BUEA, CAMEROON - The government of Cameroon has dispatched ministers and lawmakers from the English-speaking northwest and southwest regions to their areas of origin, in an effort to calm growing protests over the dominance of French in the country's institutions.
Thousands of supporters ask Cameroon's main opposition leader John Fru Ndi to stop the singing of the national anthem in the English regions of Cameroon, calling it a foreign anthem.
Fru Ndi told them he was in Buea in support of ongoing strikes organized by lawyers and teachers.
"I want the government to listen to the teachers and listen to the lawyers and do what they want them to do, because they are not just talking out of the air. They are speaking out of tested and proven methods of teaching, tested and proven methods of practicing the law," he said.
As Fru Ndi and his party drove out of Buea, a convoy of government ministers, parliamentarians, businessmen and traditional rulers of the ruling CPDM party sent by President Paul Biya were driving in.
Professor Elvis Ngole Ngole, a close aide of the president, said they want the population to stop the strikes. He said the government is aware there are challenges English-speaking Cameroonians are facing.
"We should never sort to lose sight of the superior objective, which is that coming together and being together makes us better and better off than being separate," said the professor.
The protests were started by lawyers, who asked for French-speaking judges to be transferred out of courts in the English-speaking regions, stating that justice can not be rendered when the judge, the advocate, and the suspect can not communicate.
They also asked for the OHADA business law used by French African countries to be translated into English.
When their requests were not granted, they refused to defend clients in court and went to the streets. Teachers also got involved, complaining that French was being used in English schools to the detriment of English-speaking children. The situation escalated when university students and business people also joined.
Many people have been arrested and several others killed since the military deployed to stop street protests in nearly every town in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon.
Anglophones say the country's French majority is disrespecting Article 3 of Cameroon's constitution which says the country is a bilingual and bicultural state.
Peace advocate Ndi Richard Tantoh, of the NGO Ecumenical Service for Peace, said the way forward is for the government to listen to the masses.
"Along the line Anglophones have articulated their problems and they have made suggestions and the possible scenarios for resolutions, but I have not seen that feedback coming from government. I have said several things about that problem and the need for the people to be heard so that we look for structural issues which can rehabilitate or which can solve this problem of linguistic legacy that we have in this country," said the advocate.
The violence has led to the closure of all schools and markets in English-speaking regions of Cameroon, with protesters and military having running battles.