Four people have reportedly been killed in clashes between protesters and police in the predominantly English-speaking part of Cameroon.
Lawyers and teachers are opposing the influence exerted by Francophone speakers in their lives in a country that is officially bilingual.
The opposition Social Democratic Front, whose leader John Fru Ndi hails from the north-west, said four people have been killed in the teachers protests.
The clashes erupted after the Cameroon Teacher’s Trade Union called a strike to protest “against the dominance of their Francophone colleagues” in the education sector.
The union’s secretary-general, Tassang Wilfred, told Radio France Internationale why they were protesting: “For years, until now, we have unsuccessfully tried to bring the government to respond to our grievances.
“At the heart of the problem is the deployment of Francophone teachers in Anglophone schools. The government, due to tribalism and nepotism, even recruited Francophones to teach English to Francophone children. This is scandalous.”
The tension between the Anglophone and Francophone parts of the country has also seen lawyers calling for the translation of legal texts into English.
On Tuesday, the police dispersed lawyers who were demonstrating in front of the court of appeal in Bamenda, the main English-speaking city.
During the protests they announced the formation of a new bar for Anglophones, Cameroon-Info .net reported on Wednesday.
The lawyers, who comprise about one third of Cameroon’s bar, have been on an indefinite strike since October 11 to protest against what they say is the government’s preference for the use of French in the courts, reports the BBC.
Cameroon has two legal systems founded on French civil law and English common law.
Anglophone speakers make up a minority in Cameroon – about 20% of the country’s 22 million people, and most live in the country’s two English-speaking regions, the Southwest and Northwest provinces.
The strike action has been supported by the outlawed Southern Cameroons National Council, which advocates for the secession of the two provinces.
In a statement published in the English language Cameroon Daily Journal on Tuesday, it said: “We wholeheartedly salute the common law lawyers and the teachers who as custodians respectively of the common law heritage and the Anglo-Saxon educational system have dutifully risen to combat assimilation and the annihilation of our core values and identity by the neo-coloniser la Republique du Cameroun. But the problem is far larger than meets the bird’s eye view.”
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