By Beng Humphrey F.
June 1, 2020 marked 59 years since British Northern Cameroon of the British Cameroons officially gained independence by integration with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This followed a UN-organised plebiscite in British Cameroons on February 11, 1961 asking whether the former British colony wanted to achieve independence by secession from Nigeria and reunification with then French Cameroun, La Republic du Cameroun which had already achieved independence on January 1, 1960 or remain an integral part of Nigeria.
British Southern Cameroonians fell prey to the campaign slogan of John Ngu Foncha that “French Cameroun na water, Nigeria na fire” and massively voted for secession from Nigeria and reunification with French Cameroun. The slogan of John Ngu Foncha’s campaign didn’t yield fruits in British Northern Cameroons as they massively voted in the 11 February 1961 plebiscite to achieve independence by integration with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. On June 1,1961, British Northern Cameroons officially merged with Nigeria. The date was later declared a day of national mourning by then president of the Federal Republic of Cameroon, Ahmadou Ahidjo in memory of the part of the country lossed to Nigeria. On October 1, 1961, British Southern Cameroons archieved independence by reunification with French Cameroon as a state called West Cameroon while la Republic du Cameroon became a state called East Cameroun in the new union called the Federal Republic of Cameroon with Amadou Ahidjo as president while John Ngu Foncha who doubled as prime minister of West Cameroon was vice president.
12 years later, the federal union was abolished in a 20th May 1972 referendum in which Cameroonians voted for a United Republic of Cameroon murdering the two states that came together. The abolition of the federal union which has been attributed by historical analysts to be the root cause of the Anglophone crisis, today an armed conflict, has been justified by pro one Cameroon historians and activists to have been a reconciliation or synthesis of the independence dates of the two Cameroons. According to them, there was need for a neutral date to be celebrated as the National Day, not 1st October when British Southern Cameroons gained independence or 1st January when la Republique du Cameroun gained its independence.
Though the result of the referendum brought about a constitutional change in the name of the country to the United Republic of Cameroon, the coming of Biya changed things including the country’s name from the United Republic of Cameroon to La Republique du Cameroun, a move Southern Cameroons independence activists are basing their argument on that they were pushed out of the independence union with French Cameroun long ago. Some have defined the change of the country’s name from United Republic of Cameroon to La Republique du Cameroun, the name French Cameroun got at independence, as a colonisation of the people of Southern Cameroons who willfully and gently came in a union with French Cameroon.
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