Despite the increasing use of the term ‘Ambazonia’ in Cameroon today, the root cause of the name is not known to many.
Yesterday October 1 being a memorable day in the life of English speaking Cameroonians especially the escalation of the Anglophone crisis into an armed conflict few years ago, it is necessary to know the origin of the word.
On 20 March 1985, HE Fongum Gorji-Dinka, the first president of the Cameroon Bar Association published a pamphlet titled “The New Social Order” denouncing what he said was the gross mismanagement of Cameroon, dwelling particularly on the Southern Cameroons problem.
The educated Christian as well as Traditional Ruler of the Widikum Kingdom said the Republic of Cameroun had annexed the Southern Cameroons; and he advocated the creation of a Southern Cameroons state to be called Ambazonia, a name coined from the Ambas Bay and carefully chosen so as not to confuse Sothern British Cameroons with South Province of Cameroun; or West Cameroon with the West province of Cameroun. To the Fon, no peoples should ever be subjected to the kind of relations his peoples of Ambazonia have had with Cameroun Republic for the last 44 years then!
The appellation at the time was not as popular as other liberation names, but suddenly shot to prominence after government used force to quell protests two years back and English speaking Cameroonians more than ever clamored for a State called Ambazonia. Prior to that however, pushing the agenda forward was not an easy task. From court cases against the Republic of Cameroon to protests and constant hiding, Fon Fongum Gorji-Dinka was one of the most renowned activists in the struggle.
As President of Cameroon students’ Association in 1959, he led a delegation to the UN for preliminary deliberations aimed at formulating the infamous two alternatives in anticipation of the UN-sponsored plebiscite for the Cameroons. After reunification, he took upon himself like several others to fight for what they termed the Liberation, leaving them many different confrontations with the Cameroon government.
On 5 May 1985, he wrote An Open Letter to L’etat Major of Cameroun asking them to defuse the timed bomb, leading to his arrest on 31 May 1985.
“In the face of all this mess, chaos and illegalities mounting daily, we find it imperative to call on the Cameroonian Etat Major to take action similar to that which the French Generals took in 1959 to put an end to the chaos of the Fourth Republic in France” it read.
After his release due to ill health and escape, the author was re-detained on 9 June 1985 at the headquarters of the Brigade Mixte Mobile (BMM), a paramilitary police force, where he initially shared a cell with 20 murder convicts.
The Fon in one of several cases eventually framed a lawsuit in the Cameroun High Court requiring that President Biya acknowledges that ex-British Southern Cameroons is now the sovereign State of Ambazonia with Fon Gorji-Dinka as Head of State, that Cameroun occupation of Ambazonia is illegal and constitutes “an act of continuing aggression”. The 1992 suit also demanded that Cameroun must make an unconditional withdraw from ‘Ambazonia’ and instead seek the creation of the Cameroun-Ambazonian Confederacy as per the terms spelt out in the United Nations Plebiscite.
He is also credited as one of those that played a major role to the birth of multi party politics in Cameroon, alongside Ni John Fru Ndi, Albert Mukong and others leading to the creation of the Social Democratic Front, SDF party.
From 2002-2015, Gorji-Dinka galvanized legal global actions at UN, ICJ, AU and many countries and is said to have issued a last warning ‘after having exhausted all peaceful means’.
All his efforts however came at a cost. As a result of the physical and mental torture he was subjected to during detention, Fon Dinka suffered a stroke which paralyzed his left side. He was also allegedly tortured and threatened in several instances leaving him to luck and persons of goodwill.
Though Fon Fongum Gorji-Dinka is no longer at the forefront of what has come to be known by many as the Struggle, modern day separatist leaders most of whom are based in the Diaspora keep referring to him as the father of Ambazonia.
Despite the ongoing dialogue, they say they are willing to talk with the Cameroon government on neutral ground only.
To Dinka, he is however just a tool. “I am only the little creature the Lord God used to put Ambazonia into writing through the pamphlets I wrote in 2985 on the Ambazonian revolt” he said in 2017 a letter.
Regardless of how genuine or not his cause is, many say his dedication to his cause makes his life worth celebrating.
Mimi Mefo Info