According to the writer, the on-going crisis in English-speaking Cameroon cannot be solved through ‘effective decentralization’ but through a broad-based dialogue under the auspices of the UN or one of its subsidiary organs
On March 23, in reply to a MoRISC Spain’s letter to the President of the EU Commission, the Head of Central Africa and Great Lakes Division of the EU, upon delegation of powers by the EU President prescribes ‘effective decentralization reform’ as solution to the Southern Cameroons problem. And a little bit over a month ago, Southern Cameroonian born Ernest Acha, a constituent of Birmingham, UK sought the office of his Member of Parliament – Rt. Hon. Gisela Stuart – to impress on Her Majesty’s Government to ‘intervene on human rights concerns in Cameroon’.
On behalf of the UK Government, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State cum Minister for Africa, a certain Tobias Ellwood preferred to not favourablylook upon the concern of Acha. The UK wrote inter alia, “…the United Kingdom recognizes the outcome of the 1961 referendum organized by the United Nations in the then British Mandated territory in West Africa…” The UK, on its part, refers Southern Cameroonians to Communication 266/2003 – a ruling by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, ACHPR. The UK prescribes “broad-based dialogue with a range of interlocutors…” But they fail to note that the brutal dictatorship of Paul Biya had long dumped that ruling into his wastepaper basket.
Be that as it may, the stance taken by the EU and the UK mean only one thing – they consider the ongoing crisis in the Cameroons an internal affair. Whereas the offices of the EU Commission and the Foreign & Commonwealth of the UK are endowed with politicians of wit, one can safely state that the diplomats, in their characteristic hallmark, have only carefully selected words in order to not hurt political interests. It is within this backdrop that the thrust of my ‘Open Comment’ on the spirit behind their letters shall hinge on nothing politics but basic facts in international law – namely the United Nations Charter and the African Union Constitutive Act.
On February 11, 1961 the UN Trust Territory named British Southern Cameroons with well defined international boundaries, only showed interest,through a Plebiscite vote to gain independence from Great Britain by forming an aggregative federation (a union of two states EQUAL in status with each party reserving the right to quit the union) with a certain La Republique du Cameroun. It was on the basis of this ‘yes’ vote that the UN, on April 21, 1961, through a UN General Assembly Resolution 1608 (XV) envisioned the workout of a Treaty of Union for the projected federation according to the international law on treaties. Despite shortcomings before, during and after the process, something in the semblance of a federation – some type of autonomy – indeed, what the Southern Cameroons bargained for, was created – the Federal Republic of Cameroun. This, however, was only a verbal contract which violates article 102 of the UN Charter.
The governing constitutional law for states that are members of the UN is the United Nations Charter. This contains clear provisions in Art 102 (1 & 2) on the prescribed procedure to be followed if a member state of the UN wishes to join another territory. It reads:
- Every treaty and every international agreement entered into by any Member of the United Nations after the present Charter comes into force shall as soon as possible be registered with the Secretariat and published by it;
- No party to any such treaty or international agreement which has not been registered in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 1 of this Article may invoke that treaty or agreement before any organ of the United Nations.
La Republique du Cameroun was admitted a member state of the UN on September 20, 1960 and from that date it became bound by the provisions contained in the Constitution (Charter) of the United Nations. Consequently, for any joining with another territory to be legal, La Republique du Cameroun had to conform to the statutory provisions of the Charter in Art. 102. Failure by La Republique du Cameroun to have complied with the provisions in Art 102 (1) attracted the penalty in Art. 102 (2) which rendered any union between the Cameroons unconstitutional and therefore, it is not wrong for Southern Cameroons ‘independentists’ to state that ‘it is a union that never was’!
Remember that even if there was a legal document respecting article 102 of the UN Charter to cement the decision to gain independence by joining La Republique du Cameroun in 1961, it did not abrogate the right to aim to be fully independent if the people, in the future, so wished to. Unlike the Americans that sat down in 1789 and hammered out the conditions for a “one and indivisible union,” the Southern Cameroons delegation refused the use of the word “indivisible” in Foumban, leading Ahidjo to state in his concluding remarks that: “in order to avoid a certain confusion that might arise from the word ‘indivisible’, we admit that it should purely and simply be omitted.” So, do not heed to the lies as others always ignorantly or selfishly utter, ‘Cameroon is one and indivisible’.
Indeed, it is because such union status did not always abrogate the right of self-determination that many other such unions in history ended in reversals. In this wise, the September 18, 2014 vote on independence in a referendum in Scotland after a 307-year union in the United Kingdom, is an example of the continued right of self-determination of peoples that join such unions. It will be recalled that Ireland opted out of the UK arrangement since 1922, through a similar independence referendum. No need to mention Quebec in Canada, and many other peoples in similar unions.
By the way, article 4b of the African Union, AU Constitutive Act obliges all member states to respect their boundaries inherited at independence. Everyone knows that La Republique du Cameroun’s boundaries inherited at independence ends at the Mungo and not Bakassi. If at any one time those boundaries extended to Bakassi, then all what the world needs is for them to brandish a Treaty of Union as art 102 of the UN Charter provides (already explained above).
And today, the people of Scotland are going back to the polls to exercise this inalienable right to self-determination. The UK Government and the EU Commission respect the rights of the ‘goose’; and, it is only fair and just for them to respect the right of self-determination of the ‘gander’. We, the people of the Southern Cameroons enormously thank them for the solutions they have proffered. But we wish to inform them that the current problem in the Cameroons is not an ‘internal affair’. It is a problem of annexation and a crime.
More so, the problem cannot be solved through ‘effective decentralization’, the least we can accept is broad-based dialogue under the auspices of the UN or one of its subsidiary organs. Until that is done, we reserve the right just like all other peoples the world over to defend ourselves from abuse, rape torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, territorial integrity and mineral resources; even if such self defence were anticipatory!