Many citizens of the self-proclaimed state of Ambazonia would have been taken aback upon reading a short piece purportedly written by Professor Martin Ayim. Ayim in his write-up claims that all documents sent to the United Nations (UN) by Ambazonians since the 1990s have been shredded, without being looked at. Anyim presents this as a discovery that appears to have been a victory achieved by the Ambazonian Interim Government (IG). He therefore quickly goes on to state that the same IG will soon be reaching out to the UN Secretary General.
As this short write-up made its rounds on social media, I read with fascination as many latched on to the optimistic parts, which provided them with a reason to cling to their hope of having a new nation. The truth is that Prof. Anyim, like many erudite persons from Cameroon, West of the Mungo, have for a long time, excelled in the art of deception. This deception paradoxically has been of their own people.
Let us be clear about something, the UN has no legal obligation to a state called Ambazonia. As far as the UN is concerned, Southern Cameroons voted in 1961 in a plebiscite to join The Republic of Cameroon in a Federation. Resolution 1608 of April 1961 confirmed the results of this plebiscite and in the Foumban Conference, the representatives of both Southern Cameroons and the French-speaking Republic of Cameroon agreed on the form of state they wanted. On October 1, 1961, Southern Cameroons became West Cameroon.
The contention today, which has some legal basis, is how West Cameroon disappeared in 1972, as the state mutated to the United Republic of Cameroon and what happened to the supposed ‘unity’, when Paul Biya in 1984 changed the country’s name back to The Republic of Cameroon.
Maybe, taking the issues regarding the disappearance of West Cameroon to the UN for discussion might have given them something to talk about. However approaching the UN with the quest for the recognition of a new state, was a nonstarter.
The UN clearly has NO MANDATE to recognise a new state. It makes this clear when it states that:
The recognition of a new State or Government is an act that only other States and Governments may grant or withhold. It generally implies readiness to assume diplomatic relations. The United Nations is neither a State nor a Government, and therefore does not possess any authority to recognize either a State or a Government. As an organization of independent States, it may admit a new State to its membership or accept the credentials of the representatives of a new Government.
The procedure is briefly as follows:
- The State submits an application to the Secretary-General and a letter formally stating that it accepts the obligations under the Charter.
- The Security Council considers the application. Any recommendation for admission must receive the affirmative votes of 9 of the 15 members of the Council, provided that none of its five permanent members — China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America — have voted against the application.
- If the Council recommends admission, the recommendation is presented to the General Assembly for consideration. A two-thirds majority vote is necessary in the Assembly for admission of a new State.
- Membership becomes effective the date the resolution for admission is adopted.
So contrary to what Prof. Anyim and many claim, the UN did not grant independence to Southern Cameroons in 1961, it merely recognised the outcome of a public vote. In the same manner, the UN has no mandate to grant independence to Ambazonia.
So instead of sending papers and petitions to the UN asking for the recognition of a new state, Ambazonians might think of courting at least 9 out of the 15 members of the Security Council, while making sure that the Five Permanent members are among these.
This, of course, would be a herculean task given that, with the apparent exception of the Russian Federation, the other permanent members have been instrumental in different ways in propping up the Biya Regime’s 36 years in power.
Ambazonians have also been known to tender petitions to the Commonwealth, of which Cameroon is a member. Under the same rules of engagement that the UN has with its members, the Commonwealth is under no obligation to respond to Ambazonia, as it is not one of her members.
It is my view that the best way for English-Speaking Cameroonians to get any form of freedom or respect within their country, is to challenge the system from within. It is obvious that elections will never guarantee this, as the rigging machinery is effectively controlled by Biya. Making the case for the Restoration of the State of West Cameroon, which has a legal argument starting with the violation of the constitution in 1972, remains the best option.
A return to a Two-State Federation within Cameroon will give Anglophones, the autonomy to build the right institutions that can attract diplomatic relations with other states. Such can be the start of any talk of independence. Within a federal structure, the people of the English-speaking regions can effectively talk with the UN or Commonwealth, as sections of a Country that is their member.
In a nutshell, English-Speaking Cameroonians will need to gain some degree of autonomy before they can think of approaching the UN. As an organisation of independent states, the UN deals with independent entities, not help them gain independence.