One of the high points of the opening ceremony of the Major National Dialogue, many say, was the moment of naked truth, as stated by one of the former combatants, Kawa Yanick.
Among the many mouth-watering statements made, Yanick equivocally asked the rhetoric question, “Are we not colonised by French (Cameroon)”?
Two years ago, government in its usual manner used force to quell protests in the English speaking regions, an act that backfired.
At almost every stage at which it could possibly make up, the state seemed to take the wrong turn, from the denial of rights violations to the arrest and release of the consortium leaders and more recently the life sentences handed to separatist leaders.
Indeed, the word, colonised, is the apprehension reverberating in the minds of the majority of Anglophones, who feel their nostalgia to willing reunite with their brothers of La Republique du Cameroon, as opposed to the opinion of joining the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in 1961, instead landed them into another colonisation.
Fon Achirimbi I of Bafut had described it, as Anglophones getting to decide whether to go to the sea and be drowned or go towards fire and be burnt, a metaphor that turned out perfectly describe today’s outcome.
How it All Started!
On January 1, 1960, French Cameroun gained independence and became Cameroun Republic. Later that year Nigeria gained its independence from Britain and became the Federal Republic. The British-controlled southern Cameroons was then separated from Nigeria and was due to achieve full independence on October 1, 1961.
But there was a hitch: The United Nations organised a plebiscite in which southern Cameroonians were asked to choose between joining the Cameroun Republic or Nigeria. This vote was prompted by a British report that insisted its former territory would not survive economically on its own.
Southern Cameroonians wanted nothing more to do with Nigeria. They had suffered enormously at the hands of Igbo people who’d settled in their territory in previous decades. So, they elected to unite in a new federation with Cameroun Republic. It was supposed to be a partnership of equals, a notion reinforced by bilateral negotiations that had started before the vote.
These negotiations were concluded at the Foumban Conference in July 1961. The general view after the conference was that the delegation from the Cameroun Republic, accompanied by French advisers, got virtually everything they wanted. The Anglophones, who received none of the support promised by the British or the UN, were effectively side-lined.
So, the new federation was born, but it was never a happy union. The regions were centrally governed but neither of the two presidents since unification has spoken nor understood English. The incumbent, Paul Biya, reads English with difficulty.
Since then Anglophones have pushed for autonomy. This call is actually supported in a UN resolution passed in April 1961 that defines the joining of the two former territories as a federation of two states, equal in status and autonomous.
History Must Be Rewritten
As a famous Chinese proverb states, “Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery, but today is a gift, that is why it’s called a New Day.” The whole world looks onto the Major National Dialogue to use the opportunity given today to rewrite the wrongs of the past. Dialogue and diplomacy are foremost.
Cameroon is being haunted by agreements that were never respected, from the Foumban Conference to the UN’s resolution regarding autonomy. These agreements must be revisited and respected.
Talking at yesterday’s national dialogue opening, SDF leader, Ni John Fru Ndi whose party has always stood for a federal system of government said “we must put in place a Constitutional Drafting Committee which will prepare a new Federal Constitution for Cameroon.
“We have made all these proposals in good faith … but if they are ignored, the SDF will have no option than to withdraw from the dialogue” he added. Another school of thought maintains that effective decentralisation alone will diffuse the situation and cause a return to normalcy.
Despite the ongoing national dialogue, many separatists remain resolute, a situation many blame on the ‘bad faith’ of the government.
“The only thing I want our people to know is that it is independence or Resistance for ever. Today we celebrate this day but we have a duty to resist and fight until we restore the day finally” Activist Mark Bareta wrote today.
“Let today be a reminder that we have greater work to do” Bareta added.“We ask you to be once more guided by the legality, which motivated you I April 1984. At that time you used bullets, force and blood. But this time you need no such thing” Fon Fongum Gorji-Dinka often called the father of Ambazonia had stated in an open letter the L’ Etat-Major of Cameroun in1985.
The United Nations which has always been a source of hope to many others say, failed the people of Southern Cameroons and should take a share of the blame. One of such is Professor Carlson Anyangwe;
“The people of the British Southern Cameroons had absolute faith in the UN and trusted the Administering Authority, believing that both would always act in the best interest and for the wellbeing of the territory …the UN itself failed to stand up for the people of the trust territory” he wrote in a paper was presented the 21st Annual Conference of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace & Conflict Studies on the theme ‘Re-examining Human Rights’.
With the ongoing stand-off, and the already visible flaws that are likely to leave the national dialogue limping through a lack of consensus, many say a better option would be for the Cameroon government to set a level playing field. Talks on a neutral ground with separatists and the release of all detained in relation to the conflict have been the most common suggestions from home and abroad.
Several separatist leaders in the Diaspora last week hailed the creation of a single faction, the ACT stating that they are open for face-to-face talks with the Cameroon government. “Morality demands that we sit on the table and talk about the necessity for justice because when there is no justice, lasting peace cannot reign,” Ebenezer Akwanga of SOCADEF said.
Until then however, indigenes of the Anglophone regions are expected to continue to live in fear especially on days like today that bring back ugly memories of torture, pain and killings.
Compiled By The Editorial Team At Mimi Mefo Info