The absurdity of fighting in defence of foreign languages

This must be one of the most absurd conflicts in one of the most linguistically — about 250 languages — diversified countries in the world.

The on-going tension in the western parts of Cameroon has been simmering for some years but only got mention when casualties or internet shut down reached the ears of the media.

For the last two years, when things began to get out of hand and the body count hiked, what had been an internal behind-the-scene conflict was getting to dangerous levels; all that because of two foreign languages; English and French.

The country has both as its official languages, but the “Anglophones” complain that they are being marginalized by the “Francophones”. That must be one of the most absurd conflicts in one of the most linguistically diversified country in the world which where about 250 languages are spoken by a population of 20 million.

As we go to press, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahatmat is in the country, and hopefully the “foreign language” conflict will be on the menu. In Africa we are used to bloody ethnic conflicts, but this is the first time that a sovereign African country is being dragged into conflict because of colonisers’ languages.

It is an indication that some countries have a long way to go. At a time when Africa is talking about integration, united by a sense of purpose, the Cameroonian saga is a big shame. It is even a bigger shame that the African Union has taken this long before stepping in. If we need a successful and relevant African union, we should learn to be our brother’s keeper.

Boku Haram was ignored until it was too late and it had spread it terror to all countries neighbouring Northern and Eastern Nigeria. Cameroon should not be allowed to fall into that category because it is no longer a sovereign matter; the colonial language fallout could affect other countries.


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