By Valentine Gana
As indigenes of the Southern Cameroons (Anglophones) awake to a reality of how much bloodshed, anguish, repression, deceit and inhumanity the regime in Yaounde is willing to visit on them towards fastening their chains of bondage that have persisted for 55 years, they must lean in the wisdom of this quote by Frederick Douglas;
“Power concedes nothing, without a demand. It never did, and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blow, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”
The current bloodletting, repression, protests and resistance by the Anglophones of Cameroon is due to a planned, systemic, intended, and deliberate genocide that is being visited on them by the Regime of Paul Biya (1982 to present), following in the footsteps of the Ahidjo regime (1961 to 1982). The Southern Cameroons, a U.N. Trust territory under Britain, voted in a United Nations organized plebiscite on February 11th, 1961 to join the Republic of Cameroon towards forming the Federal Republic of Cameroon based on agreed articles to be incorporated in the Federal Constitution of the country after a Treaty of Union. The Treaty of Union, mandated by the United Nations resolutions 1352 and 1608 (XV) of April 21st 1961 was to be crafted by the two entities following the plebiscite vote and ratified by the respective parliaments of the Southern Cameroons (West Cameroon) and of the Republic of Cameroon (East Cameroon). These agreed upon “Treaty of Union” as required by U.N. Resolution 1608 were never voted upon by the respective parliaments, nor signed by the existing heads of governments of the respective states (John Ngu Foncha for West Cameroon and Amahdou Ahidjo for East Cameroon).
In the stead of these legal frameworks, Ahidjo, emanating from the larger of the two entities, moved in with force on October 1, 1961 to annex the Southern Cameroons in violation of the aforementioned U.N. Resolutions. This violation of U.N. mandates by Ahidjo led to the ultimate overthrow of Southern Cameroons duly elected Prime Minister, Augustine Ngom Bobe Jua in 1968. In replacing Bobe Jua with ST. Muna, Ahidjo speeded up the colonization of the Southern Cameroons. In Albert Mukong’s “Prisoner without a crime” we can find both details of attempts by Southern Cameroonians to resist Ahidjo’s machinations and brutal repressions that befell them. This marginalization and cancerous repression of the Anglophones in Cameroon is currently being manifested in teachers from the French section of the country (East Cameroon) being sent to teach students of the English speaking Provinces (West Cameroon), in the French language, and court magistrates from the French system, versed in civil law being sent to rule over courts in the English speaking provinces who practice common law. Furthermore, these magistrates do not speak English, the language of the lawyers and litigants of the English speaking provinces, nor are they studied in, or procedurally versed with the common law system.
Among the other compounding issues is that all the governors, divisional officers (administrative officers), police and military heads in the English speaking provinces (Southern Cameroons) are conversant only in the French language, and are from the French speaking provinces of the country. With this historical backdrop, and in light of the ongoing strife in Cameroon, I will advance twelve reasons why Cameroon’s current President does not want to rescind his colonial purpose and grant the requested Federation to the country; its only legal framework per international law backed by United Resolutions, pending a Treaty of Union. While I analyze these points, the Southern Cameroonians must remember that as they fight for their freedom, God promises them a safe landing, not a calm passage.
1.) Mr. Biya and his core coterie are annexationist and assimilationist. This is very transparent in that Biya, less than two years in power signed bill No. 84-001 of 4/2/1984, unilaterally changing the name of the country from United Republic of Cameroon to Republic of Cameroon. Mr. Biya who studied law, is mindful of the clause in the 1961 plebiscite agreements stating that “Nothing should be done by any party to the agreements to change the Federal character of Cameroon”. Mr. Biya also knows that the Southern Cameroons delegation to the Foumban conference (July 21st to 23rd 1961) clearly rejected and stroke off the word “Indivisible” as a reference to the planned, though ultimately upended Constitution/Treaty of Union. He very well knew that the signing of bill No. 84-001 of 4/2/1984 was to;
- Continue the attempt to legitimize the 1961 plebiscite, a mandate that could only be legalized by a Treaty of Union and ratified by the parliament of the two entities.
- Enhance the fraudulent, coerced and unconstitutional referendum of 1972, giving rise to the illegitimate United Republic of Cameroon, from the Federal Republic of Cameroon.
- Wipe out any historical footprint of a Federal Cameroon.
- Eviscerate the cultural, political, social and historical identity of the Southern Cameroons (Anglophones), a contravention of the 1946 United Nations resolution on genocide which Cameroon is a signatory.
- Maintain and contain the Southern Cameroonians as a forcefully annexed, enslaved and marginalized people in “La Republique du Cameroon”.
2.) The 1996 Constitution negotiated on the heels of a 1992 presidential election which Biya stole (after it was won by the SDF’s John Fru Ndi (an Anglophone), resulted to a castrated and bastardized form of a Federation called decentralization. If after 20 years Biya cannot institute this decentralization, it is farfetched that he will be reasonable, with good faith, of purposeful intent, law abiding and accommodating enough to grant a Federation.
3.) Oil rich Bakassi and Ndian Division all in the Southern Cameroons are indispensable to the viability of La Republique du Cameroon, or so they think. The lazy and inept coterie around Biya are used to an excessively corrupt, amoral, luxurious and unearned lifestyle which will be gone with better resource oversight within a Federal structure. Add state taxes from oil exploration being paid to the South West Province, municipality taxes being paid to Limbe (the rightful jurisdiction) instead of Douala and you realize that it is impossible for Biya and most of La Republique to swallow the loss of these ill-gotten gains.
4.) Biya is a pathetic combination of intelligence, laziness and weakness. He is an intelligent man, but equally very lazy. As a certified and an experienced Project Manager, I as well as any administrator is aware that “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”. One of the basic requisites of administration or management is meeting with your team. It is openly known in Cameroon that Mr. Biya goes for over a year at times without convening a meeting of his cabinet. With such qualities, Biya is as uncompetitive as they come, and thus can neither be a messenger, nor an initiator of value added development. The Anglophones (Southern Cameroonians) despite their marginalization have made great strides in Cameroon, specifically in the private sector. Bamenda that was an abandoned ghost town in the nineties is now the 3rd largest city in Cameroon. In a Federation, his lackeys (partly because they’ve been trained to loot state resources) will neither be able to compete, nor retain the loot that is unparalleled of any people in Cameroon’s history. Their uncircumcised option is to hang onto power in an illegitimate unitary state where they can leach on everything and everyone else forever.
5.) Mr. Biya just doesn’t care. Due to the fact that Biya is lazy and weak, though intelligent, it sums up to him being pregnant with an excessive dose of apathy. Prior to Biya, the now defunct Cameroon Airlines had weekly flights to Baffousam, Tiko, Bali, Ngoundere, between Yaounde and Douala, a dreaded National Team, corruption way below any threshold level, etc. Cameroon has tumbled several decades backwards on every comparable indices; of course, except in corruption. Despite these, Mr. Biya is primarily consumed with spending months vacationing in Europe. I will not put a dime that Biya has an inkling of a Mandela in him to put Cameroon on the right track by way of a Federation. Ain’t gonna happen!
6.) The Unitary State (with the Anglophones firmly hemmed in, suppressed and assimilated) is Biya’s wannabe signature achievement. Asking him to undo it peacefully is like asking Obama to undo Obamacare, Dick Cheney to undo the Patriot Act, or Mandela to undo the Freedom Charter. My apologies for mentioning Mandela, Obama and Biya in the same sentence. In short, it will be like asking a Zebra to un-stripe itself. No way Hozey!
7.) The man is Godless and very insecure. Biya’s best use of state power is to coerce, subdue, and neutralize anything that threatens his convenience and stay in power. Ask Fon Forgum Gorji Dinka who was tried for treason, acquitted by Biya’s own military tribunal and re-arrested until he escaped to Nigeria and ultimately to England. The agony that was visited on Gorji Dinka was simply because he wrote suggestions for reforms in Cameroon contained in “The New Social Order”, “Diffuse the Time Bomb” and “Letter to the Cameroon E’tat Major” in the mid-eighties. As a secondary school student of Cameroon Protestant College, Bali, Cameroon, I and a host of others were arrested by Biya’s gendarmes and detained for a month in the fall of 1985 for protesting for the release of Gorji Dinka and against attempts to thwart the Anglophone Education system. Ask Albert Mukong, Yondo Black, Nfor Ngala Nfor. Ask Titus Edzoa, Biya’s own friend, medical doctor and confidant who aspired to one day be President of Cameroon, and ended up spending 17 years in jail as a consequence. Ask Marafa, Inoni, Mebara, Fodjindam all former ministers of his, and the host of the other G11 members in jail and I wouldn’t have to explain. Without God’s conviction in a leader’s heart, possessions and un-Godly exercise of power become the leaders only refuge.
8. Biya’s misperception of military power. Biya fails to see the limits of military power in keeping Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Republic of Macedonia, and Montenegro hemmed to Yugoslavia, South Sudan hemmed to the North, or Eritrea hemmed to Ethiopia. The Southern Cameroons has a stronger case than the mentioned breakaway states, because we were a self-governing entity backed by U.N. Resolutions 224, 1282 (X111), 1350 (XIV), 1352 (XIV) 1608 (XV), recognized by the United Nations from 1953 to 1961. Often overlooked is the fact that the United Nations did vote for the Independence of the Southern Cameroons on April 21st 1961. With Mr. Biya’s private army (BIR) firmly trained, he thinks their military readiness can be the ultimate and only answer to the Southern Cameroons issue, if they rise up. To him, “might makes right”. Little does he know that the Southern Cameroons a.k.a Ambazonia has not risen yet. Mr. Biya’s repressive army thinks that going to Bamenda, Buea, Kumba, Kumbo and shooting unarmed civilians (crimes which can and will be prosecuted under the ICC statutes) is being in battle. If they push the Southern Cameroons to fight for its freedom, as Barrister Nkongho Agbor Balla puts it, “they will be asking for a Federation and it will no longer be on the table”.
9.) France. I need not explain. However, that is France’s problem with La Republic and not Ambazonia’s problem. La Republic du Cameroun signed enslaving treaties with France in 1958 when the Southern Cameroons was a democratic self-governing entity. Those agreements were in contravention of the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 1514 – (XIV) of 14 December, 1960 mandating the de-colonization of all territories, were unbeknownst to the Southern Cameroons and have no legal locus with the Southern Cameroons, a.k.a Ambazonia. I personally do not believe France can unilaterally stop the Southern Cameroons from gaining its independence. More often than not, Africans make their former colonial powers, convenient scapegoats for their inability to employ the necessary means to liberate and emancipate themselves politically and economically from the yoke of neo-colonialism.
10.) The General Malaise of East Cameroonians in accepting dictatorship unto themselves and injustice against indigenes of the Southern Cameroons. It is evident that so long as those West of the Mungo are being marginalized, brutalized and suppressed, the francophone public will be in accord with it, so long as they are the beneficiaries of the regime’s leftovers. How else would you explain populist democratic movements in Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, etc. (all Francophone countries), but the opposition to Biya’s brutal dictatorship from the Francophone public in Cameroon is a mere whimper. Apart from a few isolated cases, their passive collaboration with Ahidjo, and now Biya in an obstinate refusal to adhere with the 1961 Plebiscite agreements has been consistent.
11.) Biya and other Narrow Minded Francophones Think Federation is a Pretext for Secession by the Anglophones. Why wouldn’t the Biya regime think that when there has been systemic discrimination, dehumanization, marginalization of Anglophone Cameroon? When Southern Cameroonians (Anglophones) are 25% of the population and out of 34 Ministers of Government, only 2 are Anglophones, out of 34 Secretary Generals, only two are Anglophones, out of 64 Senior Divisional Officers, only 6 are Anglophones, out of 280 Divisional Officers, only 12 are Anglophones, out of 26 Army Generals, only 1 (who saved Biya’s life in 1984) is an Anglophone, out of 32 Director Generals, zero is an Anglophone, out of 34 Ambassadors, only 3 are Anglophones, out of 8000 police recruited, only 60 are Anglophones, etc. Why wouldn’t Biya think that when the roads and general infrastructure in the Southern Cameroons are in utter dis-repair, when 70% of the revenues are derived from the Southern Cameroons territory (North West and South West Provinces), but they get only 5.4 percent from the national budget? When industries located in the Southern Cameroons are forced to pay city council taxes in cities located in Francophone Cameroon? Need I continue? Really, why wouldn’t Biya think that when Anglophones are shot and killed, brutalized, raped, jailed with no due process, have their properties destroyed just for expressing their civil rights for peaceful protests. When they are turned into “Yes-Men and Women” in a nation in which they are repeatedly treated as “Les enemies dans la mason” (the enemies in the house)? These feeble minds in power fail to understand that doing the right and just thing towards any people in a nation is a force multiplier towards national unity, economic development, patriotism, and all the relevant elements towards building a competitive nation in this 21st century.
12.) Biya is too ordinary a human to do anything that is bigger than who he is. To transform the dysfunctional, compass-less, uninspiring and under-achieving nation called Cameroon into a prosperous Federation with a breathing constitution, robust branches of government, active civic society as well as a State and Federal system that has some semblance to the United States, the Federation of Germany or Nigeria, you need a wise, inspiring and transformative leader. It has been historically proven that a vast majority of humans will become wise only when they have exhausted all other options. This is more so in the case of injustice, when you are the beneficiary of the unjust status quo. Paul Biya has not demonstrated that kind of transformative leadership, nor that indispensable wisdom. His trademark acts of brutal repression, bribery, coercion, lawlessness and corrupt coterie will hamper him from becoming wise; even when these options are exhausted. It is foolish for anyone to expect him to be any different.
That is why I tip my hat off to and sincerely applaud the steps by the Consortium headed by the lawyers and the teachers in the North West and South West Provinces (within the Southern Cameroons) to insist on negotiations for a Federation. I also applaud the gallant efforts by SCAPO, SCNC, SCYL, AMBAZONIA, the SDF and others. I support the Consortium to peacefully press on and insist on its demands to the ultimate end. However, due to the above listed twelve reasons and with fervent strength, I believe that MoRISC’S strategy and foreseeable future actions articulated by Boh Herbert on www.morisc.org towards the restoration of the Southern Cameroons is our unavoidable, unrelenting and indispensable course of action; It is our cross, our destiny and our rendezvous with history. It is only in carrying this cross to the Calvary of our freedom that we will resurrect our independence. They wise say, “If you don’t know where you are going, you are likely to end somewhere else”. To paraphrase Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, “The ultimate measure of a people is not where they stand in moments of comfort and convenience, but where they stand at times of challenge, hardship and controversy”. It is only by empowering this umbrella and unified leadership of the Southern Cameroons struggle, and actively participating towards its goals, that the light of liberation at the tunnels end of this struggle will be clearly visible. Indeed, as Hon Joseph Wirba adamantly quotes the American torchbearer Thomas Jefferson, “When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty”.
Note: There is one situation is which Biya, or any other Francophone leader will grant the Southern Cameroons a Federation with all its rightful elements. However, this is not the rightful forum to discuss that situation or strategy.
Author, Valentine A. Gana
University of Missouri, Kansas City School of Law