By Denis Atemnkeng
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
What is needed to resolve the Ambazonia conflict is justice, truth and the rule of law, not politics; not sweeping of the facts under the table; not the imposition of Western views; not blindfolding of Africans; not lording it over the parties. Human rights violations cannot be more important than the illegal occupation and annexation which gave rise to those violations; it would be like condemning Hitler for human rights violations in Austria and refusing to discuss the illegal occupation, or accusing Sadam Hussein of human rights violations in Kuwait while ignoring his invasion.
What is needed is to address the question of who owns the territory of the Ambazonia (the erstwhile Southern Cameroons ) and the violations will stop. This conflict is entirely a territorial conflict.
Let the West begin to call for justice, truth and the rule of law in this conflict; let the West call on Cameroon to publish the instruments by which it lays claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons; let the West call for a UN-organised referendum to settle this conflict conclusively; let the West call on Cameroon not merely to respect human rights but also the People’s rights of the People of the Southern Cameroons.
If the West would not talk of justice, truth and the rule of law in this case, it must know that it is not helping but promoting the conflict! You promote no peace by supporting injustice and open-armed robbery! We can only discover the truth by an examination of the facts; we can only do justice in this conflict by following the principles of the United Nations Charter, and in this case, those of the African Union Constitutive Act. We invite the West to review its agenda and actions in this conflict and correct them so that at last it may genuinely contribute to lasting peace between Cameroon and Ambazonia.
It is a fact that the Western World has been the only part of the world concerned enough about the conflict raging in Cameroon to the point of some western governments talking about it. The African Union and African states, which in theory were supposed to lead the way, have remained as silent as the graveyard and shown almost no concern. Credit must be given to Western powers for this show of concern. At this point, the reasons for their concern do not matter. All countries in the world have
continued to claim that they all believe in a world without war and in United Nations principles. It, therefore, beats the imagination why conflicts such as the one raging in Cameroon should be ignored by all except the Western powers despite the atrocities, the gross injustice, the human rights violations and the purposelessness of the conflict itself.
While the West has done well to call world attention to the conflict, any careful person who understands the conflict would wonder what their role in the conflict is intended to be. On the surface, they have condemned the gross human rights violations on both sides; have called for dialogue without pre-conditions; have even partially withdrawn some military aid to Cameroon; have held various hearings on the matter; sent envoys to Cameroon, purportedly to persuade Paul Biya, President of Cameroon, to accept dialogue; and the United States together with other countries even initiated an Arria-Formula hearing on the matter in the United Nations Security Council.
While the West has done all of the above and seemingly appears to be working hard to address the conflict or to get the parties in the conflict to dialogue, a careful observer sees clearly that these efforts fall far short of what is necessary to end the conflict. To say the least, the efforts fuel the conflict rather than cure it; these efforts all fail to address the key elements necessary to end the conflict!
What is the Ambazonia Conflict All About?
Do not raise any alarm yet. To see this clearly, it is important to understand exactly what the conflict is about. The root cause of the conflict is the illegal occupation and annexation of the British Southern Cameroons (now, Ambazonia) by the Republic of Cameroun, as a consequence of the British failure to decolonize the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) and her illegal transfer of the territory to the Republic of Cameroon in 1961 at the termination of the Trusteeship Agreement! As per UNGA Res. 1514 of 14 Dec. 1960, decolonization could only be said to have taken place if the trust or colonial power transferred the instruments of power to the indigenous peoples over whom it was ruling. In the case of the Southern Cameroons, there was an elected and functional government in place led by Premier John Ngu Foncha. But the British ignored and bypassed the elected Premier and the House of Assembly and handed the territory to Cameroon as would be seen presently!
Moronic Independence without Sovereignty
A Plebiscite had been conducted in the Southern Cameroons on 11 Feb. 1961 asking the people of the Southern Cameroons whether they wished to achieve independence by joining the Federation of Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon. No one reading this would understand what to “achieve independence by joining” another country meant, but sadly, those are the very words of UNGA Res. 1352 (XIV) 16 October 1959! Whatever it meant, the vote went in favour of achieving “independence by joining” the Republic of Cameroon.
The United Nations General Assembly followed up this promise of “independence by joining” by voting overwhelmingly in favour of Southern Cameroons independence on 21 April 1961 and set the date of that independence to be 1 October 1961. The understanding between the two parties for joining was that it was going to be a federation of “two states equal in status”. The terms of UNGA Res. 1608(XV) of 21 April 1961 calling for a tripartite conference between the Administering Authority (UK), the Government of the Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon to urgently work out the terms of union were ignored by the Administering Authority, and have never been implemented up till today!
Violation of UN Requirement for a Union Treaty
Without working out any terms of joining and without complying with the critical Res. 1514 of 14 Dec. 1960 dealing with the unconditional independence for trust and non-self-governing territories, Britain on 30 Sept. 1961, invited the President of French Cameroon, Amadou Ahidjo, and handed the instruments of power over the Southern Cameroons to him. This, it is alleged, was in fulfilment of a secret deal between Britain and France since Cameroon was being used merely as proxy to hand the territory to France. DeGaulle is said to have commented that France received a small gift from the Queen! Ahidjo moved in and occupied the Southern Cameroons, and to fool/deceive the world, amended the constitution his country, French Cameroon, into what he called a federal constitution and declared the formation of a federation.
Imposition of an Unratified Federal Constitution
The Southern Cameroons House of Assembly never passed any law to form a federation with the Republic of Cameroon because there was no agreement on the terms. From then on, the world was told that the Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon had entered into a federal union, all of which was a complete hoax! Since there was no agreement, the federation was simply a thin veil to cover the annexation. Article 47 of the so-called federal constitution stated that the federal structure of the country was so holy that no proposal to amend it could ever be accepted; this was again merely a bait to fool the Southern Cameroons.
Fraudulent Referendum for “Unitary” State
A few years down the road, in 1972, French Cameroon abolished the federation through yet another fraudulent mechanism: by getting the population of French Cameroon, which was four times that of the Southern Cameroons, to participate in vote to decide whether the federation should be abolished or not! It was so abolished. But how could the population of French Cameroon participate in a vote to abolish the federation when the federation was meant only to protect the people of the Southern Cameroons and when it was the people of the Southern Cameroons alone who had voted to achieve independence in association with French Cameroon?
This, in brief, is the story of the illegal occupation. There is no treaty of union between the two countries; they never achieved independence as one country; there are no terms governing the relationship; there are international boundaries separating the two countries.
Cameroon’s Fraud and Oppression
The history of these two countries is one of unbelievable deceit from French Cameroon. It should be recalled that when the question of the independence of the Southern Cameroons was put to vote on 21 April 1961 at the UN General Assembly, Cameroon was one of those countries that failed to vote for Southern Cameroons’ independence! To Cameroon, the UN-organised Plebiscite is interpreted as simply a means to make a free gift of the people, territory and government of the Southern Cameroons to her! Even if contrary to all evidence it is supposed that a union existed, why would the Southern Cameroons be unable to withdraw from it in the same way as Britain is withdrawing from the European Union, for example? And now that Cameroon scrapped the basis of the purported union, on what basis should the Southern Cameroons continue to be bound?
Since the illegal occupation and annexation, the People of the Southern Cameroons have been subjected to the most brutal forms of assimilation and diabolical torments: they are prohibited from all peaceful assembly in their own territory; they cannot form political parties to mobilise and educate their people; they cannot question the basis on which Cameroon is ruling their country; their territory is militarized round the clock; their educational and legal systems are systematically being dismantled; their own language, English, is not even the official language in their territory but they are imposed French; the official language in all professional schools is French; the entire economic infrastructure of the Southern Cameroons has been razed to the ground: banks, airports, wharfs, hydro-electrical plants and everything have been dismantled.
Cameroon’s Strategy of Distorting History
Cameroon has embarked on the diabolic project to delete from the minds of the people of the Southern Cameroons the fact that they are a separate nation and ruled themselves from 1954 to 1961; that it was the country that graciously granted refuge to the hundreds of thousands of citizens of Cameroon escaping civil war that was ravaging that country in the late 1950s. It was these refugees who first brought the idea of one Cameroon into existence! By 2016, French magistrates and teachers who do not understand a word of English had flooded the Southern Cameroons as official government policy of assimilation. This is the last straw that broke the Carmel’s back, leading to the current revolution.
Nailing it Down: Not Rooted in Marginalization,but a Territorial Conflict
These facts show that the conflict is unmistakably a territorial conflict, not one of marginalization or anything else. Cameroon simply has no jurisdiction within the territory of the Southern Cameroons, and it knows this! If there is one thing that Cameroon seeks from the rest of the world it is this: for the world to assume that Cameroon has jurisdiction over the territory of the Southern Cameroons and thus consider the matter as a domestic affair. All Cameroon’s efforts are geared at preventing the world from ever questioning the basis of its claimed jurisdiction within the Southern Cameroons. Yet, Cameroon cannot cite a single article of the African Union Constitutive Act or the United Nations Charter or international law which grants it jurisdiction over the Southern Cameroons/Ambazonia. This is nothing else but territorial armed robbery in the 21st Century!
These facts have been repeatedly explained to the whole world, and especially to Western powers. These facts are also independently verifiable, first by consulting the General Secretariat of the United Nations whether there is a treaty of union between the Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon in compliance with Article 102 of the UN Charter; secondly, by consulting the UN Decolonisation Committee to provide the instruments of decolonization of the Southern Cameroons, if there are any. These are public sources, which will put an end to all disputes.
Conflict Cannot be Resolved without Addressing the Territorial Cause
No one can pretend to try to resolve a conflict without first understanding exactly what the conflict is about. If the conflict is territorial and you think it is one of marginalization, you will never resolve it. In conflict resolution, no sincere broker ignores the facts of the case. The pillars of peace in the world are justice, truth and the rule of law. Only from this light do we now see clearly what Western powers are doing in this conflict. While claiming in words to be extremely concerned about the gross human rights violations, they have simply refused to examine the causes of those violations; while asking the parties to dialogue without pre-conditions, they, at the same time, permit Cameroon to refuse all dialogue by erroneously and perhaps knowing referring to the territory of the Southern Cameroons as Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon.
If Western powers avoid the main cause of the conflict which is territorial and continue to deceive Cameroon that Ambazonia is part of its territory, why would Cameroon accept to dialogue with a part of its country on equal terms?
The West has allowed Cameroon to believe that the Western world sees the conflict as an internal affair. By regarding this conflict as an internal affair, the West virtually ties its own hands and those of the international community and allow Cameroon to do as it wishes! Not once has the West used the words justice, truth, rule of law, or even refer to the facts of the case in this conflict! The West has ignored the facts altogether for an agenda that is yet to be discovered.
Even when the West speaks of human rights violations, it studiously avoids the highest and most fundamental people’s rights, which are: external self-determination; the right to own resources; the right to justice; the right to freedom of assembly; the right of association and to form political parties to educate and mobilise its peoples; the right to live free of fear and Cameroon militarization of their territory; the right to use their own inherited language as the only official language in their territory and not to be imposed French; the right to use their own inherited system of education and law.
The one-Cameroon survives only by stifling all debate on its pretended title to the Southern Cameroons. We need not be lawyers or a court of law to use our own common sense and reason on these straight forward matters.
The West has refused to examine the facts and decided to assume, and not verify, whether Cameroon has jurisdiction over the territory of the Southern Cameroons or not. Or perhaps the West is promoting annexation, conflicts and turmoil in Africa by deliberately choosing to support illegal territorial acquisition and territorial annexation.
Is the West Interested in Justice?
Worst still, the West has given Cameroon the impression that it is not interested in justice, truth and the rule of law; all it is interested in is simply to see an end to the war, whether its causes are addressed or not. What is the consequence? The consequence is that Cameroon has gone all out to commit even more horrific atrocities in the hope of intimidating the people of the Southern Cameroons to surrender, hoping that all it needs is to show the West a military victory for Western concerns to be satisfied! At the same time, the people of the Southern Cameroons are so convinced of the justice of their cause that they would prefer to be all killed than to surrender their territory to Cameroon.
The West cannot fail to see the apartheid it is promoting by tacitly telling the people of the Southern Cameroons that they are good only to obey orders from their superiors from French Cameroon; that they are mere fixtures in their own land or that Cameroon has a right to rule its own territory and cross its boundaries and rule the Southern Cameroons; that even though there are international boundaries separating the two countries, the West would disregard those boundaries. This is to reduce to People of the Southern Cameroons to less than animals, because even animals fight for their territory!
We remind the reader that this war was never started by the peaceful people of Ambazonia; it was declared by the President of French Cameroon against the Ambazonian people, encouraged by Western tacit support of Cameroon’s annexation and illegal territorial occupation.
The terrible consequences of supporting the crime of annexation and territorial theft in the 21st Century, contrary to all principles of the UN Charter and international law, are incalculable. How can the West blatantly ignore the provisions of the United Nations Charter, the African Union Constitutive Act and International Law to support these crimes at a time when the world has provided itself all the tools to resolve these issues peacefully? And peacefully, this conflict could be resolved, if the West and the rest of the world had bothered to address Southern Cameroon’s peacefully attempts at resolving it since 1961. But true to its creed, without a war, the world will not consider that there is a problem!
Is it so impossible for the West to ask Cameroon to prove its international boundaries? Is it so impossible for the West to request Cameroon to publish the instruments on the basis of which it lays claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons? Is it easier to publish those instruments or to continue killing innocent civilians in order to impose Cameroon’s will on the people of the Southern Cameroons? If the West tacitly supports Cameroon’s fraudulent claim over the territory of the Southern Cameroons, why does it continue to think Cameroon will ever accept any dialogue? And what does it expect Cameroon to say in such dialogue, knowing that Cameroon has no proof of jurisdiction over that territory?
The West knows more than anyone else that Cameroon has a case to answer under the international law principle of intangibility of frontiers in so far as the Southern Cameroons was never part of Cameroon at Cameroon’s independence on 1 January 1960.
Why is the West Calling for Dialogue Instead of Referendum?
And why is the West calling for dialogue which is a mere political game instead of a UN-organised referendum that can settle the case conclusively? The wishes of the people are at the core of Western systems. In every case where the wishes of the people are in doubt in such matters of overwhelming importance, a referendum has almost always been the final solution.
French Caledonia recently had a referendum to determine its fate; Quebec has had two referenda and can have as many as it likes; Scotland has had its own and is planning another one. The UK joined the European Union and is withdrawing through a referendum. How come the West does not see that a UN-organised referendum is the final and lasting solution in this African case? Instead, some Western powers are even suggesting a return to the federal form of government, which they know Cameroon abolished. But how will the Southern Cameroons force Cameroon to respect a federation which it previously abolished? How do you form a federation between a sheep and a wolf? How do you ask Cameroon to exercise power over a territory in which it has no jurisdiction?
And if theory were not enough, the story of failed federations between different territories is monumental in Africa. By what miracle will such a federation between English and French cultures ever succeed, when no such federations have succeeded in Africa or even in the whole world?
What is the Interest of the West?
Some voices have been heard to say that Western attitudes in this case are dictated by the fact that this is an African conflict. They would act very differently if this were happening in Europe. When Hitler tried what Biya is trying with the Southern Cameroons, the West solidly rejected it and waged war against him. There are far more smaller states in Europe than the Southern Cameroons and no one questions that. Is it that the West does not believe that justice and the rule of law should apply to Africans or that Africans can always be fooled to keep killing themselves so that at the end the West can always come in and take what it likes?
The story of peaceful efforts to resolve this long-standing conflict by the people of the Southern Cameroons is long; yet, the unwritten rule has always been that the world will never look in your direction unless blood is being spilled! Can this conflict be resolved by ignoring the facts or by refusing to accept the facts? Can it be resolved by ignoring justice and the rule of law? Can it be resolved by refusing to hear the wishes of the people of the Southern Cameroons and imposing Western views? Neither the West nor Cameroon can cite a single article of the UN Charter or African Union Constitutive Act which gives jurisdiction over the Southern Cameroons to the Republic of Cameroon.
In any conflict, those who do not support justice, truth and the rule of law are obviously fueling and promoting the conflict, no matter what they say. They are not helping to work for a solution. And this is precisely the case with Western powers in the Ambazonian conflict. By refusing to address the root causes, by refusing to even mention the words justice, truth and the rule of law, they have made themselves promoters of the conflict and the war in Ambazonia. They can promote these conflicts in Africa as much as they want, partly because the African Union has also woefully failed!
The agenda of the West in this conflict has nothing to do with resolving the conflict! They know very well how to resolve this conflict, but they would not. Rather, they fan the flames of war by giving Cameroon the impression that if Cameroon were to win the war, they would be fully satisfied! They therefore indirectly promote the violations of human rights that they appear to be complaining about! They know that a military victory would not resolve the enduring conflict between these totally incompatible peoples. And for those who do not know, let them know from now that Ambazonia and Cameroon are two completely incompatible peoples: they do not have the same colonial history; do not have the same state culture; do not speak the same language; do not have the same systems of education and law; do not have the same outlook to life and virtually disagree on every aspect of running the state.
What the West Must Do if It Wants to Solve the Ambazonia Conflict
What is needed to resolve this conflict is justice, truth and the rule of law, not politics; not sweeping of the facts under the table; not imposition of Western views; not blindfolding of Africans; not lording it over the parties. Human rights violations cannot be more important that the illegal occupation and annexation which gave rise to those violations; it would be like condemning Hitler for human rights violations in Austria and refusing to discuss the illegal occupation or accusing Sadam of human rights violations in Kuwait while ignoring his invasion.
What is needed is to address the question of who owns the territory of the Southern Cameroons and the violations will stop. Let the West begin to call for justice, truth and the rule of law in this conflict; let the West call on Cameroon to publish the instruments by which it lays claim to the territory of the Southern Cameroons; let the West call for a UN-organised referendum to settle this conflict conclusively; let the West call on Cameroon not merely to respect human rights but also the People’s rights of the People of the Southern Cameroons. If the West would not talk of justice, truth and the rule of law in this case, it must know that it is not helping but promoting the conflict! You promote no peace by supporting injustice and open armed robbery! We can only discover the truth by an examination of the facts; we can only do justice by following the principles of the United Nations Charter, and in this case, those of the African Union Constitutive Act. We invite the West to review its agenda and actions in this conflict and correct them so that at last it may genuinely contribute to lasting peace between Cameroon and Ambazonia.