Cameroon: the continuous search for national integration.

AuthorAnyefru, Emmanuel

The federal constitution of 1961 stated that the Federal Republic of Cameroon shall be constituted from the territory of the Republic of Cameroon, hereafter to be styled East Cameroon, and the territory of the Southern Cameroons, formerly under British trusteeship, hereafter to be styled West Cameroon. Thus, the constitution established a federation that embraced two different political and cultural systems, English and French. Taking this view into consideration, it is not surprising that the operations of the federal systems in East and West Cameroon were different. The implementation of the federal constitution had far greater implications for the political process in West Cameroon than it did in East Cameroon. As an independent state, the Republic of Cameroon made only minor institutional adjustments to absorb West Cameroon, as the line between the institutions of the state of East Cameroon and those of the federation was quite blurred. In forging ahead with a new nation, the Republic of Cameroon is still struggling with the implementation of national integration policies that will cater to the diverse nature of the country. Today, Cameroonians of English extraction feel that the government's position that Cameroon is one and indivisible is contrary to the federal constitution of 1961, which guaranteed the rights of the two Cameroons to coexist as separate entities. Through systematic state machinery, the government has tried to neutralize any attempts by Southern Cameroons to assert themselves as equal partners with East Cameroon in the new state.


Historically, Cameroon is a German creation. The territory was annexed in 1884. In the aftermath of World War I and the defeat of the Germans by the Allied forces, German Cameroon was partitioned between Britain and France. France received four fifths of the country and Britain two separate areas bordering Nigeria. (1) Each colonial power proceeded to establish a separate and distinct system of government, a condition hardly favorable for later reunification. This division created the foundation of a future Anglophone minority and a Francophone majority in the country. (2) British Cameroons went into a union of equal states with French Cameroon. After reunification of the two Cameroons, the task was to implement a policy of national integration to accommodate the differences existing between West Cameroon (formerly British Cameroons) and East Cameroon (formerly French Cameroon). The task to unite a people under a government and create an enabling environment in which their cultural, economic, and political aspirations could be met is undoubtedly an enormous one.

In an effort to better address the challenge of national integration in Cameroon, it is important that an operational definition of the term be provided, because the term "integration" is often loosely interpreted. National integration is frequently seen as a process leading to political cohesion and sentiments of loyalty toward central political institutions. According to Myron Weiner, the term integration is a process that unites culturally and socially discrete groups into a territorial unit. In this way, the established national identity is helpful to overcome the problems between central authority and subordinate political groups. In addition to that, it links the government with the governed. (3) Given the rather loose interpretation of integration, Myron Weiner concluded that national integration should therefore be examined along the lines of territorial integration, value integration, elite-mass integration, and integrative behavior. The word "integration," he further suggests, should be used only when one is referring to the generalized form of holding a system together. (4)

Karl Deutsch et al. in Ojo defines national integration as "the attainment, within a territory of a 'sense of community' and of institutions and practices strong enough and widespread enough to assure, for a long time dependable expectations of peaceful community." (5) According to him, a "sense of community is a belief on the part of individuals in a group that they have come to agreement on at least one point, that common social problems must and can be resolved through processes of peaceful change. Peaceful change in this context means the resolution of social problems without resort to large scale physical force." (6)

Integration may therefore refer to the process of bringing together culturally and socially discrete groups into a single territorial unit and the establishment of a national identity. When used in this sense, "integration" generally presumes the existence of an ethnically plural society in which each group is characterized by its own language or other self-conscious cultural qualities. Thus, national integration refers specifically to the problem of creating a sense of territorial nationality, which overshadows or eliminates subordinate parochial loyalties.

A number of theories of national integration exist. These include the functionalist, federalist, and cybernetic theories. The functionalist ideal of national integration focuses on the heterogeneous nature of a society and the need to turn it into a homogeneous whole--like the Cameroon example. The federalist typology centers on the creation of a central government that would coordinate its component or federating units into a synchronized whole. The cybernetic construct, "emphasizes the establishment of contacts and promotion of interaction through which the component units would understand and appreciate themselves better." (7) In most cases, countries try to implement the three theories of national integration for best results.

In summary, the term "integration" covers a vast range of human relationships and attitudes. The integration of diverse and discrete cultural loyalties and the development of a sense of nationality; the integration of political units into a common territorial framework with a government that can exercise authority; the integration of the rulers and the ruled; the integration of citizens into a common political process; and, finally, the integration of individuals into organizations for purposive activities. These are attempts to define what it is that holds a society and political system together.

The literature on national integration in Cameroon is equally rich, as an attempt will be made to look at what scholars have written about integration in Cameroon and how the government is attempting to cultivate a sense of political unity among diverse ethnic groups, while at the same time upholding and maintaining the social structures and cultural norms that make the Anglophone and Francophone Cameroonians different. Victor Le Vine has written extensively on national integration in Cameroon. According to him, national integration is "most commonly understood either as a goal or as a process. As a process, its most important component is growth or development or both." He argues further that the term national integration "applies most specifically to societies with considerable, politically salient diversities, be they ethnic, religious, or cultural." (8)

Bernard Fonlon is another scholar who has written about national integration in Cameroon. His study emphasized the semantic aspect of the word "integration." He traced the origin of the word "integration" to the Latin adjective, "integer, integra, integrum"--meaning "whole." Applied to the Cameroon context, this wholeness or oneness implies the dissolution of division within the new Cameroon state. (9) This means putting the Francophone and Anglophone parts together to form a whole. To him, Cameroonian integration is the oneness of a whole composed of parts. Fonlon was clearer in his definition of Cameroon's integration than any other scholar who has examined the concept. To him:

Integration therefore means completeness, the absence of deficiency, it means oneness, the absence of division; it means harmony, the absence of conflict; it means health, the absence of diseases; it means vigor, the absence of languor; it means purity, the absence of corruption. Integration is a process of renewal, rebirth, and a new creation. (10) According to Fonlon, Anglophones and Francophones should meld into a new common culture that would obliterate differences between them. Fonlon sought an emergence of a new culture, "For the union of a people is not complete until they have forged for themselves a soul, that principle of life and continuity, that unity of thought and feeling that only a common culture can give." (11) The one way to achieve this, he said, is "to create a new culture thoughtfully, methodically, diligently, from those which are met on the continent today." (12) Fonlon's notion of a common culture never materialized because of the domination of Francophone over Anglophone Cameroonians.

Historically, Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon were two separate entities before reunification. During the forty-six years of British and French colonial administration, the two states developed different patterns of communication within each area. Each maintained seaports with considerable facilities at Douala and Victoria, respectively. There were no roads linking these areas. Telephone and telegraph communications between the two areas were treated as international operations, which meant routing via London and Paris. Another major difference was seen in terms of the "currency and trading allegiance of the two states, which in turn required the existence of customs barriers; and the need for passports to travel across international frontiers." (13) Additionally, the real obstacle to communication resulted from the use of different languages in government, administration, and economic life.

France and Britain left their Cameroonian territories with well-organized and relatively well-functioning systems of government. In both Cameroons, full-fledged...

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