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My Take on Professor C Anyangwe’s Presentation “ROOT CAUSES OF THE ONGOING WAR IMPOSED ON AMBAZONIA BY FRENCH CAMEROUN”

I want to start by appreciating the time and effort you have put into this write-up dated 18 August 2018. Your title talks about ‘root causes’ which got me interested as I have been looking forward to getting into the heart of the problem and see exactly it started. The use of the words ‘root causes’ are also captivating as they have been bandied around quite a bit since this current phase of the Anglophone struggle started.

Professor Carlson Anyangwe

Professor Carlson Anyangwe

The first difficulty I have is that the very first sentence of your introduction presents ‘root causes’ as ‘remote causes’.  That, unfortunately, means you started on the wrong foot. Root Causes according to the Collins Dictionary are “the fundamental reason for the occurrence of a problem”, whereas remote causes are those that are somehow obscure. From the lexicon meaning of the two words, there is no way they can be synonymous. Also, within legal parlance, remote causes are often considered to be speculative rather than direct, consequently are not given the weighting that direct, or root causes have. However, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater, I will treat your causes both as root and remote. I will take the definition of remote in this context to mean “far in the past” – hence remote will be about distance in memory.

Your first cause is the “Non-decolonization of the Southern British Cameroons”. I would naturally have ignored your usage of the name ‘Southern British Cameroons’ but given that you attached a lot of importance on name in a part of your write-up, let me just clear this up. There NEVER was any territory called ‘Southern British Cameroons’ or ‘British Southern Cameroons’, as some call it. It has always been officially, either British Cameroons (which included Northern Cameroons and Southern Cameroons) or simply Southern Cameroons when reference was being made to our territory. If we must pay attention to issues of nomenclature, it is essential that we also get the name of our territory correct.

On the political and legal issues that you raise, I will deal with a few. 

You term the phrasing of the plebiscite questions as ‘dubious’. That may be the case, but what you fail to acknowledge was that in the UNGA Resolution 1350 of 16 October 1959, the questions are recommended, based on discussions that had taken place in the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly. I wish to also point out that UNGA Resolution 1350 of 13 March 1959, had given the Southern Cameroons House of assembly the opportunity to come up with suggestions for the plebiscite questions before the 14th Session of the UNGA. Resolution 1352 makes reference to the difficulties that the Southern Cameroons Premier and leader of the opposition had in coming to an agreement. It is therefore misleading to make it sound as if the plebiscite questions were simply imposed on Southern Cameroonians.

In discussing UNGA Res 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 which endorsed the results of the Plebiscite vote, you left out the fact that the resolution ends by inviting the Plebiscite Administering authority, the Government of Southern Cameroons and The Republic of Cameroon to initiate discussions upon which the agreed outcomes of the plebiscite will be implemented. You therefore conveniently leave out the fact that such discussions took place in Foumban, in July 1961. Whether or not the process and the level of discussions were fair, is entirely another question. However, it is misleading for you to make it appear as if after the passing of Resolution 1608, the content of the Federations was “On 1 September 1961… unilaterally determined and imposed by French Cameroun, resulting in the disguised annexation of the Southern Cameroons.” This statement by you, not only misrepresents the facts and timeline of events, it is craftily designed to bolster your argument of annexation, which has been peddled around for so long.

I agree with you that the manner in which the United Kingdom handled the termination of its Trusteeship is suspect. It, however, does not deviate from the fact that this is a blip in the process of implementing the outcome of a public vote.

On the second part of your first cause, where you claim to be discussing the ‘moral question’, I struggle to see any ethical issues raised. Rather, you spend time, making a case against Federalism. You make the valid point that Ahidjo failed to uphold the agreements that led to a federal structure. However, you completely fail to address the fact that Ahidjo’s breach in 1972, amounts to what can only be classed as a constitutional breach. If we are to treat what occurred between Southern Cameroons and The Republic of Cameroon as a contract, then the remedy for this breach will be to put Southern Cameroons where they would have been, had the breach not occurred. You will agree with me that, should that be done, then we end up again with a Two-State Federation.

However, should we treat the breach as an abuse of power by a public authority, making it an issue of Public Law, then the remedy we can seek, will be by means of a judicial review. There is no legal precedence to suggest that such a Judicial Review will amount to a nullification of the plebiscite results. The only remedy that can be sought is for the 1972 decision to be reversed. That will leave us again within a Two State Federation.

So as much as you try to debunk the quest for a return to Federation, it appears to be the only legal remedy available to Southern Cameroonians. The only other case, which I have not seen you make, is to call for a second referendum/plebiscite, to ask Southern Cameroonians to vote again, as the outcome of such a vote is the only democratic process to overturn the February 11, 1961 vote.

Your second cause, which you class as “French Cameroun’s territorial aggrandisement claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons”, sees you making another bogus claim. You claim that “The territory of the Southern Cameroons has never ever been part of the territories of French Cameroun before, at or after that country’s ‘independence’ from France.“ This is factually and historically incorrect. I will want to draw your attention to the fact that Treaty of Versailles, divided the German territory of Kamerun on June 28, 1919, between France and the United Kingdom, under a League of Nations Mandate, What is important to note is that when the Germans were ousted in 1916, the French, administered the whole occupied territory, until the League of Nations Mandate created the arbitrary division. As such, France naturally got the larger part of the territory, while Southern Cameroons and Northern Cameroons were ceded to the British.

You are drawing on international law to disapprove of expansionism (Colonialism, imperialism) and territorial aggrandisement, yet a sentence before that, you are asking that French Cameroon ought to respect the outcomes of what it inherited from colonialism. I agree with you that at some point, we ought to move past the issues of colonialism and the destruction it wrought on our communities. However, you cannot claim to be denouncing colonial tendencies, while hanging on to the proceeds of colonialism as the basis for your arguments. The principle of contradiction states that a thing cannot be and not be from the same point of view. Either colonialism is bad, and we cannot lay claim to proceeds of colonialism, or it is not entirely bad and we can accept that the Southern Cameroons we are laying claim to today, was a colonial creation.

This brings me to the most important point about the issue of root and remote causes. The foregoing section has indicated that you completely failed to identify the root cause of the current crisis. The fundamental cause of what we have today, rather than being the botched decolonisation process, which you so painstakingly describe, is rather the creation of the colonial divide. But for the colonisation by Germans, our territories would have evolved differently and there is no guarantee that we would have Southern Cameroons. But for the arbitrary division in 1919 between the English and French, there would be no such thing as Southern Cameroons or Anglophones or English-Speaking Cameroons. So, you will agree with me that when we talk about the root causes, we can look no further than colonialism and Western Imperialism.

However, the causes which you have brought up, had you been factual, historically and logically honest, can well fall under the category of remote causes or immediate causes. This would be especially true, given that you rightly point out a lot of barbarism that has been visited on the English-Speaking Cameroonians by both the Ahidjo and Biya regimes, under what you class as your third root cause.

You conclude with a revolutionary message of hope. However, it is mired in deception, as your analysis has been far from being truthful. You claim that the weekend in Washington DC marks the watershed moment in the history of our struggle. However, I am sorry to say that reading through the resolutions, I am yet to see that ground-breaking innovation that came out from the conference. Rather, I see a regurgitation of policies began by the Federalist Consortium.

I kept wondering why it is that our leaders with all the knowledge base among them, seem unable to come up with innovative ways to steer this struggle, beyond relying on archaic strategies such as ghost towns and school-boycott, which regrettably, heaps more misery on our own people than it does to Biya’s regime.

By reading through your presentation, I am beginning to see why. Intellectual dishonesty, the presentation of half-truths and outright lies, are surely not foundations upon which we can build a truly successful revolutionary movement to guarantee our freedom.

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