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Understanding the Root Causes of the Raging Genocide in Former British Southern Cameroons (hereunder, Ambazonia).

May 2, 2020

By Tatah Mentan, Ph.D.*

Prof Tatah Mentan is a pacifist and peace activist, Theodore Lentz Peace and Security Studies Scholar and Professor of Political Science.

Abstract

The twenty first century is experiencing its first genocide in human history. It is playing out in the former UN Trust Territory of the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia, hereunder) despite the global “Never Again” pronouncements against genocide. Thus, genocide is not as easy to prevent, stop and eradicate as originally thought. One of the main issues related to the prevention of genocide is its definition. Since Raphael Lemkin (1946) first coined the term in 1944, genocide has been understood differently by different people. This paper attempts to bring out the root causes of the ongoing genocide in Ambazonia that has emerged as President Paul Biya’s greatest security debacle in nearly four decades in power (Reuters, 2018). The findings suggest at least five origins or root causes of the ongoing genocide in Ambazonia namely: (a) aborted decolonization; (b) annexation and attendant re-colonization; (c) natural resources; (d) ambiguities in defining sovereignty and human rights; and, (e) confusion between interference in internal affairs and saving mankind from the “scourge of war.”

“Anglophone Crisis” as Misguided Theorizing and Application

Cameroon, a country once considered to be a harmonious state and a “safe haven” amongst turmoil in Central Africa, is now at the brink of a “full-blown revolt” (Dominion Post 2018), as the Anglophone problem (JUA, 2003) has escalated into an intractable genocide (Chalk and Jonassohn, 1990: 44). After several decades of increasing political asphyxiation, economic and social marginalization or exclusion, peaceful Ambazonian protests against the government of Cameroon have erupted into overt violence and calls for restoration of statehood. Over 2018 in particular, tension and violence has escalated significantly and has grabbed international media attention. With increasing unrest and exposure, the Francophone-majority government is both internally and externally attempting to conceal the gravity of the crisis and punish defectors. Recent theatrical “dialogue” has not led to de-escalation or conflict management as the region propels further towards civil war and genocide, with no peaceful resolution in sight.

 “Anglophone Crisis?” 

The mist and veil of word- “Anglophone” (Atanga, 2011) is vital to understanding issues of the raging genocide. The powers and abilities conferred by the use of language entail cognitive successes of various kinds (Wolf, 2006). But language may also be the source of cognitive failures, of course. The idea that language is potentially misleading is familiar from many practical contexts, perhaps especially politics. The same danger exists everywhere, however, including in scholarly and scientific research. In scriptural interpretation, for example, it is imperative to distinguish true interpretations of a text from false ones; this in turn requires thinking about the stability of linguistic meaning and about the use of analogymetaphor, and allegory in textual analysis. Often the danger is less that meanings may be misidentified than that the text may be misconceived through alien categories entrenched (and thus unnoticed) in the scholar’s own language (Ernest and Smith, 2008). The same worries apply to the interpretation of works of literature, legal documents, and scientific treatises.

Southern Cameroons pioneer leeaders Endeley, Foncha, Jua , and Muna

In fact, language is a central component of human existence. This platitude gives rise to at least two motivations to study the philosophy of language. The first is to better understand how language fits into other human activities, such as communication and the transmission of knowledge (rather than merely the transmission of belief) and the ways speech acts can be used to accomplish a number of different aims. Misidentification has thus tortured the explanation of what is really going on in Former UN Trust Territory of the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia). Despite persistent denial of the Anglophone problem by majority-led Francophone government leaders (Konings and Nyamnjoh, 1997), growing discontent persists amongst Anglophones, both young and old, as to how Anglophones are treated. Both scholars argue that the political agenda in Cameroon has become increasingly dominated by what is known as the ‘Anglophone problem’ (JUA, 2003), which poses a major challenge to the efforts of the “post-colonial state” to forge national unity and integration, and has led to the reintroduction of forceful arguments and actions in favor of ‘federalism’ or even ‘secession.’ It is noteworthy that federalism and secession are not alternative forms of state. The former is but the latter is not a form of state. Further, federalism and secession are not mutually exclusive in this context, in the sense that secession could well lead to federalism as a form of state.

Some of the specific signals that may come into play in the misrepresented “Anglophone Crisis” include: (a) ongoing civil and human rights violations, particularly those that target specific groups of people (as was common during the Nazi reign of reign of terror during the Holocaust years); (b) newspaper articles or radio commentaries that systematically disparage, malign, or attempt to ostracize a particular group (again, this use of media for organized propaganda was common during the Holocaust); (c) radio reports that incite violence against a particular group of people (as happened in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide); (d) sporadic and violent attacks against a particular group of people by government or government-sponsored forces; and (e) “ethnic cleansing,” wherein a targeted group is forced en masse from their homes, communities, and region (as has been taking place in the Former Southern British Cameroons or the United Nations Trust Territory of the Ambazonia since President Paul Biya declared war against those people” (victims of genocide) on November 30th, 2017. Ironically, many continue to claim and attribute the on-going carnage in Ambazonia to a language problem or linguistic differences (Niying, 2016). Really?

Strangely, Francophone Cameroonian scholars and politicians have been inclined to perceive Anglophone nationalism as an unexpected, recent invention (Donfack 1998; Menthong 1998). They appear to have been convinced that the post-colonial state’s imposition of a project of nationalisme upon the existing ethnic and national identities had effectively wiped out most traces of “Anglophoneness”, or what Edwin Ardener (1967: 292) referred to as a “distinctively British Cameroonian way of life”, from the public space. This is evidenced by a recent statement from the former Vice-Prime Minister in charge of Housing and Town Planning, Hamadou Mustapha: “À un moment donné effectivement, on a commencé à oublier que les Anglophones étaient là; on a eu l’impression que les Anglophones s’étaient déjà francophonisés”(At a certain time people started forgetting the presence of Anglophones, my translation).

Francophone scholars and politicians also tend to attribute the emergence of Anglophone nationalism in the public space mainly to the mobilization efforts of a few discontented elites who were denied a place at the “dining table” during political liberalization (Sindjoun, 1995; Nkoum-Me-Ntseny, 1996; Menthong, 1998). Their explanation in terms of opportunistic entrepreneurs in search of a political market comes close to the government position on Anglophone nationalism. Probably on the assumption that government strategies of control, notably the frequent use of state violence, divide-and-rule tactics, and the co-optation of some Anglophone elites into the regime, would be effective, they wrongly claimed that Anglophone nationalism would never witness an exponential growth in the public arena (Sindjoun, 1995: 114).

All these excuses notwithstanding, it is commonplace that most responsible world leaders decry the act of genocide. The problem is that they seem to do so after the fact, that is, after an act of genocide has been committed and members of the targeted group are lying dead in the tens to hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Indeed, during those periods when genocide is actually being carried out, it almost seems as if world leaders—including those at the United Nations—are time and again playing out a deadly and scurrilous game of “see no evil, hear no evil.”

Undoubtedly, there are numerous reasons why world leaders, both individually and collectively, persistently ignore both the early warning signs of an impending genocide as well as the actual genocidal events. These include, but are not limited to, the following: (a) the concept of so-called “internal affairs” and the related issue of the primacy of national sovereignty, which causes many nations to hesitate before becoming involved in another nation’s internal affairs; (b) the hesitancy to commit one’s troops to a dangerous situation; (c) the lack of care regarding the problems of a nation whose geopolitical status is deemed “insignificant”; (d) the wariness of many nations at entering into agreements that could, at some point, subordinate national sovereignty to international will; and (e) a myriad of other reasons related directly to the concept of realpolitik.

Not surprisingly, the issue of “internal affairs” is often used by genocidal nations to keep “outsiders” at bay, and “bystander” nations as an excuse for not acting to prevent the genocide. In effect, the group perpetrating genocide is asserting, “This is our business, not yours (e.g., the international community’s), and we will handle our problems as we wish.” Conversely, and while possibly sickened by the actions of the genocidal state, the onlooker nations are, in effect, saying, “As disturbing as the situation is, it (the perpetration of genocide) is their problem, not ours.” Left unsaid but subsumed under the latter is the notion that “We don’t want other nations poking their noses in our business, and thus we won’t poke our nose in theirs.”

There is no doubt that the principle of non-intervention remains a well-established part of international law. The prohibition of intervention “is a corollary of every state’s right to sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence” (Oppenheim’s International Law, p 428). The Friendly Relations Declaration (UNGA res. 2625(XXV) 1970) includes a whole section on ‘The principle concerning the duty not to intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter.’ The UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Domestic Affairs of States (UNGA resolution 2131 (XX) 1965). The case of La République du Cameroun and Ambazonia is different. Both are independent states sanctioned by the United Nations and subsequently fused together but with no treaty of union.

The trouble with this attitude concerning non-interference is that it ignores the central tenet of the Genocide Convention that genocide is a crime under international law. More specifically, Article 1 of the Convention states: “The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.” The problem, as Kuper notes, is that “The doctrine of humanitarian intervention, [which] may be defined as ‘the right of one nation to use force against another nation for the purpose of protecting the inhabitants of that other nation from inhumane treatment by their governing sovereign,’ is clearly in conflict with the cardinal principles of respect for national unit, territorial integrity, and political independence” (1981: 29).

In the context of Cameroon, two writers captured the point very eloquently. One, Victor Epie Ngome, using a Biblical analogy, titled his work of fiction, “What god put asunder.” The second writer, Rotcod Gobata (2011) in his article, “The Ironies of Our History”, observed that the “English and the French belong to one common stock and are next door neighbors…they have lived for millennia without ever attempting direct mixing because their respective cultures and ways of thinking are too divergent.” He concluded that “the case was not different for the Cameroons on whom the respective cultures and languages of Britain and France were foisted by historical circumstances.” We can therefore trace this conflict to a flawed decolonization of the territory, the political marginalization and economic strangulation of the people and territory since 1961, and the government’s assimilationist agenda cloaked as ‘national integration.’ For a clearer understanding of the conflicts in the region and the dynamics, we may borrow from historical, political, and legal accounts on the postcolonial nation-state of Cameroon.

File Picture, Prime Minister John Ngu Foncha inspects a  guard of honour at an official function
File Picture, Prime Minister John Ngu Foncha inspects a guard of honour at an official function

In an article in the East Oregonian of June 6, 2010, Harriet Isom, US Ambassador to Cameroon from 1993-1996 observed that “the dichotomy between the former British part of Cameroon and the larger, dominant, former French colonial part still exists.” Subscribing to this viewpoint, Yaounde University political historian, Verkijika Fanso (2017) affirmed that “Tensions between English-speaking Cameroonians (Anglophones) and the West-Central African nation’s French-speaking government stretch back to the end of colonial rule nearly 60 years ago.” At the heart of the tension, Fanso contends, is the desire of Anglophones to form their own independent state, called Ambazonia.

Until this thorny issue is resolved, the intervention of outside nations to prevent genocide is bound to remain problematic. Hence, hesitancy on the part of a nation to commit its own troops to a dangerous situation (e.g., where genocide is taking place in another nation) also acts as a deterrent vis-a-vis intervention. My argument in this paper is therefore that the root cause of the ongoing genocide in Ambazonia is: (a) aborted decolonization; (b) annexation and attendant re-colonization; (c) natural resources; (d) ambiguities in defining sovereignty and human rights; and, (e) confusion between interference in internal affairs and saving mankind from the “scourge of war.”

Explaining the Underlying Concept of Genocide

Why should “indiscriminate and systematic destruction of members of a group because they belong to that group” make genocide the gravest crime?  The killing of members of a group as such is not just barbaric, but also an irrational manner of killing which has a tendency to result in enormous loss of life for many reasons. First, it generalizes the culpability of members of the victim group, mixing real with perceived threats. By associating the innocents with the real enemies, it dehumanizes all members of the group which, in Chalk and Jonassohn’s view, is one necessary precondition of genocide (Chalk and Jonassohn, op. cit.: 27). 

Second this manner of killing has the potential to proliferate and become uncontrollable as the very ideology or reasoning which supports such killing can easily be interpreted in killing an entire group or later be used against other groups. The Khmer Rouge originally planned to execute all Lon Nol officials and civil servants, but later urban people were targeted, then they purged their own cadres. Power quotes Galbraith’s realization of the proliferation effect of the indiscriminate killing of the Kurds in Iraq under the Anfal campaign: 

These things accelerate…. Hitler when he took power in 1933, did not have a plan to exterminate all the Jews in Europe. Evil begets evil…. While at that time the extermination campaign was focused on Kurds in rural areas and small towns, I thought that the logic of his program could culminate in the elimination of the entire Kurdish population of Iraq” (Power, 2002: 203). Power wrote that “the link between Hitler’s Final Solution and Lemkin’s hybrid term would cause endless confusion for policymakers and ordinary people who assumed that genocide occurred only where the perpetrator of atrocity could be shown, like Hitler, to possess an intent to exterminate every last member of an ethnic, national, or religious group” (Ibid.:43).

Third, left unchecked, killing people has the effect of desensitizing members of the perpetrating community, making a full-scale genocide more likely given the right opportunity. This is different from a soldier who might be desensitized to kill other soldiers after being on the battlefield for a long time. Desensitized genocidal perpetrators would not hesitate to kill women and children of the victim groups. An example can be drawn from the suicide bombers who blow up Israeli gatherings. The desensitizing effect can also be noted in the statement of the new Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami, who spoke of wiping Israel from the map. A large number of Iranians supported his speech. In fact, a suicide bombing campaign would fall under this paper’s definition of genocide (See “Iranian Leader Rebuts Critics over Israel Remarks: Thousands of Iranians Stage Anti-Israel Demonstrations,” accessed on 10/28/2005 at http://cnn.worldnews.printthis.clickability.com/pt/cpt?action=cpt&title=cnn.com. Accessed 12/09/2019). 

Cameroon: Back to the Future

For decades, nonviolent protests were a recurrent phenomenon in the political life of the postcolonial state of Cameroon in terms of the intractable identity conflict between the Government of Cameroon and Anglophone nationalists. Such protests re-occurring yearly around historical dates like February 11 (Plebiscite Day), May 20 (United Republic Day) and October 1 (Independence Day of ex-British Southern Cameroons) were generally met with violent repression in the form of arrests, torture, incarcerations, and killings. From October 2016, some media outlets in the West have reported that “violence was hitting Cameroon over English versus French” (Kindzeka, 2016). According to the few news reports in the Western media, “several people were killed and hundreds more were arrested or missing in the Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon in violence that followed rallies by the country’s English-speaking minority” (Kindzeka, 2016: 1).

The genocidal war that is raging in Ambazonia is difficult to understand without first grasping the territory’s jurisdictional status after World War I. Like all German- or Ottoman-controlled colonies—for example, Syria, Lebanon, Togo and Ruanda-Urundi—“Kamerun” conquered by the Germans in the early twentieth century, became an internationally mandated territory after 1918. The League of Nations entrusted four-fifths of the country to France to administer and the remaining part to the United Kingdom. British Cameroon and French Cameroon were not colonial territories, but rather territories under international supervision. In exchange for administrative control, the French and British promised to work for the “well-being” of those who were then still classified as “natives” (indigènes).

The situation continued after World War II. The newly formed United Nations (UN) kept British and French territories of Cameroon under “international trusteeship,” authorizing London and Paris to carry out administrative tasks for the purpose of preparing the territories for self-government. The British and French had to sign Trusteeship Agreements which legally bound them to adhere to the UN charter on trusteeship territories, which called on them to “promote the political, economic, social, and educational advancement of the inhabitants of the trust territories, and their progressive development towards self-government or independence.”

This hybrid jurisdictional status paradoxically inflamed the situation: on paper, the Cameroonians were promised political and civil rights while, in practice, the European administrators could find easy ways to ignore them. Clashing interpretations of the international texts thus exacerbated the social conflicts that characterize all colonial societies. In trying to empty the UN’s documents of substance in the trust territory of French Cameroon, French administering authorities violated the terms of international trusteeship, while Cameroonians, knowing their legal and political arguments to be sound, cited them as justifying their claim to political subjectivity and legal and human rights.

European authorities quickly realized that the trusteeship system weakened the imperial edifice. If the Cameroonians managed to assert the rights the United Nations legally upheld, the wind of decolonization, already blowing in Asia, would arrive in Africa, causing surrounding colonies to crumble by contagion and destroying what remained of empire. For the French, who controlled the major part of the country, it became urgent to halt the growing liberation movement.

Paris watched with concern as a powerful independence movement emerged. The Union of the Populations of Cameroon (UPC), founded in April 1948, centered the independence movement, which was gaining in popularity daily. Particularly well-structured and led by some remarkable militants, the UPC rapidly extended its influence and began to undermine the administering authorities, not only in the urban centers of Yaoundé, Douala, Dschang, and Édéa, but also in the countryside. Ever-larger crowds gathered to listen to speeches from UPC secretary general Ruben Um Nyobè, President Félix Moumié, and Vice Presidents Abel Kingue and Ernest Ouandié.

Even more worrying for the French, the UPC leaders managed to make themselves heard outside the country—in France, but also in New York, where Um Nyobè traveled on three occasions to make the case for Cameroonian independence before the United Nations. Each time he returned to Cameroon, those who openly defied the French regime eagerly welcomed him. His moderate and determined speeches to the Trusteeship Council and the General Assembly were duplicated and distributed throughout the country.

His message impacted every corner of the country—farmers dispossessed by colonial enterprises, unemployed youths from Douala’s or Yaoundé’s working-class neighborhoods, low-level government employees sickened by their French superiors’ conduct, veterans held in contempt even though they had fought for France in World War II, and women seeking to empower themselves both politically and economically. Tens of thousands of letters and petitions were sent to the United Nations to convey the UPC’s watchwords: social justice, an end to racial discrimination, total independence, and reunification—slogans that echoed the promise of the UN charter itself.

The French authorities not only wanted to keep Cameroon out of the hands of its people, but also out of international competition. The Soviets, suspected of trying to spread “world revolution,” were often accused of directing African independence movements from afar. After all, had not certain leading UPC figures been to Eastern Europe and even China at the invitation of the communists?

The fallacious red-baiting was not only intended to discredit the independence movement internally; it also aimed to convince American and British authorities of nationalism’s dangers. Parisian elites feared that Washington and London might look to benefit from the independence promised to the Cameroonian people. The British, who controlled the western part of Cameroon, were subject to intense suspicion by the French in the mid-1950s, as Paris struggled to decipher London’s colonial policy.

File Picture.Symbolic crossing of the Moungo Bridge in 1994 following the return of a mission to the United Nations to demand for the restoration of Southern Cameroons statehood

In Kenya in 1952, the British had bloodily repressed the Land and Freedom Army—which they pejoratively called “Mau Mau”— and seemed determined to maintain their grip on that country. Elsewhere, however, their strategy appeared to diverge. In the Gold Coast (now Ghana), London seemed prepared to negotiate independence with the nationalist movement lead by Kwame Nkrumah. Such weakness scandalized some French observers of colonial affairs. The British were going to give away their empire and abandon the unfinished work of colonialism! And all for the benefit of a handful of radicalized Africans who would inevitably deliver the continent to the communists.

The more aware French administrators, however, held a different view. Aware that traditional colonialism was done for, they saw Britain’s apparent laxness in the Gold Coast and elsewhere as a subtle way of controlling their colonies’ inevitable independence. According to this analysis, London was trying to reproduce in Africa what Washington and Moscow had realized in Latin America and Eastern Europe: converting these countries into vassal states by leaning on local elites as their collaborators and intermediaries.

In fact, this kind of colonial reform was also ongoing in France. A new piece of legislation, prepared as soon as 1954 and adopted two years later under the name of the “Defferre loi cadre,” or framework law, entrusted certain responsibilities to handpicked African elites who would keep the colonies within the French fold. By giving local autonomy and limited power to local leaders, this particularly perverse outsourcing of the state’s domestic administration undermined its full sovereignty.

Accompanied by development schemes supposed to ameliorate the fate of the population, this “neo-colonial mystification”—as Jean-Paul Sartre would call it—was gradually instilled in numerous places. In Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, and elsewhere, African politicians cynically accepted French authorities’ assistance in establishing themselves in positions of responsibility that were, in reality, closely supervised. In Cameroon, however, the operation proved more difficult to carry out: UPC leaders refused to betray the political aims and popular aspirations they had upheld for years. As they continued the work of political mobilization within and beyond Cameroon’s borders, Paris decided to employ strong-arm tactics.

Two high commissioners were appointed to implement this policy. The first, Roland Pré, arrived in Yaoundé in December 1954. Fascinated by the United States and an obsessive anticommunist, his key role in the war is now forgotten. After bloodily repressing mass protests in May 1955, he used those riots to outlaw the UPC — accused of instigation — removing it from the political scene. Banned by the French government on July 13, 1955, Um Nyobè’s party had to continue its struggle underground.

The second high commissioner, Pierre Messmer, replaced Pré in 1956. He is better known today because, under French president Charles de Gaulle, he became the minister of the armed forces from 1960 to 1969, and then served as prime minister of France from 1972 to 1974. In late trusteeship-era French Cameroon, Messmer’s mission was to keep the UPC underground and groom a local ruling class that could continue to favor French interests after independence. As he explicitly wrote in his memoirs, the idea was to give “independence to those who called for it the least, having eliminated politically and militarily those who had called for it most intransigently.”

Besides a visceral anticommunism, the two top French administrators in Cameroon had a shared interest in counterinsurgency. In part inspired by the psychological warfare developed in the United States and by British techniques used in various colonial arenas, a line of French officers during the 1946–1954 Indochina war elaborated the French counterrevolutionary war doctrine. Claiming that the Vietminh were using “totalitarian methods” to involve Vietnamese civilians in the struggle, these officers tried to convince the French army to adopt similar techniques. Considering every civilian a potential combatant and believing that the line between peace and war had disappeared, this doctrine aimed to install civilian-military structures capable of leading the masses physically and psychologically.

France’s stinging defeat at Dien Bien Phu in 1954 seemed to confirm these officers’ analyses, and they convinced their superiors and the government to put their theories into practice. The counterrevolutionary doctrine was exported simultaneously to two territories under French rule — Algeria, shaken by the National Liberation Front (FLN) movement, and Cameroon, where French officialdom described the UPC as a sort of African Vietminh. Smarting from Indochina, these officers arrived in Cameroon in 1955 with the firm intention of scouring out “communist subversion.”

But in reality, what happened in Cameroon was closer to preventive vengeance. The accusations made against the UPC were quite absurd; all observers, including those in the French administration, knew the party was committed to legal means. Law—international law, as well as the concept of a universal Fourth Republic French law—was its weapon of choice. But French propaganda took its toll. Forced underground, with some driven to the British Cameroons, a number of UPC figures realized that they had no choice but to change methods.

December 1956 marked a major turning point. Pierre Messmer organized elections in which the outlawed UPC could not participate. This way, the high commissioner could validate the elimination of the main Cameroonian party and appoint “democratically elected” candidates better disposed to France. To prevent this, the nationalists organized resistance fighters through the National Organization Committee (CNO), headquartered in the Sanaga-Maritime, Um Nyobè’s home region and where he was clandestinely living. The French reaction became so violent that tens of thousands of families left their villages to take refuge in the surrounding forests and put themselves under the protection of the CNO maquis. Other armed organizations joined the fight, attempting, with varying degrees of success, to coordinate with the UPC.

The suppression of the UPC and its militia turned into open war. The military authorities deployed various large-scale military measures—like the Pacification Zone (ZOPAC) set up in Sanaga-Maritime at the end of 1957—against the nationalists. Like the British in Malaya and Kenya and like the Americans later in Vietnam, the French began a process of so-called villagization. Security forces under French command mercilessly hunted down all those who refused to join military regroupement camps. The French army and its affiliated militias burned illegal villages and summarily executed outlaws extrajudicially. Those who joined the regroupement camps, willingly or not, had to experience the army’s total surveillance apparatus, endure endless screening sessions, and take part in countless psychological rehabilitation schemes.

The Cameroonian war also played out on the international stage—in particular at the United Nations. Immediately after Um Nyobè’s death, the French authorities announced the country’s imminent independence and offered to examine the best way forward. Presented as an act of generosity, independence in fact perfectly suited the French war plan. From the Cameroonian perspective, the scheme had two obvious defects. For one, it called for independence prior to an election. For another, the Cameroonian leaders whom French authorities co-opted as allies had to sign a series of bilateral accords with Paris, some of them secret, that would legalize French control over the new state’s commercial, monetary, military, cultural, and diplomatic policies.

This was, then, an illusory independence—the Cameroonian people were deprived of sovereignty, and their leaders remained under France’s supervision. Nevertheless, the United Nations accepted the French plan in March 1959 thanks to the willing compliance of Washington and London— quite happy to keep this part of the French empire in the Western fold—and of Moscow—in a period of “peaceful coexistence” and not much concerned about Cameroonian communists.

This controlled independence had numerous advantages for the French. Apart from defusing the real Cameroonian independence movement’s message, it allowed the French authorities to put an end to the international trusteeship system and shed UN oversight. Also, independence would accelerate British Cameroon’s emancipation, and Paris assumed the two parts of the country would quickly reunite. The latter aim was only half achieved — the northern half of British Cameroon joined Nigeria. Surely the most important outcome of Cameroon’s independence was that it freed France to repress movements deemed subversive as it wished. From the moment independence was proclaimed, France intensified its war effort. The Sanaga-Maritime had been, in large part, purged between 1957 and 1959, and the conflict escalated in Wouri, Mungo, and the Bamileke region, where the Kamerunian National Liberation Army (ALNK) had been established in 1959.

The French army repeated its villagization policy, set up militias, and disappeared prisoners. It added a vast campaign of aerial bombardment to its repertoire. The population endured intense psychological campaigns — torture was systematized, public executions proliferated, and the severed heads of alleged rebels were displayed at markets and public squares. In parallel, France intensified its hunt for exiled enemies. Félix Moumié, for instance, died in November 1960 after being poisoned in Geneva by an agent of the French secret services.

This policy of terror continued for a decade. Under the leadership of Ernest Ouandié—who returned to Cameroon after Moumié’s assassination—the ALNK displayed astonishing fighting spirit in spite of incredible material difficulties. The ferocious repression guided secretly by France started to bear fruit in 1962–63. The nationalist underground became more and more restricted, but did not disappear completely. It was only when Ouandié was arrested in 1970 and publicly executed in January 1971 that the nationalists accepted that armed struggle had definitively failed.

Over the course of the war, the government began routinely practicing the counterinsurgency methods innovated in the 1950s. Supervised by French advisers, Cameroonian president Ahmadou Ahidjo—installed in 1958—transformed his regime into a dictatorship. Well aware that he owed his power to France, he suppressed all civil liberties and progressively established a one-party system. Under the pretext of fighting “subversion,” he surrounded the Cameroonian people with a wall of silence. With its omnipresent army, brutal political police, and administrative detention camps, the regime became one of the most repressive in Africa to the benefit of the local apparatchiks and French businesses, who shared in the profits from the country’s economic exploitation.

The French government was so satisfied by the result that it granted independence to its other African colonies along the same lines. Like Ahidjo, the leaders of these new, nearly all pro-France countries signed bilateral agreements drastically limiting their sovereignty and transformed their regimes into dictatorships. Those who refused were severely brought to task or eliminated, as in the case of the Togolese Sylvanus Olympio—assassinated in 1963 by French-trained putschists. Thus “Françafrique” was born—the French version of neocolonialism, which allowed Paris to maintain its former African colonies not in spite of independence but, in fact, thanks to it.

The Cameroonian war also played out on the international stage—in particular at the United Nations. Immediately after Um Nyobè’s death, the French authorities announced the country’s imminent independence and offered to examine the best way forward. Presented as an act of generosity, independence in fact perfectly suited the French war plan.

From the Cameroonian perspective, the scheme had two obvious defects. For one, it called for independence prior to an election. For another, the Cameroonian leaders whom French authorities co-opted as allies had to sign a series of bilateral accords with Paris, some of them secret, that would legalize French control over the new state’s commercial, monetary, military, cultural, and diplomatic policies.

This was, then, an illusory independence—the Cameroonian people were deprived of sovereignty, and their leaders remained under France’s supervision. Nevertheless, the United Nations accepted the French plan in March 1959 thanks to the willing compliance of Washington and London—quite happy to keep this part of the French empire in the Western fold—and of Moscow—in a period of “peaceful coexistence” and not much concerned about Cameroonian communists. This controlled independence had numerous advantages for the French. Apart from defusing the real Cameroonian independence movement’s message, it allowed the French authorities to put an end to the international trusteeship system and shed UN oversight. Also, independence would accelerate British Cameroon’s emancipation, and Paris assumed the two parts of the country would quickly reunite. The latter aim was only half achieved—the northern half of British Cameroon joined Nigeria. Surely the most important outcome of Cameroon’s independence was that it freed France to repress movements deemed subversive as it wished.

From the moment independence was proclaimed, France intensified its war effort. The Sanaga-Maritime had been, in large part, purged between 1957 and 1959, and the conflict escalated in Wouri, Mungo, and the Bamileke region, where the Kamerunian National Liberation Army (ALNK) had been established in 1959. The French army repeated its villagization policy, set up militias, and disappeared prisoners. It added a vast campaign of aerial bombardment to its repertoire. The population endured intense psychological campaigns—torture was systematized, public executions proliferated, and the severed heads of alleged rebels were displayed at markets and public squares. In parallel, France intensified its hunt for exiled enemies. Félix Moumié, for instance, died in November 1960 after being poisoned in Geneva by an agent of the French secret services.

This policy of terror continued for a decade. Under the leadership of Ernest Ouandié—who returned to Cameroon after Moumié’s assassination—the ALNK displayed astonishing fighting spirit in spite of incredible material difficulties. The ferocious repression guided secretly by France started to bear fruit in 1962–63. The nationalist underground became more and more restricted, but did not disappear completely. It was only when Ouandié was arrested in 1970 and publicly executed in January 1971 that the nationalists accepted that armed struggle had definitively failed.

Over the course of the war, the government began routinely practicing the counterinsurgency methods innovated in the 1950s. Supervised by French advisers, Cameroonian president Ahmadou Ahidjo—installed in 1958—transformed his regime into a dictatorship. Well aware that he owed his power to France, he suppressed all civil liberties and progressively established a one-party system. Under the pretext of fighting “subversion,” he surrounded the Cameroonian people with a wall of silence. With its omnipresent army, brutal political police, and administrative detention camps, the regime became one of the most repressive in Africa to the benefit of the local apparatchiks and French businesses, who shared in the profits from the country’s economic exploitation.

The French government was so satisfied by the result that it granted independence to its other African colonies along the same lines. Like Ahidjo, the leaders of these new, nearly all pro-France countries signed bilateral agreements drastically limiting their sovereignty and transformed their regimes into dictatorships. Those who refused were severely brought to task or eliminated, as in the case of the Togolese Sylvanus Olympio—assassinated in 1963 by French-trained putschists. Thus “Françafrique” was born—the French version of neocolonialism, which allowed Paris to maintain its former African colonies not in spite of independence but, in fact, thanks to it.

Independence of Ambazonia as Annexation and Re-colonization

The name ‘Southern British Cameroons’ is often written in abbreviated form as ‘Ambazonia’, shorn of the qualifier ‘British’. This abbreviated form shall be used throughout the rest of this paper. The Ambazonia is not the southern or any part of French Cameroun/Republic of Cameroun. The name Ambazonia comes from the fact that the British Order in Council of 26 June 1923 divided the Mandated Territory of the British Cameroons into two parts, a southern part known as the Ambazonia and a northern part known as the Northern Cameroons. Each part was tagged on to Nigeria in an administrative union and administered as though it formed an integral part of Nigeria. By this act of the Administering Authority, the Southern British Cameroons became a distinct territory from the Northern British Cameroons within the international system and a distinct unit of self-determination. From 1962-1972 the Territory was confusingly also known as West Cameroon. To confound matters further, in 1972 it was split by Republic of Cameroun into two parts denoted as North West & South West provinces. The Territory’s definitive geographical indication or name, Ambazonia, envisaged by the national liberation forces speaks to the very critical matters of sovereign branding, identity, specificity and territorial integrity, and seeks to end the name confusion.

I would argue here that Ambazonia has never been and is not a part of La République du Cameroun. It is simply occupied through fraud, violence, intimidation and suppression by La République du Cameroun. The name Ambazonia does not refer in any way or manner to the southern part of La République du Cameroun. It refers only to the southern part of the Cameroons under United Kingdom’s Administration, since Britain had divided the Cameroons under UK administration into a northern and southern part. The territory of Ambazonia begins at the Atlantic coast in the Gulf of Guinea. It has about 200 km of coastline and stretches approximately 550 kilometers inland. It is sandwiched between Nigeria to the west and Republic of Cameroun to the east. Its frontiers with the Republic of Cameroun are firmly secured by the following international boundary treaties: 

  1. the Milner-Simon Declaration of 10th July 1919 respecting the Frontier between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun, more elaborately defined in 1928 in a joint declaration by the Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria and the Governor of French Cameroun and approved in an Exchange of Notes between the British and French Governments on 9th January 1931; and, 
  2. (ii) the Declaration made by the Governor of the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria and the Governor of the French Cameroun determining the Frontier between British Cameroons and French Cameroun, 9th January 1931. 

Likewise, its frontiers with Nigeria are secured by the following boundary treaties: 

  1. Agreement of 11th March 1913 between Great Britain and Germany respecting the Settlement of the Frontier between Nigeria and the Cameroons, from Yola to the Sea; and the Regulation of Navigation on the cross River; and, 
  2. (ii) Agreement concerning the Demarcation of the Anglo-German Boundary between Nigeria and the Cameroons from Yola to the Cross River, 12th April 1913.

The conflicts and crisis in Ambazonia are between the part of the territory that was once governed by the British (1916-1961), and the larger part once ruled by the French (1918-1960), which were foreseen in the decolonization of colonial countries, peoples, and territories. The warnings on the political future of the people of Ambazonia were ignored in favor of the geo-politics of the West during the Cold War. Before 1960, often referred to as the year of African independence, the people of ex-British Southern Cameroons were self-governing with functioning democratic institutions. They also had internationally recognized boundaries. Possibly speaking from the unstable experience of plural societies, United States Ambassador Clement J. Zabloiski warned at the 896th General Assembly meeting that “the results of a hurried choice imposed on the population of the Trust Territory of British Cameroons would be catastrophic for their political future.” Krishna Mennon, Ambassador of India, expressed similar concerns that his “delegation (saw) no reason why Ambazonia (should) not achieve independence on the same date like Nigeria and Northern Cameroons.” In Britain, Hon. G. M. Thompson (M.P. Dundee East) addressing the British House of Commons on the poor handling of the case said: “The problem of uniting these two territories would in any event be difficult. They are two territories of completely different cultures with different political systems –there are extremely complex problems in bringing these two countries together within one national state.” By compelling the British Southern Cameroons to achieve “independence by joining”, the United Kingdom and the United Nations were in effect ignoring these warnings as well as arguments of incompatibility theorists of multinational states.

After strenuously refusing to grant sovereign independence to the territory, Britain forced an illegal Plebiscite on the people, asking them whether they wished to achieve independence by joining the Republic of Nigeria or La République du Cameroun. The vote went in favor of achieving independence by joining Cameroon. The United Nations General Assembly followed up the vote to pass the Resolution 1608(XV) of 21 April 1961 to grant the British Southern Cameroons independence in association with Cameroon. Atemnkeng (2014) has argued that by this Plebiscite, Britain had already sealed the fate of the people by forcing them, whether they wanted it or not, to choose only between some form of association with Nigeria or Cameroon.

The British Southern Cameroons’ joining the Cameroon Republic on October 1, 1961 was on the understanding of an equal partner situation in the Federal Republic of Cameroon. However, as Fanso (2014) suggests, the first President of Cameroon had started “confiscating the independence of British Southern Cameroons even before it was accorded at the joining.” In the President’s mind, the joining merely signified the accommodation of British Southern Cameroons as the western part of German Kamerun. Yet Britain, who claimed she would not transfer the British Southern Cameroons as a dependent territory to La République du Cameroun, looked on with no objection although the British always knew La République du Cameroun and British Southern Cameroons were not a Franco-British Condominium, that is, a house jointly managed by two equal masters. The Anglophone people are also faulting the United Nations for failing, as trustor, to implement UN principles in regard to self-determination and self-rule. They argue that the forceful suppression of Ambazonian institutions by La République du Cameroun constitutes a breach of international peace and is incompatible with international instruments. Notwithstanding Article 47 of the Federal Constitution, which was categorically against the abridgement of the federal system, the Federal Republic of Cameroon lasted only ten years six months and was dismantled in May 1972. The Anglophone region was then annexed into a United Republic, and in 1984, the word “united” was scrapped (Anyangwe, 2018). The country became known as the Republic of Cameroon, which was the original name of the former French colonial Cameroon at independence. The English-speaking regions were then progressively assimilated into the French-speaking area.

Demonstrators take to the streets in English-speaking parts of Cameroon with peace plants in September 2017 to protest perceived discrimination in favour of the country’s francophone majority.

By considering British Southern Cameroons merely as part of German Kamerun that returned ‘home,’ the authorities of the Cameroon Republic refused to view the national and cultural differences between the two territories as a source of national strength. Rather, they viewed the differences as a danger to nation building and opted for a policy of national integration, which only sought to dismiss, repudiate, and systematically obliterate former British Southern Cameroons by imposing French values and ways of life on the people. For more than half a century, the people of the region have accepted all acts of constitutional law, civil law, criminal law, and administrative law imposed on them by the authorities as acts which one does not like but has to tolerate them in order to survive (Yongbang, 2014: 235). Narratives of the people of the Anglophone region demonstrate that the two groups do not have much in common except at the surface if we consider their different worldviews about education, law and order, governance, conduct of elections, the dignity of the human person, and other aspects of a nation’s life. From his many experiences living in Yaounde for many decades and his knowledge of the situation, Fanso (1999: 10) concluded that “Anglophones and Francophones are still strange bedfellows.”

There is evidence that the people of the Cameroon Anglophone region have long complained that their language and culture were marginalized as a result of annexation and colonial occupation by La République du Cameroun (Nfor, 2000; Anyangwe, 2014). Fanso (2017) observed that “The dignity and statehood of the Anglophone region was systematically destroyed by the government led and dominated by Francophones.” By October 2018, the people of the Anglophone region continued to decry the steps taken by the government to completely ‘Frenchify’ everything Anglo-Saxon in Cameroon. Some of these are the recent inclusion of the soccer leagues of the region in those of the adjacent French-speaking regions of West and Littoral; the dissolution of the General Certificate of Education Board into a parastatal with officials exclusively appointed by the government per decree No 2018/514 of 22 October 2018 to reorganize the GCE Board, and the exclusive use of the French language in some major areas of national life in a supposedly bilingual country. Existing in the margins of Cameroon’s political and economic life and feeling the loss of their identity in the postcolonial country, the people of the Anglophone region sought an end to annexation and assimilation, and their own independent state as voted for in the United Nations in April 1961 (UNGA Resolution 1608 (XV).

In the current war of extermination waged by La République du Cameroun on Ambazonia, the civilians, who are  victims have been expecting both the African Union and the United Nations to uphold and enforce their own principles and laws. They expect these organizations to take effective measures to mediate the full implementation of the 1960 Declaration on the Granting of Independence (UNGA Res. 1514 (XV) relating to the region, and to uphold her territorial integrity. As well, they expect the African Union to uphold, respect, honor, and enforce the provision of its own constitutional text, Article 4 (b) of the Constitutive Act, which reaffirms the principle of intangibility of borders of each African country as inherited at independence. On October 4, 2017, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission issued a statement reaffirming the commitment of the African Union to promote peace “in line with the principle of the intangibility of African Borders as they existed at independence.” The people of the Anglophone region expect the African Union to go beyond the rhetoric by giving teeth to its commitment to this founding principle of the continental organization. The people also call on the United Kingdom and the United Nations to return to fix the problems they created for the territory and her people. The other side, the Government, uses the power and advantage of a sovereign nation-state with the backing of the same United Nations to avoid dialogue and a negotiated settlement of the conflict. In lieu of initiating a dialogue, the Government of Cameroon has instead been escalating the conflict by waging war under the guise of fighting “secession” and “terrorism” within the nation-state.

As the people of the region wait in expectation, the world continues to watch as a fratricidal war unfolds in Cameroon between the two former UN Trust Territories of British and French trusteeships put together within one postcolonial state against the principle underlying the theory of incompatibility of plural states. In characterizing the conflict as intractable from the perspective of incompatibility theorists, the analysis of the conflict should get beyond the discussion of culture and language analysis by Gobata (2011) and others to an understanding of the issue of the inalienable right of the British Southern Cameroons’ people to self-determination or sovereign independence. As have been indicated elsewhere within the larger framework of the aspirations and universal rights of the people of this former UN trust territory, this understanding becomes more compelling than the cultural and language framework espoused by Gobata and others (Fonkem, 2013). As a people recognized in international law per, the 2009 ruling of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights in Communication 266/2003 on the conflict; the people of ex-British Ambazonia have the right to aspire for sovereign independence. As a self-governing people from 1954 with full functioning state institutions, the people of the region were the first in Sub-Sahara Africa to organize free, fair, and transparent multiparty elections in 1959 and to peacefully and democratically transfer power from a governing party to La République du Cameroun.

United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 resolved that the Trust Territory of the Southern British Cameroons shall achieve independence on 1 October 1961. It also resolved that on the same date trusteeship shall end and Ambazonia should freely associate with Republic of Cameroun in a federation of two states, equal in status. Trusteeship was indeed terminated on the appointed date. But independence was not achieved. Free association did not take place. Rather, on 1 September 1961, the National Assembly of La République du Cameroun passed an annexation law illegally asserting territorial claim to Ambazonia. One month later, on 30 September 1961 the Administering Authority invited to the Trust Territory a foreign Head of State, the President of La République du Cameroun, transferred power over Ambazonia to La République du Cameroun in violation of international law and left. In violation of international law as well, Republic of Cameroun physically occupied Ambazonia and has remained in colonial occupation of the territory to this day. Ambazonia thus passed from British to Republic of Cameroun colonial rule. More than 55 years on, the former United Nations Trust Territory of the Southern British Cameroons is still languishing under the yoke of colonial domination and oppression by the Republic of Cameroun. The Territory continues to cry out for freedom and independence as genocide has been unleashed on its people. Why? The reasons are not far to seek. 

The year 1858 marked the onset of foreign control over the territory that became known as the Southern British Cameroons. The year 2019 marked over one century and a half of unbroken alien domination of that territory: British from 1858 until date, German from 1888 to 1914, British again from 1914 to 1961, and Republic of Cameroun from 1961 to date. This is a unique concatenation in Africa and the rest of the world. The British established a foothold in the armpit of Africa as far back as 1847. In 1858 they took over an English missionary settlement at Ambas Bay in the Gulf of Guinea and named the British colony Victoria, after Queen Victoria. Thirty years later, in 1887, Britain transferred the settlement to Germany. Four years earlier, in 1884, Germany had proclaimed a protectorate over a mudflat area some 100 miles to the east. Following the British cession, Germany from 1888 onwards slowly extended its imperial control from its original Kamerun protectorate to the contiguous territory that would later be known as the Southern British Cameroons. At the onset of the First World War in 1914, however, British-led forces from neighboring Nigeria to the west overran areas that included the Victoria settlement which Britain had ceded to Germany in 1887. 

A major consequence of her defeat in World War I was that Germany, as provided in the Treaties of Versailles 1919, renounced and relinquished title and right to all her colonial possessions. The possessions in question included the Kamerun territory which had been seized in 1916 by Britain and France as war booty according to the Laws of War at the time. The territory was partitioned between the two powers along what became known as the Milner-Simon Line. Britain retained the whole area it had overran in 1914 at the onset of the War and it became known as the British Cameroons. To sooth French pain and humiliation resulting from the crushing defeat of France by Germany in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, France was allowed to take the original German Kamerun protectorate proclaimed in 1884, naming it French Cameroun. 

Out of the extinct German colony emerged two separate and distinct legal and political entities, British Cameroons and French Cameroun. Each of these two political entities was placed under the mandate system, the goal being ultimate independence of the natives of each mandated territory. In 1922 the League of Nations granted to Britain a mandate over the British Cameroons and a mandate to France over French Cameroun. In doing so the League confirmed the 1916 Anglo-French partition put in treaty form in the 1919 Anglo-French boundary treaty between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun (Milner-Simon Declaration). The frontier alignment between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun, as defined by the 1919 boundary treaty, was more particularly determined in the 1931 Anglo-French boundary treaty (Graeme-Marchand Declaration) and confirmed once again in 1946 by the United Nations in the Trusteeship Agreement relative to the British Cameroons and the one relative to French Cameroun. 

The British Cameroons and French Cameroun were thus separate, new, legal and political entities created in 1922 by the political force represented by the mandate system. The juridical basis of their respective existence and the international basis of the frontier between the two countries are the mandate system, transmuted into the trusteeship system after World War Two. France granted independence to French Cameroun on 1st January 1960 and sponsored the new state’s admission to membership of the United Nations in September that year. The United Kingdom, by contrast, dilly-dallied, spoke with a forked tongue on the subject of independence for the Southern British Cameroons, and actively opposed independence for the Trust Territory (Anyangwe, (2010). 

Protesters with messages calling for independence
Protesters with messages calling for independence

 “One Kamerun” Myth as Instrument of Annexation and Recolonization of Ambazonia by La République du Cameroun

The past and history are different things. People have always used the past to explain the origins and purpose of human life, to sanctify government institutions, to validate class structure, to provide moral example. It is this myth that La République du Cameroun is using to sell its annexation and colonization of Ambazonia. As already argued in preceding sections of this paper, La République du Cameroun’s policy of annexation and assimilation of Ambazonia is based on the premise that Ambazonia was originally part of German Kamerun, in defiance of palpable historical evidence, notably, the fact that the territory of Ambazonia had existed prior to the introduction of foreign control in 1858. 

The British established a foothold in the armpit of Africa as far back as 1847. In 1858 they took over an English missionary settlement at Ambas Bay in the Gulf of Guinea and named the British colony Victoria, after Queen Victoria. Thirty years later, in 1887, Britain transferred the settlement to Germany. Four years earlier, in 1884, Germany had proclaimed a protectorate over a mudflat area some 100 miles to the east. Following the British cession, Germany from 1888 onwards slowly extended its imperial control from its original Kamerun protectorate to the contiguous territory that would later be known as the Southern British Cameroons. At the onset of the First World War in 1914, however, British-led forces from neighboring Nigeria to the west overran areas that included the Victoria settlement which Britain had ceded to Germany in 1887. 

A major consequence of her defeat in World War I was that Germany, as provided in the Treaties of Versailles 1919, renounced and relinquished title and right to all her colonial possessions. The possessions in question included the Kamerun territory which had been seized in 1916 by Britain and France as war booty according to the Laws of War at the time. The territory was partitioned between the two Powers along what became known as the Milner-Simon Line. Britain retained the whole area it had overran in 1914 at the onset of the War and it became known as the British Cameroons. To sooth French pain and humiliation resulting from the crushing defeat of France by Germany in the Franco-Prussian war in 1870, France was allowed to take the original German Kamerun protectorate proclaimed in 1884, naming it French Cameroun. 

Out of the extinct German colony emerged two separate and distinct legal and political entities, British Cameroons and French Cameroun. Each of these two political entities was placed under the mandate system, the goal being ultimate independence of the natives of each mandated territory. In 1922 the League of Nations granted to Britain a mandate over the British Cameroons and a mandate to France over French Cameroun. In doing so the League confirmed the 1916 Anglo-French partition put in treaty form in the 1919 Anglo-French boundary treaty between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun (Milner-Simon Declaration). The frontier alignment between the British Cameroons and French Cameroun, as defined by the 1919 boundary treaty, was more particularly determined in the 1931 Anglo-French boundary treaty (Graeme-Marchand Declaration) and confirmed once again in 1946 by the United Nations in the Trusteeship Agreement relative to the British Cameroons and the one relative to French Cameroun (Litumbe, 2012). 

The British Cameroons and French Cameroun were thus separate, new, legal and political entities created in 1922 by the political force represented by the mandate system. The juridical basis of their respective existence and the international basis of the frontier between the two countries are the mandate system, transmuted into the trusteeship system after World War Two. France granted independence to French Cameroun on 1st January 1960 and sponsored the new state’s admission to membership of the United Nations in September that year. The United Kingdom, by contrast, dilly-dallied, spoke with a forked tongue on the subject of independence for the Southern British Cameroons, and actively opposed independence for the Trust Territory (Anyangwe, (2010). 

However, Ambazonia’s decolonization woes began in 1959. In that year, the United Nations stampeded the Trust Territory into a plebiscite with dead-end alternatives. By General Assembly resolution 1352 (XIV) of 16 October 1959, the United Nations decided that a plebiscite must be held in the Territory. This decision was taken in the teeth of strong objections by the political leadership of the Territory. The imposed plebiscite questions formulated by the United Nations read: “Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroun?” “Do you wish to achieve independence by joining the independent Republic of Nigeria?” This was a Hobson’s choice. It ignored the people’s ventilated bewilderment and frustration. It also ignored the strident demand for outright independence. That demand came from elected Ambazonia Ministers, two political parties in the territory, and the majority of the people. The demand was consistent with Article 76 b of the Charter of the United Nations and binding United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960: the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples. 

In framing the plebiscite questions the promoters of the plebiscite used the nebulous term ‘joining’. There was a real possibility of a subsequent dispute over its interpretation or application. In order to obviate that eventuality, in October 1960 the Premier of the Ambazonia sought from the Administering Authority the interpretation of that term in relation to La République du Cameroun. The British Government solemnly stated that ‘joining Republic of Cameroun’ was to be understood as meaning that the Ambazonia would achieve independence and associate with Republic of Cameroun in a federation of two states, equal in status. This interpretation was accepted by the Ambazonia. It was subsequently also accepted by Republic of Cameroun which went further to confirm the same in its Note Verbale of 24 December 1960 to the United Kingdom as Administering Authority. Significantly, that Note came two weeks after the General Assembly had authoritatively clarified the concept of free association or achieving independence by joining an independent state. Principle VII of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541(XV) of 15 December 1960 enunciates the concept in these terms: 

Lawyers in protest against sustained attempts by the government to destroy and eradicate the common law system and Anglo-saxon system of education
Lawyers in protest against sustained attempts by the government to destroy and eradicate the common law system and Anglo-saxon system of education

(a) Free association should be the result of a free and voluntary choice by the peoples of the territory concerned expressed through informed and democratic process. It should be one, which respects the individuality and cultural characteristics of the territory and its peoples, and retains for the peoples of the territory which is associated with an independent State the freedom to modify the status of that territory through the expression of their will by democratic means and through constitutional processes. The Ambazonia and La République du Cameroun each had a separate date of independence, determined by United Nations Resolutions. La République du Cameroun’s date of independence was 1 January 1960 and that of the Ambazonia was 1 October 1961, but it never achieved independence, due to the illegal occupation and annexation.

(b)The associated territory should have the right to determine its internal constitution without outside interference, in accordance with due constitutional processes and the freely expressed wishes of the people. This does not preclude consultations as appropriate or necessary under the terms of the free association agreed upon. 

It is clear from this resolution that if the envisaged and valid political association between the Ambazonia and Republic of Cameroun had taken place (rather than annexation and colonial occupation), the Ambazonia would have had to retain its individuality and cultural characteristics, retain the right to determine its internal constitution without outside interference and retain the right to modify the status of its territory, possibly towards complete independence in pursuance of perfecting its self-determination. 

The political party that campaigned for political association with La République du Cameroun did so on the clear understanding that if the vote went in favour of that proposition the Ambazonia and Republic of Cameroun would form an enduring federation of two states, equal in status and underpinned by a lasting constitution, the fruit of common bargain. 

Non-implementation of UNGA Resolution 1608 (XV) 

The Ambazonia was fully self-governing from 1954 to 1961. It was a thriving constitutional democracy operating a parliamentary system of government modelled after that of the British. During that period it had two free and fair elections, a peaceful regime change, and a Constitution (the Ambazonia Constitution Order-in-Council 1960) based on values of democracy, the rule of law, an independent judiciary, an open society, a free press, freedom of expression and movement, human rights and accountability. It had international personality and international status, first as a League of Nations Mandate and secondly as a United Nations Trust Territory. By dint of this international personality and international status, it was a qualified subject of international law. After seven years of full self-government, the Ambazonia was poised for sovereign statehood as provided in Article 76 b of the UN Charter and the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (UNGA Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960). Rather than grant independence outright to the Ambazonia, the United Nations and the United Kingdom as Administering Authority contrived to organize a questionable plebiscite in the Territory. The Ambazonia gained autonomy as a self-governing territory under Britain from 1954 to 1961. It had its own constitution (The Southern Cameroons Constitutional Order in Council); a Premier; National Assembly, Judiciary, House of Chiefs, Civil service, multiparty political system, and a thriving democracy.

Soon after the plebiscite results were announced La République du Cameroun started plotting secretly on annexing Ambazonia. And yet, in 1959 the President of Republic of Cameroun had gone to the United Nations and given the solemn assurance that it had no expansionist ambitions and that it would not annex Ambazonia. “We are not annexationists,” he declared to the World Body, stating that The Republic of Cameroun is prepared to form a political association with  Ambazonia “on a footing of equality.” 

On 21 April 1961 the General Assembly of the United Nations met to consider the results of the plebiscite. It took two separate roll-call votes on those results. The first roll-call vote endorsed the decision of the people of the Trust Territory to achieve independence. The second roll-call vote acknowledged the matter of political association with Republic of Cameroun in a federation of two states, equal in status. In Resolution 1608 (XV) of that date, the results of these two separate roll-call votes were infelicitously conflated in one sentence thus: “endorsed the results of the plebiscite that the people of the Southern Cameroons decided to achieve independence by joining Republic of Cameroun.” 

In that resolution the United Nations went on to appoint 1st October 1961 as the effective date of independence of the Ambazonia concomitant with the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement “in accordance with Article 76 b of the Charter of the United Nations.” In rather ambiguous phraseology, the world body further decided on the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement “upon the Southern Cameroons joining the Republic of Cameroun.” Untidily, all three events, namely, independence, termination of trusteeship, and ‘joining’, were enjoined to take place on the same date. ‘Joining’ was however made conditional upon the Southern Cameroons, Britain and La République du Cameroun finalizing the manner of implementation of the federal set-up agreed upon by the Southern Cameroons and La République du Cameroun before the plebiscite. On this specific point the United Nations in that same resolution invited: “the Government of the Southern Cameroons, the United Kingdom, and La République du Cameroun to initiate urgent discussions with a view to finalizing before 1 October 1961, the arrangements by which the agreed and declared policies of the parties concerned will be implemented.” By the time the Ambazonia was illegally occupied, annexed and recolonized by La République du Cameroun, the Southern Cameroons had had two governments: the first Premier was E.M.L Endeley and the second was John Ngu Foncha who defeated Endeley in a peaceful elections in 1959.

 It was understood by all concerned that the United Nations would be associated with these “urgent discussions” contemplated by Resolution 1608. This understanding comes from the solemn assurance given by the United Kingdom Government during Anglo-Ambazonia talks in London in October 1960. During those talks, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies informed the anxious Southern Cameroons delegation that: 

“A vote for attaining independence by joining the Republic of Cameroun would mean that, by an early date to be decided by the United Nations after consultation with the Government of the Southern Cameroons, the Cameroun Republic, and the United Kingdom as Administering Authority, the Southern Cameroons and Cameroun Republic would unite in a Federal United Cameroon Republic. The arrangements would be worked out after the plebiscite by a conference consisting of representative delegations of equal status from the Republic of Cameroun and the Southern Cameroons. The United Nations and the United Kingdom would also be associated with this conference.” 

La République du Cameroun voted against Resolution 1608 (XV). By that act it rejected political association with the Southern Cameroons and maintained its frontiers with the Territory as unchanged. The instruments attesting to its independence and international boundaries deposited with and duly recorded at the United Nations when it was admitted to membership of the Organization remain unchanged. By July 1961 Republic of Cameroun started speaking expansionist language. It asserted claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons. 

The envisaged Four-Party post-plebiscite conference failed to take place, resulting in the non-implementation of the outcome of the plebiscite. In fact, after adopting Resolution 1608 (XV) of 21 April 1961 the United Nations simply washed its hands off the Southern Cameroons. And yet the trusteeship still had at least six months to run since the United Nations itself had set 1 October 1961 as the end date of the trusteeship. The United Nations did not monitor post-plebiscite developments in the Trust Territory. It did not require the Administering Authority to submit a report on developments leading up to termination of trusteeship. It made no efforts to ensure the effective implementation of its own resolution. La République du Cameroun cashed in on this serious dereliction of responsibility by the United Nations. It carried out military incursions deep into the Southern Cameroons. On 1 September 1961, its Assembly passed a law amending its Constitution by providing for the annexation of the Southern Cameroons. In that law and in policy statements made afterwards Republic of Cameroun stated that the Trust Territory of the Southern British Cameroons is part of its territory returned to her by the United Nations and the United Kingdom. In the same month of September 1961, French-led forces of Republic of Cameroun marched into the Southern Cameroons, physically occupied the territory with the acquiescence of the Administering Authority, and began enforcing an unwarranted state of emergency declared over the peaceful Territory. 

The annexation and occupation of the Southern Cameroons took place while the United Nations and the Administering Authority passed ‘on the other side’ like the biblical priest and the Levite. Tragically, the Southern Cameroons did not achieve independence promised by the Charter of the United Nations and the plebiscite. Nor was there a valid political association of the Southern Cameroons and Republic of Cameroun. Republic of Cameroun occupies the territory and administers it with an iron fist as its colonial dependency. The Southern Cameroons was ruled as a separate part of the British colony of Nigeria from after WWII until 1961 when it was illegally occupied and colonized by La République du Cameroun on 1 October 1961.

Abuse by the Administering Authority 

 The plebiscite in the Southern Cameroons was an unwarranted imposition. Neither the British Government nor the United Nations acted in the best interest of the people of the Southern Cameroons over whom they had voluntarily assumed a ‘sacred trust of civilization.’ The purpose of the plebiscite as stated in General Assembly resolution 1350 (XIII) of 13 March 1959 was “to ascertain the wishes of the people of the territory concerning their future”. But strangely, the future of the people was then narrowly confined to that of being a dependent people of either Nigeria or Republic of Cameroun. The all-important self-determination status option of sovereign statehood was unjustifiably withheld. The policy of the British Government of the day was to yoke the Southern Cameroons to Nigeria as can be seen from this sample of policy statements by the Administering Authority between 1952 and 1961: 

“The British view is that … the progressive development of the inhabitants [of the Southern Cameroons] towards self-government or independence must … be promoted in association with the socially advanced protectorate of Nigeria. The British delegation has impressed this view with consistent firmness and frankness upon the Trusteeship Council and the Council has been obliged to accept it grudgingly … qualified by a natural and legitimate anxiety that our policy should be accompanied by adequate measures to preserve the identity of the Trust Territory.” (British Consul General in Brazzaville, January 1952); “Many of the best friends of the Southern Cameroons do not foresee a destiny more likely to promote her happiness and prosperity than in continued association with Nigeria.” (Alan Lennox-Boyd, British Secretary of State for the Colonies, June 1957); “An independent Southern Cameroons would not be economically viable.” (Andrew Cohen, UK Ambassador to the UN repeating the disputed conclusion in a report by Sir Phillipson on the economic viability of an independent Southern Cameroons, October 1959); “The Southern Cameroons and its inhabitants are expendable.”(Lord Perth, British Minister of State at the Colonial Office, January 1960).” 

Uncountable number of homes have been burnt in the English speaking regions by the military since fighting started

“We are not attracted to the idea of an independent Southern Cameroons … We cannot expect to get any advantage from being foster mother to an independent Southern Cameroons and it is clear that it would have to be fostered by somebody … In fact, the sooner we can … wash our hands off the Southern Cameroons, the more pleased we shall be.” (Boothby, British Foreign Office, June 1960); “I believe a firm attitude on this now may save us a great deal of trouble later and I think that H.M.G.’s position should be made abundantly clear to Foncha [the Premier of the Southern Cameroons] in an effort to scotch tendencies towards the third question on sovereign independence. … The policy of H.M.G. [Her Majesty’s Government] is to discourage any tendency towards a third question very strongly.” (Andrew Cohen, UK Ambassador to the UN, June 1960);  “If the plebiscite went in favour of joining Cameroun Republic, arrangements would have to be made for the early termination of Trusteeship, and the transfer of sovereignty to the Republic of Cameroun.” (Iain Macleod, British Secretary of State for the Colonies, October 1960); “Nigeria was kept fully informed of every move in the discussion of the hand-over of the Southern Cameroons to the Cameroun Republic.” (Colonial Office, March 1961); “The Southern Cameroons had already been transferred to Mr Ahidjo of Cameroun Republic.” (Hugh Fraser, British Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies, October 1961). 

Annexation and Re-colonization rather than Decolonization 

As saltwater or white colonization in Africa was retreating, sadly a new and dangerous situation of black-on-black colonization was emerging in parts of the continent. Some states, themselves beneficiaries of the right to self-determination, soon became latter-day colonizers of less fortunate peoples in countries that happen to be their neighbors. Eritrea and Namibia secured their independence through armed struggle. In other cases, territorial claims were later abandoned by the states asserting them. Somalia gave up its claim to Northern Kenya and the Ogaden region in Ethiopia. Libya gave up its claim to the Aouzou strip in Chad. Following the ICJ ruling in Case Concerning Land and Maritime Boundary (Cameroun v Nigeria) Nigeria gave up its claim to the Bakassi Peninsula which has always been firmly in the territory of the Ambazonia. That leaves two re-colonization cases in the continent, the colonial occupation of the Western Sahara by Morocco and the colonial occupation of Ambazonia by La République du Cameroun. Both cases portend violent confrontation, especially in the face of a Yaoundé-Rabat entente to support each other in their respective territorial aggrandizement claims. 

Morocco’s occupation of the Western Sahara has received extensive international attention. But so far and strangely, the annexation and colonial occupation of Ambazonia for over 55 years already has largely escaped African and international notice and concern. Many reasons account for this situation. Firstly, the United Nations, creator and supervisor of the international trusteeship system, and the United Kingdom, trustee power for Ambazonia for half a century, in effect aborted the process of decolonization they had set in motion, denying Ambazonia sovereign statehood. Secondly, the colonial takeover of the Ambazonia by La République du Cameroun was surreptitious. It was covert, using political subterfuge and outright fraud. It was not overt and flamboyantly dramatic like Morocco’s seizure of the Western Sahara. Thirdly, an armed anti-colonial national liberation struggle has yet not been launched, efforts still being concentrated on exhausting peaceful intervention and strategic litigation. 

Britain, based on the idea that Ambazonia was poor and should not depend on the British purse, refused to grant the majority opinion on the territory for sovereign independence. Instead, Britain came up with the idea that Ambazonia must achieve independence either by joining Nigeria or by joining La République du Cameroun. How could independence be achieved by being an appendage of some other country? Nevertheless, Britain got the UN to organize a Plebiscite on 11 February 1961 asking the people of Ambazonia whether they wished to achieve independence by joining the federation of Nigeria or by joining La République du Cameroun. The vote went in favor of achieving independence by joining La République du Cameroun. This was quite understandable. There was a civil war raging in La République du Cameroun, which drove hundreds of thousands of its people to take shelter in Ambazonia. When they saw the liberty there, they started drumming up ideas of unity and even joined Ambazonia political parties for that purpose. On the other hand, Southern Cameroonians felt oppressed in Nigeria. Without the choice of sovereign independence, they voted to achieve independence by joining La République du Cameroun.

Furthermore, over the years Republic of Cameroun has developed and implemented policies designed to conceal from the world its annexation and colonial occupation of Ambazonia. It has rolled out several policies to this end, taking a multi-pronged approach. The policies include: active international isolation of Ambazonia, especially from the English-speaking world, so that few outside are aware of the existential threat faced by its people; deliberate misinformation and disinformation that Ambazonia is the southern part of French Cameroun/Republic of Cameroun seeking to secede therefrom; purposeful pauperization of the people, ghettoization of the Territory’s human habitat, and spoliation of the Territory’s wealth and natural resources; militarization of Ambazonia and the periodical unleashing of violence against the people to impress upon them their situation of utter vulnerability; terrorization of the people of Ambazonia by an occupying force with license to do as it sees fit as a means of enforcing  colonial occupation, securing submission to it and preventing revolt against colonial oppression; creeping population transfer as well as various attempts to modify the well-attested frontier alignment between Ambazonia and Republic of Cameroun; and implementation of various ploys designed to end the use of the English language in Ambazonia, and equally sustained actions to obliterate the English-based legal system and educational and social culture of Ambazonia. 

These policies aim at denying the people of Ambazonia the right to exist and the right to cultural development – language, education, law and tradition. They aim at destroying their identity, their specificity and their individuality as distinct English-speakers with a well-defined territory attested by international boundary treaties. La République du Cameroun hoped thereby to completely extinguish the identity of the people of Ambazonia and detrimentally change their way of life and the physical character of their environment, irretrievably altering the fundamental aspects of the Territory. This is an odious scheme of genocidal proportions. La République du Cameroun’s functionaries, civil-police-military, have taken total control of Ambazonia in every aspect. Republic of Cameroun occasionally makes token and decorative appointments of some citizens of  Ambazonia in its colonial administration and even in its government and administration. This is copied French colonial practice. The purpose of this ploy, which is euphemistically denoted as ‘national integration’, is to ensure the systematic Frenchification of the people of Ambazonia and to eventually sink them in the French-derived world of La République du Cameroun. 

The people of Ambazonia do not make the charge of colonization lightly. It is said that the person who wears the shoes knows where it pinches. The occupying State does not deny that it is in complete and asphyxiating control and domination of Ambazonia actively pursuing a policy of Frenchification and oppression of its people. Ambazonia sovereign statehood question is a case of a legal and historical injustice crying out to be set right, a case of cultural genocide and a case of an existential threat. The people of Ambazonia seek sovereign rights to which they are legitimately due. They seek the independence, national life, and territorial integrity which they have been forcibly deprived of by La République du Cameroun annexation, colonization and oppression. 

Cameroonian elite Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR) members patrol the abandoned village of Elona near Buea in the anglophone southwest region, Cameroon on October 4, 2018 [Reuters/Zohra Bensemra]

It should be noted that the terms of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Peoples and Countries indicate that a situation may properly be classified as colonial when the acts of a State have the cumulative outcome that it annexes or otherwise unlawfully retains control over territory and thus aims permanently to deny its people the exercise of its right to self-determination. In a 1980 study on the subject prepared by Hector Gros Espiell, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Sub Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, authoritatively states that:

“…the right of peoples to self- determination exists as such in modern international law, with all the consequences that flow therefrom, where a people is subject to any form or type of colonial and alien domination of any nature whatsoever. … (T)he notion of colonial and alien domination is broader than – though it includes – the notion of foreign occupation, and hence the right of peoples to self-determination may arise and be typified in other situations in addition to those where there is merely foreign occupation.”

The meaning of the Plebiscite must however be clearly understood. The Plebiscite was neither a promise made by the people of Ambazonia to La République du Cameroun nor the act of joining. It created no bond with La République du Cameroun and gave her no rights over Ambazonia. The Plebiscite was simply a mechanism used by the UN to discover the intention of the people of Ambazonia. It was a mere declaration of intention. La République du Cameroun, as well as Nigeria, were third parties to the process. The Plebiscite consultation was exclusively between the UN and the peoples of Ambazonia. Only after knowing the intention of the people of Ambazonia through the Plebiscite process, could the UN and UK now take measures to effect the joining, following due process laid down by the UN Charter.

As a follow-up to the Plebiscite, the UN met on 21 April 1961 to adopt Resolution 1608(XV), the resolution on Ambazonia independence and subsequent joining with La République du Cameroun. The General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for Ambazonia to achieve independence on 1 October 1961. But surprisingly, La République du Cameroun, the proposed party to the joining, voted against Ambazonia’ independence and by implication against union. Paragraph 5 of Resolution 1608(XV) specifically called for a post-plebiscite conference between the UK, Ambazonia and La République du Cameroun for the purpose of implementing the policies agreed upon by the two parties. Paragraph 5 reads: “Invites the Administering Authority, the Government of the Southern Cameroon and La République du Cameroun to immediately engage in talks in view of taking, before 1 October 1961, necessary measures for the implementation of policies agreed on and declared by the parties concerned.”

This was the paragraph whose implementation would have led to a valid legal union between the Ambazonia and La République du Cameroun, in accordance with Article 102(1) of the UN Charter. Unfortunately, it was never implemented and is still awaiting implementation up till today. In the absence of a Union Treaty, we are faced with the reversal of the decolonization process in the Ambazonia. Despite this failure to implement the pertinent UN resolution on union, and despite La République du Cameroun’s rejection of Ambazonia’ independence and joining with itself in Resolution 1608(XV), on 30 September 1961, at the termination of the Trust over the Ambazonia on 1 October 1961, Britain betrayed the Ambazonia! Instead of handing power to the duly elected and functional government of the Ambazonia under Premier Dr. John Ngu Foncha, Britain, the Administering Authority, handed sovereignty illegally, in violation of all UNGA Resolutions, particularly Res. 1608(XV) of 21 April 1961, to La République du Cameroun! La République du Cameroun is therefore holding Ambazonia simply as what is known in the Law of Trust as an Executor de son Tort, a person who holds trust property illegally.

The facts of Ambazonian story of how its statehood came to be suppressed are therefore clear and straightforward. The violence, the massacres, the intimidation, kidnappings, torture, wanton arrests and lawlessness which have been exercised by the annexationist colonial government in Yaounde against the people of Ambazonia, in order to suppress and hide the facts, stand on their own as separate crimes. Unfortunately, in the case of Ambazonia today, its people have no control over their territory. They have been deprived of basic human rights and of self-government, all of which they enjoyed even while as a Trust Territory. They cannot freely determine their political status. They cannot freely pursue their economic and social development according to the policy they ought freely to choose. They cannot exercise the right to their economic, social and cultural development. Political and economic self-determination are completely out of reach. The Territory is under occupation and administered as an adjunct of La République du Cameroun. That country has completely subordinated and subsumed the territory and economy of Ambazonia to its own. The result is that the people have been totally deprived of the capacity to govern themselves and order their economic affairs. Their right to economic self-determination has thus also been suppressed. 

La République du Cameroun is in breach of the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources in relation to Ambazonia. The right of permanent sovereignty over natural resources entitles a people to freely dispose of their wealth and natural resources and in no case shall they be deprived of it. Oil, timber, gas, gold, diamond, bauxite, iron and other mineral and cash and food crop resources are looted from occupied Ambazonia for the almost exclusive development of Republic of Cameroun. These natural resources are accounted on paper as from Republic of Cameroun. This practice has been going on for half a century. 

La République du Cameroun actively continues to deny the people of Ambazonia the right freely to express, develop and practice their culture. Its practices privilege the French language, the French legal system, the French administrative system, the French educational system and its French-based cultural referents. These practices and the active pursuit of its Frenchification agenda materially and purposefully prevent the inherited cultural development and expression of the people of Ambazonia. Republic of Cameroun’s unwarranted assumption of sovereignty as successor colonialist in Ambaland and the pursuit of inimical policies to destroy Ambazonia culturally, historically, economically, socially, and as a legal and political expression are cumulatively indistinguishable from cultural genocide and strongly raise identity, dignity, and existential issues. 

Ambazonia as a self-governing country and a qualified subject of international law was tyrannically decreed out of existence by La République du Cameroun. Ambazonia’ government, parliament, civil service, police force, and system and method of public administration, in existence since 1954, were also despotically abolished by La République du Cameroun. Its judicial and legal systems have been mangled, mutilated beyond recognition. Its education system is under siege. French has since been imposed as the primary language of all public administration in the Ambazonia. Republic of Cameroun’s domination and oppression of the people of Ambazonia is total: political, administrative, power relations, economic, social and cultural. La République du Cameroun exploits the huge resources of Ambazonia essentially for its benefit. The exploitation is reckless and at an alarming rate. This would suggest an intention to rapidly deplete the resources of Ambazonia. It is truly a case of spoliation of the wealth and natural resources of Ambazonia. The people of Ambazonia enjoy not even a modicum of self-government. This is the harsh, bitter, lamentable, untenable and intolerable lived reality in Ambazonia since 1961. 

The children in this photo are said to be among the victims of Ngarbuh massacre that created global outreach

Case Firmly Anchored in Law 

The entitlement of the people of Ambazonia to the continuing right of self-determination is firmly anchored in law. Ambazonia is not and has never been part either of French Cameroun or of La République du Cameroun. The Ambazonia sovereign statehood question therefore raises no issue of secession from, or violation of the territorial integrity of, La République du Cameroun, the annexationist colonial occupier. The latter’s spatial configuration does not, has never, and will never, include the territory of Ambazonia. The international boundaries of Republic of Cameroun as they were on the date of its achievement of independence from France were frozen on that date. The territory of the Ambazonia does not fall within those boundaries which therefore are in no way affected by Southern Cameroon’s achievement of independence. The principle of uti possidetis juris and the principle of respect for borders existing on the date of independence apply. Article 4(b) of the African Union Constitutive Act ordains that AU Member States are under treaty obligation to respect their respective state borders existing on the date of their achievement of national independence. The jurisprudence of the International Court of Justice emphasizes the need for decolonized states to respect the principle of intangibility of colonial borders as at the moment of independence. 

It is thus an impossibility, legal and factual, for a decolonized territory such as Republic of Cameroun to succeed at independence not to the territory of the immediate but to that of some remote predecessor state. The plebiscite in Ambazonia was a complete refutation and rejection of the averment that Ambazonia was at some point in time part of Republic of Cameroun or of French Cameroun. If Ambazonia had at some point in time been a part of that country (the existence of which dates only as from 1916 at best) the plebiscite would have been redundant. The territory would simply have been returned to La République du Cameroun like the one handed over to Morocco by Spain, Hong Kong to China by Britain and Walvis Bay to Namibia by South Africa. Claimed historical consolidation, historical connection, or mere geographical propinquity cannot give La République du Cameroun title over the territory of the Ambazonia. The law is not that stupid as to give title to territory based on mere historical connection or geographical contiguity because that would put most countries in the world at the mercy of an expansionist-minded neighbor, resulting in the dismantling of the Westphalian state system. 

Even the ruling of the International Court of Justice in the ‘Bakassi case’ cannot possibly be taken as having decided that Ambazonia is part of the territory of Republic of Cameroun. The international boundaries of the Ambazonia and the question of sovereignty over the Ambazonia were not issues put and pleaded before the Court. It is elementary that a court of law does not decide matters not put before it and argued by the parties. Further, the ICJ is not a territorial sovereign. It does not have territory with which to assuage the colonial cravings of expansionist states. Sovereignty over the Ambazonia unquestionably vests in the people of Ambazonia but for the time being remains in abeyance until the moment of achievement of independence when it will then vest in the nascent state. La République du Cameroun’s annexation and occupation of Ambazonia is adverse to the undisputed title of the people of Ambazonia to their territory. That occupation cannot vest title in La République du Cameroun. 

Ambazonia could not have absurdly voted for the extinguishment of its territory, its identity, its self-government, and the absorption of its people as a dependent people of Republic of Cameroun. That would have been an act contrary to human nature. People do not opt for a detrimental change in their station in life. Ambazonia had nothing whatsoever to gain by an act of collective political, economic, social and cultural suicide. The same Ambazonia that fought doggedly for almost half a century to maintain its identity when it was administered as part of Nigeria could not possibly have made a volte-face overnight and opted for the destruction of its identity, its freedom and its legal and democratic culture. It could not have voted to become extinct. 

It is worth noting here that President Ahidjo stood before the UN and promised the world that the association with Ambazonia will be on the basis of TWO STATES FEDERATION; with equal status and thus it’s on this basis that a UN plebiscite was held on the 11th of February 1961 whereby the people of Ambazonia were given two choices: Association with La République du Cameroun or the Federal Republic of Nigeria. There wasn’t a third option; which according to the UN charter could have been for Ambazonia to vote for an independent state. At this juncture, the people of Ambazonia thought it would be much better to be integrated with their French compatriots where their identity, cultural heritages and way of governance would be maintained. The people spoke but since 1961 La République du Cameroun had never kept her words. 

Though the Ambazonia delegation went to the Foumbam Conference of July 1961 which was highly unconstitutional with no representation from the UN, they never had appropriate time to go through President Ahmado Ahidjo’s La République du Cameroun proposed plan of federal constitution as most were seeing it for the first time. However, the delegation from Ambazonia headed by Prime Minister John Ngu Foncha proposed a loosed form of federalism. Worthy of note is that the Foumban conference promised to meet after to formalize the agreement but never met till date.President Ahidjo went ahead to promulgate the Federal Constitution in La Republic Assembly with the backing of France. This was highly against the spirit and letter of the so-called Foumban conference.

The people of the Southern British Cameroons voted for independence on 11 February 1961. That decision to achieve independence was endorsed on 21 April 1961 by the United Nations. The World Body set 1 October 1961 as the effective date of independence and the concomitant termination of trusteeship. But La République du Cameroun unlawfully repressed that independence. Independence therefore failed to materialize. Trusteeship was indeed terminated but independence was suppressed. The envisaged free association between Ambazonia and La République du Cameroun never took place. Instead, Ambazonia was annexed by Republic of Cameroun and subjected to bitter colonial administration by La République du Cameroun. A month before the UN-appointed independence date of 1 October 1961 Republic of Cameroun illegally assumed jurisdiction over Ambazonia by performing acts of sovereignty in the territory. On 1st September 1961 the parliament of La République du Cameroun passed an annexation law deceptively dressed as an amendment of its Constitution of 4 March 1960. In a labelling trick, the document was denoted as a so-called ‘federal constitution’. In that annexation law Republic of Cameroun formally laid claim to and asserted jurisdiction over Ambazonia baselessly saying it is part of its territory returned to it by the United Nations and Britain. 

Villagers hide out in the forest after a military attack on their community in the Mfumte area of Cameroon on April 7, 2019. Thousands have been displaced by the violence in Cameroon's Anglophone regions over the past few years. Many have fled to neighboring Nigeria. Photo credit Efi Tembon,Christian Post
Villagers hide out in the forest after a military attack on their community in the Mfumte area of Cameroon on April 7, 2019. Thousands have been displaced by the violence in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions over the past few years. Many have fled to neighboring Nigeria. Photo credit Efi Tembon,Christian Post

The territorial integrity of Ambazonia was infringed when, in that same month, the French-led troops of Republic of Cameroun entered Ambazonia and committed acts of cold-blooded massacre. A state of emergency was declared over the Territory. Terror was unleashed. Repression by way of brutal and brutalizing periodic cordon and search operations (‘ratissage’) by the military are periodically carried out to elicit submission to the new colonial ruler. This method of repression is copied from the French who used it as a tool of colonial repression in former North Vietnam, in Algeria and in French Cameroun. The UK was still the Administering Authority when Republic of Cameroun troops entered Ambazonia but it designedly chose to look the other way. And when the British colonial authorities left the territory on the 30th of September 1961, violence, terrorization and deprivation by La République du Cameroun simply intensified and have not abated ever since. 

The ending of United Nations trusteeship over Ambazonia was on 1st October 1961. But the independence promised by the United Nations in terms of Article 76 b of its Charter, the independence for which the people voted for, and the effective date of which the United Nations set for 1st October 1961 was suppressed. When leaving Ambazonia the British handed power over the territory, not to the elected Government of Ambazonia as it should legally have done, but to the Head of State of a foreign country, namely, the President of Republic of Cameroun. That act was contrary to the letter and spirit of the Charter of the United Nations and the United Nations Declaration on Decolonization. Upon the departure of the British Commissioner of the Ambazonia, Republic of Cameroun appointed one of its citizens to take charge of the overall administration of the Territory as the new colonial governor, stepping into the shoes of the departed British Commissioner. The repeated propaganda by Republic of Cameroun about a so-called ‘reunification’ that supposedly took place, is a mere fiction. It is an imaginary ‘reunification’, a ruse and a fat lie to hoodwink the world. It is mere window dressing to camouflage annexation and colonial occupation and bondage. 

La République du Cameroun’s suppression of the right to self-determination of the people of the Ambazonia constitutes a denial of human rights. It is contrary to the Charter of the United Nations. It is an impediment to the promotion of world peace and cooperation in the Gulf of Guinea. Moreover, acts of Republic of Cameroun as successor colonialist in Ambazonia constitute delicta juris gentium in the following two forms involving the principle of self-determination. Republic of Cameroun’s continuing attempt at genocide in Ambazonia and its suppression of the right of the people of Ambazonia to self-determination constitute high illegality or breach of jus cogens. Republic of Cameroun’s infringement of principles of law creating rights the beneficiaries of which are dependent peoples such as the dependent people of Ambazonia and who therefore do not presently have effective means of protecting their rights, also constitute a breach of the law of nations.

Intolerable Colonial Acts of La République du Cameroun

Intolerable or coercive acts imposed on Ambazonians by La République du Cameroun to punish dissenters were both provocation and aggravated the situation. For instance, on May 6th, 1972, President Ahmadou Ahidjo announced the transformation from the Federal Republic into a Unitary state to be determined through a fraudulent “OUI-YES” Referendum held on the 20th of May. This was and is illegal as it rescinded clause 1 of article 47 of the Federal Constitution which states that “Proposals for revision shall be adopted by a simple majority vote of members of the Federal Assembly; provided that such a majority includes a majority of the representatives of each Federates state”. Again it is highly contested that, it was Ambazonia who voted to join the Union and thus organizing a Referendum which involved the entire country was highly illegal. Ambazonia Parliament in Buea did not approve of such referendum. If anything should have been changed on the 20th May 1972, only the people of Ambazonia should have voted. This was not the case.

In 1984, the name was officially changed by President Paul Biya from The United Republic of Cameroon back to La République du Cameroun amid strong criticisms from Ambazonia. The two (2) stars representing both identities was tampered with–that of Ambazonia stripped off the flag. Also, the changing of names unilaterally by President Biya indicated that La Republic had seceded from the so called Union. Many Ambazonian organizations argued that changing the name would have meant equity of opportunities for both citizens of La Republic Du Cameroun and Ambazonia. This was/is far from it. Some of the shortcomings of the current system to Ambazonia include: the imposition of French as the working language in purely common law courts in the very heart of Ambazonia; the recognition and reduction of Ambazonia to an ethnic groups such as the Doualas, Bulus, Betis etc. rather than a state; the policy closure of booming Ambazonia economic structures to increase dependence on Yaounde such as Powercam, Tiko Airport, etc ; the Assimilation of Ambazonia; the House of Chiefs which was a Southern Cameroon heritage- has been destroyed. Kings, Fons and Chiefs are now diminished to royal beggars as our cultural values have been fundamentally eroded and continue to; the marginalization of Anglophones in military appointments with only 2 Anglophones Generals out of more than 25;I; inequality in the allocation of industries and educational establishment within the national territory; discrepancy in wages between state workers from La Republic and SCs (with same or similar qualification and/or job experience.);and use of the French language in government publications/announcements and other organizations within Ambazonia. Most, if not all public exams are written in French and a few with the English version attached to it; often appalling and incomprehensible. Whereas, institutions in Ambazonia are compelled to submit public exams in both languages.

A pertinent concern however remains unanswered. France, whose territory of French Cameroons La République du Cameroun inherited at independence, never contested the boundary with Ambazonia. Instead, she entered into treaties with Britain to mark and demarcate that boundary. On what basis then is La République du Cameroun, successor state to French Cameroons, contesting that boundary? Effectively, Ambazonia was therefore never decolonized. It is still a colonial territory seeking decolonization. The United Nations and the conscientious world have unfinished decolonization business in Ambazonia. For, the territory moved from colonial rule by Britain to colonial rule by La République du Cameroun; one colonial ruler withdrew, another took over. As recently as 2010 the Government of La République du Cameroun reiterated its earlier statement that 1st January 1960 is the only date recorded at the United Nations as that of the independence of Republic of Cameroun. This truthful statement concedes that Ambazonia over which Republic of Cameroun is exercising illegal authority did not achieve independence as promised by the UN and is still a dependent territory. In his widely acclaimed Textbook on International Human Rights (2nd ed., 2005) RKM Smith states at page 275 in respect of Ambazonia as follows: 

“Under the auspices of the United Nations itself, a number of plebiscites have been held, including West Irian and Togo. However, the United Nations does not have an entirely unblemished record vis-à-vis self-determination. In some instances it has been argued that the United Nations has compromised the doctrine of self-determination. For example the people of the former Trust territories of the North and South Cameroons were given only two choices: independence as part of Nigeria, or independence as part of the former French Cameroons. Becoming an independent State was not one of the proffered options. Consequently the people of the North and South Cameroons once again found themselves under foreign rule. Re-colonization rather than decolonization was the result.” 

On 24th October 1970 the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-Operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations (UNGA Resolution 2625 (XXV)). The Declaration is emphatic that the “subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a violation of the principle of [equal rights and self-determination of peoples], as well as a denial of fundamental human rights, and is contrary to the Charter

[of the United Nations]

.” It is also emphatic that the territory of a colony or other dependent Territory has, under the Charter, “a status separate and distinct from the territory of the State administering it” and that “such separate and distinct status … shall exist until the people of the (dependent) Territory have exercised their right of self-determination.”

Who knew a row over common law and school curriculum could contribute to the establishment of the first 21st century genocide? Ambazonians were tired of being seen as inferior and wanted to have the rights of full citizen in their free nation, but more importantly, they wanted the rights of a human being, not “dogs”, “roaches”,. They also felt they should not be made to pay for LRC’s debt resulting from the years of French colonization. With the restoration of Independence on October 1, 2017, Ambazonians wanted to be allowed to embark on their “pursuit of happiness” and realize their goals. They could shape their society in whichever way they saw fit. Oh, and they had the freedom to interact peacefully with any other nations in the world they chose.

Images of what was left of Kwa Kwa village after it was razed by the military
Images of what was left of Kwa Kwa village after it was razed by the military

Ordinary violence of LRC under Ahidjo and Biya in Ambazonia analyses the system of political confinement and, more broadly, its effects on the recolonized society, revealing the centrality of political violence to Fascist rule. The fascist LRC state ruled violently, projecting its coercive power deeply and diffusely into Ambazonian society through confinement, imprisonment, low-level physical assaults, economic deprivations, intimidation, discrimination, and other quotidian forms of coercion. Moreover, by promoting denunciatory practices, La République du Cameroun

regime cemented the loyalties of Ambazonian “upstanding” citizens while suppressing opponents, dissenters, and social outsiders. La République du Cameroun fascist repression was thus more intense and ideological than previously thought and even shared some important similarities with Nazi and Soviet terror.

In more than half a century La République du Cameroun’s fascist dictatorship manipulated the system’s appearance by assigning prominent antifascists to relatively hospitable torture centers. Meanwhile, militiamen abused the detainees; less fortunate victims, mainly poor Ambazonians, languished in decrepit communal barracks; and the detainees’ families suffered economically. Finally, the regime relied on an array of more subtle yet insidious sanctions, which exerted pressure on vast segments of the Ambazonian population to conform politically. Second, the majority of victims were not antifascist militants but, rather, “politically compromised” individuals, “social outsiders”, and “ordinary Ambazonians.”

Violation of Law of Armed Conflict (LOAC) by La République du Cameroun in Ambazonia

An international armed conflict occurs when one or more States have recourse to armed force against another state, regardless of the reasons or the intensity of this confrontation. No formal declaration of war or recognition of the situation is required. The existence of an international armed conflict, and as a consequence, the possibility to apply International Humanitarian Law to this situation, depends on what actually happens on the ground. It is based on factual conditions. Apart from regular, inter-state armed conflicts, Additional Protocol I extends the definition of international armed conflicts to include armed conflicts in which peoples are fighting against colonial domination, alien occupation or racist regimes in the exercise of their right to self-determination.

The LOAC arises from a desire among civilized nations to prevent unnecessary suffering and destruction while not impeding the effective waging of war. A part of public international law, LOAC regulates the conduct of armed hostilities. It also aims to protect civilians, prisoners of war, the wounded, sick, and shipwrecked. LOAC applies to international armed conflicts and in the conduct of military operations and related activities in armed conflict, however such conflicts are characterized.

After World War II, the Geneva Convention created a treaty among nation states to abide by in the event of future conflicts. There have been numerous conflicts since 1949 with many crimes of war being prosecuted. The rules that are to be followed are called the Law of Armed Conflict, or Law of War, and covers everything from treating prisoners of war to rules of engagement of military forces. But the most important principles of the Law of Armed Conflict you should know are the following: 1) Fight only Enemy Combatants; 2) Do not Harm Enemies who Surrender; Disarm Them and Turn Them Over to Your Superiors; 3) Do Not Kill or Torture Prisoners; 4) Collect and Care for the Wounded, whether Friend or Foe; 5) Do Not Attack Medical Personnel, Facilities, or Equipment; 6) Destroy No More than the Mission Requires; 7) Treat All Civilians Humanely; 8) Do Not Steal; Respect Private Property and Possessions; and, 9) Do Your Best to Prevent Violations of the Law of War; Report All Violations to Your Superiors.

Following the declaration of war by President Paul Biya on November 30, 2017, Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo said on Saturday that “measures will be taken immediately” to “eradicate this inconvenient situation” Since then, more than 400 Ambazonians villages, schools, hospitals, and people in their sleep have been burnt to ashes, girls raped and some infected with HIV, looting, torture, extortion, armed robbery, abductions for ransom, destroying crops in farms,  and information manipulation to cover up the atrocities committed by the “professional” army of La République du Cameroun.

Fortunately, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is responding to the crisis. Working with partners such as local NGOs and local churches, NRC identifies displaced people in both regions and their surroundings, and assists them by distributing kits containing household items, as well as shelter and hygiene packs. NRC has distributed 3,918 Shelter and non-food item kits and has reached 23,912 persons through non-food item distributions and hygiene promotion sessions since the beginning of 2018. As more people flee their homes and thousands more are in dire need of aid, we are working to reach as many people as possible with assistance.

Historically, it is not strange that the “Anglophone elites” in La République du Cameroun always took their case to the international community (Nfor, 2000), since this was a strategy that they employed during the British colonial period. A number of petitions and constant visits were made to the United Nations (UN) by Anglophone elites concerning British neglect of their territory (Postwatch, October, 1, 2005). These petitions were made in the form of presentations before the United Nations in New York or whenever there was a visiting UN mission to the trust territory. Nonetheless, since the early 1990s, the pattern of petitions has changed drastically. Petitions against the new state are different from those earlier petitions against colonialism. The aim of the petitions against the new state has been to draw the attention of the UN and the international community to the injustices inflicted upon minority English-speaking Cameroonians by the ruling government. The “Anglophone elites” believed that, by making their plight known to the international community, the latter might intervene to restore the statehood of Ambazonia.

Antonio Guterres taking golden gift from Paul Biya, 27 Oct 2017.The international community has been shockingly passive on the Southern Cameroons case and the pitiable plight of its people
Antonio Guterres taking golden gift from Paul Biya, 27 Oct 2017.The international community has been shockingly passive on the Southern Cameroons case and the pitiable plight of its people

Conclusion and Way Forward

Theoretical Reprise

Theoretically, the claim to self-determination often encapsulates the hopes of ethnic peoples and other groups for freedom and independence. It provides a powerful focus for nationalist fervor, and it offers a convenient tool for ethnic entrepreneurs seeking to mobilize populations and fighters in pursuit of a secessionist cause. Indeed, self-determination conflicts are among the most persistent and destructive forms of warfare. Given the structural inequality between an armed self-determination movement and the opposing central government, self-styled ‘national liberation movements’ will at times resort to irregular methods of warfare, possibly including terrorist tactics. Such a campaign may trigger a disproportionate response by the government, at times putting in danger the populations of entire regions. This may lead to profound destabilization of societies placed at risk of disintegration, as can be seen in Sri Lanka or Sudan. And, due to the doctrine of non-intervention, international actors are traditionally hesitant to involve themselves in attempts to bring about a settlement of the conflict.

Even in relation to such traditional colonies, the right to self-determination can be exercised only within the boundaries established by the colonial power – in that way the application of the right does not overcome the effects of colonialism by restoring the pre-existing situation, but the self-determination entity itself is defined by it. Furthermore, the right is of singular application. As soon as a colony has gained independence, it will itself start defending its own territorial integrity with utmost vigor. There is no secession from secession. And, when armed self-determination conflicts break out outside the colonial context, a legal inequality with significant practical consequences emerges. 

Colonial self-determination movements are entitled to establish national liberation movements, and the international system is twisted in their favor, to help them overcome the last vestiges of colonialism. Other rebel movements hiding in the deserts and jungles of the world will inevitably also lay claim to the label of ‘national liberation’. However, in their case, the self-determination privilege does not apply. Instead, the international system is structured in such a way as to help the central state ensure their defeat. However committed their cause, groups fighting on behalf of peoples outside the colonial context are classified as secessionist rebels and, potentially, terrorists. Hence, they can be engaged with minimum international legal restraint, under the very legal order of the state from which they seek to escape. This restrictive doctrine of self-determination leaves unaddressed three principal types of cases: Cases arising outside the colonial context (for example, Chechnya, Corsica, the Basque Country, Kosovo, etc.). 

These are cases where the concept of self-determination in the sense of secession does not apply at all, given the lack of a colonial nexus; Challenges to the territorial definition of former colonial entities (for example, Bougainville, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Burma, India in relation to tribal peoples). These are cases where a former colony exercised the right to self-determination, but ethnic movements emerging within the newly independent state seek separation; Challenges to the implementation of colonial self-determination (for example, Ambazonia, Eritrea, Somaliland, Kashmir, perhaps Southern Sudan and the Comoros and Mayotte). These are cases where it is argued that the doctrine of uti possidetis was wrongly applied at the point of decolonization, or that an entity was wrongfully incorporated into the newly independent state at that moment.

Overall, the all-or-nothing game of self-determination has helped to sustain conflicts, rather than resolve them. Self-styled self-determination movements see no alternative to an armed struggle or the resort to terrorist strategies in order to achieve their aims. Central governments see little alternative to violent repression. Generally, self-determination conflicts will therefore terminate only once the government has won a decisive victory against the secessionist entity, as was the case, for instance, in relation to Katanga and Biafra in 1963 and 1969 respectively. 

Summary

The root causes of the raging genocide in Ambazonia derive from the fact that the people of the Ambazonia have challenged La Republique du Cameroun to produce the slightest proof of how, when and by what instruments of international law, it lays claim to the territory of the Ambazonia. La Republique du Cameroun is called upon to show cause why the people of the Ambazonia, who were self-governing from 1954, should surrender their territory to be ruled by foreigners from Republique du Cameroun or show cause why the Ambazonia should not be ruled by Southern Cameroonians but by foreigners as if they were mere inanimate fixtures in their own territory. The Ambazonia case is not a question of propaganda and narration, but of concrete proof that meets the standards of international law. Boundary disputes cannot be settled by mere narration or genocide, but by providing the proofs that meet the standards required under Article 102(1) of the UN Charter.

Indeed, Ambazonia’s case for the restoration of its statehood and sovereign independence is founded on solid legal grounds, namely, the United Nations Charter: Articles 76(b) and 102(1); United Nations General Assembly Resolutions: Res. 1514 of December 14 1960; 1541 of 15 December 1960; 1608(XV) of April 21 1960), 2625 (XXV) of 24 October 1970; OAU (Organization of African Unity) Charter: Article 2, the abolition of colonization in all its forms on the African continent; the African Union Constitutive Act: Article  4(b), respect of boundaries acquired at independence; the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights: Articles 19, 20(1), 20(2); principles of general international law, particular the principle of uti possedetis juris, which consecrates the principle that the boundaries of every state are the boundaries it inherited at independence and the OAU Cairo Declaration of 1964, stating that: “…Africans are virtually unanimous in their agreement that only by acceptance of the frontiers bequeathed to them by the colonialists can permanent peace reign on our continent”.

Conclusion

It is simple logic that colonialism is no less reprehensible because the colonizer is of the same race as the colonized. Colonization is slavery, a form of terrorism and a threat to international peace and security. Article 20 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights emphatically rejects it. The African Union in the preamble to that Charter strongly denounces it. The existence of colonialism in any form or manifestation, including economic exploitation, is thus incompatible with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. It is moreover also incompatible with the United Nations Charter, the United Nations Declaration on Decolonization and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The United Nations, the African Union and the international community as agents of negotiation are therefore duty-bound to affirm their support for the legitimate aspiration of the people of Ambazonia to be free from La République du Cameroun re-colonial bondage and to establish an independent sovereign state.

Way Forward

 Ambazonia is an international territory; a former Trust Territory of the United Nations, demarcated by international boundaries and protected by international treaties. The treaties marking the Eastern border of the Ambazonia (the boundary which separates it from La République du Cameroun) were concluded between Britain and France; France, whose territory of French Cameroons LRC inherited at independence. These treaties are the Milner-Simon Declaration of 10th July 1919 and the Franco-British Treaty of 9 January 1931.

The premise of national conflict in La Republique du Cameroun-Ambazonia war is fundamentally flawed, and, therefore, reaching a settlement based on “national dialogue” or (“Special Status”) reconciliation–is becoming increasingly unlikely (Berger, 2005). A new paradigm (in the Ambazonian sense) is needed that applies a settler-colonial framework to the conflict while also taking into consideration the national component. Reconciliation or negotiated separation with the United Nations as agent in this conflict is conceived as decolonization within a transitional justice framework. The USA Congressional Letter dated December 12, 2019 to President Paul Biya for an inclusive dialogue without any preconditions is a good starting point. This UN negotiated separation approach overcomes major pitfalls in the hegemonic discourse (Foucault, 1980) on reconciliation in this conflict, including the symmetrical analysis and psychologizing the process. This approach also overcomes major pitfalls in the name of empty slogans like “national dialogue” (Mahamat, 2017).

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  • *Tatah Mentan is a pacifist and peace activist, Theodore Lentz Peace and Security Studies Scholar and Professor of Political Science.

I wish to acknowledge the insightful editorial hygiene of Professor Julius Agbor, Vanguard University of South Carolina. I am also indebted to scholars whose works inspired this study. However, I accept full responsibility for all the shortcomings of the article.

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