History may well be repeating itself in the lives of the people of Cameroon’s North West and South West regions otherwise referred to as Anglophones. Like in July 1961, another gala is envisaged for this October 3, 2019 as a meeting to decide the future of the people for another generation draws to its decisive phase.
In fact, it is a historical fact that the Foumban Conference opened on July 17, 1961 with the delegates of La République du Cameroun under President Ahmadou Ahidjo along with those of the British Southern Cameroons led by John Ngu Foncha, Premier.
As of that date, the British Southern Cameroons was still a United Nations Trust Territory evolving towards the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement and independence while La République du Cameroun had already gained independence from France on January 1, 1960.
Because British Cameroons and La République du Cameroun were separate UN Trust Territories under different colonial masters, Britain and France, the Foumban Talks were for all intents and purposes an international meeting. Even so, the French Cameroonians controlled the talks and masterminded as well as micromanaged the negotiations.
Reports on the 1961 Foumban Conference reveal that President Ahmadou Ahidjo of République du Cameroun chose the town of Foumban to host the conference as a “place where one would like to go for rest and relaxation.”
He then invited the British Southern Cameroons’ side to make comments on his Draft Constitution. The request by President Ahidjo shattered the trust and confidence of the British Southern Cameroons’ delegation who were surprised by his request. “Which Constitution?” British Southern Cameroons delegates shouted! They had thought they had come to Foumban together with Ahidjo’s delegation in order to jointly negotiate the terms of a constitution for the future Federal United Cameroon.
Namoso Mbile, one of the delegates on the British Southern Cameroons’ side said, “We have the feeling that we have wasted our time coming to Foumban for the draft to be tabled in this fashion for our observations in this way. This is in total contradiction to our expectations; instead of a draft of a federal constitution, we are being requested to make observations on a draft highly centralized constitution with unlimited powers”.
Bitter protests erupted from all sides.
The protesting British Southern Cameroons’ delegation demanded three more weeks to study the draft without success. They recalled the constitutional conferences of London in 1953, 1957, and 1958, each of them having lasted for at least three weeks.
Endeley, another delegate from British Southern Cameroons warned: “Too much haste would have farreaching consequences on the people of the Cameroons.”
Ngom Jua screamed, “I have never seen people expected to write a constitution in two days!”
The tense atmosphere of unhappiness and protests caused one journalist to write, “Political observers are wondering if it is really here in Foumban in this rowdy atmosphere that the guidelines of a federal constitution are going to be effectively drawn” The shouting and screaming were the most inappropriate way to begin an international negotiation conference.
The atmosphere was Kafkaesque. Finally, just after the mid-day meal, it is alleged that the British Southern Cameroons’ delegation sat down to work in studying the draft constitution presented by President Ahidjo. Using their experience gained during the constitutional conferences in London and Lagos.
Judging from the events that have unfolded at the Yaounde Conference Center where the Majaor National Dialogue is holding since Monday, September 30, one sees a replay of the Foumban “Constitutional” Talks. Like was the case with the False Negotiations in Foumban, the likes of Akere Muna had since sounded the alarm bells.
For one of the parties, République du Cameroun, the 1961 Foumban Conference was a historic event where estranged brothers mutually agreed upon a federal constitution for a reunified Cameroon. In 2019, Anglophones are again asking for a federal constitution after that of 1961 died at birth. It was crushed by the ruthlessness of the system that Ahidjo handed down to President Paul Biya.
Despite the frankness of the debates in Foumban in July 1961, it took a gala night to drown Anglophones for over five decades. Foncha and his peers had been entreated to dance, some say even sleep, with very beautiful Foumban girls to the point where in they agreed to Ahidjo’s evil plot without a second thought.
Tonight, another gala night is to take place in the heart of the Major National Dialogue where Anglophones made Foumban-like observations.
But as they will be dancing with the girls tonight, Biya and his boys will be working on the final resolutions that will sanction the five-day peace talks.
Tonight’s party would even be the merrier after Biya ordered the discontinuance of proceedings against 333 Anglophone detainees.
Who ever said history doesn’t repeat itself? Was the dialogue aimed at addressing the root cause of the problem or “ending the crisis”?
Mimi Mefo Info