Some 78% of English-speaking Cameroonians have said they will vote for complete separation from the hegemony of French Cameroon given the opportunity. Their resolve is a result of a study conducted online simulating the 1961 plebiscite that unified the two former colonies, one British and one French, into a single country.
Of the 28,000 citizens sampled in the four-day online poll, 78 percent of English-speaking Cameroonians voted for immediate independence for the Southern Cameroons while only 22% voted to stay in any kind of union.
The United Nations-organized plebiscite of February 11 1961 for the two territories erased the option of independence for the Southern Cameroons. Voters had only two choices – join French Cameroon or Nigeria.
The online studies showed only 17% of English-speaking Cameroonians prefer a transition to a Federal system of government in Cameroon.
Only 6% view decentralization within the Republic of Cameroon as an option. They do not favor either a Federal system or an independent Southern Cameroons.
It is the first largest online poll conducted to mimic the 1961 plebiscite.
Since 1961, there has been growing agitation among English-speaking Cameroonians who have said they are treated by the regime more like “lesser citizens” in the union with French Cameroon. The two regions of Northwest and Southwest have continued to protest against marginalization.
Only two Presidents have ruled Cameroon since 1961 and both have come from French Cameroon.
The current uprising in English-speaking regions inspired the study, says Tapang Ivo Tanku, the researcher, and initiator of the study. “It could direct the focus of English-speaking Cameroonians in their struggle for statehood or nation-building,” the Fulbright scholar said.
“You cannot roll out effective policies without testing public opinion. Neither can you go about striking without a focus,” he said in a statement.
However, the researcher notes that voters’ preferences could shift if President Paul Biya hands over power to an English-speaking citizen. “But that remains to be tested empirically too,” Tapang suggested.
He said he chose to run the independent study using the social media because all its users are eligible voters. Tapang claims that 4.1 million Cameroonian citizens use social media including 2.1 on Facebook alone.
114 countries that have English speaking Cameroonians took part in the study. 14,000 voted in Cameroon including 10,000 in the port city of Douala. There were more than 5,000 voters from the USA. The UAE and the UK had over a thousand votes.