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Southern Cameroons Boundary With La R 

Interviewed By Elvis Tah

Barrister Stanislaus Ajong, support counsel in the Southern Cameroons case against La République du Cameroun in Banjul, The Gambia, in this exclusive interview with The Post, says La République should respect her boundary with Southern Cameroons which she (La République) inherited at independence on January 1, 1960. The Barrister also expresses high hopes that the Southern Cameroons case will be judged favourably. Read on:

The Post: You returned from The Gambia a few weeks ago, could you tell us what happened during the hearing?

Barrister Stanislaus Ajong: This time around, our communications (two) were listed for hearing. Unfortunately the Commissioner, who is the rapporteur for both communications, is the chairperson of the Commission and during this session, she was investigating war crimes and human right violations in Ivory Coast. Our matter was thus postponed to August 6-10, which is to hold in Kigali, Rwanda.

Would you say Southern Cameroons has a strong case; what are the arguments that make the case strong and convincing?   

Let’s start with communication 266, which is the decision that all Cameroonians know. We fight for the review or appeal, but in this particular case, we are appealing for the review of a statement made by the Commission to the effect that Southern Cameroons is an integral part of La République du Cameroun. We are saying that there is no legal justification for that statement.

We have substantiated it with very solid arguments and we think that at the close of the day, the Commission will see with us. Communication 337 is an entirely new case which is against the Federal Republic of Nigeria and La République du Cameroun, with practically the same parties in Communication 266, wherein there was already a decision for which we are applying for this review.

Our principal contention in Communication 337 is that the African Constitutive Act, which binds all African countries and which Cameroon is a signatory, states in its article 4(1) that ‘all African countries must protect and stay within the boundaries they inherited at independence. This Act was signed in July 2000 in Lome and before then, in 1984, the President of the Republic of Cameroon passed into law – Law No 84/01, fixing the name of the country to be the Republic of Cameroon.

Are you saying that Southern Cameroons boundary was altered?

By our case, we know that the Republic of Cameroon that we know today is the same Republic of Cameroon that had independence on January 1, 1960, so she is bound to respect Article 4(1b) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

We have put in arguments which we think are grounded in international laws, United Nations and African Union Charters and we say the Commission will likely come with the conclusion that we are correct. The Republic of Cameroon is bound by the AU and the UN Charters. If she doesn’t respect its borders which she inherited at independence in 1960, it ought to show how the borders changed and borders don’t change orally.

It changes only through international instruments by an agreement and by UN Charter article 102(1), every country which has an agreement that varies its borders must have that agreement deposited at the UN Secretariat and in UN Charter article 102(2) no country can seek to enforce that agreement if it were not registered at the UN. It is for La République du Cameroun to show the agreement which altered the borders that she inherited in 1960.

There was a proposition that Southern Cameroons should engage in dialogue with La République. What attempts have you people made to engage in this dialogue?

Immediately the decision was passed, La Republique wrote to the Commission asking for an extension of 180 days in order to engage in the dialogue. At the time, they gave an excuse that they received the judgement late and that they needed time to actually engage in fruitful dialogue.

The 180 days long expired. That was in June 2010 and when we discovered that was their position, we filed an application before the Commission that they should put into motion its own decision. We put in an application last November 2010, reminding the Commission that it was their decision and it shouldn’t be a dead letter. We are still waiting for the decision.

There is also a decision that came out from the United Nations Commissions on Human Rights from Geneva, where Ebenezer Akwanga sued La République, the respondent state, and in that judgement it argued that they are dialoguing with the parties in Communication 266. We saw that judgement as a surprise because while the Minister of Communication says there will never be dialogue, they are filing papers elsewhere saying they are dialoguing, so we will definitely bring it at the appropriate moment to the knowledge of the Commission.

You should also know that the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights states in Article 20 that all peoples have the inalienable and unquestionable right to self-determination and nobody can stop it. The very Commission has ruled that Southern Cameroonians are a people.

Away from the case in The Gambia, are you aware of any secret document which Dr. J N Foncha supposedly signed with President Ahmadou Ahidjo concerning the Reunification?

There is so much talk about a secret document but I think if we call it a secret document, it means it was not done in the open so I wouldn’t know. We are not aware of any such documents and the position of the legal team in this case is that that any such agreement is not binding on Southern Cameroonians because Dr. Foncha at the time was not the Head of State of Southern Cameroons. Southern Cameroons was still administered by a colonial master so Foncha could not have signed a document that we can legally say was binding on Southern Cameroonians, with Ahidjo who was already Head of State of an independent country.

In any case, if there was a document, we would have studied it and look at the validity, the parameters, and the content and legally examined them vis-à-vis the law and see whether they can be said to be legally binding. In the absence of any document, the capacity and the locus of the person presenting the document, we will not dwell into any such argument.   

Who is a Southern Cameroonian and can a Southern Cameroonian be interchangeable with a Cameroon Anglophone?

The definition of a Southern Cameroonian is one and without any confusion; a Southern Cameroonian is not an Anglophone or English-speaking Cameroonian. All those who are trying to bring in these definitions are simply perpetuating intellectual mischief.

A Southern Cameroonian does not doubt his citizenship. A Southern Cameroonian is that person who was brought up under the territory called British Southern Cameroons, after the Versailles Treaty of June 19, 1919, partitioning the German Cameroon and the British, thereafter, for administrative purposes, repartitioned British Cameroons into British Southern and Northern Cameroons.

So a Southern Cameroonian is a person who is rooted under that colonial rule and its descendants. All those questions about English-speaking Cameroonians and so on are all constitutional issues which can only be resolved when the Southern Cameroons must have restored its independence.

Being a lawyer for the Southern Cameroons, are you not afraid of being harassed by anti-Southern Cameroons elements?

Things like that always happen but once you take the oath to be a lawyer, you put fear behind you. The status of the African Commission states that the State, party to the Charter has the obligation to protect individuals and counsel who take up cases before the Commission. So if within the legal team, we discover that there is some intimidation, we have the right to ask for protection from the African Union.

How do you assess the legal issues raised by Mola Njoh Litumbe in his book on the Southern Cameroons case?

I was privileged to have a look at the manuscript early this year. I have read the book at least three times over. In as far as our cases are concerned, this is very valuable material that can be used both at local and international instances. As concerns the cause in general, it is advisable for any person who wants to understand it to endeavour to procure a copy. It is the Southern Cameroons case made easy.

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