No other territory in history has been so exploited and left to gnash its teeth in psychological and physical agony as Southern Cameroons following its recolonization by French Cameroun.
By Ekinneh Agbaw-Ebai*
From 1953, Southern Cameroons was, to all intents and purposes, a country of its own, with almost all the appurtenances of a nation state, including self-governance, its own police force, parliament, and a senate known as the House of Chiefs. Despite the one, united and indivisible Cameroon hoax, the fact is that French Cameroun was a different country which gained independence from France on January 1, 1960 (as Republic of Cameroun) with international borders that did not include Southern Cameroons; which gained independence after a UN referendum on February 11, 1961. Even after the independent Southern Cameroons state joined French Cameroun in a two-state federation to form the Federal Republic of Cameroon on October 1, 1961, no Union Treaty was registered with the UN General Assembly secretariat as mandated by Articles 102 and 103 of the UN Charter. Over the past 56 years, the international community has looked the other way while Southern Cameroonians have been denied their independence. Southern Cameroonians have been emasculated to concur in the despoliation of their land by their passive indifference and cold complicity in the face of reckless dissipation of their commonwealth by French Cameroun. For a people that already experienced such high level of self-government under colonial rule, this anomaly makes independence worse than colonialization.
The occupation, annexation and colonial rule of Southern Cameroons by French Cameroun violates Article 4(b) of the African Union Constitutive act. It also violates UN resolutions against colonialism and external domination of other people; and it contravenes Articles 19-24 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Right; and other principles of International Law. In short, it is recolonization, pure and simple. The unilateral abrogation of the two-state Federation by French Cameroun under the subterfuge of the May 20, 1972 referendum was a constitutional coup d’état, which violated Art 47 of the Federal Constitution. The plebiscite vote never made Cameroon one, united and indivisible; nor was it intended to. Even were Southern Cameroons to be an integral part of French Cameroun, any such referendum on abolishing the federation ought to have been an issue solely for the people of Southern Cameroons to decide, since they were the ones who voted to join French Cameroun, in the first instance.
The two Cameroons were never one, because post-German Kamerun, the two territories remained fundamentally different in terms of political evolution and governance. Southern Cameroons evolved a functional parliamentary democracy, whereas French Cameroun was administered as a French overseas territory, and remained tragically stuck as a French neo-colonial outpost even after independence in 1960. From 1953-1961, Southern Cameroons was a vibrant democracy with an electoral system based on direct adult universal suffrage with single-member constituencies. Elections into the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly featured only indigenous parties like KNC, KPP, CPNC and KNDP, which had broad appeal across the six divisions of Victoria, Kumba, Mamfe, Bamenda, Wum and Nkambe.
Unlike Southern Cameroons, the democratic framework in French Cameroun was aligned to France. French men contested elections in French Cameroun and French Cameroun politicians contested elections into the French National Assembly (Assemble de l’Union Francaise (AUF), and the Conseil de la Republique, the French Senate. British parties never contested elections in Southern Cameroons. The opposite was true in French Cameroun where, French political parties like Rassemblement de Gauches, Mouvement Républicain Populaire (MRP), and Section Française de l'Internationale Ouvrière, (SFIO) dominated electoral contests into the French Cameroun parliament – the Assemblée Representative du Cameroun (ARCAM), later transformed to Assemble Territoriale du Cameroun (ATCAM) in 1952.
Until the UPC was created, political parties in French Cameroun like Jeunesse Camerounaise Francaise (JEUCAFRA), Union des Camerounaise Francaise (UNICAFRA) and Association des Colons du Cameroun (ASOCAM) were administrative parties created to defend French interests and all espoused attachment to “Mother France.” When the UPC led by Mayi Matip was banned in 1955, the parties that contested the December 1956 elections in French Cameroun like Ahidjo’s Union Camerounaise (UC), Andre-Marie Mbida’s Partie de Democrates Camerounaise (DC) and Betote Akwa’s Action Nationale (MANC) were more or less satellite tribal groups. In Southern Cameroons, political parties were tribe neutral, but in French Cameroun, every ethnic group had a party. There was even one to defend the interests of Mollatoes; cross-breeds of Franco-Cameroun heritage led by an elected MP, Frenchman, Léon Foulétier.
In matters of electoral politics, Southern Cameroons was a showroom of political pluralism in its day. Right from the first elections to the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly (SCHA) on October 26, 1953; Simon Enow Ncha, blazed the trail to run as an independent candidate, in Mamfe Division, defeating the two main political party candidates - Martin Forju (KPP) and Chief SA Arrey (KNC). SE Ncha inspired other independent candidates like Solomon Anyeghamoti Ndefru (SAN) Angwafor, now Fon Angwafor III, who defeated DA Nangah (KNDP) and Maximus Chibikom (OK) in the 1961 elections in Upper Ngemba. Ncha also inspired Bernard Tajoh Beja (BTB) Foretia, who ran as an independent and lost the 1961 elections in Mamfe East to the formidable KNDP baron PM Kemcha, whom he eventually replaced in the 1968 Muna government. In Southern Cameroons, nomination of candidates was by two voters in the candidate’s electoral district; people who knew the candidates at the grassroots. Fon Angwafor III was nominated by GP Tuma, a mechanic and David Che, a teacher.
Against this background could be appreciated the fact that in French Cameroun, French men contested elections into French Cameroun Assembly within a dual electoral college system, comprising a French college and a College of indigenes. In the March 1952 elections into ATCAM, the French College elected Emile Victor Albert, Henri Chamaulte, André Duret, PM Chalot, André-Albert Gerberon, André Duru, Antoine Giard, Arthur-Louise Gouelle, Jean Grassard, Joseph Guyard, Henri Paul Journiac, Marcel Lagarde, Pierre Laouilheau, Alfred Mandon, Brieuc Penanhot, Jean-Marie Poileux, Mohamed Koudjali and Pierre Rocaglea. Form the College of indigenes came: Louis-Paul Aujoulat, Ninine Jules, Ahmadou Ahidjo, Jean Akassou, Charles Assale, Abega Martin Atangana, André-Marie Mbida, Paul Soppo Priso, Gaston Medou, André Fouda Omgba, Jean Ekwabi Ewane, Mathias Djoumessi, Dissake Hans, Babale Oumarou, Njine Michel, Arouna Njoya, Seidou Njimoulouh Njoya, Abbe Joseph Antoine Melone, Paul Francois Martin, Jean-Baptiste Mabaya, Etonde Guillaume, Charles Mbakop, Rene Blaise Mindjo, Lara Zoua, Youssouf Marouf, Ahmadou Mahonde, Marcel Marigoh Mboua, Kotouo Pierre, Ousmanou Hamidou, Iyawa Adamou, Chedjou Joseph and Alphonse Woungly-Massaga.
It is interesting to note that French citizens like Louis-Paul Aujoulat contested elections in the college of indigenes. In the view of the average Southern Cameroonian, the presence of Frenchmen in the French Cameroun parliament was a political monstrosity that advertised to the whole world a certain definition of democracy that diminishes the ideal and mocks the primacy of the indigenous people in the process. This anomaly raises fundamental questions about the average Francophone’s definition and perception of public office and explains why they are so lacking in the vital attributes of democratic engagement. In Southern Cameroons, expatriate involvement in the political process was limited to logistics. For example, EL Cox and AJ Cordy served as Chief Electoral Officers in the 1957 and 1959 elections, while AB Westmacott, Resident for Special Duties in Bamenda demarcated the constituencies. In French Cameroun, the colonial administrators picked winners and losers and elections were run by the Interior Minister designated by France. The standing view is that, he who controls the electoral machinery (pays organisateur) determines the outcome. It is a sad commentary on the character of French Cameroun politics and politicians that rigging and other electoral malpractices are deeply embedded in their political culture.
It is a matter for regret, indeed shame that Francophones continue to hee-haw the one, united and indivisible Cameroon fallacy, even as the bonds that bind the two Cameroons appear tenuous, if not snapping. A review of UN General Assembly resolutions and other international legal principles regarding the right to self-determination shows incontrovertibly that Southern Cameroons became independent in 1961, but has since been recolonized and occupied by French Cameroun. The ongoing struggle to restore Southern Cameroons independence is therefore consistent with International Law, including the right to self-determination. The right to separate from French Cameroun is also laid out under Principles VII and VIII of UN General Assembly Resolution 1541 of December 15, 1960. Besides, the obligation imposed by the UN that Southern Cameroons should obtain “independence by joining” either Nigeria or Cameroon violated Article 76(b) of the UN Charter, and UNGA Resolution 1541; both of which reaffirm independence as the inherent and inalienable right of all colonies and Trust Territories.
It all stands to reason that Cameroon was never one, united and indivisible. French Cameroun, in violation of international law, has supplanted the 1961 federation of two equal nations with annexation of Southern Cameroons. The declaration of war on Anglophones removes any pretence that Biya views Southern Cameroons as a conquered and captured people. It is indeed a pity yet again that Biya misread public opinion and chose to stand on the wrong side of history. It is evident the president still doesn’t realize that force has never triumphed over ideology in all of history. A situation where the president declares war against a section of the country, and calls them terrorists, cannot be in the interest of national unity. Such executive lawlessness is a sad manifestation of the rule of force over the rule of law. The audacity of this impunity was a reminder to Southern Cameroonians, if any was needed, that the music has changed to a war song; all Anglophone terrorists must now sing and dance the new song.