BEAC and Cameroon’s Bilingualism

EDITORIAL 22 Apr 2020
BEAC and Cameroon’s Bilingualism

It is on record that, the last straw that broke the camel’s back about four years ago, over the issue of the marginalisation of the English speaking people of Cameroon, was the annoying issue of having only the French version of the OHADA Law in operation in a bilingual country. This, it would be remembered, seriously angered Common Law Lawyers of English speaking expression. The Lawyers peacefully took to the streets, to democratically express their grievances. The reaction of the Government to this is needless to recount. The entire world knows. It was a nasty and humiliating confrontation of armed security agents against Lawyers in their robes and wigs.
It however seems to have become history today. But in the course of time, the Lawyers continued to press on, until government later reasoned with them in their demand and ultimately redressed the situation, which simply required a translation of the Law into English. We think this was normal and reasonable enough in any bilingual or multilingual set-up, such as the group of states of the Central African Region.
However, as if this was not enough to serve as a good lesson, with our status as a bilingual country, which deserve the right and pride to be respected as such in any given assembly of nations, another shock came up a fortnight ago, when BEAC, the central bank of a number of countries of the Central African sub region, is reported to have rejected an application from the Cameroon Postal Services, CAMPOST, for the simple reason that the said application was addressed in English. Unfortunately for BEAC, the document rejecting the CAMPOST request which was signed by the Governor of BEAC, Abbas Mahamat Tolli, found its way on social media on April 18, 2020, which reports stated that the bank had rejected the application for being irregular in form, as it was written in English and not in French.
However in a press release issued by the bank and signed by the Governor, April 20, he insists that the purpose of the letter from the Governor to the director General of CAMPOST, was precisely to point out some irregularities in accordance with CEMAC applicable laws. As if intending to lay blame on the social media for distorting the true content of the letter, the Governor simply deplored the fact that the above mentioned letter which ought to be read, taking into account the usual context of the examination of technical files, ended up in the social media. So, one may ask: what damage has the social media done to the real context of that letter?
Take for example, where the Governor states categorically that, “in accordance with the common use of French as a working language in BEAC, and for reasons of efficiency and speed in the examination of the submitted technical file, CAMPOST was requested to provide a French language version of the file.”
Looking closely at the Governor’s argument above, it simply implies that, in accordance with the common use of French as a working language, it has become instutionalised and that French has become the official language of a group that has more than one language such as CEMAC. So one may also ask, if CAMPOST does not go back to its translation desk to do the bidding of BEAC, what will be the outcome of their request?
However, having arrived at this point of our argument, it is necessary to examine the stature of Cameroon in the CEMAC zone. Cameroon is by right a giant in that sub region and it deserves the right to pool its weight and impress on other members of the body within CEMAC that she is a bilingual country and must be accorded that status by making CEMAC a gathering of countries operating on a multilingual structure. But on the contrary, it is not surprising that Cameroon should be a country within CEMAC to be treated with such disdain.
The issue of bilingualism has caused English speaking people of Cameroon so much marginalisation and humiliation, ending up in a bloody crisis still far from a solution. If today this same humiliation is finding expression outside our borders in organisations such as CEMAC, because those who singed treaties that link us up with such bodies seem not to be ready to compromise their positions on home-base problems such is the bilingualism issue in Cameroon. It is now more than obvious that CEMAC, as well as many other organisations linked up to CEMAC are the brain-child of France. The BEAC case is unfortunate. Too difficult to explain why Cameroon should find her selve facing such humiliation.

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