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Cameroon Independence Day: Why All The Fuss? 

By J.P Tanyong

I write to ask – why all the fuss and all the dust Anglophones have been raising about the 50th anniversary of independence celebrations this year, 2010?  Anglophones are screaming murder because the government is celebrating the so-called independence of one part of the country as the independence of the whole country. I have several reflections as to why these views are wrong and short sighted.

First of all, let me take the case of the United States of America, the leading democracy in the world. On July 4, 1776, 13 colonies in North America decided to proclaim a unilateral declaration of independence from Britain. Thus, the United States of America was formed as a country. Numerous states later joined, and today the USA counts over 50 states. However, there is only one Independence Day celebration in America and that occurs on July 4, which initially concerned only 13 states. Why are the other 37 states in America not agitating against this arrangement and calling for celebration of each of their separate dates of independence at the national level?

This is because they feel part of the USA and an event which predated their joining the union also applies to them by incorporation. By the sheer fact of their having joined the USA (no matter the date of their joining) they see themselves as members of an entity and no longer as a separate body. That is something most Anglophones fail to understand. You are part of a body and everything that applies to any part of that body also applies to you.

The principle of accession in international public law applies in this case and we have acceded to a federation and later a unitary state. And if I might add, the government has arranged for the military aspects of the celebration to be held in Bamenda which was not part of the Republic of Cameroon as at June 1, 1960. So why are these celebrations being held here then if not to prove that the government truly sees the Anglophone region as incorporated into the union state?

Some will argue that Anglophone Cameroon has been "assimilated" into French Cameroon. This argument is weak in the face of the evidence. English is an official language in Cameroon and Anglophones maintain their systems of education and their legal system. How can this then be said to be assimilation? An assimilating government would have abolished English outright and mandated French and compelled compliance with the educational and legal systems of the French section. That, my friend, is true assimilation.

Secondly, a nation can only have one date of independence registered with the UN. By international law, if two parts of a territory gained independence at separate dates, then the earliest date is usually registered to afford that nation the most favourable standing in international affairs. The official independence date of a nation must be made as far back as possible to prove its political maturity.

Lastly, the independence date of Nigeria is October 1, 1960. Do Anglophone Cameroonians want to tell me that if our ancestors had chosen the other option and voted to join Nigeria this date would have been abolished in the entire Federal Republic of Nigeria? Please let’s get serious here.

It is very easy to see discrimination and marginalisation (I don’t say these might not exist) and be amnesic about everything else. Unless I am wrong, France had responsibility for only one part of Cameroon; yet today French development aid in Cameroon is used to fund projects in the entire country including the Anglophone regions. I remember that the Food Market in Bamenda was built by French Co-operation money. Please let’s approach this issue like adults and not like children.

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