Nfor: Repression has reinvigorated demand for liberation of Southern Cameroon
Member of Governing Council of the Southern Cameroon and Ambazonia Consultative United Front, and Southern Cameroon National Council, Mr. Nfor Ngala Nfor, presented this account on the crises in Southern Cameroon.
Genesis Of The Crises
The crisis in Southern Cameroon is a political conflict between two former United Nations (UN) trust territories, because many people think Southern Cameroon is the southern part of the country called the Republic of Cameroon.
No, it is a distinct legal and political entity in international law. The crisis has been on for sometime because Southern Cameroon became a victim of botched decolonisation right from 1961 in the sense that, rather than a straight decolonisation to grant independence, Britain brought up the idea of independence by joining, and a plebiscite was imposed. Imposed in the sense that it was not the wish of the people, as absolute majority of the people wanted to have their independence as a distinct entity, unfortunately this was imposed. The idea at that time was to either join Nigeria, or the Republic of Cameroon. Since Republic of Cameroon proposed a federation of two states, equal in status, unlike Nigeria that offered having Southern Cameroon, as one of the four regions; the idea of a federation with two distinct states was a better option, for the people, so they voted for that.
The UN adopted the Resolution 1608 of April 21, 1961 for a tripartite conference to be attended by the government of Britain, Republic of Cameroon and that of Southern Cameroon. But this post-plebiscite conference did not hold and till today, it has not hold. Nonetheless, Britain pulled out and the Republic of Cameroon moved in with its troops and took over.
The foundation of British Southern Cameroon was laid by missionaries of the English Baptist Missionary Society, who in 1858, bought a piece of land from the Bakweri and Isubu chiefs and named it Victoria, in honor of the British monarch, Queen Victoria, and hoisted the British flag. Though their mission was to evangelise and stop slave trade, they needed perfection.
At the Berlin Conference of 1884/5 that partitioned African into European colonies, this English Missionary colony ruled by four successive missionary governors was ceded to Germany. The British flag was lowered in 1887, and the territory became part of German Protectorate of Kamerun.
The Anglo-German Boundary Treaty, between the British Colony of Nigeria and German Kamerun was signed in 1911, and in 1914 the first war broke out. By 1916, with the combined British forces that moved in from Nigeria, under Gen. Charles Dobell, and the French forces from French Equatorial Africa, the German forces were defeated.
In the partition, France took over the original German protectorate, while the British recovered their initial missionary colony, however with some additional territory to the north.
The Anglo-French partition upheld by the Versailles Peace Treaty, and defined in the League of Nations Covenant Art. 22, was reinforced in 1919 and in 1933, the Anglo-French boundary between British Cameroons and French Cameroons was signed.
In 1923 for administrative convenience Britain divided its Mandated territory into British Northern Cameroons and British Southern Cameroons. British Southern Cameroons was administered with the Eastern Region of Nigeria until 1954 when, through self-determination, and a new constitution, its own government was established in Buea.
Three facts are most significant and need be stressed here. First, with the demise of the League of Nations following World War II, the UNO inherited the mandate territories and created trusteeship council to supervise the administration of these territories, under international system for their development to independence, (UN Charter, Art 76)
Secondly, though Southern Cameroons was administered in Nigeria, its status as a UN Trust territory, eloquently defended by the Southern Cameroonians was recognised and respected by Nigeria.
Thirdly, Nigeria’s first leading party, National Council for Nigerians and Cameroons (NCNC) by its name, was a party for two distinct countries, namely, Nigeria, and Cameroons, under the British rule.
The political culture and consciousness of the rule of law with which Nigeria and Southern Cameroons were administered under the British created an enabling environment for striving for self-fulfillment and self-determination, which to their credit, were enshrined in the UN Charter.
Thus, in 1946 Southern Cameroon political leaders, who were very active in the NCNC petitioned the UN, calling for separate administration of the Trust territory of Southern Cameroon under a chief minister responsible directly to the UN System. They saw the policy of administrative convenience adopted by the UK as not serving their best interest. This UK policy made Nigeria the scapegoat for all blames of UK’s failures to discharge its obligations as the trustee power for the proper administration and development of the Trust territory.
This strong will to shape their destiny in 1953, culminated in the declaration of Benevolent Neutrality in Nigerian politics, and withdrawal of all Southern Cameroon members of the regional legislature in Enugu, the federal legislature, Lagos, and the Executive Council. This led to the dissolution of the Eastern House. With the new constitution in place, fresh elections were held, which Dr. E. M. L. Endeley’s party, the KNC won on the platform of a separate government, in respect of the status of the Trust Territory. This gave birth to the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly, and an Executive Council, with Endeley as Premier. Brigadier E. J. Gibbons as the commissioner was the Queens representative, and President of the Executive Council.
Toward Nigeria’s independence, the UK permanent representative at the UN, in 1958, made it clear that Southern Cameroons’ right to the benefits enshrined in Article 76 of the UN Charter would be respected. And during the 1958 Centenary celebration of the founding of Victoria, the Commissioner J. O. Field, in his speech described the Southern Cameroons, with full ministerial form of government, and a bicameral parliament, as an emerging nation of the Commonwealth. Prior to Nigeria’s independence, and in respect to the trusteeship agreement, the UN by a resolution separated the Cameroons from Nigeria.
But by a hand of ill fate, Art. 76 (b) of the UN Charter, and the Trusteeship Agreement were violated. The administering authority, UK, imposed an unholy qualification for the independence of the Southern Cameroons. Arguing that Southern Cameroon was small and economically unviable to stand on its own as a sovereign state, it imposed independence by joining either Nigeria or Republique du Cameroun, with which it had nothing in common since 1916.
It should be recalled that on January 1, 1960, French Cameroun gained independence from France, and on Oct. 1, 1960 Nigeria achieved independence from Britain. In between the two nations was Southern Cameroons, a self-governing UN Trust declared in 1958, as fully ripe for independence. The introduction of condition for separate independence was a diabolic trap, which could only be over turned by a revolution like what happened in Guinea (Conakry), under Sekou Toure, in 1958.
Agitations started right then, but it was always suppressed until 1964, and then 1985, when the real liberation forces emerged, the first being Ambazonia that came up in 1985, by Fon Fongum Gorji-dinka. The issue of this struggle has been on; it has only escalated.
A lot of people have been arrested, many imprisoned, tried by the military tribunal, and a lot more people have gone into exile. This is what has translated to the younger generation joining the struggle, having suffered themselves so much, their education was frustrated, ambition to live a better life frustrated. So, everybody, young and old are now involved in the struggle. Each time the issue is raised, there is no room for dialogue but repression. This is the reason it has now exploded.
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