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PUBLIC DOCUMENTS ON SOUTHERN CAMEROONS UNIFICATION, 1959-1961 

By Prof. Verkijika Fanso

CameroonPostline.com — This 7th PRO document (CO 554/2249 XC 3406) is a report of a discussion of the Southern Cameroons by senior authorities of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Offices on 2nd August 1960 about how to handle the issue of unification in the event the plebiscite result favoured it.

The major concern was the report of an agreement by Foncha and Ahidjo that there should be an interim period after the plebiscite during which time the Southern Cameroons and Cameroun Republic would be independent before final union. The British wanted the termination of Trusteeship to be immediate after the plebiscite if the security of Southern Cameroons by the Cameroun Republic or the UN could be guaranteed.
 

CONFIDENTIAL
FOR FOREIGN OFFICE AND COMMONWEALTH RELATIONS OFFICE CONCURRENCE
NOTE OF A MEETING HELD AT THE COLONIAL OFFICE ON TUESDAY, 2nd AUGUST, 1960, TO DISCUSS THE SOUTHER CAMEROONS
 

Present: Mr. Eastwood (in the chair(, (Colonial Office)
Mr. Jerrom                                                         ‘’
Mr. Burr                                                              ‘’
Mr. Senkey                                                         ‘’
Mr. Ryrie                                                             ‘’
Mr. Ross                                                      (Foreign Office)
Mr. Feber                                                              ‘’   
Mr. Greenhill                                               (C.R.C.)
 

1.    Mr. Eastwood referred to dispatch Personal No. 43 of the 25th July 1960, from the Governor-General of Nigeria, in which it was reported that Mr. Ahidjo and Mr. Foncha were agreed that if the plebiscite in the Southern Cameroons resulted in a majority for unification with the Cameroun Republic, there should be an interim period during which both territories would be independent, before final union and that Mr. Ahidjo had said that he did not intend during this period to take over responsibility for security in the Southern Cameroons.

Sir Andrew Cohen had expressed the view that we should now tell Messrs Foncha and Ahidjo that we would wish to terminate our trusteeship of the Southern Cameroons as soon after the plebiscite as possible but that we would not hand over unless adequate arrangements for administration and for maintaining order had been made. We would therefore favour the establishment of a UN Commission to discuss the procedures for the transfer of responsibilities to the Cameroun Republic.

Sir A. Cohen apparently believed that the suggestion of a UN Commission might induce or oblige Messrs Foncha and Ahidjo to agree to arrangements for unification at an early date. Mr. Ryrie questioned whether great weight should necessarily be attached at this stage to Mr. Ahidjo’s statement that he would not assume responsibility for security and suggested that our first objective should be to induce him to agree to do so.

One method might be to get the General Assembly, in the autumn, to adopt a resolution (perhaps a resolution deciding to hold a resumed Session to deal with the results of the plebiscite) which would have the effect of virtually committing the UN to terminate Trusteeship at an early date.
 

2.   Mr Jerrom raised the question whether Mr. Foncha and Mr. Ahidjo might be able to get approval for postponement of real unification even after the termination of Trusteeship, and Mr. Ross wondered whether there was not a possibility that opinion in the UN would come round to acquiesce in complete independence for the Southern Cameroons after the plebiscite.
 

 Mr. Ryrie said that at the last Session Afro-Asian opinion had been against this but it was difficult to predict how the African bloc would move in future. Mr. Jerrom thought the majority in the UN would probably favour immediate unification with either Nigeria or Cameroun as the case might be, but there was a possibility of a change on the lines suggested by Mr. Foncha.
 

3.   Mr. Eastwood referred to the suggestion in paragraph 7 of his letter of the 28th July to Mr. Ross that we should now tell Buea and Yaounde that we thought it highly unlikely that the UN would be prepared to accept the arrangements proposed by Messrs. Foncha and Ahidjo; and to Sir Andrew Cohen’s suggestion (paragraph 1 above).

Mr. Ryrie thought that it would be a mistake to say now that we would not be prepared to handover responsibility unless adequate arrangements had been made since this might encourage Mr. Ahidjo to think that he need not assume responsibility for the Southern Cameroons for some time.

Mr. Jerrom thought that in the communications to Buea and Yaounde, no reference should be made to the possibility of a UN Commission; these communications should merely say that we would wish to have Trusteeship terminated as soon as possible after the plebiscite and that we expect the UN would insist on immediate implementation of the people’s decision.
 

4.   Mr. Burr suggested that at the General Assembly we should try to get a decision that a resumed Session would be held at which the Trusteeship Agreement would be terminated by a definite date and should make it clear that if for any reason, the plebiscite result could not be implemented by that date we would propose that a UN force should be sent to maintain order in the Southern Cameroons. Mr. Ryrie did not think that any such proposal should be made at this stage since Mr. Ahidjo might yet be persuaded to take over the Southern Cameroons at once, if the people voted for this.

Mr. Burr thought there was much to be said for putting forward a concrete plan now to make it clear that we did not intend to stay in the Southern Cameroons. No effective means of putting pressure on Mr. Ahidjo to agree to take over full responsibility had been suggested and we should therefore put forward our own plan. Mr. Eastwood said that in any case we would want a UN presence in the form of a Commission to supervise arrangements for unification but he thought it would be premature to say now that we hoped that the UN would send a force to maintain law and order.

In order to emphasize the point that we intended to leave Cameroon as soon as possible, however, we might say now that we hoped to be able to surrender Trusteeship by the 1st July. Mr. Sankey thought there would be much advantage in mentioning a particular date – a tactic which would be likely to find favour in the UN and would serve to put pressure on Messrs Foncha and Ahidjo to make concrete arrangements for unification at an early date.

Mr. Faber had doubts about this, however, on the grounds that we might be faced with circumstances, much as a serious threat of Communist penetration, in which we would not wish to leave the Southern Cameroons by a particular date and he therefore thought we should not commit ourselves on this point at present. It was agreed that we should now inform Messrs Foncha and Ahidjo that we were acting on the assumption that Trusteeship would be terminated by the 1st July but should not say this formally or publicly.

It might be useful to consider later the adoption of a resolution by the Assembly deciding to hold a resumed Session with a view to termination by that date.

5.   Mr. Faber said that the real difficulties which Mr. Ahidjo would face in providing any troops to maintain order in the Southern Cameroons should be recognised. His limited resources were already stretched.

Mr. Ryrie suggested that this raised again the question whether a defense force should not be raised in the Southern Cameroons so that there would be a means of maintaining order if the territory joined the Cameroun Republic. Mr. Eastwood said that it had just been decided that this was not practicable and Mr. Sankey said that it would be more useful to raise additional police in the form of riot squads or a mobile reserve than a military force. Mr. Eastwood explained the arrangements for the police in the territory.

The question was whether we should now suggest to Southern Cameroons that they should expand their police force. Mr. Burr pointed out that this might raise difficulties with the Nigerian Government to whom we had something of a moral commitment not to expand the police forces in the Southern Cameroons in such a way as would make difficulties for them later if the territory joined Nigeria.

Mr. Sankey suggested that this difficulty could be overcome by making plans and preparations now for the raising of new police units of a para-military character if the plebiscite resulted in a majority for joining Cameroun. No new recruits need be enlisted until after the plebiscite and if there were a majority for Nigeria, then the whole plan could be dropped. It was agreed that this idea should be pursued further.

Mr. Eastwood enquired about the French intensions for their troops in the Cameroun Republic and Mr. Faber said they would probably be withdrawn gradually as they could be replaced by local forces. He saw no danger of an early large-scale withdrawal of French troops. Mr. Ryrie suggested that in addition to approaching the Cameroun Government we might ask the French to try and influence Mr. Ahidjo to agree to take over the responsibility in the Southern Cameroons immediately if the people voted for this.

Mr. Ross agreed and said that the disadvantages of an unstable independent Southern Cameroons would be clear to the French. They might also be prepared to tell Mr. Ahidjo that his plan for delaying unification seemed unlikely to secure acceptance in the United Nations.
 

First published in The Post print edition no 01437

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