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Dear Chimamanda, Cameroons are all wrong to Fight over European Languages

By Alexander Opicho

Dear Chimamanda, I read your article the Carnage of the Cameroons which you recently published in the Sunday Review section of the New York Times. You wrote beautifully about the current francophone government in Cameroon and how it is using the political advantages on its side to perpetrate a muddled sludge of the legacy of colonial history in fatal disregard of its English speaking citizenry .The English speaking citizens thatare also the minority from the south-western region of Cameroon.

It was timely for you to take such a bold step in regard to the matter, by openly condemning the current government of Emmanuel Macron for failing to forestall the blistering devastations which the minority English speaking citizens of Cameroon have gone through. I personally comment the article for its good feminist texture. It is a characteristic piece worth reading and re-reading.

The only fault in the article is found in your failure to point out the social undoing in the politics of Cameroon. The politics of Cameroon is to be held blameworthy for allowing its people to kill one another over spoken English and French. Dear Chimamanda, it has to be pointed out that it is not colonial history to be blamed for the recurrent violence in Cameroon. But the people and politics of Cameron. Cameroon is a mature country, very rich in culture and blessed with a lot of flexible indigenous languages, and also blessed with competent scholars. Achille Mbembe , the author of the On the Post-Colony, and Ferdinand Oyono the author of the Old-Man and the Medal are some of them. Definitely, it is unspeakable to hear of an African country in the 21st century having its citizens killing one another over European languages like French and English.

It can technically acceptable and somehow normal to imagine of African armed conflict over resources, land, ethnic differences or over falsified results of political competition, but not over spoken English and French, the languages left behind by a colonial encounter, the languages that are only cultural vestiges of colonial memories, they are not African genes that run in the blood of the sons and daughters of Cameroon. It is laughable. However, there is still a chance for Cameroon to do away with the European tongues but instead adopt one of the indigenous language to be its official language.

Dear Chimamanda, I noticed that passionate study of history can possibly mar judgment of the present. This is a fact that comes out clearly in your analysis of the colonial history of Anglo-francophone scramble for Cameroon as a major cause of present bloody war of languages in Cameroon. No, it is not colonial history that is culpable. The blood violence in Cameroon is an overture of current social conditions of politically facilitated social and economic exclusions in Cameroon. The Socially exclusive conditions in form of regional imbalance in economic distribution, negative ethnicity, political irresponsibility and failure of the African populace to hold the self in good esteem.The case of French and English languages is only used as a cloak of false alibi in order to push forward the agenda of selfish politics through violence, the scot-free political violence. And if anything one does not become a good Cameroon because he speaks English or a bad Nigerian because he speaks French. If a French speaking Cameroon feels he is better than an English speaking Cameroon, then he would be behaving like an American slave laughed away by Karl Marx in the 1866 letter to Abraham Lincoln for saying that a French slave-master is better than an English slave master. A situation of self-abnegation that only gets a good analogy in the Malcolm X’s observation of a kitchen Negro being self-complacent and hence hurling some sarcasm at a fellow Negro working under the hot sun in the field of the sugar plantation. What I mean is this; people of Cameroon must feel self-dignified for being Africans and stop fighting over languages of other nations from Europe.

A global lesson is that Cameroon is not the only country with citizens divided into French and English speaking. Cameroon isduty-bound to borrow a leaf of tolerance to otherness from bi-lingual and tri-lingual but well nationalized countries likeCanada, Switzerland, South Africa, Mauritius, Belgium, Austria and many others. These countries have regions subscribing to different lingua franca, yet they peacefully co-exist with one another. It is only in Israel that you may end up having a bad day if you walk around Jerusalem yammering and yapping in Arabic.

Dear Chimamanda, I also admired your style of article writing, it was a blend of journalist feature piece and creative short-story. Out of this virtue, you effectively brought out the picture of how political violence in Africa gives birth to international dimensions of forced migration. However, it was so unfortunate that you overtly praised the American government for accepting African migrants, when you were supposed to inform your reader that the acts of African youths running away to America will not solve social and political problems of Africa.

Alexander Opicho Writes From Lodwar, Kenya [email protected]