Cameroon’s president orders enforcement of bilingualism law to tackle discrimination
To tackle complaints of discrimination against English speakers, Cameroon’s President Paul Biya has ordered officials to enforce a 2019 law on bilingualism and make life easier for English speakers in the French-speaking majority country.
The sense of marginalization among the English-speaking minority in Cameroon sparked a separatist conflict that, since 2017, has left more than 3,500 people dead. Earlier this week, civilians assembled at the city council in the country’s capital Yaounde to complain about difficulties they encounter in public offices because they speak only one of the central African state’s two official languages. Civilians who fled the fighting in western Cameroon between troops and separatists say they often face discrimination in public offices when speaking English.
A December 2019 law states that French and English have the same value and should be used equally in public offices, and says Cameroonians should be able to express themselves in either language. But according to officials dispatched to enforce the bilingualism law, people reportedly abuse public office by refusing to attend to civilians who speak either in English or French. The Cameroon president is said to no longer tolerate French-speaking workers imposing the French language on English-speaking citizens, and English-speaking workers should also be patient when they receive French speakers in public offices. After educating citizens on the importance of the two languages co-existing peacefully, the government is now ordering Cameroonians who do not speak the two languages to register in language schools. Signboards written in one language are being pulled down and replaced.