Senators Mbella Moki of the CPDM, and Henry Kemende of the SDF, recently took turns at the Senate, to condemn the bill on the Promotion Of Official Languages.
To them, the said bill was a provocation to the Anglophone community in Cameroon.
Addressing his colleague in Senate, Senator Mbella Moki said: “I plead with this house, a dignified house to have a feeling for those of us who are complaining. If you take their complaints seriously, Mr President, you should know that what they are doing is the right thing. If this house, and those who drafted this law imagined that doing what is right is wrong, then what is right in this country?” He asked.
Appealing to his Francophone colleagues, Senator Mbella Moki asked them to imagine if the situation was reversed, and their communities faced with a situation where a Magistrate has to deliver judgment in English, a language they do not understand, but the Magistrate prefers to use it for his convenience.
He stated that the said bill is considered by the average Anglophone, as obnoxious, and as such, the bill “truly betrays the very intentions to deny the people of the Northwest and Southwest Regions the right to have English as an official working language, and the right to practice the Common Law in their courts”. He said, pointing out that such decisions sent lawyers to the streets in 2016, and led to the security situation Cameroon is grappling with today. “I was in Buea, I saw what happened.”
“We should all be frank to say that we are tired of seeing the blood of innocent Cameroonians flow on our streets. It is that same denial of the use of English as the language of instruction and practice of the English System of Education in schools, in the Northwest and Southwest Regions that sent teachers on strike in 2016. Many in our English speaking Regions see this bill as a slap on our faces, which will go a long way in enriching the separatists’ argument” he said.
Noting that the bill was ill drafted and comes at a bad time, the Senator opined that English should be the working language in Anglophone Regions, while French should be the working language in the other Regions, even as the country strives to promote bilingualism.
He proposed that the bill on Special Status should have come first, from where other bills such as that on bilingualism will draw inspiration. “I will not vote for this bill, I cannot. It will be at the expense of my life,” he said.
On his part, Senator Kemende said “If there is any single bill that has ever left the National Assembly and the Upper House gives a different opinion, the bill on the Promotion of Official Languages should one of such bills. This is when the Upper House, made up of important dignitaries, who have served this nation, and who are interested in seeing that they leave the nation intact for their children and grandchildren; this is when their voices have to be heard; over this bill.”
Drawing from his legal experience, the Barrister and Senator pointed out the lapses in the bill. He said the document did not have provisions for punishing officials who fail to abide by it.
To him, it was merely a moral document that gives room for officials to continue with disregard for certain language lapses as they have done over the years. “When it is a moral document, when there is no sanction attached to it, we will still have that scenario repeating itself, whereby, documents will come out of offices in one language, and one person will find difficulties understanding.”
To the Senator, the country will lose, if the bill becomes law. “The country may be bilingual, but we are not bilingual. We must accept that fact before we can progress, without which, we will find ourselves in a situation where we will be building and destroying at the same time, and that is what is happening in the field.
“After the lawyers threatened to strike, the amendment that was made was merely cosmetic. Nothing has changed. It remains what they intended, and I want to think that the person who drafted this bill and brought it to Parliament, is an enemy of the Head of State,” Senator Kemende said.
Despite the interventions of the Senators and their other like-minded colleagues, the bill was voted at the Senate.