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Analysis: SCAPO As Political Party-The Ndangam Phenomenon 

By Peterkins Manyong

Last Saturday, October 31, Southern Cameroonians were taken aback by a much unexpected development – the announcement that the Southern Cameroons People’s Organisation, SCAPO, had been transformed into a political party.

The announcement, which took place during a press conference in Big Mankon, Bamenda, came from Augustine Feh Ndangam, SCAPO Vice Chairman. It sparked an electrifying controversy. SCAPO Scribe, Martin Fon Yembe, dissociated himself from the decision. Ndangam himself was disconcerted, especially following the barrage of questions from the half a dozen journalists present. Hitler Mbinglo, SCNC Northern Zone Chairman, appeared at a loss. Dependable reports insinuate that Dr. Kevin Gwang Ngumne, SCAPO’s National Chairman, taking treatment in a London hospital, has been devastated by the decision.

Many see Ndangam’s conduct as a betrayal, coming especially at a time the air is filled with stories that government had kept aside several billions of FCFA to tantalize Southern Cameroonians and accentuate the transformation of liberation movements into political parties. Ndangam denied being influenced by the supposed financial bait when contacted by journalists.

It must be admitted that Ndangam’s decision is not without logic of its own. He told this analyst that following the law on the legalisation of political parties, it would be something next to a miracle if SCAPO is permitted to function with its present name and objectives. Why the decision transforming the movement into a party, knowing this? The logic is, of course, this very difficulty. Ndangam and supporters say they want the world to know that SCAPO respected the recommendations of the African Commission for Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR. If La Republique’s laws hinder the registration process, then the moral debt lies with her.

Ndanga And Secession

What Ndangam did last October 31 was no embarrassment to those who have followed his political history. He held the position of SCNC National Chairman under Henry Fossung. He later contested and won SDF primaries elections to contest the 1997 parliamentary elections. His argument was that parliament would give him the forum to argue the Southern Cameroons case. He would have won the elections, given that Mezam where he hails from was and remains SDF’s fief. The Biya Regime rejected his candidacy.

It was generally believed that Ndangam’s Southern Cameroonian activism was the reason for the decision until Ndangam dragged his tribesman, Prince Winston Fonyonga to the Mezam High Court, accusing him of masterminding the rejection. Justice Nyo Wakai, an SDF founding father, held brief for Ndangam, while Anthony Amazee defended Fonyonga.

Among other charges, Prince Fonyonga was accused of having caused the publication of defamatory articles in newspapers. The defendant was also accused of writing letters to the Administration stigmatising Ndangam with secessionist activities. In the course of the trial, something really scandalous happened. Plainclothes men stormed the court premises at the end of the secession, picked Ndangam and detained him at BMM, Up Station Bamenda. He spent close to a month there.

Ndangam resumed his activism after the case which ended in favour of the defendant.
In 2004, he was again in the eye of the storm when The Herald Publisher, Boniface Forbin, decided to contest the Presidential election of that year. Forbin wanted to contest as the Anglophone candidate and understanding the electoral law very well, decided to register his party as the Justice and Development Party, JDP, instead of Anglophone Development Party. JDP was authorised to function based on the logic that it would fight for all oppressed minorities, not just Anglophones. Ndangam provoked scathing criticisms when he accepted to be Forbin’s chief campaign manager in the Northwest .

The results of the Presidential elections forcefully brought back Forbin the stark reality that the person who knows the game of boxing well is the man in the ring and not the vigilant spectator. Forbin who had performed the school master’s role for Cameroon politicians, was given the technical knockout during his first encounter in the ring. In plain language, he scored less that one percent in the election. Ndangam regained public affection only when SCAPO and the SCNC took the Southern Cameroons case to Banjul.

From the above account, it can be seen that Ndangam has never stood for secession.
To conclude that Ndangam declared SCAPO a political party with himself as Chairman just because he has been offered money is as simplistic as it is presumptuous. Ndangam is committed to the wellbeing of Anglophones.

There is no doubt about that. But he does not think La Republique can pack bag-and-baggage out of Southern Cameroons as easily as people think. His Organisation took the Biya Regime to the ACHPR, a human rights court, because he sees the Anglophone problem in Cameroon as a human rights issue. Those who expected the ACHPR to declare independence for Southern Cameroons missed the issue altogether. Even when SCAPO championed the case against La Republique in the Nigerian High Court in 1999, the idea was that the Obasanjo Government should table the Southern Cameroons case at The Hague and call the Biya Regime to order. Nigeria never did. 

But the fact that the Abuja High Court ruled in favour of Southern Cameroons was a moral booster. It was this victory that encouraged motivated SCAPO and SCNC to file Communication 266/2003 in Banjul. Ndangam believes in a methodical approach to everything. "SCAPO has only transformed itself into a political party. It has not and can’t be registered as one" he told The Post, firmly.

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