From the Anger of Despair to Resistance and Self-Defense: The Trajectory of 21st Century Genocide in Cameroon
September 4, 2020
By Professor Tatah Mentan, PH.D*
Emotions are wonderful things. They may be uncomfortable, but everyone experiences them. But, no matter for how long these emotions are contained they eventually explode at the threshold of tolerance .This is “Bottle Up and Explode” Syndrome. It is the result of repeatedly stuffing difficult emotions as they arise. When the undealt with emotions build to the point that human bodies can no longer contain them, they involuntarily burst out of the human being. Inward manifestations of “Bottle Up and Explode” Syndrome might take the form of dissociation, suicidality, “irrational” thinking, or intense fear. Outward manifestations might include angry outbursts, sobbing spells, or impulsivity. In the case of the ongoing 21st Century genocide in Cameroon, it is the “Bottler Up and Explode” Syndrome of half a century of colonization and colonialism.
Unfortunately, foreign powers like the United States of America-the moral conscience of the world- have been roped into the conflict by a rogue regime desperate at the throws of its apocalypse. The United States Military aid for the “War on Terror” is being used to crush the resistance and self-defense of the people of Ambazonia (former United Nations Trust Territory under British Administration, hereunder) against the oppressive African colonial Republic of Cameroon.
The only solution, following ongoing years of genocide, burning of hundreds of villages, rife pauperization, targeted killings of more than 5000 unarmed civilians, wanton genocidal rape, extortion, looting, torture, and burning of personal property, institutions of learning and health clinics, it is impossible to imagine the Republic of Cameroon and Ambazonia establishing a peaceful and reconciliatory “living together.” The only peaceful solution is separation. Neither, federalism nor unitarism of any complexion can guarantee a peaceful “living together” of both entities.
Key words: Anger, Despair, Resistance, Self-Defense, Colonization, Colonialism, Genocide
From what used to be known as a “Heaven of Peace” in the turbulent Central African region, the situation in Cameroon is gradually becoming another story of carnage and bloodshed as the world stays silent. As the massacre continues, it is fast becoming another episode of the international community failing to uphold the right to protect human beings from brutal treatment by oppressive regimes. In the meantime, the Anglophone regions of Cameroon, otherwise known as Southern Cameroons, have become the epicenter of a policy orchestrated by the pro-Francophone regime.
Thousands of military men and women, including those still undergoing training at various military facilities, have been sent to put out any uprising orchestrated by members of the Anglophone community. The policy has entailed mass arrests and arbitrary killings, which have grown to the extent where many have been reported missing for months now. It also involves the burning down of villages to the extent that some villages have been almost completely annihilated. In some cases the elderly, who are unable to run into the bushes as it is the tradition now, are being roasted alive. In the meantime, thousands have taken refuge in forests, sleeping in the open and living on wild food, while more than 50,000 people according to UNHCR, have successfully crossed into Nigeria as refugees. In some situations, even houses of priests and pastors have been burnt – like the case of the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church Kwa-Kwa (in the South West of the country) and the Roman Catholic Priest in the same area.
In one of these gruesome acts, Chiabah Samuel, popularly known as Sam Soya, was beheaded by security forces who suspected him of conniving with Anglophone separatists. Even those who have been arrested have been taken from Anglophone regions to Francophone regions further away from their families, where medical attention has been denied to them in most cases. At least an Anglophone detainee was reported dead in the Yaoundé maximum security prison in March because he was forced to leave the hospital bed to a prison cell (even against his doctor’s protest). In the ensuing development, the international community has remained very silent and very little is said about the situation on the global media, which is why the problem persists.
The Inability to Uphold the “Never Again” Campaign
The situation in the Southern Cameroons has been dragging on now for close to two years and with the passing of time, it is getting worse. From a peaceful protest by members of the Anglophone communities demanding more rights in a Francophone dominated country and government, it has mutated over time to an outright violent struggle as Anglophone groups are being born every day with the objective of facing government troops in a violent showdown. The protracted struggle has been informed by the intransigence of the government to open rooms for dialogue despite incessant calls made by Anglophone groups and even the country’s National Human Rights Commission.
In addition, the silence of the international community has paved the way for more human rights abuses to be committed. The United Nations and friendly countries have not shown enough support to the Southern Cameroons case, which is why most inhabitants in the area feel they have been abandoned. The “Never Again” campaign, which was born out of the negligence of the international community to prevent the 1994 genocide, has not been upheld, as atrocities similar to that of Rwanda are being committed daily. “Never Again” was a pledge by the international community to never allow what happened to Rwanda – or similar situations – to repeat themselves.
However, the reality on the ground seems different.
It is this lack of protection and upholding of justice and the “Never Again” campaign by the international community which has pushed many to pick up arms as a last resort to defend their communities against government forces. Very little or no pressure has been brought on the government of President Biya by the international community. The UN has failed to condemn the situation and the country’s former colonial masters, including France and Britain, have more or less been very silent, treating the matter as an internal affair. In their latest communications, they have instead warned their nationals to refrain from traveling to Southern Cameroon. The United States of America, in its usual role of “police of the world,” has also not policed the Southern Cameroons’ case. The US government has, like the other governments, instead warned its nationals from taking to the volatile areas. None of these countries has pleaded for the case at any international instance, which is why it has not been mentioned at the level of the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council despite the high level of violence and brutality ongoing.
The visit of the Commonwealth Secretary General in December 2017 was seen as the eminent panacea to heal wounds. But the Right Hon Patricia Scotland came and left, and months after, nothing has been heard of the Commonwealth. Most especially, the international media has been very silent. All focus is on conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Congo DR, etc. Meanwhile, a similar situation is unfolding in Cameroon. Many villages including Guneku, Belo, Batibo, Kwakwa, Nake, Bole, Boa Bakundu, Matoh, Mufako Bekondo, Kembong, Kendem, have almost been completely razed down with fingers pointing at state security officers. Southern Cameroonian separatists groups which target only security officers have also killed tens of these men and women in uniform. While the carnage continues, the international media which serve as check and balance at the international level has not projected these images. The story of the suffering masses has not also been told and even the refugee situation in Nigeria which is appalling according to the UNHCR has also been eclipsed.
Understanding Anger and Resistance: A Theoretical Perspective
Understanding the relationship between emotion and human behavior has long fascinated those who endeavor to contribute to a broader knowledge of human nature. Great classical philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Spinoza, Descartes, Hobbes and Hume all had identifiable theories of emotion. It was Cicero, for instance, who reminded orators of his day of the power of emotion when attempting to persuade an audience. In particular he encouraged the use of pathos (the appeal to emotion), because it is by drawing on emotion, he argued, that opinion can be swayed most effectively. Here I have in mind Cicero’s De Oratore, particularly book I, chapter V.
Conveying anger to one’s listeners is epistemically valuable in two respects: first, it can direct listeners’ attention to elusive morally relevant features of the situation; second, it enables them to register injustices that their existing evaluative categories are not yet suited to capturing. Thus, when employed skillfully, angry speech promotes a greater understanding of existing injustices. This epistemic role is indispensable in highly divided societies, where the injustices endured by some groups are often invisible to, or misunderstood by, other groups.
Although people commonly tend to think of anger as a troublesome, negative emotion, Aristotle wisely noted how: “Anyone can get angry—that is easy; however, to be angry at the right person, to the proper extent, at the proper moment, with the right motive, and in the right way, that is not so easy” (350 bce/1925). The motivation for all human action, according to Aristotle, can be assigned to one of seven causes: chance, nature, compulsion, habit, reasoning, anger, and appetite. Anger he referred to as an expression of passion and pain, for which humans have both an appetite and a fear. In this view, anger is not simply a negative emotion to be shunned and avoided, it is also a source of passion that may be concentrated and directed toward the pursuit of important goals.
In a similar sense, anger can play a dual role within the process of social influence in general, and persuasive message design in particular. As it concerns health communication, anger may be either a curse or a blessing—either an obstacle to be avoided, or a vehicle to be driven and finessed. In the pages that follow, the functions and consequences of this powerful emotion are reviewed with a mind toward identifying the direct and indirect roles anger can play in motivation, decision making, judgment, choice, and behavior. The goal is to explore how anger may be employed as a message feature with application across a broad range of health communication contexts.
As it concerns health message design, anger may be usefully focused upon the harmful effects of disease, substance abuse, health risks in general, and the companies profiting through products harmful to public health. On the other hand, anger may be unintentionally generated and misdirected toward policymakers and health campaigns perceived as unjustly limiting hedonically relevant personal freedoms (Miller, 2016). In either case, the effects of message-generated anger on pertinent health behaviors can be quite powerful, whether directed against risky and harmful outcomes, or rebounding in resistance to well-intentioned health promotion campaigns.
Anger may be defined as a primary, event-related negative emotion (Ortony, Clore, & Collins, 1988), and although it need not be directed at an agent in the same sense as an attribution-related emotion, such as resentment, contempt, or indignation, anger can be particularly intense in response to negative outcomes associated with the agency and actions of other people. Within a social–emotional context, anger is expressed and experienced as an interpersonal event that may often damage relationships by reducing intimacy, spawning discord, intensifying negative feelings, and escalating mutual hostility (Fehr & Baldwin, 1996). Conversely, anger may also lead to a number of positive outcomes, including the redress of grievances, shared understanding, emotional closeness, and the reduction of tension and anxiety through emotional ventilation and catharsis (Tavris, 1984).
In general, the subjective experience of anger is negatively valenced and aversively arousing, although some people may find it less aversive than others (Harmon-Jones, 2004: 18, 337-361). Because of anger’s potential for intense arousal, some individuals may experience a reinforcing, self-stimulation effect felt to be energizing and invigorating, although conducive to aggression (Berkowitz, 1970: 1-7; Bushman, Baumeister, Stack, & Kruglanski, 1999: 367-374). At input, the elicitation of anger depends on perceptions of goal-relevant, situational disruptions (Ortony et al., 1988); whereas at output, anger affects cognitive processing strategies (Nabi, 2002: 204-216; Schwarz, 1990:522-561), risk assessment (Lerner & Keltner, 2000:473-493), and judgments bearing on goal-directed behavior (Clore, Ortony, Dienes, & Fujita, 1993; Schwarz & Clore, 1983). Though the occurrence of anger can be cognitively disruptive and affectively unpleasant, it can also have powerful effects on concentration, determination, and focus (Nabi, 2002, 2003: 199-223), particularly when aimed at approaching, engaging, and removing goal-hindering obstructions.
Relative to sad or neutral emotion states, anger may also cause people to be more influenced by heuristic cues, especially source-relevant information. Bodenhausen, Sheppard, and Kramer (1994: 45-62) argued that anger may induce a lack of analytic processing resulting in greater source derogation due to reduced motivation to actively analyze judgment-relevant information. According to Bodenhausen and colleagues, anger may reduce people’s ability to engage in thoughtful analysis. It seems likely that the high levels of physiological arousal that often accompany anger serve to reduce cognitive capacity and discourage analytical thinking. Regardless of cause, an increased reliance on heuristic cues is likely a result of limited information processing, and most anger theorists agree that angry people generally do not process information systematically (Moons & Mackie, 2007: 706-720).
In essence, anger is a subjective feeling tied to perceived wrongdoing and a tendency to counter or redress that wrongdoing in ways that may range from resistance to retaliation (Fernandez, 2008). Like sadness and fear, the feeling of anger can take the form of emotion, mood, or temperament. Many psychological tests of anger present a list of anger-provoking scenarios, as in the Reaction Inventory the Multidimensional Anger Inventory and the Novaco Provocation Inventory (Novaco, 1975). Some of the items on these inventories are highly specific. In general, research shows that wrongdoing is perceived not merely in the instance when one is physically assaulted. Wrongdoing also falls within several psychosocial categories: (i) insults or affronts, (ii) insensitivity or indifference, (iii) deception and betrayal, (iv) abandonment and rejection, (v) breach of agreement or promise, (vi) ingratitude, and (vii) exploitation.
Ways of reacting to such angering pain are multiple. One of them is learned helplessness. Learned helplessness is a phenomenon observed in both humans and other animals when they have been conditioned to expect pain, suffering, or discomfort without a way to escape it (Thomas, 2016). Eventually, after enough conditioning, the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain at all—even if there is an opportunity to truly escape it! When human or other animals come to understand (or believe) that they have no control over what happens to them, they begin to think, feel, and act as if they are helpless. This phenomenon is called learned helplessness because it is not an innate trait; no one is born believing that they have absolutely no control over what happens to them and that it is fruitless to even try to gain control. It is a learned behavior, conditioned through experiences in which the subject either truly has no control over his circumstances or believes that he has no control over his circumstances.
Violent Resistance as a Duty?
Every living being on this planet has experienced injustice and oppression at some point or another and in some form or another. As humans, our lives are shaped by blatantly violent and subtly coercive forces that compel us to act in certain ways and to not act in other ways. It is, unfortunately, an unavoidable part of the very fabric of our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. For some, this oppression is obvious and terrible, as they regularly experience assault, rape, arrest, murder, starvation, and theft in their families and communities. Others experience it to a slightly lesser degree as they are openly mocked, discriminated against, and treated with lesser value than other members of their culture due to their gender, sexual orientation, age, health, class, or race. Still others might not see these forces in their lives at all, as their experience with oppression is on the receiving end when they receive wealth and power at the expense of those underneath them on the pyramid of social inequality.
There is a reason why it is normal and acceptable for living creatures to treat each other with hatred and disrespect. The reason is that a lot of people believe in certain ideas. There are many ideas out there, but unfortunately the most popular ideas are also the most destructive ones. For example, there is a very popular idea out there that if you take the sexual organs of a cotton plant, flatten it into a piece of paper, dye it green, and make figures and pictures of dead royalty on it, you can then use this piece of paper to have power and control over other living creatures. If someone has a lot of these pieces of paper, they can purchase whatever they want and kill billions of humans, cows, fish, forests, streams, or whatever else they can come up with. The question of whether somebody should do these things is never brought into question, because the fact of the matter is that they can. This is a very bad idea.
Another popular idea is that certain humans can own other animals and areas of our planet. When certain humans are allowed to own other animals, human or otherwise, they often do very bad things to them. When certain humans own parts of our planet, they often like to create imaginary lines called borders and kill other people who also want to live in that part of the Earth, as well as doing great damage to the Earth as they take trees, water, plants, minerals, and other parts of the Earth away in order to make lots of money. Someone who owns another animal or a part of the Earth can do almost whatever they want to them, even very horrible things, just because they can. This is also a very bad idea.
There is also the idea that certain people have less value because of their skin color, their gender, their sexual orientation, their age, their education, their religion, their cultural values, how much green paper their family has acquired through the generations, or various other reasons. This is another very bad idea that has caused incalculable levels of suffering in our world, and continues to do so every day.
There are also some good ideas, though. There is an idea that all living creatures should be treated with respect and dignity. There is an idea that all humans are of equal value and that nobody should be able to hurt or oppress someone else regardless of how much money or power they have. There is an idea that everybody should have the freedom to live how they choose as long as they don’t hurt or oppress anybody else. These ideas are often called ‘radical’, ‘revolutionary’, and ‘dangerous’, because they are a threat to those who have a lot of green paper and imaginary lines on the Earth. These radical ideas, although they seem like good ideas to most people who take the time to think about them, are unfortunately not the ideas that run the world. Therefore, those who believe these radical, dangerous ideas and believe that they are worth fighting for must resist the dominant and powerful bad ideas and those who enforce them. This is called ‘resistance.’
Those who engage in resistance have acquired a very large arsenal of tactics and strategies for engaging in resistance over the past several thousand years, and resistors today have a wealth of knowledge to draw upon. On the other hand, many resistors are also struggling with the challenges of living in a new era. The old ideas don’t always work in this age of expanding technology, Orwellian surveillance, and increasingly militarized police forces.
Within the world of resistance, there are many different ideas for what ideas we should be fighting for and how we should fight. How should we resist? When someone asks the question, “How should we resist?” there are two big ideas that immediately jump up and loudly answer, “Resist this way!” Idea one says that you should resist using violent tactics, and idea two says that you should use nonviolent tactics. Both of these ideas have their heroes, success stories, philosophies, and various arguments for their legitimacy and supremacy. Both of these ideas have a long history of successful resistance, and both ideas have produced many incredible thinkers, writers, activists, radicals, and revolutionaries who have left a legacy that is admirable and inspirational.
Here there is a problem. Amidst the shouting match between these two big ideas of violence and nonviolence there is also an idea that I think has not received much attention, yet it is very important. This idea says that both methods of resistance are good ideas. This idea says that there are not just two main ways of resisting, but rather there is one bigger idea that includes both of the other ideas within it. This idea attempts to dissolve the rigidly polarized worlds of violent and nonviolent resistance by introducing a model that, by introducing a concept called colonization into the dialogue, encompasses the whole spectrum of resistance. This idea honors the experiences and beliefs of all people so that that any individual or group of people can effectively resist bad ideas until they no longer exist.
Resistance against various power relations is the result of interpretations of the aim and discourses of the organized resistance, and how those resisting recognize themselves in relation to those interpretations. This, in turn, creates particular conceptions of the self, which allow people to move outside the boundaries of the resisting organization and make their own everyday resistance. In the end, self-reflection becomes the very base for an individual’s decision to practice everyday resistance against the violent tyrannies of all sorts.
Violence: Violence is any physical, emotional, verbal, institutional, structural or spiritual behavior, attitude, policy or condition that diminishes, dominates or destroys others and ourselves. Violence consists of actions, words, attitudes, structures or systems that cause physical, psychological, social or environmental damage and/or prevent people from reaching their full human potential. Johan Galtung (1969), one of the founders of Peace and Conflict Studies and creator of the Violence Triangle, posited that violence generally falls into three categories: direct violence, structural violence, and cultural violence.
Direct Violence can take many forms, but its most obvious form involves the use of physical force, as in assault, rape, a murder, a mugging, etc. Verbal violence is also a form of direct violence, as in hateful and derogatory speech intended to do harm to another.
Structural Violence exists when some groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc. are assumed to have, and in fact do have, more access to goods, resources, and opportunities than other groups, classes, genders, nationalities, etc., and this unequal advantage is built into the very social, political and economic systems that govern societies, states and the world. These tendencies may be overt such as Apartheid or more subtle such as traditions or tendency to award some groups privileges over another.
Cultural violence is the prevailing attitudes and beliefs that we have been taught since childhood and that surround us in daily life regarding power and the necessity of violence. We can consider, for example, dominant narratives of history which glorify genocide, rape, and theft and present them as necessary evils in the face of cultural progression. Almost all cultures recognize that killing a person is murder, but killing tens, hundreds or thousands during a declared conflict is called ‘war’ or ‘colonizing a country,’ and the casual killing of civilians by the State is declared ‘collateral damage.’
It is important to realize that there is interplay between the components of the triangle. Cultural and Structural Violence cause Direct Violence, while Direct Violence reinforces Structural and Cultural Violence. Direct Violence is visible as behavior in the triangle, however this violence does not come out of nowhere; its roots are Cultural and Structural. For the purposes of this book, property destruction is not considered violent unless it directly jeopardizes another living creature’s ability to support and sustain their existence (Bobichand, 2012).
The State: By the State, I mean any hierarchical political organization which holds a monopoly on violence within its defined territorial boundaries and serves to ‘legitimize’ the use of violence on other States, on its own citizens, and on the Earth with the purpose of increasing the wealth, power, and oppressive capacity of the ruling class of that State.
Pacifism: Pacifism is a broad ideology which encompasses many schools of thought and attitudes of resistance. There are two beliefs which unite all pacifists – being anti-war and against oppressive violence. Within that spectrum are many approaches to resistance, ranging from non-resistance to active resistance. For the purposes of this book, I need to create an ideological distinction between ineffective, disengaged non-resistance and active, engaged, effective resistance, and although the term pacifism is not completely accurate, it will serve the purposes of this book. Therefore, I will use the term pacifism to denote nonresistance and active nonviolence to denote resistance, although not all who identify as pacifists are non resistors. I realize this may be a troubling choice of definitions to some, but due to the poverty of language I could not find a better way to distinguish the two ideologies. Thus, when I use the term pacifism, I am describing an ideology of nonviolent nonresistance; a philosophy which forbids an individual to engage in direct oppressive violence, but does not allow for effective resistance to oppressive violence. The writings of Martin Buber, Leo Tolstoy, John Howard Yoder, Adin Ballou, The Buddha, and Greg Boyd are good examples of pacifist ideology.
Active Nonviolence: Also known as Satyagraha, the third way, nonviolent resistance, and nonviolent direct action, this philosophy distinguishes itself from pacifism in many important and often misunderstood ways. Active nonviolence posits that through offensive, yet loving and creative action, violence can be overthrown with a dedication to and willingness to suffer for one’s cause. Adherents to this philosophy often put themselves in physical danger and engage in direct action, property destruction, and civil disobedience to the State, but their actions are carefully planned as to never harm or assault another living being. Active nonviolence as a form of resistance has gained great popularity in social change movements over the past century. The writings/actions of Mohandas Gandhi, MLK Jr., Dorothy Day, Shane Claiborne, Walter Wink, Yeshua, and many others are representative of active nonviolence.
Violent Resistance: Any action taken that intentionally harms another living beings life, health, or well-being for the purpose of resisting oppression will be understood to be violent resistance or violent direct action. Advocates of violent resistance believe that violence is a powerful, effective weapon that the State uses to legitimize itself every day, and those that resist the State are therefore entitled to also use violence to defend themselves against oppression. Almost all revolutions and resistance movements throughout human history have been violent, and many nonviolent movements have been bolstered by their violent counterparts, as we’ll explore later on in the book. Advocates of violent resistance include Huey Newton, Malcolm X, Ernesto Guevara, Derrick Jensen, Ward Churchill, Peter Gelderloos, Ted Kaczynski, John Brown, Johann Most, Luigi Galleani, Emma Goldman, Victor Serge, Severino Di Giovanni, and Naomi Jaffe.
Colonization: Colonization is the illegitimate economic exploitation and political domination of a people by a violent oppressor, as well as the separation of colonized peoples from their individuality and culture. Frantz Fanon, one of the greatest theorists of colonization and decolonization, has explored this concept exhaustively, and we will borrow heavily from his writings as we continue throughout this book. Fanon believed that the rich history, culture, and wisdom of oppressed peoples are physically and symbolically destroyed, and in their place the colonizer creates a people who deserve only to be ruled and exploited. The colonizer reconstructs colonized peoples as ‘lazy’ and ‘unproductive,’ thereby justifying low wages or coercive systems of labor. He also reconstructs them as ‘stupid,’ thereby justifying the imposition of the colonial power’s institutions and practices – boarding schools, religious training centers, and plantations/factories. Finally, he constructs them as ‘savage’ and ‘dangerous,’ thereby justifying military conquest, police repression, and coercive forms of social control (Fanon, 1969). The result is a people “in whose soul an inferiority complex has been created by the death and burial of its local cultural originality” (Fanon, 1952). Fanon (1965) believed it was important to realize that colonialism, “hardly ever exploits the whole of a country. It contents itself with bringing to light the natural resources, which it extracts, and exports to meet the needs of the mother country’s industries, thereby allowing certain sectors of the colony to become relatively rich. But the rest of the colony follows its path of underdevelopment and poverty, or at all events sinks into it more deeply.”
Decolonization: Decolonization is both the act of physically freeing a territory from the external control of settlers and the psychological act of freeing the consciousness of the native from the effects of colonization: the states of alienation and dehumanization. Fanon posits three premises in his theory of decolonization:
a.) the act of colonization is never legitimate, as it is rooted in exploitation and oppressive violence;
b.) due to the illegitimacy of colonization, the oppressed (the colonized) are entitled to two actions: the reclamation of physical liberation and sovereignty as well reclamation from the psychological suffering of colonization;
c.) almost no nonviolent options are available which serve the ends of both physical and psychological liberation.
Due to this reasoning, Fanon concludes that violent resistance is not only justified, but required in order for the oppressed to fully decolonize themselves and resist oppressive violence. While there are some critiques of Fanon’s theory (1974), I believe it a helpful model to help us understand the complexities of and requirements for effective decolonization.
The path to the decolonization stage is for individuals or organizations that have engaged in some activity – whether it is explicitly violent or not- that has broken their former view of themselves as weak and subservient, and has empowered them to ‘stand up for themselves,’ regardless of the consequences. This shift may or may not necessitate physical violence, as many individuals may be able to transition to a state of empowerment by simply realizing and accepting the truth that they are not victims, but for the vast majority of people it will require some sort of physical violence. The transition to this stage requires a full and complete decolonization of fear from the oppressed psyche, a rooting out of the mentality of subordination and domination and replacing it with a clarity of truth- a truth that destroys the former illusions of fear and understands that no human has the right to oppress/kill/rape/extort/intimidate another form of life.
Most of the time this stage will be accompanied with violence, as Fanon (1961) stated, “At the level of individuals, violence is a cleansing force. It frees the native from his inferiority complex and from his despair and inaction, it makes him fearless and restores his self-respect.” This stage may be seen as a ‘reaction’ to the oppression and disempowerment felt during the previous stage, and thus many individuals and groups may remain in this stage for a very long time, enjoying their newfound freedoms and savoring their liberation of their bodies, hearts, and minds.
It will follow as a general rule that the amount of oppressive violence that an individual or culture has been subjected to is directly proportionate to the amount of violence they will need to exert on their oppressors in order to effectively decolonize themselves. Fanon repeated this assertion many times, and Gandhi(1942) understood this as well, when he famously said, “Nonviolence cannot be taught to a person who fears to die and has no power of resistance.”
The failure to properly define the functions of violence or nonviolence presents a false dichotomy. Therefore, it is important to dissect the terms nonviolence and violence. Nonviolence is traditionally understood as being a way of life, or a moral philosophy. This moral view of nonviolence is often given a religious overtone. Another way to understand nonviolence is as a tactical political philosophy, for example, nonviolent direct action. In this case, one actually uses their body to effect political or moral change. Violence, on the other hand, is understood as a reactionary, political tool. Indeed, violence may generally be understood in relation to the term revolution. Violence, then, is understood as killing, murder, death, and tyrannical. In addition, violence can and should be understood in a more complex manner. For example, one could argue that violence can be physical, psychological, emotional, rhetorical, or epistemic. Thus, the use of retaliatory physical violence becomes a matter of one’s moral taste, which in some sense could prove apolitical.
What both of these terms have in common is the desire to change some form of systematic oppression, both of which can be physical or psychological, but is violent, nevertheless. The major difference between nonviolence and violence is the means or the method in how this change in power comes about. To be sure, power is at the heart of nonviolence and violence as political, moral or ideological change. However, as the historical record indicates, there was no real contradiction between the use of nonviolence or armed self-defense as a political tactic if they work in tandem. Morality became an issue for Black folk under the constant strain of violent white supremacy when someone came along and said nonviolence was a way of life.
Background to Cameroon Colonial History
The crisis in Southern Cameroons, which has resulted in a violent confrontation between armed pro-independence groups and the Cameroonian forces over the last two years, is not giving any sign of moving towards a solution—rather the contrary is true. Since the date of the symbolic declaration of Southern Cameroonian independence of 1 October, at least hundreds have been killed in a conflict that has been dragging on since the 1960s and has a lot to see with the centralization of power at the hands of the Cameroonian state.
The Republic of Cameroon could be said to have a complicated and an unfortunate history, perhaps, more than a vast majority of the other African states. The Portuguese were the first Europeans to get to the area now known as the Republic of Cameroon in the 15th century. They established a sugar cane plantation in the 16th and subsequent centuries, up to the early 19th century. Portuguese and Dutch slave traders dominated the slave trade in the area until slavery was abolished. Sometime in the 19th century, nomadic Fulanis arrived in Northern Cameroon and settled.
Germany eventually gained possession of the area and established Cameroon as a Protectorate in 1884, thereby, making the country a colony. German colonial authorities ruled the colony until 1916 when a combined French, British and Belgian military force drove out the Germans during the First World War. After the First World War, Cameroon was taken away from Germany as part of the armistice that ended “the war to end all wars” in 1919. It was divided into two and shared by two of the victorious allied powers (Britain and France). As a result, Britain administered Northwestern and Southwestern Cameroon under the Mandate of the League of Nations while France administered four-fifth of the total territory. (The Commonwealth, 2017, October 5;Caxton, 2017, July 21). Obviously, France had a much bigger territorial area under its control than Britain. After the Second War, both countries continued to administer the territory under the Trusteeship of the United Nations.
While still under the trusteeship of the UN and administered by France and Britain, indigenous African political parties emerged and began to agitate for Cameroonian independence. For instance, the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon (UPC), led by Ruben Um Nyobe demanded that the two parts (English-speaking and French-speaking) should be amalgamated to form an independent country. Due to its proactive role in agitating for independence, the UPC was banned in the 1950s by the colonial powers. The ban resulted in a massive rebellion in which a considerable number of people were killed, including the leader of the party, Mr. Nyobe (Ibid).
In any case, partial self-rule was granted to the colony. Eventually, Cameroon gained full independence on January 1, 1960. A UN plebiscite was held in 1961 in which Northwestern Cameroon decided to join Nigeria while Southwestern Cameroon joined French Cameroon, following the feeling that it was ignored, discriminated and marginalized by Britain, while being ruled as part of Nigeria. Due to the nature of the country, a federal system of government was established with both language zones (English-speaking and French-speaking) having their own parliaments. The prime minister of the English-speaking Cameroon became the deputy president of the country while the leader of the French-speaking regions served as the president (Morse, 2017, June 2).
However, the federal system was illegally dissolved in 1972 by President Ahmadou Ahidjo and replaced by a unitary system of government, resulting in the concentration of power at the national level. As a result, the name was changed from the Federal Republic of Cameroon to the United Republic of Cameroon. In 1984, the name was changed again and the country became the Republic of Cameroon (Republique du Cameroun), the name at independence in 1960.
Cameroon, unlike its Nigerian neighbor, which has had fifteen heads of state since independence in October 1, 1960, has had only two since independence in January 1960. Ahmadou Ahidjo first ruled as the president from 1960 to 1982, then President Paul Biya took over in the same year and has continued to rule the country to the present. Both political leaders originate from the French-speaking regions. This means that no English-speaking Cameroonian has had the opportunity to serve as a head of state of the country. All policies and decisions seem to originate from the strategic interests and calculations of the French-speaking regions. Even Cameroon’s foreign policy is greatly aligned with that of France. This accounts for why President Paul Biya visits France regularly and is strongly aligned with France. On the other hand, Britain has had little or no influence on the English-speaking regions, thereby, leaving those regions to feign for themselves.
An interesting aspect of Cameroon’s politics is that the military attempted four unsuccessful military coups in 1979, 1983, and February and April 1984. The last two attempted coups were alleged to have been staged by military officers who were loyal or sympathetic to former President Ahidjo. As a result, the former head of state was tried for instigating the coups in absentia and found guilty. This means that unlike many other African countries, Cameroon has never had a military regime in power. Nonetheless, the country tilted towards a unitary system of government because the power-wielding elite opted to centralize political authority at the center to reduce divisiveness. They did so by merging two governing political parties and some opposition groups in 1966. Similarly, the ruling party was reconstituted as the Cameroon National Union (Union of National Camerounaise), otherwise known as the UNC. Then, it was renamed as the Reassemblement Democratique de people Camerounais (Cameroon’s Peoples Democratic Movement (CPDM) or RDPC).
In sum, Cameroon started as a German colony, then was taken over by the British and French following the end of the First World War, under mandate of the League of Nations and United Nations trusteeship. The French (Francophone) and British (Anglophone) regions were amalgamated. The majority (four-fifth or about 80%) of the regions of the country is French-speaking while a smaller portion (about 20%) of the regions is English-speaking. (International Crisis Group, 2017, August 2). Perhaps, due to this factor, the French regions (see map below) have dominated the country so much so that the English-speaking region feel marginalized and discriminated against in almost every aspect of the country’s life.
The Trouble with Cameroon
The government of La Republique du Cameroun thrives on falsehood and tells a lot of lies and seems to truly believe its lies. The country can never stand because it is built on lies and maintained by a desperate and very costly attempt to sustain the falsehood at all costs. The history of the country has been thoroughly falsified. Everybody seems to overlook the impact of the falsehood and it will never triumph over truth. The history of the country has been falsified to the extent that even legal minds tend to believe that there was a valid and subsisting federation in the Cameroons between 1961 -1972 whereas what obtained was a gigantic fraud orchestrated by the government of President Ahmadou Ahidjo against the gullible and unsuspecting leaders of the Southern Cameroons under Premier John Ngu Foncha in 1961. Ahidjo and La Republique du Cameroun carefully put in place an undeclared hidden agenda to systematically annex and assimilate The Southern Cameroons over time. This is what happened;
When the Second World War ended, the United Nations Organization (UNO) was created to take over the role hitherto played by the League of Nations to safeguard world peace and stability in the comity of nations. The Mandates System of the League of Nations under which former German colonies were administered by members of the League of Nations came to an end in October 1947when the United Nations Trusteeship Council was created as an organ of the UNO to oversee the various European powers administer and prepare the said former colonies for independence. As part of the said Trusteeship System, France was given The United Nations Trust Territory of French Cameroons whilst Britain was Given the UN Trust Territory of British Cameroons.
The British Cameroons was divided for administrative convenience into two territories (British Northern Cameroons which was administered from Kaduna as part of the Northern Region of Nigeria and British Southern Cameroons which was administered from Enugu as part of the Eastern Region of Nigeria).
In 1954, there was a crisis in the Eastern House of Assembly at Enugu that caused the representatives of the Southern Cameroons in the said Eastern House of Assembly to withdraw from there and come home to Buea where they set up the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly. Britain, the administrative authority quickly gave its blessings to their plight and a parliamentary system of government with a bi-camera assembly akin to what obtained in Great Britain was put in place with an elected Prime Minister who was Head of Government business and a cabinet of ministers appointed from the House of Representatives by the Queen of England who handled issues of sovereignty like Foreign Affairs, Defense, Police and currency. There was a Constitution for the territory known as The Southern Cameroons Constitution Orders in Council. Sovereignty was then still vested with the Queen (administrative authority). Dr EML Endeley was the first Prime Minister from 1954 – 1958 when he was defeated in a free and fair elections by John Ngu Foncha to whom he handed power gracefully and sat in House of Assembly as leader of the opposition.
In October 1959 the UNO General Assembly passed Resolution 1541 setting a dateline for immediate independence of all colonial territories under trusteeship in 1960. The British ironically complained that the British Southern Cameroons was not ready for independence having been administered from Nigeria with most of the Civil Service, Police and other staff coming from Nigeria and so with their mafia, the UN Resolution got modified and the notion of independence by joining either Nigeria or former French Cameroons that had just obtained independence on 1st January 1960 was crafted. Meanwhile, French Cameroons got its independence on 1stJanuary 1960 and was admitted into the UNO as member on in 1960 with its territory clearly mapped out, frozen and her flag, Coat of Arms and articles of state which did not include the territory of Southern Cameroons which though quasi autonomous with bi-camera parliament and government under an elected Prime Minister, was still a trust territory of the UNO under Britain.
Meantime campaigns raged in British Cameroons as to independence by joining either independent Nigeria or La Republique du Cameroun. The third option spearheaded by PM Kale with the support of scholars like Fr Paul Verdzekov (then Curate in Catholic Mission Bota) who had just returned from studies in Ireland and Soborne in France was unpopular and muzzled out. Hence the plebiscite was organized on the 11th February 1961 under the auspices of the UNO with the publication of the pamphlet entitled The Two Alternatives which clearly spelt out the terms of either eventual union. Voting was done separately in Northern Cameroons and Southern Cameroons and as was secretly planned by the British, Northern Cameroons voted to join Nigeria while Southern Cameroons voted for union with La Republique du Cameroun.
To give meaning to and settle the issues of the plebiscite results, the UNO General Assembly passed Resolution 1608 of 21st April 1961 which further clarified the conditions under which the respective federations would be constituted on the basis of equality. Thereafter Northern Cameroons pursuant to the same Resolution got independence by joining Nigeria on 22nd June 1961 while the Southern Cameroons was to have its own independence from Britain on 1st October 1961. It must be underlined here that the Northern Cameroons that went to Nigeria got partitioned into two regions within the Nigerian federation and never acceded to Self government with an elected Premier and House of Assembly like the Southern Cameroons from 1954 when they rioted and left the Eastern House of Assembly at Enugu and consequently has undergone a peculiar political evolution and development as part of Nigeria.
As soon as the territory was thus partitioned by the UNO that created the trusteeship system, President Ahmadou Ahidjo of La Republique conceived his fraudulent, grand plan to systematically annex and assimilate the British Southern Cameroons which he announced at the UNC (CNU) Party Congress in Ebolowa in 1961 how part of their territory which was estranged had come back to the motherland.
June 22nd 1961 – British Northern Cameroons obtains independence and becomes part of independent Federal Republic of Nigeria while British Southern Cameroons is still under UN Trusteeship waiting for midnight 30th September when trusteeship would end so she becomes independent and joins La Republique du Cameroun in a UN sponsored federation “…equal in status” as per UNGA Resolution 1608 of 21/04/1961.
July 1961 – La Republique du Cameroun conceives draft Bill to change name of country to “Republique Federale du Cameroun” and allegedly smuggles bill to John Ngu Foncha who does not reveal same to Southern Cameroons House of Representatives nor government that he headed.
July 1961 – Ahidjo organizes Foumban Constitutional Conference where the draft Bill for federal constitution was to be debated but unfortunately the conference ends in disarray without any Resolution.
August 24th-25th, 1961 – the Draft Bill for Federal Republic of Cameroun is debated and adopted in the parliament of La Republique du Cameroun only. Neither House of Representatives, House of Chiefs nor Government of The Southern Cameroons who had voted to join them were consulted.
1st September 1961 – President Ahmadou Ahidjo by virtue of powers granted him by the constitution of La Republique du Cameroun promulgates the adopted draft Bill into Law No L/F/01 of 01/09/1961 on the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroun which immediately goes operational in his country whilst the Southern Cameroons is still under UN Trusteeship with The Southern Cameroons Constitution Orders in Council as our own governing law under the British Crown and Union Jack.
30th September 1961 – at the Tiko international Airport in the afternoon, while Southern Cameroons was still under UN Trusteeship that was to expire at midnight for the territory to achieve independence and join La Republique du Cameroon, Ahidjo comes for official visit, the Union Jack is lowered and the Two Stars Flag of La Republique du Cameroun is hoisted, Ahidjo inspects Guard of Honour mounted by the remaining British soldiers and Ikeja trained Police, Ahidjo is thus handed The Southern Cameroons illegally and prematurely by J O Fields (last Commissioner)who waves Good Bye, enters the plane and goes off to England.
1st October 1961 – Ahmadou Ahidjo, Head of State of the Federal Republic of Cameroon and Commander in Chief of Armed Forces:
– Had already sent his troops to occupy Buea and Bamenda
– appointed John Ngu Foncha an elected Prime Minister as Vice President of the Federal Republic with office and fabulous salary/allowances in Yaounde.
– appoints J C Ngoh as Federal Inspector of Administration answerable to the president and with more powers than the elected Prime Minister of West Cameroon.
– Signed Decree in 1962 extending Terrorism Law of La Republique du Cameroun to West Cameroon to give legal cover to arrest and incarcerate political opponents like Nde Tumazah, Albert Mukong, Peter Banfogha etc. of the UPC and One Kamerun party stock who were still enjoying liberties in West Cameroon.
– 1966 – One party system was rammed down throats of Southern Cameroonians who had managed a vibrant multiparty system with multiple free and fair elections since 1954.
– 1968 – Augustine Ngom Jua another elected Prime Minister of West Cameroon (never appointed Vice President of Federation) was sacked ignominiously whilst addressing parliament in Buea and replaced with S T Muna
– 1970 – S T Muna was appointed Federal Vice President whilst J N Foncha was appointed Grand chancellor of National Orders (whatever that means).
– 20th May 1972 – hoax of Referendum was organized to create United Republic of Cameroon, sovereignty is vested with the President who creates 7 Provinces dividing West Cameroon into South West and North West Provinces respectively making sure that seeds of division are sowed, watered and nurtured between them and sponsoring VIKUMA (Victoria, Kumba, Mamfe alliance against the NW).
– 1st February 1984 – Paul Biya signed decree resurrecting the erstwhile Republique du Cameroun which had only gone into abeyance with the illegal imposition of the Federal Constitution on the UN Trust Territory of the Southern Cameroons.
– 1992 – High Court of Bamenda in Judgment No HCB/28/92 per Justice FOMBE Richard, between The State of Southern Cameroons alias Ambazonia & 2 Ors Vs La Republique Du Cameroun & 1Or declared the administration of La Republique du Cameroun illegal over the Southern Cameroons territory … (Judge was subsequently killed and Case File disappeared).
– May 2009 – Notwithstanding the existing illegality, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) in Communication 266/2003 dated 27/05/2009 between Kevin Ngwang Gumne, SCNC & SCAPO Vs Cameroonwherein the special tribunal of the African Union held that Southern Cameroonians are a distinct people different from citizens of La Republique du Cameroun and recommended Constructive Dialogue between La Republique du Cameroun and the peoples of the Southern Cameroons. In fact when the leader of the Cameroon delegation (Dr. Joseph Dione Ngute) raised the issue of them being tried in the military tribunal because they were terrorists, the court asked him whether terrorists go to court and he was dumbfounded. In fact this same recognition was made by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in Communication 1134/2002 dated 17/03/2005 between Fon Fongum Gorji Dinka Vs Cameroon as well as in the very recent Communication 1813/2003 dated December 2014 between Ebenezer Derek Mbongo Akwanga Vs Cameroon wherein the UNHRC went ahead to award damages in the sum of US$3.445.904 against the Defendants.
– The recommendations for constructive dialogue between the two peoples of La Republique du Cameroun and the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) by both the African Union and the UNO Secretary General Koffi A Annan has been roundly frustrated with impunity and utmost disdain by Paul Biya’s La Republique du Cameroun and everybody seems so helpless!!
– It must also be underlined here that while it was legal and legitimate for the Draft Bill for the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Cameroun to be debated only in the parliament of La Republique du Cameroun and then promulgated into law by their president Ahmadou Ahidjo and implemented in their territory, it remains a gigantic fraud and illegality for that Federal Constitution and ALL OTHER SUBSEQUENT LEGISLATION and practice deriving from it to be implemented in the territory of the Southern Cameroons(Ambazonia). A law that was adopted and promulgated without the consent of Ambazonians should not be implemented on them. This happens to be one of the principal causes of the American War of Independence, the principle of NO TAXATION WITHOUT REPRESENTATION. How can a law adopted in parliament of Nigeria be implemented in Cameroon?
– By the same argument should Southern Cameroons continue to pay taxes and sponsor a government that rather than build roads, schools and hospitals sends armed policemen, gendarmes, and military to torture, maim, rape, loot, and even kill innocent unarmed school children? Do parents suffer with children like this only for them to reach university and be tortured, maimed, raped and killed by armed troops of La Republique du Cameroun? Why the carnage as if Southern Cameroonians were conquered in War? This is the source of the anger of Ambazonians-separate, annexed, and excluded (see the two maps below). What were the two maps that the UN representative handed to Biya in Yaounde on May 20, 2010? According to live reports from CRTV, the UN representative, Dr. Ali Triki, who was the President of the 64th General Assembly of the UN, in handing the two maps to Cameroun’s Head of State, declared “Voici les cartes de Cameroon Britannique…histoire en a decidee ( Here are the maps of British Cameroons…history had so decided..”. According to another State-owned media, Cameroon Tribune of Tuesday May 25, 2010, on page 1 and 3, carrying the pictures of the two maps in the presence of Paul Biya and Jean Victor Nkolo, who is of the Information Department at the UN, the two maps were well framed, large enough for Biya to understand even from twenty meters away.
The first and very gigantic one is the Map of La Republique du Cameroun as of January 1, 1960! It shows clearly the red line and green line separating British Cameroons from La Republique du Cameroun. LRC is no more a triangle with British Cameroons as Biya and Yaounde claim. What Dr. Ali Triki was presenting through this first big map was the map showing LRC as far as the United Nations is concerned. That is LRC as per January 1, 1960. The second map is also very clear and well framed, clearly separated from the first. It shows the Map of British Southern Cameroons as of October 1, 1961.
What does this entail? It means one and one thing only. The United Nations cannot suffer itself to print and frame very large maps of one’s country to come and present it as birth day gifts just like that. Imagine that at your birth day, someone comes up with framed pictures of yours when you were born. Or, in another circumstance, imagine that you are celebrating the 50th anniversary of your marriage, someone comes with two framed pictures of you, and your wife, separately, when she was a maiden and you a bachelor. More so, he refers to her as Miss. The message is simple! That the man, say, the court magistrate or mayor, is reminding you that your stay together is still not regularized as per international law.
Aborted Demands for Political Decentralization, Equity and Fairness in Governance
During the 1990s, there were a series of protests and demonstrations against one-party rule since it tended to concentrate political power at the center. This led to the multiplication of political parties. Despite the multiplication of political parties, the incumbent president, Mr. Paul Biya, was able to win various presidential elections handily, including those of 1992, 1997, 2004 and 2011(The Commonwealth, 2017, October 5). It should be noted that in 2008, President Biya abolished term limits, thereby, enabling him to run for office as the president without any constitutional restriction (Morse, 2017, June 2).
Even though Cameroon joined the British Commonwealth in 1995 as a result of the fact that it has an English-speaking population, nevertheless, Cameroon has operated as if it is a wholly French-speaking country, to the detriment of the Anglophone region. Feeling neglected, marginalized and deprived, English-speaking Cameroonians started clamoring for a change or a restructuring of the country. In particular, they insisted upon the equitable sharing of the oil wealth, which presently is lopsidedly in favor of the country’s majority French-speaking regions. They also insisted upon changing the judicial system which is currently based on French language and legal traditions while ignoring English language and legal traditions (Vanguard, 2017, October 1). They are particularly irked by the fact that Anglophone Cameroon courts are sometimes operated by French trained judges who have no understanding of British common law. In addition, English-speaking students decry the fact that they are not given opportunity to take examinations in English (Morse, 2017, June 2). They also decry the fact that there are too many French-speaking teachers in the Anglophone region that are not proficient in English. The employment environment is very stifling to English-speaking Cameroonians who find it difficult to gain employment and to join professional associations (Caxton, 2017, July 21).This makes English-speaking citizens feel like foreigners in their own country. To solve some of the problems, the English-speaking citizens called upon the government to redeploy the French-speaking teachers and encourage more English-speaking teachers to be deployed in English-language schools. In particular, the Anglophone Cameroonians want the reintroduction of a federation rather than a unitary system (Ibid.).
Like in many other African countries, Anglophone Cameroonian demand for restructuring of the country has been ignored or rejected by the political leadership and the French-speaking majority which assume that they have the political and military wherewithal to stop or prevent any major rebellion on the part of the English-speaking people from taking place. Hence, protests have been met with harsh security measures. The harsh security measures simply added fuel to the anger and the desire to restructure the country or separate the two parts. Hence, starting in late 2016, the crisis in the English-speaking regions escalated as the people demanded a restructuring or a rearrangement of the country. Consequently, thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians, including students, teachers, lawyers and civil society organizations mounted demonstrations and strikes against discrimination (Morse, 2017, June2). Due to the confrontations, the casualty rate is increasing. For instance, four protesters were killed in December 2016. In another protest, 100 people were arrested and detained. On October 1, 2017, a mass protest in the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions resulted in the death of 17 protesters as security forces used live bullets to disperse the protesters (Unh & Ojeme, 2018, February 2). In the effort to curtail rebellion in the English-speaking regions, the government went as far as banning internet communication for three months and proscribing two organizations. It even arrested and charged the leaders of the two banned organizations with crimes bordering on terrorism. It also instituted a temporary restriction on travel in both the Northwest and Southwest regions of the English-speaking zone (Nigerian Tribune, 2017, October 12).
As the conflict escalated, certain elements decided to opt for secession and are now demanding the separation of the English-speaking region from the French-speaking regions. They call their region Ambazonia. The demand for independence has increased confrontations between security forces and the separatists, thereby, resulting in armed resistance. The violent clashes have forced more than 40,000 English-speaking Cameroonians to flee their country and seek refuge in Nigeria. Apparently, there are thousands of Cameroonians who are now in refugee camps in Nigeria. In early January 2018, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, the leader of the separatists and other important members of the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) were arrested in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, by Nigeria’s Department of State Service (DSS) while they were organizing a meeting to find ways of taking care of the thousands of English-speaking Cameroonians who left Cameroon to seek refuge in Nigeria (BBC, 2018, January 8). The arrests prompted human rights lawyers and advocates in Nigeria to demand the release of the individuals since they have a right to express their political opinions. Similarly, the Amnesty International warned against repatriating the separatist leaders back to Cameroon by reminding Nigeria of its obligation to adhere to international law regarding human rights (Premium Times, 2018, January 12). Sadly, Nigeria secretly repatriated the separatist leaders back to Cameroon, thereby, putting their lives in great danger.
Thus, the country has incrementally edged towards an uncontrollable civil war as an increasing number of English-speaking Cameroonians have joined the call for total separation from French- Cameroon. As a consequence, the major cities in the English zone are now occupied by military and police forces. Buea, the major city in Southwest Cameroon became a ghost town when separatists decided to symbolically declare independence on October 1, 2017. This date was chosen for the symbolic declaration since it was the day that both the French-speaking and English-speaking regions amalgamated in 1961 (Vanguard, 2017, October 1). It should be noted that Nigeria got its independence on October 1, 1960. As the conflict spreads, even rural areas in the English-speaking zone are feeling the impact of the escalating conflict. In many rural communities, people are running into the bushes to hide from Cameroon’s security forces that are desperately trying to stop the rebellion.
President Paul Biya, despite his old age, seems to have a total grip on power like a dictator. He rules Cameroon as a personal estate. Strongly backed by the French-speaking Cameroonians, he holds cabinet meetings infrequently. As a result, cabinet meetings are held two or three years apart. Just in passing, a cabinet meeting took place in March 2018 and the previous one was held in October 2015. The cabinet meetings generally last for very short durations and the minutes of the meetings are rarely published (Premium Times, 2018, March 15). Indeed, Cameroon operates like a personal colony of President Paul Biya and his ardent supporters. He is free to do whatever he wants whenever he wants without any political oversight. He takes vacations regularly in Switzerland. In an attempt to appease the aggrieved English-speaking population, he appoints individuals among them to sinecure positions as Prime Minister and hopes that this would dampen the agitation for separation (Ibid.).
The Responsibility to Protect and the International Media Silence
The double face of the international community has once more been unveiled in the situation in Ambazonia. Many in Ambazonia have pondered aloud how a social movement in Iran, which led to the death of about 21 people, would lead to an urgent session of the UN Security Council, while a struggle lasting close to two years in an African country, with tens of deaths recorded, many missing, thousands arbitrarily arrested, civilians without arms tried in military courts, patients dragged out of hospital beds and taking to unknown destinations, villages burnt and entire communities displaced, an appalling refugee situation has not receive a similar treatment. Despite the numerous appeals in person and in writing, protest marches organized by South Cameroonians at the various international organizations especially the UN, the situation is yet to be heard at the General Assembly, or the more powerful and influential Security Council. This goes to support the thesis that “black lives do not matter” to the international community. Even the Commonwealth, which preaches the upholding of human rights as its key value is still to promote these rights in one of its member states.
The overbearing influence of France in the UN in general, and Security Council in particular, has also become a deterring factor to the hearing of the Southern Cameroons’ case. France is the former colonial master of Francophone Cameroon, and since the reunification of Anglophone and Francophone Cameroon in 1961 it has kept its gripping effect over the country, controlling its economy and resources – most of which come from Southern Cameroons or Anglophone regions.
However, for the UN to uphold its integrity which is fast dwindling, it has to uphold its famous policy of the “responsibility to protect,” which was endorsed in 2005 by all members of the UN who pledged to prevent genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It was invoked in the Libyan case in 2011. According to the UN, the responsibility to protect ensures that when a state fails to protect its own citizens who are vulnerable, the international community is empowered to take necessary actions to protect the vulnerable population. This was upheld in Resolution 1973 when the UN Security Council empowered NATO countries to stage an incursion into the country as a means of protecting the Libyan people who it was reported could no longer be protected by their government. Moreover, other related organizations including Commonwealth, La Francophonie (to which Cameroon is a member) can also uphold their own integrity by imposing their might on the situation.
The imposition of violence as a solution to the problem is a clear indication that the government of Cameroon has run out of options and needs urgent assistance. Cameroon has a serious problem unfolding in the area called Southern Cameroons (Anglophone Cameroon) where Anglophone separatists are fighting for the creation of their own state called Ambazonia Republic where they belief they would be fairly represented. This is an occasion for the international community to help the government and people of Cameroon come out of this quagmire. In the present situation where both parties have lost faith in each other, the international community could provide good offices as well as mediate in the conflict.
In the present lackluster situation pressure on the international community can only be imposed by the media power. In his book The Power of News, Michael Schudson argues that the media has a central role to play in the choices people make in politics. The power of the media in Cameroon is not underestimated as it is usually called the fourth power, meaning it can bring pressure and effectuate changes in any situation. Presently, the eclipse of the situation is such that even Francophones do not have a clear picture of the real situation in Southern Cameroons as the state media has never mentioned the story of the suffering masses and the refugees in Nigeria. Most private media houses in Cameroon have also shunned images from Southern Cameroons and rather prefer to uphold the thesis of politicians who are exploiting the situation to make gains.
The refugee crisis in Libya only received attention after CNN exposed the sale of African migrants into slavery. Immediately, countries and organizations weighed in and within months thousands of migrants were rescued and repatriated to their countries of origin. A similar media exposure of the Southern Cameroons’ case especially at the international level would also expose the real issue in context and the carnage ongoing (see map of Southern Cameroons).
Anger, Resistance, and Self-Defense
As a matter of common sense, guns lethalize anger, domestic disputes, mental illness and despair. A gun in the home makes the likelihood of homicide three times higher, suicide three to five times higher, and accidental death four times higher. The pro-gun lobby has created the fantasy of a gun as a homeowner’s perfect protection against a mythical intruder. In reality, each time a gun in the home injures or kills in self-defense, there are four unintentional shooting deaths or injuries, seven criminal assaults and homicides with a gun, and many completed or attempted gun suicides.
The pogroms unleashed against Ambazonians by the Biya regime, especially from November 30th, 2017 when the President declared war, created interest in violent self-defense. In fact, the extermination of Ambazonians, rather than emerging fully formed from President Paul Biya’s long-term plans, was a piecemeal process driven to a large extent,“from below,” by initiatives from rival power-centers within the highly fragmented Cameroonian bureaucracy. To say this is not to absolve Biya of responsibility for the genocide in Ambazonia. The annihilation of Ambazonians in Cameroon – was frequently cited by both Biya and his subordinates as they sought to fulfil his prediction in the fraudulent “One and Invisible” Cameroon. Mass murder came to seem to Biya officials as the only way out of what they experienced as a managerial political nightmare. Every revolution is accompanied by anger. Anger does not necessarily make one blind. It is also active and temporary. When anger breaks out, one still has time to reflect—sine ira cum studio—otherwise one would be tainted by that so easily corruptible hate.
Self-defense is defined as the right to prevent suffering force or violence through the use of a sufficient level of counteracting force or violence. This definition is simple enough on its face, but it raises many questions when applied to actual situations. For instance, what is a sufficient level of force or violence when defending oneself? What goes beyond that level? What if the intended victim provoked the attack? Do victims have to retreat from the violence if possible? What happens when victims reasonably perceive a threat even if the threat doesn’t actually exist? What about when the victim’s apprehension is subjectively genuine, but objectively unreasonable?
Defensive violence against actions from groups or nations is a justified form of violence. Defensive violence can be defined as forceful or violent acts against a group who makes the initial violent acts. Throughout the history of wars in the world, including World War I and II, when a country would attack another using violence, the victim country would generally respond by defensively using violence to protect themselves and forcing the attacker to flee. There are many other examples that surface today and in recent events, as well as other events that have occurred throughout history to show justified defensive violence.
The United Nations Charter is the one authoritative source of international law regulating the use of force. Since the 9/11 attacks that inaugurated the ‘war on terror’, scholars and countries such as the United States have sought to develop a new legal framework that would essentially justify an expanded version of self-defense. The United Nations Charter is the one authoritative source of international law regulating the use of force. The 9/11 attacks that inaugurated the ‘war on terror’ prompted the claim that the law of the Charter was obsolete because it was intended to deal with conflicts between states, the principal actors in the international system, and not non-state actors such as Al Qaeda. A novel situation has arisen; the old law of the UN must be appropriately adapted to deal with these new threats, or else, a new legal framework must be established: this in general is the argument made, not only by scholars but powerful countries such as the United States which, through successive administrations, has sought to develop new doctrines that would essentially justify its approach to the ‘war on terror’.
The resulting framework – I present a tentative version here because debates as to its character are ongoing – is based on the paramount importance of self-defense; it profoundly challenges a body of law, relating to sovereignty, self-defense, human rights, and the use of force that has been carefully and laboriously constructed over the past decades through the auspices of the UN and various other related institutions. In this paper I examine this new framework first, in terms of how it seeks to amend or reinterpret existing principles restricting the use of force, second, its underlying vision of war and violence and third, I suggest ways in which this framework serves to reproduce certain colonial structures which appear to be deeply embedded in both international law and international relations.
Self-defense, States’ Silence, and the Security Council: Examining Acquiescence Concerns and UN Article 51 Reports
When is silence juridically relevant in international law? When is it pertinent to measures of self-defense? Under what circumstances does a State — or the United Nations Security Council — tacitly consent to another State’s conduct by not speaking out against it? Where do States, and where does the U.N. Security Council, have an obligation to publicly denounce unlawful conduct lest they acquiesce in the violative conduct and, possibly, in a revised interpretation or modification of the legal provision corresponding to that violative conduct?
The basic contours of the relevance of silence in international law are not new. They have resurfaced over centuries and across a range of contexts, touching on such matters as the attribution of territorial title, change of a land boundary, and derogation of a treaty. The (Draft) Articles on the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (2001) recognized, for example, the loss of the right to invoke responsibility where the injured State is considered, by reason of its conduct, to have validly acquiesced in the lapse of the claim.
More recently, silence and inaction have been raised — in draft conclusions of the International Law Commission (ILC) — regarding two topics that pertain to (re)interpreting, or perhaps even modifying, legal provisions. One topic concerns treaties, and the other relates to customary international law. Both topics are under active consideration by the ILC in conjunction with U.N. Member States, and both may be relevant to self-defense. That is because the legal parameters concerning self-defense measures pertain not only to the U.N. Charter but also to customary international law.
The first ILC topic is the establishment of the agreement of parties to a treaty through subsequent practice. According to the ILC’s most recent draft conclusions regarding that topic, silence on the part of one or more parties can constitute acceptance of the subsequent practice when the circumstances call for some reaction. (Those draft conclusions also state that silence by a party shall not be presumed to constitute subsequent practice under Article 31(3)(b) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties accepting an interpretation of a treaty as expressed in a pronouncement of an expert treaty body.) The second ILC topic is the identification of a rule of customary international law. According to the most recent ILC’s draft conclusions concerning that topic, relevant practice may, under certain circumstances, include inaction, and failure to react over time to a practice may serve as evidence of acceptance as law (opinio juris), provided that States were in a position to react and the circumstances called for some reaction.
The status of the norms and the corresponding treaty provisions and customary rules at issue — in particular, those concerning the prohibition of the use of force in international relations — may further complicate the legal analysis. That is because certain norms, including those recognized as reflecting obligations erga omnes or jus cogens, give rise to additional considerations. Those considerations might, for example, implicate a potential obligation of third States to cooperate to bring the breach to an end and to not recognize as lawful any situation created by the breach, as well as modalities through which the relevant norm may, or may not, be modified.
Today, foundational questions concerning the juridical relevance of silence resonate perhaps most significantly with respect to extraterritorial State military attacks that are (purportedly) conducted on a self-defense basis, that are directed against non-state armed groups, and that are undertaken (at least seemingly) without the consent of the territorial State. Such attacks directed against ISIS in Syria make up one prominent set of examples. But they are far from the only instances.
An ongoing debate among international lawyers concerns aspects of the legality of such resorts to force under the U.N. Charter and under customary international law. One subset of that debate concerns whether—and, if so, under what conditions—the international legal regime governing self-defense permits a State, without U.N. Security Council authorization, to resort to force by directing an attack against a terrorist group in circumstances where that group is neither directed nor controlled by, but operates in and emanates cross-border threats from, another State and where the attacking State does not have the consent of the territorial State. A related strand of debate relates to what, if any, legal effects may arise in the face of those resorts to force from silence — whether it is the silence of States other than the attacking State(s) or the territorial State(s) or the silence of the U.N. Security Council itself.
Against the backdrop of those debates, this project seeks to deepen and widen our understanding of the role, if any, of silence or inaction in discerning whether armed action directed against non-state armed groups in the identified circumstances fits within the existing international legal order. Of the array of potential concerns in this thematic area, this project will focus on two linked sets of issues.
The first set of issues that this project will explore concerns the legal relevance, if any, of States’ silence or inaction in relation to the resorts to the use of force (purportedly) in self-defense raised above. Among the relevant stakes are whether—by not publicly protesting or otherwise denouncing resorts to force in the form of military attacks directed against non-state armed groups (seemingly) without the territorial State’s consent—certain States (perhaps especially States other than the attacking State and territorial State) and/or the U.N. Security Council may be considered to have tacitly consented to the validity of those resorts to force and/or of the legal rationales underlying them. We will explore normative parameters in light of subsequent practice of parties to the U.N. Charter and of State practice and opinio juris, as well as jurisprudence of international courts.
The second set of issues that this project will examine concerns so-called “Article 51 reports.” Article 51 of the U.N. Charter lays down that:
Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defense shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.
We will explore the role of Article 51 reports within the normative regime as well as international legal aspects concerning the U.N. Security Council’s responses, or lack of responses, to those reports. In doing so, we will consider such issues as the accessibility of and transparency concerning those reports; trends and trajectories regarding the content (including legal arguments), form, and other substantive and procedural aspects pertaining to those reports; and the U.N. Security Council’s responses to those reports and/or its own silence or other forms of inaction regarding them.
Self-Defense and Defense of Vulnerable Ambazonian Others
Self-defense and defense of vulnerable others are two criminal defenses that can be used when a criminal defendant commits a criminal act but believes that he or she was justified in doing so. Although our legal system generally discourages the use of force or violence against others, courts have recognized that all individuals have the right to protect themselves from harm and may use reasonable force in order to do so. Likewise, the defense of others also recognizes the right to use reasonable force in defense of others who are threatened.
Today, some 300 homes have been burnt to ashes; 1000 children drifting around with neither food to eat nor any knowledge of the whereabouts of their parents; at least one million internally displaced people. In the meantime, thousands have taken refuge in forests, sleeping in the open and living on wild food, while more than 50,000 people according to UNHCR, have successfully crossed into Nigeria as refugees. In some situations, even houses of priests and pastors have been burnt – like the case of the Pastor of the Presbyterian Church Kwa-Kwa (in the South West of the country) and the Roman Catholic Priest in the same area. It is therefore not a surprise to hear Professor Fonkem Achankeng wonder whether with such carnage “we (Ambazonians) are winning.”
Perhaps the easiest way to understand why French Cameroon barbaric colonialism is so horrific to Ambazonians and the international community is to imagine it happening in your own country now. It is invaded, conquered, and occupied by a senile and savage foreign power. Existing governing institutions are dismantled and replaced by absolute rule of the colonizers. A strict hierarchy separates the colonized and the colonizer; you are treated as an inconvenient subhuman who can be abused at will. The colonists commit crimes with impunity against your people. Efforts at resistance are met with brutal reprisal, sometimes massacre. The more vividly and accurately you manage to conjure what this scenario would actually look like, the more horrified you will be by the very idea of colonialism.
When the colonizers sense that the jig is up, they co-opt the local elite—the intellectuals, priests or preachers, movers and shakers in the political class. These people are so deeply colonized that they collaborate with colonizers to keep a lid on things. They do so because their colonization conditions them to see revolution as a threat to values like dignity, equality, individualism, reasonableness.
The reason is that the colonized elites prefer reform to revolution. They get a seat at the table of reasonableness and get to negotiate the terms of reform with the colonizers, terms that will, no doubt, help to cement their own power and privilege. But trying to find reasonable compromises with the colonizers, the colonized elites become ‘oh so reasonable’ instruments of the colonizers. In the end, reform promises no fundamental change at all, at least not for the masses. That’s why it’s always the Ambazonian masses and not the co-opted elites who are the leading edge of revolution. And that’s why nonviolent reform is for sell-outs, who are blind to their own colonization and complicit in not just their own oppression, but the oppression of the masses.
Self-Defense and the UN Charter
The United Nations Charter is the one authoritative source of international law regulating the use of force. Under the UN Charter, force is permitted only in two circumstances: first, when the use of force has been authorized by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII and second, under section 51 of the Charter a state which has been the victim of an ‘armed attack’ may respond by using force in self-defense. These basic principles are supported and complemented by a number of other customary rules. For instance, the use of force must be proportional to the injury suffered. Further, territorial restrictions are imposed on the use of force: it is impermissible under international law to wage war in the territory of a state which is not strictly party to the conflict for that would violate the sovereignty of the attacked state. Finally, a relatively clear boundary existed between ‘peace’ and ‘war’; wars were usually brought to an end by some sort of treaty, peace was restored, and this enabled the different legal regimes of peace and war to operate with clarity.
The UN Charter recognizes the fundamental, indeed primordial character of self-defense by stating that ‘nothing in the present Charter impairs the inherent right of self-defense.’ Crucial to this framework is the question of the scope of the right of self-defense. The Charter recognizes the fundamental, indeed primordial character of self-defense by stating that ‘nothing in the present Charter impairs the inherent right of self-defense’. The right, in other words, precedes the Charter, even if the Charter attempts to limit the circumstances in which that right is exercised. The potency and primacy of the right of self-defense is suggested by the fact that the International Court of Justice left open the possibility that a state could use nuclear weapons in self-defense-this despite the catastrophic global consequences that would most likely follow. It is notable further, that both the Non-proliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention explicitly permit a member state to withdraw from the treaty if ‘extraordinary events’ occur and upon giving due notice-as North Korea did with the Non-Proliferation treaty. One way to understand this apparently anomalous provision is that it recognizes that the inherent right of self-defense possessed by all states will only be meaningful if they have a concurrent right to develop and use whatever weapons are available for that purpose.
A broad consideration of French Cameroon colonialism of Ambazonia suggests that this senile system of domination entails contest of reality in three worlds: the world of things, of people, and of meaning. Driven firstly by economic motives, French Cameroon colonizers attacked the world of Ambazonian things to obtain natural resources for its French overlords and markets for manufactured French goods. To obtain cheap or free labor, they not only occupied the land but also assaulted the world of people to force submission militarily and politically. Once they subdued Ambazonian people and occupied their land with savage security outfits and evil administrators, they assaulted the world of meaning because no system of oppression lasts without occupation of the mind and ontology of the oppressed.
In short and in conclusion, French Cameroon colonialism is today more entrenched objectively and subjectively than it was in the past in Ambazonia. Effective and sustainable change to decolonize Ambazonia can come only when those within the center of the metacolonized world and those in its peripheries work together both to deconstruct metacoloniality in its different forms and jointly reconstruct a more just Ambazonian world on the ruins of the brutally imposed old French Cameroon colonialism. The call for collaboration is not a mere appeal for sympathy or generosity from the United States of America, United Nations, African Union, or European Union; those at the centers of metacolonialism also pay heavy but hidden costs for injustice and dehumanization of Ambazonian others. I therefore see the project of decolonizing psychology in Ambazonia (using bottom-up rather than top-down approach to decolonization) as a means toward broad-based critical thinking and collaboration on what to deconstruct and how to reconstruct for the benefit of all.
The reason for this bottom-up approach lies in the logic that social and political systems seldom die or dismantle easily; they often reinvent themselves for three chief reasons. Firstly, the economic and political interests they served in the past continue to prevail in subsequent generations. Secondly, the institutions—schools, law enforcement agencies, courts and others—that served those interests do not readily change. Thirdly, those who grow up under these systems―beneficiaries as well as victims―get so indoctrinated through childhood socialization, schooling, and adult experiences that they do not seek or accept alternative ways of looking at the world. Turned into true believers or acting as programmed robots, they defend the oppressive structures as if life would be impossible without them. In fact, they would (and often do) sacrifice life to defend and perpetuate these systems, however unjust.
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*Prof Tatah Mentan is a pacifist and peace activist, Theodore Lentz Peace and Security Studies Scholar and Professor of Political Science.Paper presented at the 77th Annual MPSA, April 4-7,2019.
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