CDN Survey: Southern Cameroonians Want Full Independence

By Boris Esono Nwenfor

Security forces patrolling Muyuka, a town in the South West Region of Cameroon
Security forces patrolling Muyuka, a town in the South West Region of Cameroon

A survey from the Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations (CDN) shows overwhelming support for autonomy as the best form of state to address the root causes of the ongoing conflict in Southern Cameroons.

In a report published by the Coalition for Dialogue and Negotiations on October 31, 2020, eighty-six per cent(86%) of respondents chose full independence as the best form of state to address the root cause of conflict.  Seven per cent (7%) chose federation and four per cent (4%) selected confederation.  Only one per cent (1%) chose Government-sponsored “Special status”.

The survey on Southern Cameroonians was conducted from October 16 – 24 to gauge their aspirations on key aspects of their homeland. A total of three thousand seven hundred and forty-nine (3,749) respondents took part which is probably the largest survey of its kind of Southern Cameroonians.  A similar survey conducted by Cardinal Tumi last year had over 1,000 respondents, the Coalition stated.

For the past four years, separatist fighters have been battling government forces in the North West and South West regions. The former is looking to establish an independent state of “Ambazonia”. The conflict started in 2016 with lawyers and teachers and degenerated into a full-blown war in 2016.

Thousands of people have been killed, maimed, kidnapped and others forced to flee their homes for shelter in neighbouring Nigeria and other parts of the country. Both government and separatist fighters have been accused of extrajudicial killings of civilians.

Full details of the report

Despite the ongoing war, the largest share of survey respondents (38%) was from Cameroon.  The remaining respondents were from the United States (23%), United Kingdom (7%), Nigeria (6%), Germany (4%), Canada (3%), South Africa (3%), United Arab Emirates (3%) and other countries. 

Eighty per cent (80%) of respondents preferred a UN-mandated body as the best mediator of the armed conflict. Nine per cent (9%) chose the Swiss-led process. Only one per cent (1%) of respondents think the Government of Cameroon should mediate.   On the legal system, the vast majority (87%) of respondents prefer an independent judicial system based on common law. Another ten per cent (10%) chose a common law system controlled by the central government.  

While Anglo-Saxon Educational system was favourable (57%), many Southern Cameroonians would like to see a newly developed educational system (38%). It is worth noting that the latest wave of the Anglophone crisis was sparked by protests by Lawyers and Teachers in 2016.  Lawyers protested against the erosion of the common law in the two English-speaking regions, while Teachers protested against the dilution of the Anglo-Saxon educational system in the same regions. 

  Most Southern Cameroonians would like to see their Elderly Statesmen and women play a more active advisory role to end the armed conflict. Most respondents also prefer their traditional leaders to serve only as custodians of culture and traditions. A sizeable minority are happy for their traditional leaders (chiefs and fons) to play a more active role in local administration, so long as they are exempted from political parties. 

On the economy, an overwhelming majority of Southern Cameroonians (95%) rejected the CFA franc as their currency.  On the matter of security, most respondents (96%) do not approve of Gendarmes as their law enforcement officers. Eighty per cent (80%) of them preferred locally instead of centrally controlled police forces.

It is worth noting that these trends are steady across different segments of the population including gender, age groups, and level of education. There was no major difference in results even after adjusting for gender imbalance. 

Deeper statistical analysis also showed that the choice of the form of state was highly correlated with citizen’s preferences for their ideal system of law and order, economy, and education.  Those who prefer an independent judiciary system, reject the Franc CFA, prefer an Anglo-Saxon educational system, or reject the Gendarmes, also tend to prefer full independence.

These compelling results confirm three things about the ongoing armed conflict: First, negotiations are inevitable to end the war. Second, independence must be part of any negotiations.  It cannot be excluded given its strong appeal among Southern Cameroonians. Finally, to resolve this conflict there must be a truly inclusive dialogue involving the full spectrum of Southern Cameroonian opinion. Cosmetic policies that do not address the root cause(s) and true aspirations of Southern Cameroonians will inevitably fail as we have seen with the recent Grand National Dialogue and the special status proposed as a solution to the armed conflict.

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