by Marienne Makoudem and Manon Michelle Monhemius
Background of existing trust issues in Cameroon
Since Cameroon's independence, the division between Anglophones and Francophones has prevailed. Sometimes latently, other times openly. The trustbuilding team in Cameroon is addressing this issue.
The violent conflict in Cameroon's North-West and South-West regions, which has been ongoing since 2016, manifests the divisions between Cameroon's two major linguistic communities: the Anglophones and the Francophones. Since Cameroon's independence, this division has prevailed, sometimes latently, other times openly. Due to the violent conflict, people living in these regions have been forced to move.
Yaoundé is one of the host cities for the displaced. It is also home to Cameroon's two largest universities: the University of Yaoundé I and the University of Yaoundé II-Soa. Displaced students have increased the proportion of English-speaking students in these universities, increasing the risk of conflict between these two large communities. In addition, there are mutual accusations between the Anglophone and Francophone communities. Anglophones accuse Francophones, the majority in the country's administration, of being the cause of their poor social conditions. Francophones, on the other hand, are trying to defend themselves because they are also facing precarious living conditions and have lost family members and properties due to this violent conflict.
The quest for national unity has always been at the heart of the State's concerns. The multiplicity of more or less autonomous centres of influence, sometimes based on the wide sociological diversity that characterises the country, is a risk to the construction of Cameroon today. Given the insecurity and socio-political crises the country has experienced in recent years, Cameroon's main challenges remain the restoration of peace, consolidation of living together and national unity. Solving these challenges calls for participatory and more decentralised management with the involvement of all population segments.
Peace is a prerequisite and an indispensable condition for the people's aspirations for emergence. Authorities know that the persistence of the crisis in the South-West and North-West regions could seriously compromise the country's development ambitions. Hence the need to put an end to this crisis. It will also be necessary to eradicate the BOKO HARAM terrorist sect and continue working for peace and security in the Gulf of Guinea and the sub-region. Within the framework of the National Development Strategy of Cameroon 2020 – 2030 (NDS30), a fundamental assumption is the gradual return of peace in these regions by 2023. Failure to achieve this is likely to have consequences not only for economic development but also for public finances and the improvement of basic social amenities.
The trustbuilding project in Cameroon
A change in narrative is needed to change the perspectives of young Cameroonian leaders about the vision of the future of Cameroon. Most students in Yaoundé grew up with their identities as "Francophones" or "Anglophones" constantly being reinforced by their parents. Therefore, the trustbuilding work in Cameroon will focus on Francophone and Anglophone students as they shape Cameroon's future.
Personal and group identities are informed by stories and are open to exploring new, shared narratives. It is important to become aware of one's own biases and privileges and use moral values and times of quiet reflection to examine areas for personal change, healing, and growth.
Through co-organising various trustbuilding activities, dialogue skills are developed to prepare students for preventing future conflict or handling it constructively. Sport, trustbuilding cafes and various outreach activities are also implemented at the universities to build trust between the Anglophone and Francophone students.
Trustbuilding ambassadors are appointed and trained to support the trustbuilding work on their respective campuses. Activities will be organised to create stronger bonds between the ambassadors, e.g. a sports tournament and cultural activities. They will also serve as a platform to sensitise the university’s actors on building trust in their immediate environment.
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