In Cameroon, Anglophone activist Mancho Bibixy and six others were found guilty on charges of terrorism, secession and related crimes after appearing this week before a military court. They remain in custody in Yaoundé pending their sentencing on May 8.
Bibixy was arrested after making a public speech from a coffin in November 2016, as the tensions heightened between the country’s English-speaking teachers, lawyers and other professionals seeking reforms, and the increasingly authoritarian government of President Paul Biya.
Bibixy, with a background as a radio presenter, is among the more prominent of hundreds of Anglophone activists detained, and he drew attention to their cause with a hunger strike in prison matched by general strikes on the streets. He also worked as a teacher in Bamenda, and was among the earliest of professionals associated with the outlawed Anglophone Civil Society Consortium and its leaders.
Their appeals arise in response to what they say is longstanding political and social marginalization in a predominantly Francophone West African nation, which is tied to the colonial history and partition of Cameroon. As the Anglophone movement took off, it was met with repression and force; it has now evolved in some quarters into calls for secession, leading to more arrests and ever-deepening division.
Some evidence suggests that separatists control territory; 34,000 refugees are in Nigeria and about 40,000 persons are displaced in the Southwest Anglophone region, according to the Crisis Group, which issued an appeal for intervention and international support Friday.
“Many militants apparently believe they are better served by fighting in order to negotiate with Biya’s government from a position of strength,” the organization said. “The African Union and Western powers have called for dialogue. The government agrees on the need for talks, but refuses Anglophone activists’ calls for outside mediation and opposes any discussion of federalism.”
Image: Bibixy file