By Dr. Carlson Anyangwe, Tuesday Aug. 2, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Atlanta – In this lengthy but well-researched masterpiece presentation delivered at a recent Atlanta, U.S.A Southern Cameroons forum, Dr. Carlson Anyangwe presents the two strands of thought on the current political gridlock in Cameroon – the Federation and independence narratives. He considers the independence narrative the “imperative and necessity” if the Southern Cameroons has to be freed from colonial subjugation by French Cameroun. Dr. Anyangwe’s argument came in the framework of a narrative led by Dr. Simon Munzu and others suggesting that Southern Cameroonians have no recourse to independence through the United Nations because no such provisions exist in the treaties merging the Southern Cameroons with LRC. Munzu’s submits that federation is the utmost Southern Cameroons can ask for from La Republique du Cameroun. Read on.
Deconstructing the federation narrative
I submit to you that federation no longer commends itself to us. The freedom we cherish, seek and desire cannot be achieved in the context of any form of political arrangement or co-existence with French Cameroun as one polity. The untold massive atrocities, injuries, sufferings and political, economic, social and cultural emasculation that French Cameroun has inflicted on us over the past six decades are just too profound, wide, and visible to be swept under the carpet for any form of political cohabitation with that country. The colonial oppressor has shown no remorse or contrition for those atrocities. In fact, he has not even acknowledged these crimes, let alone committed himself to atone for them and to turn over a new leaf. Quite the contrary. He behaves like the repeat psychopathic offender. He laughs and boasts about his crimes, his cunning, his fraud, his treachery, his violence and his duplicity. He is fundamentally evil and untrustworthy. Even in the unlikely event of France ordering him to commit to something, he cannot be trusted to respect his plighted word or written commitments. A tiger never changes its spots. No amount of rain and detergent can remove those spots because they are part and parcel of the tiger’s DNA. We should therefore be wise and not make another monumental mistake, this time an eternally fatal one.
The federalist quest for accommodation with French Cameroun suffers from just too many major infirmities. We started off with federation within the framework of ‘independence by joining’ —- independence by joining, not independence upon joining. The Independence vote of 11 February 1961 was endorsed by the United Nations in General Assembly
Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961. Joining was clearly understood by all concerned to mean ‘forming a federation of two states, equal in status.’ There was no question of the Southern Cameroons becoming a part of French Cameroun. The federation was conceived as a free-association-status arrangement. That meant the Southern Cameroons was to become a state connected to French Cameroun but not a part of French Cameroun. The Southern Cameroons was to become a state whose political association with French Cameroun was to be based upon the basic principle of consent by the people of the Southern Cameroons. That arrangement was stipulated in a signed agreement between the Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun in December 1960 and included in the plebiscite campaign document known as The Two Alternatives. It was confirmed by French Cameroun in its Note Verbale to the British Government on 24 December 1960.
The concept of a colonial territory achieving independence by joining an independent state, known in UN parlance as a free association, was clarified by the UN in its Resolution 1514 (XV) of 15 December 1960 which stated that free association is “one which respects the individuality and cultural characteristics of the territory and its peoples, and retains for the peoples of the territory which is associated with an independent State the freedom to modify the status of that territory through the expression of their will by democratic means and through constitutional processes. The associated territory should have the right to determine its internal constitution without outside interference.”
French Cameroun, we believed, would honour the agreement it reached with the Southern Cameroons in December 1960. It was never to be. It embarked on a path of fraud to annex and re-colonise the Southern Cameroons even before the formal
termination of trusteeship and the departure of the British. It unilaterally wrote and promulgated a constitution in which it proclaimed the annexation of the Southern Cameroons as part of the territory of French Cameroun returned to it by the UN and Britain. That document was passed off as a mere amendment law to its 1960 constitution and dressed up as a so-called federal constitution.
There was a Federation alright, with a ‘West’ Cameroon state and an ‘East’ Cameroun state. But French Cameroun contrived in several ways to nullify the working of the Federation. It created another level of administration called regions. The Southern Cameroons was a federated state with jurisdiction over very limited subject-matters and under a prime minister with narrowly circumscribed powers. It was further gagged in that it was simultaneously decreed a region under a French Cameroun federal inspector of administration with wide and unchecked centripedal powers. This studied unorthodox arrangement created conflicts of jurisdiction, conflicts of power and conflicts of competence in the governance of the Southern Cameroons. In the federal constitution French Cameroun took care to concentrate powers in the hands of the federal president, a French Cameroun citizen. Those powers included even financial and taxing powers concerning the federated state. They also included the power to appoint the prime minister of the Southern Cameroons even though the state operated a parliamentary system.
The Southern Cameroons was deprived of powers in connection with any form of foreign relations. The possibilities for autonomous action by the Southern Cameroons in the international community did not exist. This meant the foreign interests of the people of the Southern Cameroons were not protected. And yet there was a clear need for the Southern Cameroons’ participation in the foreign relations of the Federal Republic of Cameroon and even the so-called United Republic of Cameroon, especially in areas vitally affecting Southern Cameroons’ interests.
The Southern Cameroons was further deprived of powers relating to its internal security, including even policing powers. The federated state experienced the oppressive and repressive presence of what was in effect a foreign military and police presence, operating in a language and in terms of a culture completely foreign to the people. This highly repressive presence was reinforced by the imposition in the Southern Cameroons of a reign of terror. The reign of terror was anchored in a series of draconian measures such as the 1962 Subversion Ordinance, the imposed indefinite state of emergency, the caler-caler randomised but frequent nocturnal cordon and search operations, the pass system, the countless military road blocks and checkpoints, and the curtailment of basic human rights. The so-called federation was thus a mere camouflage for the colonial status of the Southern Cameroons.
In 1972 French Cameroun, again acting unilaterally, usurped the right presumptively to pronounce once more on the fate and destiny of the people of the Southern Cameroons and their territory. The decision to end the federation (including to plunder and loot and strip the Southern Cameroons of its assets) and to organise a pretended referendum for that purpose, even while the federation had become more and more of a shadow than the reality, was again the unilateral decision of French Cameroun. Those at the forefront of this charade were Ahidjo Ahmadou, Biya Paul, Onana Awana Charles, Yaya Moussa, Sengat Kuo François, Mey Ousman, and a French lawyer. This last was part of the many French ‘spécialistes constitutionnelles’ who come by night to Presidents of Francophone African countries offering their services. They roamed those countries ‘proposing’ for not a small fee a ‘passe partout’ constitutional template abstracted from the constitution of the Fifth French Republic.
Likewise, the writing and promulgation of the 1972 and 1996 constitutions, and the splitting of the Southern Cameroons into so-called ‘Southwest province’ and ‘Northwest province’ were all the unilateral acts of French Cameroun. These self-servingly-created dependent provinces were passed off as provinces of French Cameroun and were appended to that country’s West province.
Another unilateral act of French Cameroun was the 1984 revival and restoration of the territory and sovereign appellation République du Cameroun, the name and style by which French Cameroun achieved independence from France on 1 January 1960. The revived République du Cameroun was presented as a much enlarged territory that included the territory of the Southern Cameroons. In legal terms that meant the statutory absorption of the Southern Cameroons by French Cameroun. That is the reason for French Cameroun’s obsessional fixation with so-called ‘réunification’. That is also the hidden meaning behind what French Cameroun opaquely refers to in coded language as ‘achèvement de la réunification’. By that turn of phrase is meant the process by which the Southern Cameroons was cunningly transmuted from its initial status of a state connected to, but not part of, French Cameroun, to a territory integrated (the so-called ‘intégration nationale’) into French Cameroun, even if treated as a colonial dependency.
Right from after the plebiscite results, therefore, French Cameroun set out to frustrate, and indeed frustrated, the freely expressed will of the people of the Southern Cameroons for independence and for an autonomous polity within a flexible political structure that safeguards their identity. It was also the expressed will of the people of the Southern Cameroons that within that flexible political structure their culture and their social, economic, political, and personal life would continue to advance in civilised, liveable, worthwhile, dignified, fulfilled and meaningful ways. Trusting and unsuspecting, the Southern Cameroons has since found itself trapped in a political structure which is colonial technically, juridically, economically, socially, politically, and in every other sense.
Thinking heads in French Cameroun have since spoken of the apparently innocuous process of ‘satellitisation’ and ‘phagocytosis’ of the Southern Cameroons that began in 1961 and ended with its absorption by French Cameroun. It may be recalled, parenthetically, that in the case of the Northern British Cameroons, UNGA Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 pointedly stated that the territory was to become part of the Sardauna Province of Northern Nigeria as from 1 June 1961. By contrast, in the case of the Southern Cameroons the plebiscite was never about the territory becoming part of French Cameroun. This fact did not prevent French Cameroun from resorting to all kinds of fraud and violence, spanning a period of over 22 years (from 1961 to 1984), in a foredoomed quest to achieve that goal. Those efforts achieved the exact opposite of what French Cameroun hoped and intended to achieve.
The stratagems resorted to by French Cameroun failed woefully to induce submission on the part of the people of the Southern Cameroons. They instead raised acute identity awareness and Resistance to what all informed scholars correctly characterised as the annexation of the Southern Cameroons by French Cameroun.
Given this reality, it is submitted that the secessionist rhetoric by some uninformed minds is misconceived. That rhetoric betrays a lack of understanding of international law on the subject of self-determination. It shows an inability to use
apposite legal terminology. It suggests poverty of thought in this regard. Those who are strenuously arguing that the results of the plebiscite automatically permitted or entailed the integration or absorption of the Southern Cameroons into French Cameroun as part of that country are vainly trying to swim against three major currents: the UN Charter principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples; binding UN GA Resolution 1514 (XV) of 15 December 1960 (Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples); and the law on self-determination, a norm of jus cogens. Self-determination is a peremptory norm in international law. It signifies a continuous exercise of power. As a result, it cannot be argued, contradictorily, that a country can self-determine itself out of self-determination.
The Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun do not have similar history, language, state culture, and cultural heritage. To argue that by dint of the plebiscite results the Southern Cameroons became integrated into or absorbed by French Cameroun would mean the plebiscite was organised to get the Southern Cameroons to cease to exist as a separate political entity and to become an internal colony of French Cameroun. That would be heresy. The UN anti-colonial project was, and still is, to dismantle and not to foster colonialism. Self-determination is aimed at removing the colonial powers, not at substituting a new one for an old one. In Resolution 1514 (XV) of 15 December 1960 the UNGA “solemnly proclaims the necessity of putting a rapid and unconditional end to colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”, based on the conviction that “all peoples have an inalienable right to absolute freedom, to the exercise of their sovereignty and to the integrity of their national territory.” The resolution ordained that “in all those remaining territories which have not yet attained their independence, measures should immediately be taken to transfer all powers to the people of those territories, without conditions or reservations, in conformity with their will and freely expressed rights … in order that they may enjoy absolute freedom and independence.”
Federalism which is now being murmured in some quarters, more than half a century afterwards, has been on the table since 1961. French Cameroun has consistently rejected it in words and action. And in doing so it has all along proved itself to be fraudulent, oppressive, extremely violent and thoroughly untrustworthy. In 1985, when ‘Ambazonia’ was put forward as sovereign branding for our Homeland, Fon Dinka proposed in the New Social Order, an effort in which I took a little part, a confederation between the Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun. For that commendable effort he was abducted, subjected to life-threatening imprisonment and to enforced exile. The same fate befell Albert Mukong.
In 1993 and again in 1994 my colleagues and I, within the framework of All Anglophone Conference I and II, leaned over backwards and put federalism on the table yet again, perceptively pleading for its acceptance lest our people irrevocably
decide in the future never to consider it again. We even proposed a draft federal constitution which made adequate and far-reaching constitutional provisions for the protection and advancement of both the Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun and their mutual intercourse. Again this was rejected and continues to be rejected to this day. The SDF, of which I am a founding member, has put the federal agenda on the table since the 1990s. Again this has been rejected by French Cameroun.
In an effort to control political thinking and freedom of thought and expression, French Cameroun moved to ban any private or public discussion on federalism. It has in fact since criminalised any discourse on federalism as treason or terrorism, punishable by death. This is part of its damned colonialist grand design to mentally constrict us by presuming to be possessed of God-like powers to decide our fate and interest and to control our thoughts and lives as in Orwell’s Nineteen-Eighty Four. Speaking through its prime minister it recently grudgingly indicated it would tolerate and control some discussion on a form of federalism. But no one possessed of his correct reasoning faculties would want to be part of such a controlled process with a self-serving predetermined outcome.
In the circumstances, after 56 years of vain efforts, I cannot possible see any sane way forward on the federalism front. Surely, our future as a people and our well-being cannot continue to be at the hands of French Cameroun to decide at its whims and caprices and to toy with.
Besides, in the unlikely event of federalism being granted, it will not be a constitutive federation of two states, equal in status, which was the 1961 condition sine qua non for political association with French Cameroun. Disastrously, it would be a dis-aggregative federation whereby French Cameroun re-structures itself into a federation made up of its territorial units, inclusive of the Southern Cameroons. Such a development will definitively sink and entrench us as a part of French Cameroun and thus under its melancholic imperium for ever. I cannot possibly conceive of a future in which even a deceptive federation like that one will not be frustrated and murdered as before. Kamto, a former deputy minister in French Cameroun, ventilated the deeply-held view of that country when he rhetorically asked, “le fédéralisme pour quoi faire?” (Federalism to do what with?). The fact is that federalism with its concept of split state sovereignty and its levels of exercise and control of power is too sophisticated for French Cameroun to understand, manage and operate. That country, it is well to remember, has been brought up in a French tradition of authoritarianism and in a mould of heavy centralisation and concentration of power in the centre. Despotism is its DNA and second nature.
We never opted to become, and will never become, part of French Cameroun. We never opted to be the footstool of French Cameroun, available for exploitation, plunder and periodical extrajudicial killings and false imprisonment. There cannot possibly be any advantage in such an option. The common experience of mankind is that people never opt for a detrimental change in their condition of existence because they would have nothing to gain by such a tragic option. Human beings always seek improvement, and not deterioration, in their human and material condition.
In the governance of French Cameroun, I do not see anything now and in a thousand years future that will meaningfully and adequately reflect the history, political culture, identity, statecraft, culture and economic and social model of the
Southern Cameroons, the language of Southern Cameroon’s public affairs, the secure identity of its people and the future prosperity and wellbeing of its people. French Cameroun’s sickening interest in the Southern Cameroons is driven by one and only one thing: the huge natural resources and facilities of the Southern Cameroons.
Federalism being touted by some people is not a viable option that is consistent with the promotion and strengthening of our identity, self-respect, dignity and humanity. We cannot allow ourselves to be tragically downgraded from a distinct and separate territory with a solid history and statecraft to a footstool of, and an exploited and oppressed colonial dependency within, French Cameroun, a country that is itself a French neo-colonial outpost. We refuse to surrender our identity, culture, history, natural resources, political resources and creative statesmanship. We must continue to fight for freedom with every sinew in us and with every means recognised by the international community. For if we do not, then French Cameroun colonialism, assimilationist policies and territorial aggrandisement would irreversibly become more entrenched. Within a short few years we would become extinct as a people and our Homeland would be taken over completely by French Cameroun’s invasive and invading communities.
Achieving a federalism that some are begging for from French Cameroun depends entirely on the colonial oppressor’s good will. That good will is demonstrably lacking. There is no reason to believe that even in the unlikely event that the colonial oppressor were to institute a federation today he will not turn round tomorrow and frustrate it, eventually nullifying it as he did in 1961, 1972 and 1984. Our memories cannot be so short as to forget that the various ‘constitutions’ and their countless decree amendments made at the ruler’s every whim and caprice, from 1961 to date, have all exclusively been the evil schemes of French Cameroun and then imposed upon us. Those documents have been more about presidential powers than about checks and balances and the rights of the people.
In French Cameroun, just because the constitution or statute says this or that, it does not mean that is what happens in practice. The constitution and statutes are always overridden by purposeful non-observance and “sur haute instruction du chef de l’état.” In that country, even where laws are articulated in a universal manner their application is selectively done. It is therefore a fallacy to think that just because the law in that country says this or that, then it is done or will even be done.
Accepting a federation now and by permission of the colonial oppressor, or a Quebec-like status as the coloniser appears to be floating through some of his hired agents, means accepting French Cameroun suzerainty, subjugation, assimilation, and de-identity project. The colonial oppressor might fool some of the people with baits in the form of promises of a putative
biculturalism and other half-baked evanescent token measures conceded as a pacification strategy, as a favour and as a matter of grace. But it is all too obvious even to the blind that the so-called biculturalism can never be an increasing feature of everyday life ensuring that the people of the Southern Cameroons leverage economic, political and social power, and take up a significant partnership position in every aspect of governance. Accepting a federation would be tantamount to confirming and legitimizing the coloniser’s territorial aggrandisement claim to, and dominion over, the Southern Cameroons.
Accepting any form of federal arrangement with French Cameroun would furthermore be tantamount to killing a second time those of our citizens already assassinated by the colonial oppressor. It will be inflicting further grievous bodily and mental harm to the hundreds of our citizens already maimed or traumatized by French Cameroun terrorization. It will be condemning to death our citizens arbitrarily arrested for espousing federalism and illegally imprisoned under life threatening conditions in that country’s gulag. It will be giving retrospective approval to decades of massive human rights abuse, political abuse, asset stripping and resource plunder and loot by French Cameroun. I very much doubt that with our eyes wide open, we want to take that combustible road which even the blind can see leads to nowhere but to hell.
When one examines the French concept of the state one at once sees where French Cameroun’s congenital aversion for federalism comes from. The French have no concept and no tradition of self-government. French Cameroun likewise has none. One searches in vain in the history of France or French Cameroun for any time when the component peoples of each country ever enjoyed self-government. Communities are treated like eternal infants requiring perpetual control, mothering and paternalistic oversight. The French conception of the state is not founded, and has never been founded, on the concept of self-government or devolution of powers. Power sharing between the centre and the periphery is an anathema to the French concept of state governance.
For the French, political power must belong exclusively to the centre, and hence an authoritarian unitary state. Attempts in revolutionary France by the people of the French province of Gironde in 1793 to secure local self-government from the centre in Paris flopped as the Jacobins, members of a republic movement who had seized power in Paris at the time, crushed those
people and guillotined in a batch all the Gironde leaders, including one of its female leaders Madame Roland. Since then, the French instinctively betray a pathological aversion for decentralization or devolution of power to sub-national entities. Sustained efforts by the people of Corsica, who are only French because Italy handed Corsica over to France a year before Napoleon Bonaparte was born, to be allowed a measure of self-government were stoutly rejected by Paris and only recognised in the context of the European Union constitutional framework on local autonomy. The Union des Populations du Cameroun (UPC) political party in French Cameroun had hoped to come to power in that country and institute in it the liberal, democratic, and centre-periphery power-sharing governance system obtaining in the Southern Cameroons. Leaders of the UPC and thousands of French Cameroun refugees who had taken refuge in the Southern Cameroons experienced that system during their sojourn in the Southern Cameroons. The French killed that dream.
In France, it is still the Jacobin or unitary conception of the state that prevails to this day. This is hardly surprising. The French have a historical, cultural, psychological, attitudinal, institutional, and temperamental weakness for leaders who wield total power like Louis XIV, the Jacobins, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Charles de Gaulle. Georges Burdeau, a French political science author, posits that federalism implies a certain spiritual climate, a climate that is more to political culture than to institutions. The French-inherited political culture of French Cameroun strongly militates against federalism.
Lacking in French Cameroun are the following attributes with which historically the Southern Cameroons is imbued: the traditional values of democracy, liberalism, tolerance, accommodation, power-sharing, political pluralism, respect for the constitution and the rule of law, and the spirit of compromise and fair play. French Cameroun reasons, like France does, that if a sub-national entity were to be constitutionally endowed with its own powers and autonomous structures it would use them not just to manage its local affairs but also to constitute within its geographical base a bastion of opposition to policies defined by authorities at the centre. The rulers of French Cameroun cannot conceive of power at the centre yet limited
geographically in its area of jurisdiction. In their warped thinking, federalism is advocated by people who place their ethnic or regional interests above those of la République and this, they reason, leads directly to anarchy. Federalism, they argue, provides a power base to regional political parties, creating a multiplicity of centres of decision-making and thereby leading to anarchy. These are specious arguments. The truth of the matter is that the French mind-set compulsively rejects federalism because it makes the président de la république less of a god, less of a l’homme fort, by cutting down on his enormous powers and denying him access to the state treasury as his private funds. Moreover, the dislike of federalism springs from an intellectual inability to comprehend and manage the concept of unity in diversity and three tiers of government, namely, local, state, and national.
Self-determination grounded in claim to territory and to status of people
The Southern Cameroons self-determination claim has to be understood and evaluated with reference to the status of people and to claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons. The inhabitants, the belongers, of the Southern Cameroons are a distinct people with a sound claim to the status of people. They are recognised as such under international law. They had a separate and distinct colonial overlord and administration as a United Nations Trust Territory. They have a sound historic claim to self- government and self-rule which they enjoyed from 1954 to 1972. Since they exercised the right to enter into political association with a foreign country, French Cameroun, they are equally entitled, by parity of reasoning, to exercise the right to exit from that connection. A right to enter necessarily implies a right to exit. The exercise of that right is not a case of secession (though even if it were it would not offend against international law) as has tended to be presented by some simplistic minds and the purveyors of the colonial oppressor’s colonial agenda. It is rather a case of exit or separation from a shot-gun putative marriage.
The people of the Southern Cameroons have a solid claim to the status of people under international law. They also have a sound claim to territory. The territory they claim is well-defined and attested by international boundary treaties. It begins at the Atlantic coast in the Gulf of Guinea, with a territorial sea consistent with the 1982 Convention on the Law of the Sea. It has about 200 km of coastline and stretches approximately 550 kilometres inland. It is sandwiched between Nigeria to
the west and French Cameroun to the east. Its frontiers with French Cameroun are firmly secured by the Milner-Simon Declaration of 10th July 1919 respecting the Frontier between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun, more elaborately defined in 1928 in a joint declaration by the Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria and the Governor of French Cameroun and approved in an Exchange of Notes between the British and French Governments on 9th January 1931 determining the Frontier between British Cameroons and French Cameroun. Likewise, its frontier with Nigeria is secured by the boundary treaty of 11th March 1913 between Great Britain and Germany respecting the Settlement of the Frontier between Nigeria and the Cameroons, and the agreement concerning the Demarcation of the Anglo-German Boundary between Nigeria and the Cameroons from Yola to the Cross River, 12th April 1913. This territorial framework is thus protected under international law, including Article 4 b of the Constitutive Act of the African Union which obligates every African state to respect the boundaries it obtained from colonisation as on the date of attainment of its independence.
The Southern Cameroons territory has a land size of 43 000 sq. km and an estimated population of about 7 million inhabitants. It is well endowed with natural resources. These include oil, gas, iron, gold, diamonds, bauxite, salt, timber, medicinal plants, rare species of fauna and flora, food crops of a wide variety, and agricultural export crops such as rubber, banana, tea, oil palm and coffee. Forming an integral part of the territory of the Southern Cameroons is the much-talked-about Bakassi Peninsula with its large and varied fish stocks and huge oil and gas reserves.
By claiming sovereign statehood the people of the Southern Cameroons are claiming the right to that particular piece of land. That claim is indisputable. It is not subject to any valid contestation. The emergence of the Southern Cameroons as a polity results from the political forces put in motion by the League of Nations in 1922. In that year the League of Nations granted a mandate to Britain over territory in the Gulf of Guinea denoted from thenceforward as the British Cameroons, which territory Britain divided in 1924 into two parts, Northern Cameroons and Southern Cameroons.
Over the years the Southern Cameroons asserted itself as a separate territory, separately governed and hence a subject of self-determination with its boundaries well defined by treaties concluded between Britain and Germany on the one hand regarding the territory’s boundary with Nigeria to the west, and between Britain and France on the other hand regarding the
territory’s boundary with French Cameroun to the east. The people of the Southern Cameroons became entitled to that piece of land as their Homeland. The government which the people of the Southern Cameroons now seek to re-instate is thus defined as a collection of citizens and in terms of land. It is thus on that land that the people of the Southern Cameroons make their claim of integrity of territorial borders, protected under international law. The claim is centred on a piece of land inhabited, possessed and owned by the people since time immemorial, and upon which they claim territorial integrity. It is a claim that seeks to right historical grievances of annexation and colonisation de novo, a claim that seeks to right a past territorial wrong.
The annexation of the Southern Cameroons by French Cameroun being illegitimate the proper remedy is peaceful return of the territory to its rightful owners – the people of the Southern Cameroons. As a colonising state in relation to the Southern Cameroons, French Cameroun cannot possibly create a colourable argument that its sham territorial sovereignty claim over the Southern Cameroons is legitimate under international law, or even under its own municipal law because no law in French Cameroun authorises that country to engage in adventures of territorial aggrandisement.
There is no issue of adverse possession either since the Southern Cameroons has kept its claim to independence alive all this while. Long ago, the Southern Cameroons repudiated by word and deed French Cameroun rule and suzerainty. French Cameroun has no right, whether based on history or consent, to the territory of the Southern Cameroons. That country’s rule and assumption of control over the Southern Cameroons has always been contested because it is heavily tainted with the ‘original sin’ of colonialism. Further, the people of the Southern Cameroons have suffered and continue to suffer gross, massive, widespread and reliably attested human rights atrocities over a period of 56 years. Moreover, the people of the Southern Cameroons have not the slightest prospect of a better life in future under French Cameroun dominion and colonial exploitation.
French Cameroun thus has no colourable claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons. As a colonial power, as an annexationist state, French Cameroun must yield to the claim of the people of the Southern Cameroons over their God-given
territory, the territory of the Southern Cameroons. International law scholars have called attention to the fact that it is a common strategy of an annexationist state to attempt to solidify territorial claim over the annexed territory by moving citizens of the annexationist state into the new territory so as to change the demographics of the territory and cancel out the population of the annexed territory. We are aware of this evident French Cameroun gradual population transfer, resource stealing and land grab policies put in place in tandem with that of assimilation. These colonialist policies seek to achieve population and cultural dilution, economic dependency as well as a change in the demographics of the Southern Cameroons. The territory would thus be taken over by stealth. And that would forever influence elections and referenda to ascertain the true will of our people regarding representation and political options.
Right now, therefore, we have no choice but to assert ourselves as demanded by both the law of nature and the law of nations. Under the law of nature, we have every right to protect ourselves against the grave existential threat we face — the threat of extinction as a country and the threat of destruction as a people. The right of self-preservation is an incidence of every human and is inherent in his very nature individually or in common with others as a group. We have a generational obligation to bequeath to our children and their children’s child a land they can truly call their own and their home. We must bequeath to them a land in which they can proudly live in peace, comfort and prosperity. We must bequeath to them a land in which they can freely move about and express themselves free from fear, want, organised state violence, profiling, labelling and xenophobic hate speech. We must bequeath to them a land in which they can develop, continually improve themselves and their condition of human existence, and give free rein to their talents and abilities.
In terms of international law, our freedom project is to dismantle French Cameroun’s colonial administration and all its structures in the Southern Cameroons. In this connection, independence remains the only viable alternative as the future and definitive political status of the Southern Cameroons. This is fully consistent with international law: the law of self-determination of peoples and the law of entitlement to territory. The claim of the people of the Southern Cameroons to self-determination, to independence and sovereign statehood, is thus grounded both in their status as a people recognised as such under international law and also in their rightful claim to specific territory that is attested and well defined by
internationally grounded boundary treaties. The right of the people of the Southern Cameroons to independence and sovereign statehood is therefore a function of a territorial claim, a function of their existence as a people, and a function of their right to be free from colonial control and rule, whether that colonialism be White or Black.
We should never forget, or treat at levity, the fact that on 11 February 1961 we voted first and foremost for independence. The phraseology of the 1961 plebiscite question underscored the fact that the Southern Cameroons had to vote, and voted, first and foremost to achieve independence. ‘Joining’ was contingent and it meant connected to, but not part of, French Cameroun. Being connected to that country had to be, in terms of the signed and published agreement by both parties, in the form of a constitutive federation of two states, equal in status. The plebiscite questions was “do you wish to achieve independence by joining …” It was not “do you wish to achieve independence upon joining …” Nor was it “do you wish to achieve re-unification by becoming part of French Cameroun” —- whatever the meaning of that so-called ‘reunification’ could possibly be.
UN General Assembly Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 endorsed the Independence vote. It took note of the still-to-be finalised preference for political connection, but not merger, with French Cameroun rather than with Nigeria. Significantly, French Cameroun voted against independence for the Southern Cameroons and even against political association with the Southern Cameroons. After casting its negative vote at the United Nations, French Cameroun simply proceeded to annex the Southern Cameroons in September 1961 even though it had earlier assured the UN that it is not an annexationist state and would not annex the Southern Cameroons. It imposed armed occupation and colonial rule in October 1961 following the concomitant termination of trusteeship and departure of the British. Since then, French Cameroun has attempted to procure its territorial aggrandisement and colonial project in two primary ways. The first way is through a long and sustained
campaign of armed terrorisation of the people in a hopeless effort to get them to submit to colonial subjugation. The second way is through the use of fraud, mendacity, corruption, deceit, and bribing of Quislings willing to betray their Homeland even for just 30 pieces of devalued French colonial African francs.
French Cameroun’s territorial claim to the Southern Cameroons is sometimes presented as based on a historical common German connection. But that ephemeral German connection lasted less than 25 years, compared with 37 years of Nigerian connection and 88 years of British connection. The claim is nothing but a territorial aggrandisement claim which has no basis in international law. Similar claims founded on history have consistently been rejected by the International Court of Justice and the international community: Southwest Africa case, Western Sahara case, East Timor case, Cameroun v Nigeria (ruling on the point of the appurtenance of the Bakassi Peninsula), Eritrea v Ethiopia, Iraq v Kuwait.
Just because the Southern Cameroons had with French Cameroun some brief history together under German rule does not mean both countries have to be together. Nor does it mean both have a future together. The Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun are not going in the same direction. They cannot therefore walk together. Two cannot walk together unless they are agreed and are going in the same direction. The destiny, liberty and happiness of the people of the Southern Cameroons is far greater than the tragic history with toxic French Cameroun. It is now time to delete and terminate that tragic country from our collective memory computer. For, the expiry date of our colonial oppression is at hand.
The struggle for independence against colonial rule and occupation by French Cameroun is primarily about our right as a people to inhabit and control our land, and to control our lives with full rights and dignity. It is about the need for our space and freedom. Where people do not share historical memories of the past, it is difficult for them to weave together a common future which is respected, cherished and adhered to by all. People cannot chart a common future without a common understanding of the past with themselves or their own people in it. Having moved into the precincts of power in Buea, French Cameroun has always been dismissive of our legitimate yearning for freedom and statehood. Our history and specificity remain in the periphery of political life in French Cameroun. We have a distinct identity which French Cameroun is bent on wiping out and throwing us in a confusing state of being and belonging. A well-known strategy that it continues to rely heavily on
for this purpose is its geographical, political, ethnic and economic divide-and-rule policy. Another ploy is its continuing attempt to present the history of the Southern Cameroons as having commenced with what it deceptively and meaninglessly denotes as so-called ‘reunification’ with French Cameroun.
French Cameroun, a ramshackle regime of highly personal rule, to borrow the apt language of informed scholarship, is severely deficient in institutional authority and organizational capacity. The independence and survival of that country is not, as in the case of other states, contingent on its credibility as an authoritative and capable political structure. Its independence, which has been described as flag independence or ‘l’indépendance fictive’ as the French themselves concede, is guaranteed by the world community of states, especially as embodied in the United Nations. That country exists primarily by means of international legitimacy. Its sovereignty derives far more from right than from fact. It uses its external state sovereignty to impose colonial rule upon the people of the Southern Cameroons. We must demolish that colonial dispensation as a matter of duty and right.
Let me end by repeating familiar wisdom of the sages. All truth passes through three stages: ridicule, opposition, and acceptance as self-evident. The truth of our redemption was first ridiculed as a so-called secessionist bid. It is now opposed by the colonial oppressor and his lap dogs as ‘extremist’, a term that is an abuse of language in this context. Tomorrow it will be accepted as self-evident and inevitable.
To your generation, I echo this familiar Franz Fanon admonition. Each generation, out of its own obscurity must be able to discover its own mission, fulfil it or betray it. Now, in the face of the Herculean task confronting us, I would say it is better to die for a living idea which is freedom, than to live for a dead idea which is federation.