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The Southern Cameroons Affair: Theory versus pragmatism

By Aloysius AGENDIA

 Some of my readers have asked me to write about the SCNC- the secessionist Movement in Cameroon known as The Southern Cameroons National Council. I have never wanted to write about the SCNC and the myriad of derivatives because I do not want to be labelled a secessionist by the Cameroon government  neither do I want to be called a sell-out by my fellow brothers of the former British Southern Cameroons. This does not mean that I cannot opine on this.

What has pushed me to scribble this is the debate on Cameroon Politics chat-group on the “struggle” of Southern Cameroons. The debate has been more useful to me than any history lessons I ever had on the history of Cameroon.

 I am not going into any details on Cameroon history here, though it must be admitted that there is need for a rethink the history notes given to students in Cameroon in the name of “Cameroon history” or history of “The former British Southern Cameroons”.

My write- up dwells on what has been the bond of contention in the heated debate that pitted Dr Nfor Susungi, a former lieutenant of the SDF and the SCNC on one hand, and the rest of other Southern Cameroons sympathisers and intellectuals- subscribers in the Cameroon politics forum on the other hand.

 Is Southern Cameroons independence feasible?

The issue is “should British Southern Cameroonians or Cameroonians from the Northwest and South west Regions continue with their “fight” to one day attain statehood?

 Dr Susungi who seemed lonely in his camp preached what he calls the Susungi option which summarily put, “No independence can be got without armed struggle, let young British Southern Cameroonians decide whether they would continue the fight or not and conclusively, let British Southern Cameroonians rethink their strategies and opt for political realism and survival by fighting for the own position under the current political dispensation in the Republic of Cameroon.

His argument was  largely criticised by all the intellectuals and other proponents of the Southern Cameroons seccession with some describing Dr Susungi as a traitor, the Trojan horse, the fifth columnist etc.  I am not here to justify or deny such claims.

However, once more, “Is British Southern Cameroons' independence attainable?

What is clear is that, the independence of any nation has never been handed on a platter of gold, internet forums or even only at the negotiating tables at the UN.

In my opinion, the MAIN PROBLEM in Cameroon is MISMANAGEMENT, CORRUPTION and MEDIOCRITY. It is obvious that most of these vices are not piloted by English Speaking Cameroonians; as such English speaking Cameroon would love to also lead the country in different aspects of national life so as to be judged if they can do better.  There is also certainly an ANGLOPHONE PROBLEM which must not be compared to the grievances of the other ethnic regions in Cameroon because; the British Southern Cameroonians are not an ethnic group as such. Most British Southern Camerounais feel marginalise in Cameroon judging from the two-state federation under which they joined The Republic of Cameroon in 1961. However, giving the recent mutations and the wiping out of the federation and the a return to The Republic of Cameroon, many people especially those East of the Mongo, do not know what the Anglophone problem  is all about, neither do British Southern Cameroons youths most of whom have very limited and distorted information on their own history. Many in rather simplistic terms, think it s a linguistic problem.

The Debate

Dr Susungi stated that the basic argument of the secessionist was that the union between British Southern Cameroons and East Cameroon was illegal, given that no document was signed in Fumbam in 1961, does not hold. This is because; he doctor Susungi has found  “exclusive” documents in archives in Britain which actually show that Dr John Foncha and Ahidjo did sign a document in October 1960 prior to the July 1961 Fumbam conference. According to him, this documents kill the notion of the “illegality” of the union which was hitherto preached by British Southern Cameroons leaders and other legal luminaries. This is an except of Dr Susungi’s post

“Outline Proposal for a Draft Constitution for a federal United Kamerun Republic signed in Yaoundé on 14th October 1960.

“1. contrary to JO Field’s expectations, Foncha’s visit to Yaoundé culminated in the signing of this Joint Document; 2. British Government taken by surprise;   3. Agreement says reunification cannot be automatic but gradual; 4. Foncha signs “for and on behalf of the Government of the Southern Cameroons ”; 5. This makes it an international treaty; 6. Does he have the competence to sign an international treaty when UK still in charge?  7. Opposition not involved in final negotiations; 8. What are the implications?  10. SC problems started with this document.” Source: Public Office Record of UK”. Courtesy Dr. Nfor Susungi

But why would Dr Susungi, a former staunch proponent of the SCNC make such an about turn. He says.....

“I have decided to distance myself from this refusnik movement because of emerging intolerance, dictatorial and totalitarian tendencies amongst us, which make me believe that an independent Southern Cameroons will almost certainly fall into the hands of a junta which will use the machinery of state to hound all of us from Bota to Ambonshie” ( Dr Nfor Susungi).

In my view, Dr. Susungi based his arguments on pragmatism, realism and for the sake of an imposed peace on the BSC given that the latter are powerless in the current situation and couple to the fact that they are in a state of disarray in its leadership and in various SC Movements.

The others, among whom were prominent intellectuals like Chief Barrister Charles Taku, Barrister Carlson Anyangwe, Augustine Ndangam, Martin Fon Yembe, Dr Arnold Yongbang, Njoh Litumbe, Vincent Feko etc, based their arguments on historical facts and clearly stipulated that there is marginalisation, an illegal union and the need to succeed.

Dr Susungi’s claim of the “discovery” of the documents and it annulations of the “illegality claimed” of the British Southern Cameroonians was debunked by experts like Professor Carlson Anyangwe and Chief Charles Taku. The latter argued that Foncha had no constitutional or legal rights to hold such talks on the future of a UN Trust Territory without the knowledge of the Queen Representative at the time or the  even without the consent of the governed. They furthered stressed that such a thing was never discussed in the British Southern Cameroons House of Assembly, as such, such a document, even though it may exist, still remains null and void.

This is how Dr Augustine Ndangam nullifies Dr Susungi’s argument.

“Even if Foncha signed such a document, it does not commit the people of Southern Cameroons whatsoever.:No one should be allowed to promulgate a law before it is passed.  Foncha  had no business  signing anything  binding on the people of SC back  in October 1960. before the people had voted and without the Administering Authority.Paragraph five of UN Resolution 1608 XV is crystal clear on the fact that the tripartite meeting  set up by the UN GA was to use the agreed and declared policies of the parties concerned.  If Foncha and Ahidjo had signed a document  earlier and (as Dr. Susungi suggests) Foncha  kept it secret it loses the binding validity by this UN (GA) directives to the three governments invited for the tripartite.” Augustin Ndangam.

 Professor Calrson Anyangwe had this to add.

“The Southern Cameroons House of Assenbly never approved the socalled federal constitution. One searches in vain in Hansard for any evidence of adoption of that document. One searches in vain in the Gazette of the Government of the Southern Cameroons for any evidence of promulgation of any such such document.  The Debates of the last sitting of the Southern Cameroons House of Assembly in September 1961 are available. There is nothing there about that document being prsented to the Honourable House, debated and adopted". Calrson Anyangwe.

 Of course, I think both camps are all right in their arguments depending on the angle from which they defended their points.


The question is this, what and how can change be brought on the situation of the marginalised British Southern Cameroons?

Is it through a total secession from the Republic of Cameroon?

It is through the well management of Cameroon as a whole?

Is it through the appointment of British Southern Cameroonians to strategic positions in the country?

Is it through the education of Southern Cameroonians on their real history?

Is it through an arm struggle against the Republic of Cameroon?

Is it through a return to a two state federation in Cameroon?

Is it through dialogue with the government officials in Cameroon?

Is it in the rallying of Southern Cameroonians behind a single political party?

Is it through the active participation in political life of Cameroon without necessarily following just one political party?

Is it through just folding our hands and making commentaries?

Is it a combination of all of the above?

As I see it

There is one thing which is clear. No independence can be attained with the force of argument. It must be a combination of the argument of force and the force of the argument, though one may take precedence over the other.  This is certainly what Dr Susungi has been trying to make, while reiterating that the octogenarians at the helm of British Southern Cameroon various secessionist movements give way for the youths to take over. According to him, the Youths, especially those 50 and less, are the people to decide for themselves whether they want an armed struggle or whether they would want to enter into any kind of agreement with the Republic of Cameroon.

Secondly, there virtually no unity among SC  movements. How can the successfully struggle for independence when British Southern Cameroonians continue to operate in dispersed ranks? Who really controls the SCNC, SCAM, SCARM, SCAPO, AMBAZONIA etc? It is extremely important that these movements burry their differences, synergise and operate as a single force. With such a force, they would be in a better position to negotiate with the Cameroon government and do other international lobbying. Anything short of this will be a non-starter.

How can there by any unity among British Southern Cameroonians when there is so much suspicion. For example, I have always been critical of the Cameroon government in my opinions. This kind of brought me a lot of sympathisers and admirers. However, when I wrote something equally critical of the SDF and the opposition in general, people began saying that I was paid, I am a traitor, I am biased etc. The worst was when a fellow English speaking Cameroonian described me as a francophone. When the guy was told that I am rather a Southern Cameroonian from Lebialem county, he retorted by saying, I am Dschang “birds of the same feather”.

  How do such people expect other English Speaking Cameroonians to join them in “their activities” when they so much believe in the concept of “othering”. What was again very pitiful was that none of the propagators of the Southern Cameroons rhetoric came in to caution this guy. They were more contented in citing historical facts to justify their academic arguments while forgetting that being pragmatic and wining more people for the cause also immediately rebuking those who describe brothers as “enemies in the house”.

The government of Cameroon failed to rebuke Emah Basile, the same government of Cameron failed to rebuke Mama Fouda et al in the famous communiqué published in Cameroon Tribune, the SCNC people failed to rebuke other British Southern Cameroonians who described their brothers as “settlers”. Now, the same SCNC protagonists can not rebuke one of “theirs” who refers to another English speaking Cameroonians as a francophone. Well, I consider myself as a Cameroonian.

That said, while acknowledging the fact that the Anglophone problem exists, I however  strongly think that the most important solution to the Anglophone problem is the good management of the country’s resources or a return to a federation which must also be accompanied by good management of the country’s resources.

Members of parliaments from the English Speaking Cameroon could work as a block.

Look at a region like Quebec (Francophone) in Canada. It is semi-independent with MPs from the region strongly defending the interest of the people of that area and not the interest of political masters. Though it can be argued that East Timor successfully broke away from Indonesia, Eritrea from Ethiopia, and Kosovo from Serbia and soon South Sudan from Soudan, it must be noted that none was on a platter of gold. Millions were killed and some even continue to be killed in the process.

It was not the same with Katanga in DRC, Biafra in Nigeria, Basque region in Spain and to a lesser extent, the cases of South Ossetia from Georgia, and Chechnya from Russia etc. I do understand the last three examples are a little more complex. What we need most in Cameroon is management of country’s resources with the need to make sure that the cultural identity of the East and West Cameroon are preserved. Also,  the equitable placing of meritorious people in strategic position in the country.  

The main obstacle is that, we still have a set of mostly dishonest, incompetent, colonial ,but above all, overwhelmingly corrupt people leading the country with a general extension to most of those “working” in the public service in Cameroon.

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