own portion of Cameroon in English and as part of their Nigerian territory. The two Cameroons reunited in 1960 after a referandum when France and Britain gave independence to their respective territories. These are the events that caused the french-English divide of the present day Cameroon.
Major companies, industries, and top government services are all concentrated in the French speaking part of Cameroon. Cameroon’s capital is Yaounde, and it’s found in francophone Cameroon. Cameroon’s Economic capital is Douala, and it is also a French speaking city. All Cameroon’s international airports are located in francophone Cameroon. So you see, it is hard to avoid going to these cities because if you don’t go there for business, you would go there to follow up some dossiers or go there to make some international travel. To say the least, you someday have to visit friends and or families in that part of the country. The truth is, Anglophone Cameroonians feel their rights as humans and as Cameroonians are being trampled upon. Some people even think that justice should be served through a separation of the two Cameroons an idea that threatens the unity of our country Cameroon.
Lets face it, football is the main unifying force for Cameroonians, not me only. Some people even say, if there was no football, Anglophone Cameroonians would have hit the streets to ask for equality, equity, and respect.
Take a look at a post I made on facebook in June 2015 when Cameroon’s Lionesses were playing their 16th finals in the female world cup championship:
“If I am already feeling sleepy at this hour, do you think I will be able to make it to past midnight so that I watch Cameroon's Lioness' play their 16th round in the ongoing female world cup championship? I think I'll have to adopt some old student tricks; (1) Deep my feet in water from now till past 12midnight (2) Set alarm at 12midnight and then get up and wash my face (3) Drink some bottles of CocaCola, now. Will it help dry my sleep. I am confused!!!”
The post above can prove to you that that is one such moment that makes me feel Cameroonian. And it is as well one such moment for a host of others. Talking to a few Cameroonians for the purpose of this publication, they all revealed to me that they feel bad at the level of discrimination and marginalization going on, but when the time for football comes, they forget the difficult moments and stand with their lions.
“When the lions are playing, I am proud to be a Cameroonian, but when the tournament comes to an end, I find myself asking myself whether I am really proud to be a Cameroonian with all the discrimination going on,” Hilary Tafon, giggles with laughter as he told me this, sitting on the table of where he sells football jerseys.
Did you know that Cameroon will be hosting the Africa Women Cup of Nations this year? Yes, we will. The stakes are climbing. All Cameroonians, including me, are once more uniting for this cause. Cameroonians are worried and talking about the incomplete stadiums that are still under construction. Cameroonians are disturbed about the hotels that are still under construction. Cameroonians are tensed about the state of our roads and security in the towns that will be hosting the championship. Cameroonians are even so worried about the fact that the country has not put up banners, bill boards, and TV and radio adverts to advertise this very important event. All Cameroonians are worried, and yet anxious to feel Cameroonian once again.
Who dare says football is not the strongest unifier in Cameroon – it of course is.
In all these, something needs to be done to make all Cameroonians feel at home. If sports, and football in particular makes Anglophone Cameroonians feel Cameroonian, I think the solution of the problem should come from there. Why not start by giving more Anglophone Cameroonians the chance to be a part of our 24 man and woman national squad? Or build more stadiums in English speaking Cameroon?
The good news is that, the country is gradually using football infrastructure to make English Cameroonians feel a sense of belonging and patriotism. For the purpose of the hosting of the upcoming Africa Women Cup of Nations in November, Cameroon has built two international standard football stadiums in Limbe and Buea (still undergoing finishing touches in construction) in the South West Region of Anglophone Cameroon. This has made many Cameroonians to feel that they are gradually being remembered in Cameroon’s infrastructural development agenda.
Despite all that, a lot still needs to be done. I am hoping that a day would come when I will wake up from my bed and feel completely proud to be Cameroonian, not because Cameroon may be playing a football match, but because there will be equality, equity, and respect of everyone’s human rights in my beloved Cameroon.