The attack on February 14 in the village of Ngarbuh in which the Cameroun military killed at least fourteen children, multiple pregnant women and over 45 people in total continues to prompt multiple reactions. The French Cameroun analyst, Dieudonné Essomba has expressed his opinion on this massacre and the related stamina of the Ambazonia Independence struggle in a statement to Actucameroun.com. Below is the full statement translated by AmbaNews24 from French to English, followed by an editorial corrigendum to the “secession” assertion of Essomba
The massacres of the populations in a village in the North West lead me to recall what I asked long before the outbreak of events, namely that it was necessary to immediately return to the 1961 federation or any other renewed formula and this was for many reasons.
- Anglophones no longer want a unitary state. They really do not want it anymore, no matter what reforms you now present. The unitary state reminds them of all that is devious, violent, brutal and dishonest. It is the word “unitary” itself that fuels the war and must be noted. We do not know exactly what the Government gains by maintaining this word despite the blood that is spilt;
- In the case of Secession, the English-speaking Community enjoys three decisive advantages which make it practically impossible to retain them in a unitary State:
a. They are too populated because a secession which covers 20% of the population is no longer controllable by a unitary state; for purposes of information, the Secession of Cabinda, Casamance, Corsica or Tibet does not cover 2% of the population;
b. They have already lived under a federal regime, and they perceive this time as a Golden Age which fuels an irrepressible nostalgia;
c. They have international legitimacy because they came to French-speaking Cameroon under the aegis of the United Nations. In the event of a conflict, their situation will obviously attract the attention of the international community, which will impose its solutions.
However, from an operational standpoint, Federation makes it possible to better combat Secession by 3 mechanisms:
1. It dries up the attractiveness of Secession since it also has its supporters.
2. Federation opposes a local [secessionists] police force which comes from the same sociological background, has a better knowledge of the terrain and has at least the same legitimacy. The national army then comes as additional support. Conversely, if the National Army directly confronts the Secession, it does not enjoy popular support and will commit a large number of blunders which gives it the appearance of an occupying force
3. It makes the attacks of the Secessionists very difficult since the majority of the visible infrastructure belongs to the local state. The people know that they expect nothing from the central state if these infrastructures are destroyed, which leads them to dissociate themselves from the actions of the Separatists.
Unfortunately, our positions were fought on emotional and ideological bases. What is more, we were called all the names of birds: antipatriots, pro-Ambazonians, traitors, etc.
This is what they wanted: to get rid of our posture of straightforward analysis and great patriotism. They rather preferred to encourage the Government to sink in the stinking swamp where it struggles now desperately, for which we all see exactly the outcome.
And the facts are there, hard and relentless: the English-speaking Secessionists will never lay down their arms unless they are beaten, which is unlikely with the unitary state! You must never believe that there will come a time when the Secessionists, listening to the voice of wisdom, will quietly lay down their arms to return humbly to the unitary state. Of course, there will be some defections, but with little impact on the course of events.
So, what is the Anglophone Secession?
1. These are people who started a rebellion with bare hands and spears, then small arms and now they have more sophisticated weapons. Are these the people who are going to give up?
2. These are people who feared the least Divisional Officer and who complied with any commander of a small brigade. Today they have driven out the [Cameroun] state, which finds itself confined to a few secure cities. Are people like these going to lay down their arms?
3. These are people who it was predicted that they will fall in less than two weeks. It was then believed that a small squad of gendarmes would end the movement. But four years later, the situation has gotten worse and they are the ones who have imposed the Ghost Towns, No School Reopening and No Elections successfully, despite the Cameroun government’s desperate efforts. Do you see people like these laying down their arms?
4. We were told this is an internal problem and that there will be no external interference. But there is growing support [for the secessionists] from foreign countries and the international community, and in most cases, sympathy is on their side. Rather, it is the Cameroun government that is hard-pressed, trying to justify itself with difficulty. Do you see people like these giving up arms?
5. Some people told us that the state is a Leviathan who never gives up. But after denying the Anglophone problem, the same Cameroun state finally recognized it, before granting special statutes without considering other seductions like the special recruitments of Anglophones. The state has given in, and yet the Secessionists have given up absolutely nothing. They don’t want any debate! They only want to fight until they get their independence. Is it people like these who can lay down their arms?
6. The crisis has already caused 3,000 deaths, with villages razed to the ground, and now large-scale massacres blamed rightly or wrongly on the National Army. These acts only aggravate the fracture and the determination of the combatants. Are you going to ask people in this state of mind to lay down their arms?
It must be said clearly, in this history, that it is the separatist cause that advances, and which gains from the military, diplomatic and media perspective. The case of Cameroun that was believed to be gaining ground is now losing more and more grounds.
And for me to think of a TERRIBLE REMINDER: Black Africa was born with four federal states which had the clumsiness to suppress the Federation: Ethiopia, Sudan, Somalia and Cameroon. The first 3 experienced victorious secessions, the only ones elsewhere in Africa. Cameroon, last on the list, may also be following the same path.
While Essomba is correct that Ambazonians will not lay down their arms until their territory is fully liberated from oppression by Cameroun in the same way Eritrea became independent of Ethiopia, South Sudan became independent of Sudan and Somaliland has freed itself from rule by Somalia, we point out that the Ambazonian people are not secessionists. Ambazonia is not seceding from the Republic of Cameroun. Rather, Ambazonia is restoring its independence and national territorial integrity.
The Cambridge Dictionary defines secession as “the act of becoming independent and no longer part of a country, area, organization, etc.” This is in harmony with the general position in the international system that secession involves a territory becoming independent of a country that it was once part and parcel of. Ambazonia is not and has never been an integral part of the Republic of Cameroun.
First, the plebiscite vote was about “joining” Cameroun by association, not by integration.
The plebiscite question of Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) achieving independence by “joining” Cameroun was a question of by association or by integration. Joining by association means that the two territories remain separate and distinct, and both territories continue to exist but relate with each other under agreed-upon terms and policies. Joining by integration means that one territory becomes incorporated into the other territory, and therefore the territory that is so incorporated ceases to exist.
As the International Court of Justice noted in adjudicating the right of the people of Western Sahara to external self-determination, the United Nation’s Declaration on Decolonization, namely UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) of 14 December 1960 was complemented by General Assembly resolution 1541(XV), which contemplated three possibilities for the decolonization process of non-self-governing territories, namely (a) emergence as a sovereign independent State; (b) free association with an independent State; or (c) integration with an independent State.
Countries such as Ghana and Nigeria became independent from Britain immediately by the first option of emergence as a sovereign independent state.
In the case of Ambazonia, at the time of the 11 February 1961 plebiscite in which the Ambazonian people were unnecessarily subjected by the UN to a referendum on their future, the Republic of Cameroun which one of the plebiscite options proposed Ambazonia to join was already independent. In recognizing the outcome of the plebiscite vote, the United Nations General Assembly in UN Resolution 1608 of 21 April 1961, Operative Paragraph 5, required the British Government, the Government of Ambazonia (Southern Cameroons) and the Republic of Cameroun “to initiate urgent discussions with a view to finalizing, before 1 October 1961, the arrangements by which the agreed and declared policies of the parties concerned will be implemented.”
Asking the parties to enter into agreement and to declare the policies of their association (to enter into a union treaty) when one of the parties, namely, the Republic of Cameroun was already independent and sovereign implies that the independence of Ambazonia from British rule and self-determination in relation to independent Cameroun was to be an act of “free association with an independent State.”
In other words, “joining” Cameroun as posited in the plebiscite questions and recognized in UNGA Resolution 1608 implied “free association with an independent [Cameroun Republic], not “integration with an independent [Cameroun Republic].”
The United Nations did not ask territories that were being integrated into independent states such as Northern Cameroons that joined Nigeria, for example, to enter into association agreements with the territories they were being incorporated or integrated into. It would have been senseless to do so because integration implies that the subservient party will simply be subjected to the laws, policies, and systems of the dominant territory. On the other hand, in the association formula, the two territories remain separate and distinct, and as such need to agree on how they will be associated or how they will relate with each other. This is commonsense!!
Second, Ahmadou Ahidjo himself, Premier of Cameroun, Denied that Cameroun had integration intentions.
In fact, Prof. Philips Cadbury of the University of London, speaking on the said plebiscite in Ambazonia that was forthcoming, said in November 1960 that “Unification does not connote absorption or loss of identity but . . . something more like the Ghana-Guinea Union…. In the absence of a third option [of Ambazonia achieving independence as a sovereign country immediately], the second option offered in the plebiscite [of achieving independence by joining the independent Republic of Cameroun] in February will win a substantial majority. But this will not be a mandate for absorption, but for negotiation on equal terms.”
Ahmadou Ahidjo, then Premier of French Cameroun, confirmed the words of Prof. Cadbury when he declared on 25 February 1959 at the 849th meeting of the Fourth Committee of the UN that “We are not annexationists….If our brothers of the British zone wish to unite with independent Cameroun, we are ready to discuss the matter with them, but we will do so on a footing of equality.”
Because Ambazonia was a UN Trust Territory of the Southern Cameroons under British administration with international boundaries that distinguished and separated it from the Republic of Cameroun that had been a UN Trust Territory of Cameroun under French rule, the Cameroun Republic would have had to annex the Ambazonia territory in order for it to become the Republic of Cameroun’s territory. Ahidjo clearly said Cameroun will not go this route, and as such will not annex Ambazonia – consequently, Ambazonia will not become French Cameroun’s territory. The two, Ambazonia and Cameroun, will rather exist side-by-side as equal distinct territories, in “free association” the same way it was with Ghana and Guinea, and Senegal and Gambia, with each reserving its right to sovereignty and territorial integrity as was and has been with these two cases.
Third, the Federal Form of State Promulgated by Cameroun itself in 1961 implied association, not integration.
When the Foumban and Yaoundé conferences of 1961 failed to reach an agreement on the terms and policies under which Ambazonia and Cameroun were going to be “joined”, the independent Republic of Cameroun mutilated its constitution, adopted it as a federal constitution in its own parliament, and imposed it in the Ambazonia territory without adoption/ratification by the Ambazonia parliament that was fully in existence at the time.
In that constitution not agreed to by Ambazonia, Cameroun itself stated that the federation shall consist of “two states, equal in status”. These two states were the Republic of Cameroun that transformed itself into the state of “East Cameroun”, and Ambazonia that the Republic of Cameroun without any authority to do so, however, said will become the state of “west Cameroun”.
In the federal system of government, all states are equal. The territory of one state is not incorporated into, is not a part of, and is not integrated into the territory of another state. Cross River State in Nigeria, for example, is not an integral part of Imo state in Nigeria; the State of New York is territorially separate and distinct from the state of Massachusetts, and the state of Bayern is territorial distinct and separate from the state of Hessen in Germany. These states exist in association with each other with their national constitutions being the terms and policies they have agreed to as their policies and laws of association, not of integration. Therefore, by promulgating the federal constitution, the Republic of Cameroun itself acknowledged that the territory of Ambazonia, which it called the state of “West Cameroon” in that constitution remains separate and distinct from the territory of the Republic of Cameroun, which it then called the state of “East Cameroun.” By adopting a federal constitution, the Republic of Cameroun itself recognized association between its territory and that of Ambazonia, not integration