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Biya’s Skewed Version Of The Historical Foundation Of Cameroon 

By Clovis Atatah

President Paul Biya’s address to the nation on December 31, 2009 highlighted the alarming propensity of Cameroon’s authorities to view the history of the country through a tainted prism in an attempt to undermine the stature of Anglophone Cameroon and the status of Anglophones.
It was a shocking reminder that Cameroon’s leaders have not changed their attitude towards Anglophones even after the damning ruling of the African Human Rights Commission in Banjul recently, which endorsed the contention by separatist groups that Anglophones are marginalised in Cameroon.

"Half a century ago, our country’s destiny changed suddenly. On 1 January 1960, our independence was proclaimed. As from tomorrow, we will therefore be celebrating the 50th anniversary of our accession to sovereignty," the President said in his December 31 speech.
"Our country", definitely means the present Republic of Cameroon, which comprises the former La République du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons. It is a well-known historic fact that the Anglophone part of Cameroon (Southern Cameroons), did not obtain its independence on January 1, 1960.

After making extensive references to the independence of "our country", the President added a stingy one-liner, probably to deflect criticisms from his arrogant psychological annexation of Anglophones. "The fiftieth anniversary of independence in 2010 is a prelude to the fiftieth anniversary of reunification which we will be celebrating in 2011."

Is the President implying that the Anglophone territory unified with French Cameroun without obtaining its own independence? For the purposes of situating the import of the President’s misleading declarations, which an Anglophone CRTV journalist unfortunately announced as the final verdict on the "misgivings" about Cameroon’s chequered history, it is necessary to examine a few facts.

Article 1 (1) of the 1961 Federal Constitution, which President Ahmadou Ahidjo promulgated on September 1, 1961, states: "With effect from the 1st October 1961, the Federal Republic of Cameroon shall be constituted from the territory of the Republic of Cameroon, hereafter to be styled East Cameroon, and the territory of the Southern Cameroons, formerly under British trusteeship, hereafter to be styled West Cameroon."

This Constitution referred to both the then independent Republic of Cameroon and the Southern Cameroons as territories, implying the two component parts of the "Cameroon union" or federation had equal status. The so-called independence of one part of Cameroon can therefore not become the independence of the whole country.

There was no mention of "reunification" in the 1961 Constitution because this would have constituted a legal and historical fantasy. "Reunification" was an emotive coinage by politicians to advance the case for a union between the Republic of Cameroon and Southern Cameroons and had no historical basis.

"Reunification" can only happen when all parts of a once unified nation come together again. In the case of the establishment of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, that was clearly not the case. It is true that both territories had been part of the German protectorate of Kamerun, which was shared between Britain and France following the defeat of Germany in the First World War.

However, the Federal Republic of Cameroon (today Republic of Cameroon) bore scant resemblance with the German protectorate as maps testify. The boundaries of German Kamerun were rather unstable, but it is clear that the map of the territory acquired by France and Britain during World War II is very different from that of the Cameroon that was established in 1961. The territory of the former German Kamerun is now shared by Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Gabon and Nigeria.

It is common knowledge that Southern Cameroons and French Cameroun had no official political relationship prior to German colonialism. It is therefore a distortion of history to call the 1961 union "reunification", considering that only a fraction of the former German protectorate was part of this arrangement.

The point is that a completely new political entity, or country if you will, came into existence when the British lowered the Union Jack in Buea on October 1, 1961 and replaced it with the tricolour green-red-yellow flag — with two yellow stars on the foreground of the green stripe – of the Federal Republic of Cameroon.

The Federal Republic of Cameroon was born following a UN-organised plebiscite on February 11, 1961 in which only Southern Cameroonians took part. The plebiscite question: "Do you wish to obtain INDEPENDENCE by joining the independent Federal Republic of Nigeria or the independent Republic of Cameroon?"

If we go by the logic of the Yaounde regime that Anglophone Cameroon is an integral part of the present Republic of Cameroon, then the authorities, by the same logic, must accept that Southern Cameroons obtained separate independence in 1961. Otherwise, it may be deduced that the Yaounde regime considers ex-Southern Cameroons as an annexed territory.

Interestingly, President Paul Biya seems to share the opinion of the dyed-in-the- wool Southern Cameroons independence campaigner, Justice M. Mbuh, who states categorically, "Southern Cameroons has never been independent!" Senior citizen and politician Mola Njoh Litumbe expresses a similar view in a 2007 article titled, "The uncompleted de-colonization process of the former Trust Territory of British Cameroons".

Is President Biya’s decision not to celebrate the golden jubilee of Southern Cameroons independence motivated by a conviction that the territory has never obtained independence?
Many Anglophone scholars maintain that Southern Cameroons is legally not a part of present day Republic of Cameroon, and the attitude of the President only adds muscle to their argument.

"The idea of independence as the birth of a State is very crucial because it is it that which confers sovereignty, the instrument of power and the rest that the State is worth. It is well known in international law, endorsed by the United Nations and the African Union, that the boundaries of a State become frozen and immutable with effect from the declaration of its independence. In other words, the boundaries can no longer either contract or expand except, for purposes of acquiring no man’s land. Otherwise, expansion to acquire or to share land with ownership must be with the unequivocal agreement of the owner," argued Vincent N. Feko on July 31, 2008, in an open letter to Boniface Forbin, publisher of The Herald newspaper.

He added: "In the case of la République du Cameroun and British Southern Cameroons that was in wait for independence, the prescribed United Nations’ agreement, after the latter missed independence by Art.76b of the Charter, was Treaty of Union, in conformity with UNGA Res.1541 of 15th December 1960, and 1608 of 21st April 1961, in application of Art.102 (I) & (2) of the Charter; all of which the former (LRC) subverted and overrun British Southern Cameroons. Simply put, there is no Treaty of Union between la République du Cameroun and Southern Cameroons. It would be obnoxious to still be called la République du Cameroun if Southern Cameroons were a part. Thus the latter has never been part of the former."

Mr. Biya’s December 31, 2009 speech was a missed opportunity to appease Anglophones and give them hope that he is capable of correcting the injustices that they have endured for nearly five decades. By insinuating that the ex-Southern Cameroons territory is an appendage of the Republic of Cameroon, the President is clearly undermining the status of the territory in the current putative union. The President’s unfortunate stance buttresses the contention that Anglophones are second class citizens in this country.

The celebration of the independence of French Cameroun is an opportunity for Cameroonians to discuss about their history and the state of the "union". When historical facts are distorted, it is the role of intellectuals to point that out. While the above analyses are open to challenge and correction, I abhor the attitude of my aforementioned CRTV colleague who in this second decade of the third millennium is still propagating the servile truth-comes- from-above doctrine. Even President Paul Biya can make mistakes!

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