By Denis Atemnkeng
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
When on 13 May 2019 the United States of America, supported by Germany, the United Kingdom and the Dominican Republic initiated the Arria Formula in the UNSC on the crisis in Cameroon, it caused an uproar among African UNSC members. Some of them bitterly opposed it claiming that it is a matter for the African Union to take the lead. Of course, many observers, without knowing the facts, would have bought their position. With the purported concept of African solutions for African problems, it would have seemed as if the UN was trying to take something away from Africa. This is not the occasion to show the abysmal failure of the African Union to address this conflict despite all the actions that the victims have taken within the framework of the African Union. The African members opposing the Arria Formula did not even ask themselves what the African Union or they themselves have done about the crisis almost three years since it erupted. Left to them, it would be like other long-drawn out wars that Africa was never able to stop, despite all its supposed mechanisms of Early Warning systems; Silencing the Guns by 2020 under Agenda 2063, and so on. What we can say is that all the local remedies at the African Union level have been fully exhausted and that it is but right and just that the UN should take over the matter.
Southern Cameroons was a Trust Territory of the United Nations, not AU
The purpose of this article is to allow the UN and members of the international community to see that this problem lies squarely at the doorstep of the United Nations and not the African Union (AU). The UN is not only in its right to take over the matter but has the obligation to do so. The Southern Cameroons (now named “Ambazonia”) was a trust territory of the United Nations, and so was the Republic of Cameroon which had just achieved independence on 1 January 1960. The Trusteeship Agreement with the United Kingdom was signed on 13 December 1946. The whole idea of trust was founded on the concept of the “sacred trust of civilization” which administering authorities assumed over the people of the trust territories to guide them until they were able to take care of their own affairs. The responsibility of the UN to protect and ensure the protection of these peoples was bound to continue until they had fully gained their own freedom. In the Southern Cameroons case, the UN negligently abandoned the process without full verification that the people of the Southern Cameroons were fully decolonized based on predetermined UN statutes and instruments of decolonization.
UN Denied the Option of Sovereign Independence to the Ambazonian People
The foundation of the crisis was laid in 1961 by the United Nations when it denied the option of sovereign independence to the people of the Southern Cameroons, in violation of its own UNGA Res. 1514 of 14 Dec. 1960, at a time when far smaller states in terms of population and resources were being granted sovereign independence. Instead of sovereign independence, the UN imposed on the people of the Southern Cameroons, through a Plebiscite, the choice to achieve independence only by joining Nigeria or the Republic of Cameroon. After the Plebiscite which went in favor of achieving independence in confederation with Cameroon as two states equal in status, the UN went ahead to fulfill its promise of independence to the Southern Cameroons by conducting a vote in the 4th Committee on Southern Cameroons independence. The vote was overwhelmingly for the Southern Cameroons to achieve independence and the date was set for 1 October 1961. But then the UN failed to follow up on the implementation of the independence it voted and granted to the Southern Cameroons!
UN Failed to Verify Whether the Union Treaty Committee Ever did its Work
On the same day in which the UN conducted a vote on Southern Cameroons independence, it also took Resolution 1608(XV) (21 April 1961) setting up a committee to work out the terms of the proposed joining between the Southern Cameroons and the Republic of Cameroon. However, it failed to put down any mechanism by which to verify if the Committee even did its work. The Committee never held, and it was simply assumed, very erroneously, that everything had happened as the UN envisaged! The result was that one day before Southern Cameroons independence, the Administering Authority took advantage of the UN’s negligence and illegally transferred the territory to a third and foreign country, the Republic of Cameroon. Cameroon recolonized the territory and imposed a heinous form of assimilation on the people, leading to the current crisis!
Bunching Africans with Different Colonial Histories was a UN Catastrophic Experiment
This conflict was predictable from the day the territory was illegally transferred to Cameroon, because trying to join the two states was like trying to join Britain and France. The difference is too much for any peaceful co-existence to take place; but since the UN was dealing with Africans, it brushed all the contradictions aside! Non-Africans have often fallen into the very mistaken idea that you can bunch Africans with different colonial histories together merely because they are Africans. The result is that none of those attempts has ever worked: Sene-Gambia; Somaliland and Somalia; Southern Cameroons and Cameroon, etc. These are experiments which can produce nothing but conflict and wars. Why? Because African traditions and culture contribute nothing to the form or manner of running the state. Therefore, when it comes to state affairs, there is no way you can put Africans with different colonial histories together and obtain peace!
UN Failed to Ensure the Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) was Effectively Decolonized
Not only did the UN allow this horrible experiment to take place, it also failed to ensure that the British Southern Cameroons was decolonized. Consequently, the UN must lead the process to rectify the problem. It cannot now be determined as a matter for African countries to lead, when in fact they are incapable and did not originate the problem. The excuse that Great Britain, the Administering Authority gave for persuading the UN not to grant the Southern Cameroons sovereign independence is that the territory was poor. Using poverty as an excuse to deprive a people their full right to self-determination was directly in contravention of para. 3 of UNGA Res. 1514 which stated that: “Inadequacy of political, economic, social or educational preparedness should never serve as a pretext for delaying independence”. In all, the Southern Cameroons was never decolonized, becausethe Administering Authority, the UK, failed to implement a single resolution of the UN concerning the Southern Cameroons.
UN Unjustly Omitted Southern Cameroons (Ambazonia) from Non-Self Governing Territories
Despite this failure to decolonize the Southern Cameroons, the UN again went forward to unjustly omit the Southern Cameroons from the list of non-self-governing territories, without the slightest proof that the Southern Cameroons was decolonized. It was all manipulation by colonial powers. To crown the injustice, in the UN Special Committee on Decolonization, no cases are allowed for territories other than those listed as non-self-governing! This means in effect that territories that were falsely listed as having been decolonized, like the Southern Cameroons, have no access to that Committee! The question is: how were the territories to be listed as still non-self-governing established? Was the omission of the Southern Cameroons part of a conspiracy? One injustice after another that the UN piled up to create this genocide today cannot be shifted from its doorstep. It is for the UN to take the initiative to end it.
Be it noted that the Southern Cameroons was not some small insignificant patch of land but an established democracy with an elected government; a Premier; a bi-camera parliament; a multi-party-political system; a parliamentary democracy and all state structures. It conducted its first election in 1959 in which power changed hands without any rancor! It achieved self-government in 1954, four years before the Republic of Cameroon. The Southern Cameroons with its close to 8 million inhabitants is more populated than 18 African Union Member States and 60 UN Member States and in terms of territory, is larger than 12 African Union Member States and 30 UN Member States. In fact, a combination of the population of two fully sovereign states within the Central African region would not be up to the population of the Southern Cameroons! It is therefore a gross injustice for the UN to have failed to decolonize the Southern Cameroons and to grant it sovereign independence.
Since 1961 till date, and despite the cases brought against Cameroon through the African Union framework, the African Union has never been able to do anything. Its Member States have also refused to implement their own court rulings in favor of the people of the Southern Cameroons. Their Early Warning Systems; Silencing the Guns by 2020 under Agenda 2063 and many other lofty systems decorate the books but appear meaningless in practice. Almost every single conflict on the continent has ended up in slaughter and mayhem. We do not believe that it is now that the African Union will be able to do anything whatsoever! The African members at the UNSC cannot show a single thing they have done which demonstrates even the smallest desire or concern to address the conflict. They should not therefore prevent those who have the goodwill and the responsibility to address the conflict from doing so.
The crisis in Cameroon falls among those cases that only non-African intervention can help resolve. The numerous efforts of the victims within Africa testify to this. Non-African intervention is, therefore, the only hope for victims of the atrocities and the oppressed peoples to have a remedy. We can only welcome it with open arms and respectfully request the African members of the UNSC to humbly cooperate in this magnanimous effort of non-Africans. That said, it has been adequately demonstrated above that this problem was created by the United Nations and not the African Union and therefore the responsibility falls back on the UN to rectify it. Its responsibilities under the sacred trust of civilization will not end until the Southern Cameroons is decolonized in accordance with UN instruments. This crisis should not be pushed to African states! The United Nations cannot fold its arms to let the slaughter continue while it debates whether it is the African Union or the UN that should lead in finding a solution. The role of the UN in matters of peace and security rises above that of the African Union. This is a humanity problem, not an African Union problem anymore.