Bilingualism: A Jewel Worth Preserving

Recent events in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon have made arguments about the bi-cultural nature of the country to gain greater steam.

 

For a long time it was an open secret that Cameroonians from the two regions had a strong sense of marginalisation with cosmetic public discourse often used to assuage their fears. The hope was that the country will gradually get to some kind of equilibrium where all citizens feel like one. Alas, this is still a pipe dream!

If the Head of State in his end-of-year message to the nation on 31 December 2016 came back strong with phrases like, “A country that is ONE and INDIVISIBLE, proud of its cultural diversity and jealous of its freedom,” “together” and “Living Together”, the clear allusion was to underline our bi-cultural heritage. The emphasis was equally intended to bring out a malaise that has bedevilled the two regions and runs the risk of disrupting the national fabric. With the avowed mandate to guarantee the smooth functioning of national institutions, President Paul Biya could not be indifferent to attempts by any group, no matter their grievances, to wreck the ship of State.

Undoubtedly, one of the trademarks of Cameroon has been its unique character of having French and English as the two official languages. The consideration being given to these languages, especially within official circles, has been to say the least, biased. Deliberately or not, the situation, according to genuine claims by the Teachers Trade Unions and Lawyers of the Anglophone parts of the country has exposed several ill-advised policies that could betray neglect and bad faith. Some historians, apparently of repute, have even tried to equate the Anglophone problems to all other challenges faced by the myriad ethnic groups in the country.
However, the posture taken all along by the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Philemon Yang, to ensure that dialogue prevails, was given a presidential seal when the Head of State stated that; “Cameroon is a democratic country, a State governed by the rule of law. Its problems should be resolved within the ambit of the law and through dialogue.” This reminder is also useful to those who might have chosen to forget the numerous gains that the country has made this far. Individually and collectively, Cameroonians and the country, at large, occupy a prestigious position at the global level, thanks to the bi-cultural nature of British and French colonial heritages.

Focusing on the malpractices observed and wanting to consider such situations as fatal in themselves would rather appear myopic because there is no cast-iron guarantee that breaking the existing bonds of a bilingual Cameroon will serve as a panacea. That the Head of Government has overtly undertaken to tackle the technical issues that almost undermine the bi-cultural nature of the country and the confirmation of his posture by the Head of State ought to serve as a call to reason.

The instances of apocalyptic literature that some people have opted to circulate, especially on the social media and create a sense of psychosis might all be symptomatic of unfortunate mistrust that has bugged minds over the years. But no other position on the issues today could supersede the stands taken by the Head of State. Attempting to condition minds towards a negation of values that have symbolized the collective wellbeing of the nation simply sounds like moving towards a precipice.

Because of his ardent desire to keep to his promises, the Head of State not only harped on the measures already put in place to resolve the issues, but added that, “ Besides the bodies that I instructed the Government to set up and which are already at work, we are ready to go an extra mile.” Such a declaration obviously demonstrates the awareness that all legitimate claims that seek to foster national cohesion in Cameroon are welcome by the Head of State. Bilingualism being one of the pillars of our identity as a people must be preserved, no matter the odds.   

       
 

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