Fifty six years after British Cameroon and French Cameroon united to become the Republic of Cameroon following a United Nations-sponsored referendum, the marriage seems to be heading for collapse.
The English speaking region has repeatedly accused the French speaking Cameroon-dominated government of marginalization and high-handedness in dealing with its people. In late October 2016, Southern Cameroon unions representing lawyers and teachers staged a public protest against the imposition of the French language in courts and educational institutions in the region.
The action won popular support and provided ground for the people to speak out against what they described as “historical, political and economic discrimination” by successive governments.
The street protests continued for the next six months. A stay-at-home order by protest leaders created ‘ghost’ towns across the region. As part of effort to halt the protests, the government deployed security forces to arrest the leaders and other activists. It also ordered internet blackout (from 17 January to 20 April, 2017) in the two regions that make up Southern Cameroon. The country is made up of 10 regions. A combination of the stay-at-home order and the internet blackout paralysed socio-economic activities in the region.
Though the internet has been restored, some of the leaders and activists arrested still remain in detention while others are reportedly missing.
The grievances of the people of the region dates back to the era of the founding president, Ahmadou Ahidjo. Now, it seems the die is cast as the people insist on divorce. Mr Millan Atam, Secretary General of the Southern Cameroon Governing Council (SCGC) spoke with Daily Sun from South African, explaining the problem and the resolve of the region to become independent.
Present situation in the Anglophone region of Cameroon
To begin with, we have gone past the stage where our country is called an Anglophone Region. We are the people of the Former British Southern Cameroons and currently called Ambazonia by our people. Our one concern is for French Cameroon to let our people go.
We are no longer interested in any kind of union and therefore think that the only way there can be peace and harmony is if we live as good neighbours. In terms of our demands, they are many:
First of all, hundreds of our people have been abducted and jailed in gulags across French Cameroon.
We demand their immediate release as they are nothing but prisoners of conscience. Among these hundreds, at least five of our prominent leaders are also incarcerated and we understand that they are undergoing all kinds of torture. We demand their immediate and unconditional release. So true, we are open to dialogue but no frank dialogue can take place when our people are still incarcerated by the Yaoundé regime.
Demand for compensation and reparation
Like I have just mentioned, we are persuaded to say that the only way we can live in peace and harmony with La Republique du Cameroon is through good neighbourliness. 56 years of cohabitation has taught us some bitter lessons and we would be extremely foolish to want to venture into the same kind of relationship again. We are therefore willing to accept:
That only those who are specifically identified as having committed crimes against our people (and therefore humanity) will be prosecuted. But the vast majority of the people of French Cameroon will not have to worry about the relationship between our two countries.
We are currently working on the cost of what we have lost over the past 56 years as a result of annexation by French Cameroun. This will be submitted for compensation and reparation. This includes the wanton exploitation of our oil, timber, cocoa, tea as well as the complete bankruptcy of our institutions including Cameroon Bank, WADA, PWD, CDC, etc. We will be willing to discuss the cost and get compensated as allowed under international law.
We are willing to accept that our friends and relatives on the other side of the border (La Republique du Cameroon) be allowed to travel on a visa-free arrangements given the relationship we have built over the past half century, painful as it might be for us.
Steps toward proposed solution
The people of the Southern Cameroons will accept a United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) monitored withdrawal of all La Republic du Cameroon military, officials, Police Force and administrators from Southern Cameroons territory.
We will accept the equitable redistribution of all state assets between the two countries, even as we discuss compensation for the above-mentioned issues.
Apart from these two, La Republic du Cameroon has little to teach our people in terms of governance.
Youth clamour for action
The Southern Cameroonian leadership has managed to rein in its youths who are clamouring for action. The continuous provocation by La Republic du Cameroon and its troops’ occupation of our territory might result in violence which can be avoided.
We have already informed the Yaoundé regime that a return to school comes September is not going to take place. This means that certificates issued during this period from any school across Cameroon will not be recognized worldwide. We are going to be launching a campaign to ensure that recognition of such certificates does not happen. We hope the Yaoundé regime does not want the population on the other side of the border to explode in anger and frustration.
Southern Cameroonians marginalized
Hundreds of our people, civilians, have been killed, raped, tortured, others abducted for no other reason but for expressing their political standpoint. Most of them have been moved away from their common law jurisdiction to Yaoundé and other unknown torture chambers to be tried by military tribunals on trumped up charges of terrorism and other baseless charges.
Our Anglo-Saxon common law courts are being run by magistrates and officials from la Republic du Cameroon, trained in the civil law system, with no knowledge or competence in the common law system. Many do not even understand nor speak English language. They run our judicial system in French based on the civil law, a language our people do not even understand. The French judicial system is alien to the Southern Cameroons people.
Our Anglo-Saxon educational system is being run by La Republic du Cameroons French speaking and trained teachers and officials from the country’s French educational institutions. They teach our English-speaking children physics, Biology, chemistry, mathematics, etc in French language, to prepare them for the English based general certificate of education and other Anglo-Saxon based exams, a language the children do not understand. This has degraded South Cameroon’s educational system.
All our remaining corporations, notably, CDC, SONANARA, Pamol, etc, are being run by La Republic du Cameroons’ French speaking and trained officials. Trained and mandated to siphon resources from the Southern Cameroons, to Douala and Bafoussam in the La Republic du Cameroon. All our big corporations pay taxes to La Republic du Cameroon even though these corporations are located in the Southern Cameroons.
The Southern Cameroons regions are being administrated by corrupt officials trained in the French system of La Republic du Cameroons. They do not understand the cultures in our regions nor even speak English language. They act as colonizers and covert agents instructed to siphon our resources and make sure our regions remain underdeveloped.
Our institutions such as Cameroon Bank, PowerCam, PWD, Marketing Board, Mideno, have been defunct and the resources in billions of dollars have been embezzled.
Our airports such as Bafut, Bota, Mamfe, Tiko, Bamenda, etc have all been laid down and out of function with the aim of cutting us off from the rest of the world.
Our seaports such as the Victoria seaport, Tiko Wharf, Mundemba, etc have been laid down and all the resources embezzled. The whole of Southern Cameroons has been militarized.
Government violating AU rights Charter
All the actions of La Republic du Cameroon violate Articles 1, 2, 3(1), 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, and 14 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. We draw particular attention to article 4 which protects the right to life and to the physical integrity of the person; article 5 outlaws torture and other cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment; article 6 which prohibits arbitrary arrests and detention; article 7 which guarantees the right to fair trial; and articles 9-12 which guarantee the right to freedom of expression, association, assembly and movement.
The articles listed above show how La Republic du Cameroon has illegally occupied and established its colonial rule, complete with its structures, and its administrative, military and police personnel in the Southern Cameroons, applying a system operating in a language alien to the Southern Cameroons and still continues to exercise a colonial sovereignty over the Southern Cameroons to this day in complete violation of the Collective Rights of the Peoples of the Southern Cameroons.
Demand for unconditional release of detained leaders
We demand the unconditional release of all our people and all those missing accounted for. Also, we demand a withdrawal of all la republic du Cameroon trained, civil law officials from our territory, a withdrawal of all la republic du Cameroons French speaking and trained teachers and officials from our territory, the reinstatement of all our institutions, corporations and a stop to these siphoning practices and a total withdrawal of all French speaking and trained administrators of la republic du Cameroons from the Southern Cameroons.
Meeting these demands should pave the way for a peaceful total withdrawal of all la republic du Cameroons colonizing forces, systems, and administrators from the territories of the Southern Cameroons and a peaceful end to the occupation of the Southern Cameroons
By Emma Emeozor